The story contains suggestive/direct betrayal, killing, brutality, drugs and sexual references.
Almost every PC/Console gamer must be now familiar with the Grand Theft Auto (GTA) games. The concept is simple, basically the protagonist has to commit crimes due to unforeseen consequences. But that's it, this very thing is the main essence of all GTAs. Leaving this aside, the fantastic story, gameplay and playability in GTAs make them one of the best action RPGs.
The next installment in the series (and the current one) is the GTA IV. It is literally a generational leap forward all other GTAs in literally every aspect. I played GTA San Andreas and I thought this is it! This is one of the best games ever. Then I played GTA IV, and I thought, oh wait, this is even better than San Andreas and in fact this is one of the best games ever. The pushes forward physics, character designs, sounds, music, livelihood, city, graphics and gameplay generations ahead as compared to San Andreas.
The story begins when Niko Bellic, the protagonist, reaches Liberty City. It’s the same city as was in GTA III. He was a veteran in some army in Europe. He knows a very few people in the city, one of whom is Roman, Niko's cousin. Roman promises Niko that after coming to the city, he will see a large mansion, good running business and a lot of ladies to take care of both the cousins. When Niko reaches the place, he is shocked to see that Roman lied and that he actually lived in a small unmanaged apartment. Roman actually runs a small taxi business and engages in gambling for his daily survival. Roman is also under heavy debt from many loan sharks. One of the reasons Niko came to the Liberty City was because he was trying to find the one who betrayed him when he was in the army in a war.
Roman has a girlfriend, Mallorie Bardas whom he is about to propose and get married with. One of loan sharks, Vlad Glebov has sex with Mallorie and Roman get very angry upon him but can’t decide what to do because Vlad is powerful, has money and most importantly, belonged to a big gangster family. But Niko decides that Vlad should be punished and he eventually kills him.
After Vlad's murder, both Niko and Roman are kidnapped by a Russian mafia Mikhail Faustin. He is not angry that Niko killed Vlad, one of his men, instead he acknowledges that Vlad was a useless man. He hires Niko to get his works done and is surprised by Niko's bravery and loyalty. Mikhail orders Niko to kill the son the most powerful mafia in the city and Niko thinks that may be Mikhail was mentally upset. Mikhail's brother and associate, Dmitri Rascolov persuades Niko to kill Mikhail instead. But when Niko goes to collect money for the assassination he is ambushed by Dmitri and Bulgarin betraying him.
Niko and Roman return to their apartment they find that it is completely burnt. They go the location of Roman's taxi business and find out that it too was burnt. Roman blames Niko that till the time Niko wasn't here everything was going fine, now his apartment and business are all in ashes. Niko assures Roman that he would find a place to live and start over. Roman calls Mallorie and turns out that a friend of Mallorie has an empty apartment. Niko and Roman shift to the other end of the city. Niko befriends many thugs, drug dealers, mobsters and gangsters to find a way to make him some money. He also meets a crooked Deputy Police Commissioner, Francis McReary.
Things worsen in Bohan and Niko's girlfriend, Michelle is revealed to be working for the government and is actually undercover to find information about Niko. Michelle gets Niko to work in her agency, United Liberty Paper. Niko goes on several missions and kills many men in order to obtain help from the chief in finding Dmitri and the one who betrayed Niko in the war. Meanwhile Roman decides that Bohan is no longer safe and he moved to Algonquin.
Niko assists a mafia, Ray Boccino in a diamond deal which turns out horribly bad. Ray orders Niko to kill the ones conflicting the deal. In return, Ray finds Florian Cravic, the man who betrayed Niko. It soon turned out that Florian has changed his name to Bernie and he turned into a homosexual. Niko realizes that he was not responsible for the betrayal. Niko can thing of only one suspect now, Darko Brevic. Meanwhile, Niko is also working for Playboy X and Dwayne Forge. It later turns out that both Playboy X and Dwayne cannot live with the other one alive. Niko must here also decide which one to kill.
In Angonquin, Niko helps the McReary family in robbing a bank which goes bad. There is a lot of police given direct orders to kill the thieves but Niko and other men escape while one dies escaping. Both Derrik McReary and Francis McReary are also not comfortable with each other. They both consider each other a possible threat to self. They both tell Niko to kill the other when in a meeting in a park. Its again up to Niko who he wants to kill.
Gerry McReary tells Niko to kidnap the daughter of the one conflicting the diamond deal. In the deal of giving back the daughter and taking the diamonds, both Niko and Gerry are assaulted by Bulgarin who claims that the diamonds are his. Both manage to save themselves but the diamonds are lost and Bulgarin manages to escape.
Niko also works for a Pegorino mafia family. But Jimmy Pegorino sends Niko to kill Ray Boccino after confirming that Ray is an informant. After killing Ray, as a reward from the United Liberty Paper brings Darko Brevic to the Liberty City. Niko confronts him and it turns out that just because of a thousand dollars, Darko had to kill his friends and brothers in the war. He is repenting what he has done but he still was the culprit. Its up to Niko whether he wants to kill him or not.
In the end, Niko comes to knowledge about a deal which has to be done with Dmitri, but since he knows Dmitri's position, he can also strike him to his death. It’s up to Niko what way he wants to choose. Either way, Pegorino is found out to be a very close ally to Dmitri and both Dmitri and Jimmy are killed. Roman invites Niko to his wedding with Mallorie. The wedding goes as planned but is interrupted at the end. Depending on what you chose in the last option, either Roman or Kate McReary (Niko's 'almost' girlfriend) get killed.
The main story is short but the side missions, quests and driving will all keep you adhered to the story. Not only is the story fantastic, the way it unfolds is also excellent. The game is perhaps built on brand new engine that changes GTA forever. The graphics are very good technically. The characters, vehicles, city, ambience, all feel alive. The awesome voice acting and sounds will just add to the beauty. The physics are also notably improved. Driving a vehicle feels a lot more reasonable and justified. Pedestrians’ behavior is also something that improved. There are a lot of bugs though but never mind, for you are playing a fantastic game.
The gameplay is also great. The graphics, sounds and physics all try to make things realistic while newly added features like complex crosshair, cover, blindfire, medkits etc all help in improving the gameplay furthermore. All the communication takes place from a cellphone which you can access whenever you want for most of the time, even in missions. The cellphone allows you to take pictures, which you will need in some missions, call your contacts and arrange meetings, read text messages, dial numbers and even access cheat codes! There is also an in-built voice guided navigation system in some of the cars (GPS is in all cars) and you can also activate voice navigation in all cars from the game options.
Then comes the excellent playability in the game. You get a huge environment (an entire city) for your missions. Take you enemy out the way you want. Also, the story progresses in different ways and is entirely controllable. In about 5 story changing missions, you get an option mostly whether you want to kill the first or the second person. Killing either one will restrain you from some benefits but will award you with others. Some of these events also change the story to some extent. In the last mission where you decide to work with Dmitri or kill Dmitri, if you choose to kill Dmitri, Kate dies in Roman's wedding as a revenge. If you decide to work with Dmitri, Romans dies in his wedding as part of the deal. It’s you who control the story and it’s good to have options.
Beware though, there are a tons of bugs in GTA also! Take for example you are in the traffic. If you stop at red light, the traffic car behind you takes you as something of an obstruction in the road and will overtake you instead of thinking that you have actually stopped at the red light. Suppose you are driving at a very high speed on a bridge weaving through the traffic. Suddenly the cars in front of you will start pulling up in all directions literally breaking your speed and spoiling the entire fun by stopping you. And there are a lot more friendly AI bugs. But don’t even bother with these bugs. They are not going to pose you a threat very often so you can live and enjoy.
No matter whatever way you look at it, GTA IV is undeniably one of the best games ever and certainly better than all the previous GTAs. I would say that San Andreas has more fun characters and perhaps a better story, but then again, GTA IV is also fun and most importantly, more playable and addictive for more times. Whether you think of San Andreas or IV as a better GTA, in either case, IV is a must play GTA.