Smile and Nod: GTA 4: The Best Game I've Ever Played

Russ Pitts

The Boss of You
May 1, 2006
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Smile and Nod: GTA 4: The Best Game I've Ever Played

I have to admit to a certain reticence when it comes to praising games. Like most writers, I can usually find something not to like about a game, and those bits usually make the best copy. But 30 hours into Grand Theft Auto IV I can easily say it's my main contender for Game of the Year. Hell, it's in the running for Game of the Decade. I'd even go so far as to say it's the best game I've ever played.

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Playbahnosh

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Dec 12, 2007
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Nice article! To answer your question I won't bring GTA IV to a deserted island. Instead, I would bring something with much more replay value, like a Sims 4 or a SimCity or something that is open ended and not story driven like GTA IV. Yeah, the open world is cool...for a while, until you know every nook and cranny there is in Liberty City. This was my main point in uninstalling San Andreas a while back. When I loaded the game the 1000th time, I knew the story from heart, I mastered every vechicle there is in the game, I found every collectible, every hidden spot... I 100%-ed the game, and there was nothing for me to do in San Andreas anymore. This is problem with the GTA series. For a while (60-100 hours) you get so hooked up, your momma would be cryin', but after that, it's cut, it's nothing, like after a movie, the credits come up, and it's over...

At least this is my opinion.
 

Tiamat666

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Dec 4, 2007
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I don't like it when reviewers bring up the "go buy it now"-line. It feels manipulative, creates an air of salesperson around the reviewer and I can't help becoming suspicious of every review where it appears.

Don't tell me what I should buy. Just tell me if the game is any good.
 

purple_haze

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I've only played the first couple of hours of the game at a friends house and I liked it, but it didn't seem as mind blowing as the reviews might make me think (luckily I hadn't ready any so I didn't expect much). My problem with the reviews though, is more to do with how people usually review games, saying things like "Its a refined version of the old game and there isn't much new" and even if it does that flawlessly, like this game supposedly does, they give it a 9 out of 10. I just don't see what about this game is so different to the games that get so slammed for repeating a tried and true formula yet this one gets 10/10 from almost everyone. It probably deserves it, but not when I look at what reviews usually do.
 

eggdog14

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sammyfreak said:
Probably the best written review i have seen for the game so far.
Agreed. Not so much a love letter to rockstar as many of them are, but a genuine description of how excellent the game is. Very similar to the way i feel about the game; i'm desperately searching to find something i genuinely don't like about it- and failing.

Great review, great read.
 

grenideer

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Dec 12, 2007
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I am about 6-8 hours in and I do not see what all the raving is about yet. I think I fall into the category of being a series newbie and not understanding all there is to do. All I know is most of the things I try to do aren't doable, you can't go in any of the buildings, you can't start a dialog with random people on the street. And I disagree that the activities aren't heavy handed. So far I am told every step of the way what to do. Granted, I have choices, but it just seems like the whole game is driving around following the radar line. Not that fun so far but there are flashes of brilliance mixed in the tedium. I know it will get better at some point.
 

stompy

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Great read Russ, as always. I can't wait to get this game, from what I've heard.
 

PurpleRain

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I'm trying to but it Russ. Believe me. I have enough games to trade in for it but I just need to get to the game stores!
 

Saskwach

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PurpleRain said:
I'm trying to but it Russ. Believe me. I have enough games to trade in for it but I just need to get to the game stores!
You're a lousy liar Rain. I suppose the dog ate the game store, too?
 

PurpleRain

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Saskwach said:
PurpleRain said:
I'm trying to but it Russ. Believe me. I have enough games to trade in for it but I just need to get to the game stores!
You're a lousy liar Rain. I suppose the dog ate the game store, too?
I, ah... I swear wizards did it. Thousands of them!
 

sharp_as_a_cork

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In a wild departure from what is typical for me, I'll bring up the graphics issue.
I watched a friend play for about 10 minutes on his Xbox 360 and I was very underwhelmed by GTA4's graphics. I have seen better graphics on the PC 2 years ago, but I haven't seen this mentioned anywhere. Is everyone simply overwhelmed by the gameplay suddenly?
Possibly, either the 360 has some graphic tweaking options which weren't used (which I don't believe) or the PS3 version is vastly superior and that is what people are talking about.
Which is it?
 

sammyfreak

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I think the reason people arent complaining is because the game is so huge that i could not possibly look any better.
 

Ares Draxus

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GTA4 is not the best game I have played, but it is definitely in my top 10. I much prefer Mass Effect over GTA4 but it has booted Jade Empire out of the top ten. So far it is my 5th favorite game of all time. I enjoyed the article, though. :)
 

jlaakso

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It looks good, but not mind-blowingly so. It's more a case of there being so much. For instance, the buildings are not cloned and there is a lot of traffic and pedestrians, the draw distance is vast, the lighting is always great, no matter the time of day... The animation is great and they have their visual style down in an impeccable fashion. There is nothing out of order here. Granted, I'd like the frame rate to be more consistent, but that's about it.
 

mitsoxfan

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Right off the bat I have to disagree with his comparison to Bioshock. Albeit it was simply about plot development, but I don't think he 'gets it' when we're talking sandbox vs. linear FPS.

Bioshock created a story, and then the environment in which to weave it. Far easier, IMO, than knowing you have this incredibly open world, where you are some ant in a sandbox, and then trying to weave a story into it. Especially a story grounded in some sort of reality.

You could come up with a linear FPS just by writing words on a dart board and throwing three darts: 'Underwater', 'Plot Twists', 'Special Powers'. Wow, that sounds sweet! Of course, substitute 'Underwater' for 'Outerspace' and you have System Shock...

I think it's far harder to take a world and weave a character and story into it. GTA had roots, it had expectations, and it was expected to follow those, and make them better. IMO, that deserves a lot more focus and credit then simply saying 'the story is great, just like Bioshock!'

Otherwise, I wholeheartedly agree with the article. I've played for about a dozen hours or so because of the W.C.J. (wife, child, job), and I'm like 6% through. I like to take my time, and will probably play this game solely for the next 3 or 4 months (sorry MGS).

It's not without it's flaws. It certainly doesn't look as nice on a big screen HD as it does in the previews. The driving camera is a bit awkward at time (though, you can adjust it nicely), the cover mechanic is like Gears of War version 0.3b, sometimes juggling peoples attitudes for you gets overwhelming, some missions are built to fail on the first run, and probably a few other things as well.

That being said, all the minor flaws are completely overshadowed by the people (you care about them), the plot (so far it's a really great and believable story), and just the 'vast while not being too vast' of it all. It really is a next gen GTA3 2, whereas VC and SA were like GTA3 expansions.
 

Tiamat666

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Dec 4, 2007
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Oh, and I also have a grudge with this, quote: "None of this is new to Grand Theft Auto; the series pioneered the open-world genre"

You obviously never played an Ultima.

Concerning the "outdated" GTA IV graphics; this really isn't anything new. Haven't all GTAs always been lagging behind in graphics quality? That's probably the price to pay for a huge, seamless open world to explore. But seriously, I think that the open world and gameplay is what sets GTA apart from other titles and makes it such a refreshing experience. I'll sacrifice graphics quality to that anytime. If I want the latest, shiniest graphics, I'll play a standard, level-based FPS.
 

Russ Pitts

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May 1, 2006
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Tiamat666 said:
Oh, and I also have a grudge with this, quote: "None of this is new to Grand Theft Auto; the series pioneered the open-world genre"

You obviously never played an Ultima.
I have. But there's a difference between "pioneering" something and discovering it. Or creating it. Davy Crockett was a pioneer of the American frontier, but a great many Spaniards and Native Americans were the before he was. Same, too, with GTA and open world games.
 

DvON

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Playbahnosh said:
Nice article! To answer your question I won't bring GTA IV to a deserted island. Instead, I would bring something with much more replay value, like a Sims 4 or a SimCity or something that is open ended and not story driven like GTA IV. Yeah, the open world is cool...for a while, until you know every nook and cranny there is in Liberty City. This was my main point in uninstalling San Andreas a while back. When I loaded the game the 1000th time, I knew the story from heart, I mastered every vechicle there is in the game, I found every collectible, every hidden spot... I 100%-ed the game, and there was nothing for me to do in San Andreas anymore. This is problem with the GTA series. For a while (60-100 hours) you get so hooked up, your momma would be cryin', but after that, it's cut, it's nothing, like after a movie, the credits come up, and it's over...

At least this is my opinion.
I dont know about you but im taking a yacht to my desert island with gas
 

Alphavillain

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I agree with you about the need for a car garage, Russ. Really needed, especially if you have a bike (or three), a cop car and an SUV that you want to have to-hand.
 

Tiamat666

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Dec 4, 2007
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Russ Pitts said:
It's good. Buy it.
So it must be true. You are on R* payroll. Is this a common occurence among game reviewers? You are destroying my belief in independent game journalism.

I guess I might actually buy it once R* decides it is time for a PC version.
I hate console gaming... with a passion.

But you really should stop telling people to go buy it. I think it's not a good practice that hurts the reviewers credibility. I have to admit, it's a very subtle feeling, but it really does make me feel uneasy about the review.
After all, good marketing is all about subtleties.
 

Arbre

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grenideer said:
All I know is most of the things I try to do aren't doable, you can't go in any of the buildings, you can't start a dialog with random people on the street. And I disagree that the activities aren't heavy handed. So far I am told every step of the way what to do. Granted, I have choices, but it just seems like the whole game is driving around following the radar line. Not that fun so far but there are flashes of brilliance mixed in the tedium. I know it will get better at some point.
They spend, what? $100 M on this while using the same engine with some updates, enrolled something like +200 devs I believe and took more than three years of dev, then say it's a free roaming sandbox game, yet you can't even get inside buildings and do stuff inside?
So it's a city full of cubes with New York textures painted on them?
I'd have expected more indoor content.
 

mitsoxfan

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Tiamat666 said:
But you really should stop telling people to go buy it. I think it's not a good practice that hurts the reviewers credibility. I have to admit, it's a very subtle feeling, but it really does make me feel uneasy about the review. After all, good marketing is all about subtleties.
Why? The reviewer clearly feels strongly enough about the game to recommend that people purchase it. He's not marketing the game, he's saying it's worth your hard earned cash. Would you rather he say, 'You'd be stupid not to buy it, but being stupid is your choice!'

And if you hate console gaming, you must not own a console, so why even bother talking about GTA IV until the thing comes out for the PC?
 

Pat M.

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Tiamat666 said:
Russ Pitts said:
It's good. Buy it.
So it must be true. You are on R* payroll. Is this a common occurence among game reviewers? You are destroying my belief in independent game journalism.

I guess I might actually buy it once R* decides it is time for a PC version.
I hate console gaming... with a passion.

But you really should stop telling people to go buy it. I think it's not a good practice that hurts the reviewers credibility. I have to admit, it's a very subtle feeling, but it really does make me feel uneasy about the review.
After all, good marketing is all about subtleties.
so wait, reviewers AREN'T supposed to make purchasing recommendations now? i get all mixed up these days.
 

Russ Pitts

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May 1, 2006
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I would buy it, if I found the idea of playing a pre-made, serbian gangster even remotely interesting or the gameplay of driving around and killing people fun for more than 30 minutes......
 

Zera

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To be technical reviews are really just opinions by "proffesionals" (not insulting you or anything Russ). Anyways the sad fact is that perfection can never be achieved, nor should it ever be. If a game is perfect, then thats it, you cant get any better than that. It will be the be all, end all of gaming. But just like all forms of art, there is no such thing as the greatest. Sure GTA4 is a great game, I am not denying that or am I questioning your journalistic integrety. It may be the perfect open world game, but its not the greatest puzzle, rpg, FPS, platformer etc game ever. Therefore its not THE game. But Im glad you found your greatest game Russ. I havent found mine yet, nor do I want to to, because when I find it, everything else will feel like a step down but hey thats just me.
 

Zera

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Digikid said:
Russ Pitts said:
Tiamat666 said:
Don't tell me what I should buy. Just tell me if the game is any good.
It's good. Buy it.
It is nothing special at all. Just yet another GTA game.
Thats what I was about to said, but then I realized that I have no right to critize a game that I havent even played unlike everyone else. But I will get to it soon to see what all the hubbub is all about.
 

palidanek

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Excellent Game but it still doesn't beat my favourite 360 game = Bioshock let alone my favourite games of all time.
 

Russ Pitts

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i think the game looks awesome. to bad i won't get to play on it a lot since i go to a boarding school and when i do have a holiday i'm only allowed 2 hours to play per day. i'm also tired of people judging games only by its graphics. if it has awesome graphics, great, but gameplay and fun comes before graphics. i mean heavenly sword had kick-ass graphics, but its gameplay was kind of weak and it was short. oh and before all u halo haters start with the "but halo 3 got a higher score and it was really short" comment, i'd like to say it has an adictive multiplayer and replaying the campaign on co-op doubles the fun.
 

Sentient Muffin

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grenideer said:
I am about 6-8 hours in and I do not see what all the raving is about yet. I think I fall into the category of being a series newbie and not understanding all there is to do. All I know is most of the things I try to do aren't doable, you can't go in any of the buildings, you can't start a dialog with random people on the street. And I disagree that the activities aren't heavy handed. So far I am told every step of the way what to do. Granted, I have choices, but it just seems like the whole game is driving around following the radar line. Not that fun so far but there are flashes of brilliance mixed in the tedium. I know it will get better at some point.
We must share a brain or something, 'cept I'm kinda enjoying the game. :)
 

Tiamat666

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Dec 4, 2007
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Okay, I guess I'm the only person that feels slightly annoyed by reviewers telling me to go buy things. It's no big deal actually and I didn't want to hijack the thread, so I'll shut up already. Just thought I'd speak my mind.
 

REDace0

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Good review. It's nice to read game reviews that are a little deeper than the typical big gaming website cut. One minor point though. I agree completely regarding the lack of checkpoints many have been lamenting. Unfortunately, Microsoft requires Xbox 360 games to run without the hard drive, on account of the 'Core' and 'Arcade' models that come without one. I believe that's the reason it wasn't included. But yes, I suppose they could've included it and just disabled it if no hard drive was detected.
 

Donstheman

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Personally, I cant help but feel like the game is a sleek repeat of the previous games excet with a different minority. Shot one guy, shot em all in this game.
 

kuddles

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Good review, as expected.

And while I agree with a lot of the positive things you said, let me also say thank you for mentioning the lack of a checkpoint system. With almost no other reviews mentioning it, I almost felt like I was alone in my frustration. Re-doing a 30-second-long mission with Little Jacob that I messed up wouldn't be half as bothersome if I didn't have to spend seven minutes following the exact same route to go pick him up at his house every damn time.
 

nightfish

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Russ Pitts said:
Smile and Nod: GTA 4: The Best Game I've Ever Played

I have to admit to a certain reticence when it comes to praising games. Like most writers, I can usually find something not to like about a game, and those bits usually make the best copy. But 30 hours into Grand Theft Auto IV I can easily say it's my main contender for Game of the Year. Hell, it's in the running for Game of the Decade. I'd even go so far as to say it's the best game I've ever played.

Read Full Article
I don't know about this.

When your about to die, then you can say what the best game you've ever played is. I've heard so many people say - "Wow, this is the best game I've ever played" only for a couple of months later something else to come out and they say the same about that.
 

Ptrack_Git

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Did anybody mention the explosions look fantastic yet... doesnt that count for something graphically?
BTW great review, great game... seriously go buy it.
 

Russ Pitts

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May 1, 2006
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I really enjoyed this review, I was in the middle of writing a review for GTA IV but you seemed to grasp everything I was trying to say. So instead of saying fuck you, I'm gonna say kutos.

Although I did talk a lot about the gameplay (crash damage included) as well as the story.
 

ComradeJim270

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I plan to review this game when I finish it... I think this time, I will try and make it sound as bad as possible, just as an experiment, and a demonstration of how staggeringly misleading a review can be.

So far, I'm enjoying the game, so it should be fun to pretend I'm not.
 

Anarchemitis

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'See, I love games like this. But I don't like the violence or the profainity or sex or that stuff. That's why I still can't wait for Spore.
 

SonofSeth

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It's GTA! It's everything I expected and more.

It's realy strange, but all the flaws in this game actualy give it that certain special feel, at least for me.
 

Russ Pitts

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Russ Pitts said:
Crap_haT said:
So instead of saying fuck you, I'm gonna say kutos.
There's not much I can say to that, but thank you. I think.
Take it as a compliment, I did really enjoy the review as much as I do with the rest of your writing. I guess you could call me a 'fan'.
 

dungeonmaster

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I haven't played gta4 yet, and I don't think Im going too.
In my current drunken state (as a 28 year old) I think I've had enough with videos games and the opinions people have of them.
My 18 year old brother says that COD4 is the best game ever while I stand by my Halo3; hence my endless hours playing halo 1 with my buddys like 5 years ago.
But I'm already rambling......

P.S. I thought Cod 4 was boring and I quit like after one day, while I played halo3 like 50 times through.
 

ElArabDeMagnifico

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I've got nothing against you Russ, you like this game and I have no problem with that, it's just that this sounded more like a User Review that I'd find on GameFAQs (no your isn't THAT bad, it's just that this felt a bit lacking) - and I just don't know whether to say "Good review" or "bad review" so, it was an OK Review, it just seems like every time a new GTA comes out, it's the best thing to happen in video gaming history, because they did some cool shit.

The game is awesome, but it's no 'criticism free (other than save points, which isn't really that big of a problem in the game, but yeah, it would be nice!) best thing in the world!' kind of game, and I swear all these reviews are starting to sound like they are just copied and pasted from those major sites like IGN and Gamespot.

I know you aren't a sellout Russ, but when you say something is the best game ever, I expect something REALLY convincing, like..convincing enough to "make me sell my computer for 10 bucks and buy a Mac" kind of persuasion.
 

Le' Moog

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here I am, smiling a nodding. great article :)

I, like you, enjoy all the unnecessary stuff glittered around the main story missions that, inadvertidly (think thats the right word) make the game.

the only thing that annoyed me was, I thought it was set in Liberty City , well the same one as GTA III. I spent half an hour trying to scope out my old hideout before realising it was a different map all togther.

I've palyed 20 ish hours and have spent the majority of that farting about on t'internet, courtesy of [email protected] cafe'.

possibly the most fantastical £70 i've ever spent. out of my mates, i was the only one to pre order it (home delivery). got the biggest grin for miles :D
 

I_LIKE_TACOS

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May 2, 2008
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no...no,no,no! people need to stop praising this game. its repeatative and gets boring after less than a week. slap a dress and makeup on a tranny but its still a tranny