Sunday, May 4, 2008

Give Me Liberty

So, Grand Theft Auto IV has finally released and the good majority of gamers out there are playing the hell out of it. For good reason too, as it is definitely one of the best games of this generation (perhaps even of all time) and certainly met expectations and matched the hype.

And just like that, I've already mentioned what I think about the game. It is one of (if not the) best games to come out so far this generation and judging by all the extremely positive reviews the game is receiving, it could very well be one of the best games to ever come out period. I personally am not going to make my final call on the game until I have finished it and seen most of the content on offer, but I know for sure that I am loving absolutely every moment of it. So is my fellow Raptured Reality author GTPod, who as far as I can see is calling it his best game of all time.

I'm not too far behind him either as, well, I can't deny the fact that I am completely addicted to GTAIV. So much so that I spent 3 nights of this week just playing the hell out of it, for-going anything internet related in favour of doing anything and everything Liberty City related instead. I originally had planned to do an 'all-nighter' with the first night, but it ended up being an extra two. Hell, it was almost an extra three but I somehow managed to pull myself away from the game long enough to come online and catch up with things.

I can't deny that I completely fell for the hype train in the lead up to the game's release, but as I said before the hype was completely justified in the end. There is just so much brilliance in the game, so much fun to be had that in some ways I still can't believe that we're playing it. It feels like I'm in some kind of dream or something, where I only think I am playing it and yet, there it is sitting in my 360 ready to be played whenever I feel like. It might not seem like it now to the rest of you but this game release is a defining moment in gaming history I can tell you right now.

So why am I addicted to it then? Well like previous GTAs, it is all the small and subtle stuff that is in the game that just draws you in and hooks you. From the usual subtle humour of the radio stations, to the Easter Eggs, to the passing references to real life culture. The mockery of other games (or things within our industry), the three TV networks that have their own shows and advertisements that can last for hours, the in-game internet with news sites and ring tone sites and blogs too, the realistic weather system where it can be sprinkling, thundering and pouring down to foggy and completely clear and sunny; There is just so much to this game and Liberty City that it absolutely feels real while you play it.

Not many games can immerse you into their experience that well that it feels absolutely real while you play. BioShock did it recently and a few other games have managed it as well, but I would dare say that GTA IV does it the best purely because it's a indirect reflection of our own real world. We 'get it' so much easier in GTA because of this more realistic approach and it works absolutely fantastically to draw you in.

Naturally, the characters and story is another thing that adds to this and well this is easily the best story and bunch of characters in the GTA franchise. Forget Tommy and CJ; Niko, his cousin Roman and the many other characters that make up this game are absolutely brilliant. The story too has drawn me in and while I'm still yet to finish it, I'm quite tempted to say that it is one of the best game stories I have participated in yet. That's saying quite a lot when you think about it, but damn if it doesn't grip you in just like the living breathing Liberty City does. Hell, even when you're not necessarily progressing the story it keeps you drawn in thanks to the brilliant relationship system the game has. Whether you go on a date with your girlfriend or you hang out with one of the friends you meet, you'll still feel like you are actually Niko because of the excellent dialogue that references things that you did with this character in the past, or certain plot points or whatever. It's absolutely brilliant to experience and while I can write millions of words to try and describe it you, at the end of the day I simply won't be able to.

Grand Theft Auto IV isn't just the next GTA game, it's that and much more. So much more that it's an experience, one that absolutely shouldn't be missed.

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