Greatest game ever?
Imagine you could be a god for a day. Not the God who controls the fabric of the universe, but a god among men, a guy who can take a bullet, steal a helicopter or jump off a tall building and live to tell the tale.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
"Grand Theft Auto IV" is the story of Niko Bellic. Bellic is an eastern European immigrant who is running from his sins. He arrives in Liberty City, an intricate virtual world that closely approximates New York City. He discovers it is not a paradise filled with scantily clad women and gold-lined streets, like his deadbeat cousin Roman promised him. Niko has to work his way up from the gutter, doing jobs for money and bailing Roman out of jams.
As quickly as some critics heaped praise on the latest chapter in the "GTA" series, some scorned it. The story, they say, is predictable. And while the graphics are impressive, it's all style over substance.
If you've confused "GTA IV" with the second coming, then it's easy to see where you might be led astray. It's not a religious experience, though you can push the boundaries of your virtual mortality. That being said, "GTA IV" is the best game I've played in years. Not only do the graphics seriously beat down on some of the recent titles I've seen, the online multiplayer is truly groundbreaking.
You can play with up to 16 other players in a variety of games, and you can use the entire city map! I still can't believe the developer, Rockstar Games, pulled this off. If this doesn't earn "GTA IV" game of the year status, something is seriously wrong with this country.
Some online games in "GTA IV" are cooperative, some aren't. There's also the "free-style" mode where you and your buddies can wreak havoc on the city and each other. But watch out — the police presence in this game is fierce and loud. You can't get away with much without having the law at your back.
The free style mode of game play wears a little thin for me. Yes, going on a ram-page is fun, but it's really the same thing over and over again isn't it? The missions are more focused and a lot more fun. "GTA IV" also offers a racing mode that could be a game itself. You can pick your vehicle types, the time of day and chose the weather conditions. Nothing challenges your reflexes better than driving a sports car at night in the pouring rain.
I spent the first couple of nights driving around Liberty City with my friend Kevin. As we talked on our headsets while riding in a shiny Porsche, we made our way over to the airport where we lifted a chopper. (Note: I don't think you can fly airplanes in this game. Some people might get their knickers in a twist over that, but eh …)
At night the cityscape as seen from our chopper looked like a crown full of jewels. Liberty City, not Niko, is the real star of "GTA IV." It's ripe with crime, interesting people and chances for misadventure. And it's waiting for you.
Some people will try to knock it off its glorious pedestal, citing the need to combat "hype." I'm giving it five buttons out of five. Give credit where credit is due: "GTA IV" rules.