The vices, aggressive humor, the murders and the open sandboxy world of the newest title in the famous Grand Theft Auto franchise made their way to the PC. To console owners, this doesn’t mean much – many of them already labeled GTA IV as the best next-gen game, turned it on all sides and moved on.
Conversely, people who only have a “lame-ass” desktop were limited to browsing in-game footage on YouTube, admiring the landscapes of the new Liberty City from the passenger’s seat and waving their red marker above the calendar, waiting for the day they’ll do a drive-by in High Definition. Well, that day came and went. Now, we can descend to the slums of society, criminals of all types and nationalities and bitter, tonic jokes on the many ridiculous extreme groups of America.
In Soviet Serbia, money spends YOU.
GTA IV’s protagonist is a hardened veteran of the Bosnian War who, enthralled by the ludicrous claims of his cousin in America, boards a ship and heads for the Country of All Possibilities with more conviction than Romanians boarding buses to Spain. It’s all milk and honey until he gets to his chubby cousin Roman’s home, only to discover that the yarns on strippers with bras the size of Bow Wow’s car rims, the villa with a pool and the money mountains on par with our own Guţă’s CD covers were nothing but pipe dreams.
With an expression on his face that’s very similar to what us naive folk showed when realizing that we were screwed over by that happy Ace commercial with the Canadian aunt and the utopian descriptions of post-December teachers, Niko Bellic finds the filthy apartment of his relative and the latter not only leading his life in debt to people you wouldn’t go out for a beer with, his modest gain of owning a taxi company not being enough to pay them off.
Here’s where the Grand Theft Auto pattern starts: you’re a nobody who strives to become somebody, and not by any orthodox means either. You can explore GTA III’s metropolis, now more alive and full of personality than ever, full of personality, while the story unfolds at the pace you want it to, depending on how often you’re in the mood to explore the narrative. The raw size of the new city doesn’t even get close to the great outdoors depicted by San Andreas, but certainly looks better and that’s not entirely just because of the superior graphics.
The structure of the neighborhoods and they way they vary in architecture, local populace or textures is so well done that you could make a feature film using these backgrounds, ensuring a scenery that’s superior overall to many contemporary productions. In a way, I miss the desert and country roads from San Andreas, but I have to admit that a compact city has its charm.
The dialogues keep the satire that’s typical to the series, a parody of many elements in the american culture. Obviously, the central element is the eastern-european mob, most bosses and thugs you interact with being immigrants from the former Iron Curtain. Sadly, none of the characters in previous games has made it, although it would have been interesting to see what twists and turns popped in the lives of the new people who haven’t died in GTA III or any of its spin-offs.
The only exception I can think of is Lazlow Jones, the known DJ from Grand Theft Auto 3, who makes an angry and erratic comeback, even posted as a suspect in the police database. On the other hand, considering the casting lists of the previous titles, it’s surprising that we no longer have top stars lending their faces and voices to some of the characters.
To be fair however, one of the radio hosts is voiced by Juliette Lewis, the female protagonist in Natural Born Killers, and some of the stand-up comedy clubs are entertained by Ricky Gervais.