GTA titles traditionally hit consoles like a storm, but the PC versions finally woo patient gamers some six months later.
Unfortunately, GTA IV – the 6th stand-alone PC title – wasn’t shown the same graceful treatment as its predecessors. Aside from the game’s almighty 16GB footprint, in order to play the game, you need to sign up to Rockstar Social Club, Games for Windows Live, activate the game and have the disk in the drive to play. A measure of copy protection is fine, but to use both is overkill, to say the least.
Having jumped through hoops, we finally got to play, and despite our earlier gripes we were genuinely impressed. From the outset the plot is detailed, the characters are believable and the voice acting is excellent – and this isn’t even why the GTA franchise is popular.
For anyone that’s new to the franchise, GTA has earned its fame by allowing a player to interact with the game world in any way they choose, stealing cars, assassinating key targets and indiscriminately wreaking havoc.
This (a)moral freedom is the selling point of the game, with the storyline traditionally playing second fiddle. With this installment, that freedom finally feels connected with the overall plot of the game.
Set in a reimagined Liberty City, you play as Nico Bellic, an immigrant with a troubled past lured to America by a wildly distorted perception of the ‘American Dream’. It’s your job to build yourself up from rags and make a name for yourself – standard fare, but again the detail makes it that much more involving.
For the first time, GTA IV supports online multiplayer. This has been a heavily requested feature for a long time and the wait was definitely worth it: the multiplayer component adds replay value to an already epic game, so in terms of bang for buck, it’s excellent value.
For the PC version, Rockstar has also included an integrated video editor. The scope offered as a director and editor is impressive, and it’ll be interesting to see what machinima arises once people truly explore its depth.
On the whole the game feels quite polished but the PC port doesn’t. The overall game quality, new features and better textures are hampered by many small issues. If you don’t have a console your patience will be rewarded, but we found that all the hassle severely tainted our enjoyment of the game.
This Review appeared in the February, 2009 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine