Does GTA IV live up to the hype?

Don Reisinger has spent considerable time with GTA IV and asks a simple question: does it live up to the hype? Find out.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
4 min read

When Take-Two released GTA IV to the masses last week, some wondered just how big this game would be. Most analysts pegged the eventual first week sales at around $400 million and thought that was a huge week. But in an interesting turn of events that should press Take-Two's asking price higher, the company is poised to announce that it realized over $500 million in revenue in just the first week of Grand Theft Auto IV's availability.

GTA IV is that good Rockstar Games

But before it was met with such success, GTA IV garnered some of the biggest hype we have ever seen in gaming. Unlike any other title released in recent memory, the story of Niko Bellic and his rise in the criminal underworld achieved blockbuster status and quickly realized the full potential of a title that can totally change the way we're expected to think of gaming in general.

With that in mind, I entered the world of GTA IV wondering what would confront me. Would it be just another example of debauchery and disregard for humanity like some critics believe or a title that would change the way I think about gaming?

Before I get to my take on GTA IV, I should say that I have yet to complete the game and I do not intend this column to be a review. If you're looking for a review of the game, check out Gamespot's full review.

With that in mind, I can say, without a doubt, that after playing through GTA IV over the past few days, it is easily, one of the greatest games ever made. And although I can trace my roots back to the days of old where classics like Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past made me weep at the sight of perfection, GTA IV has stimulated that same response and helped me see that true beauty in gaming goes far beyond graphics.

As hard as I've tried, I still can't find one element of GTA IV that makes me cringe. Is the driving tough? Sometimes. But how can you really complain about that? The driving simulates real life -- when you're cruising through Liberty City at a speed of over 70mph, how can you really expect to make a perfect right turn, right?

Are the graphics a little choppy? Nope. Unlike past iterations of Grand Theft Auto where I had hoped for better looks, this game delivers. All in all, I'd say that this is probably one of the better looking games around right now and much better than anything else I've seen lately.

The acting must stink, right? Not a chance. Unlike every other movie I've seen in the past few months, GTA IV's dialogue is spot on. Whether you're discussing how you'll rise to the top of the criminal world or what you're looking for on other, more R-rated fronts, the voice acting is superb. Suffice it to say, you'll be more engrossed in this game than almost any movie you can watch right now.

Is the story bad? Uh, no. In fact, I would venture to say that this is the best story I've ever seen in a GTA title and one that easily eclipses, well, just about any other story. Ever. Now I know what you're thinking -- "what about Final Fantasy VII or any Legend of Zelda title?" Well, without giving any details away, let's just say that those fantastical stories may be engrossing, but there's nothing like GTA IV's.

Unlike the others, Niko Bellic's story is one that delivers betrayal, action, and drama in a way that no other video game has ever produced. In essence, the game effectively creates an environment that not only appeals to your desire for an engrossing story, but does so in a way that helps you feel like it's believable. All I can say is, "wow."

What about the gameplay? It's fantastic. Like the other GTA games, you can now do anything you want, anywhere you want, at any pace you want. Do you want to fly a helicopter to the observation deck on the Empire State Building and snipe innocent bystanders? Go for it. Do you want to come down on the right side of the law and help the police catch perps? Have fun. Do you want to drive around and perform jumps all over the city? What are you waiting for?

Liberty City is a living, breathing environment that will not only captivate you and make you want more, but engage you in a story that's just as good. Because of that, I can say now, barring downright perfection from some major titles that will be coming out later this year, that Grand Theft Auto IV is the game of the year, the game of the decade, and quite possibly, the best game of all-time.