Sneak Peak at Grand Theft Auto IV: Welcome to Liberty City (Mania.com)

By:Nate Chang
Review Date: Friday, April 25, 2008

His cousin Roman told him he was rich, that he had a palace for him to come to. There was a new life awaiting Niko Bellic in Liberty City, and he was all set to leave his past and the old country behind.

Glittering skyscrapers, elegant parties and a life of luxury sounded pretty good to Niko. It was what Roman promised, after all. If only it were true.

When he arrived in Liberty City, Niko was not greeted by Roman’s mansion, his women or his lap of luxury. What he found instead was Roman living in a dirty apartment on the wrong side of town. There were glittering skyscrapers, elegant parties and a life of luxury to be found in Liberty City; they were just on the other side of the city like a dream on the edge of wakening.

But Roman came clean and admitted that his taxi business was failing and that in desperation, he had made some promises to some less-than-reputable characters. He was in a bad way and needed Niko’s help desperately to get his life back on track.

Disillusioned, Niko lashed out at his cousin and even though he wound up helping him, he resented every second of it. After all, Niko came to America to get away from the underworld. Like Michael Corleone, just when he thought he was out, he was pulled back in.

Before he knew it, Niko was being sucked into the criminal underworld and was taking his share of the American Dream from the burnt part of the pie. Dark deeds filled his days despite his desire to straighten up and be an upstanding American.

It’s not always easy to make it in a new country, and Niko tries to fit in as best he can. It’s gritty. It’s new. It’s Grand Theft Auto IV.

Most of us would buy this game simply for what it is. Grand Theft Auto III was a revolution ahead of Grand Theft Auto II, and brought us into a whole new world of mission-based action games. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City set the bar even higher and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas set the bar higher still. The label of Grand Theft Auto has come to symbolize excellence in both form and function.

Grand Theft Auto IV is as big a leap from GTA III as GTA III was from GTA II. The targeting system has been overhauled, and there are a wealth of things to do besides missions and robbing convenience stores. Want to go bowling? You got it. What Niko does in his off-mission time is now just as important as what he does on-mission, since several missions now span several days and require you to wait a while between plot points for new orders.

The graphics sparkle; nothing less than the excellence that we’ve come to expect. Liberty City has been redone and covers several of the boroughs of New York. One of the more revolutionary elements incorporated into the system is the inclusion of only a single loading screen. The only “Loading” you’ll see is at the very beginning, when the game first boots up. After that, the game is seamless.

New to the Grand Theft Auto series is a multiplayer mode. You can engage in death matches, a co-op multiplayer game with Niko or even your own self-made avatar. You’ll never look at Liberty City the same way again.

What is most intriguing about the game is Niko himself. Is he a bank robber out to get revenge on the people who betrayed him? Nope. Is he an ex-con mobster out to rule the city? Not even close. He’s an immigrant who came to America hoping to make something of himself that amounted to more than a broken home in a broken country. He is a more or less ordinary man made extraordinary by circumstance. He represents a new ideal, a new American Dream. He’s come with the poor huddled masses, and he years to be free. It just so happens that he doesn’t quite fit into the ideal of a 2-car in suburbia with a picket fence and a yard.

But that’s part of the appeal. It’s new. It’s gritty. It’s Grand Theft Auto IV.


Mania Grade: A-
Game: Grand Theft Auto IV
Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3
ESRB: M
Genre: Action
Players: 1-16
Distributor: Take-Two Interactive
Suggested Retail: $59.99
Graphics: A
Gameplay: A-
Sound: A
Replay: A-