As someone who has always experienced Rockstar's open-world franchise vicariously through the ramblings of others, I was unsure of exactly what to expect once I rolled up my sleeves and slipped behind the wheel. Honestly, in the short time I managed to stay awake and play Grand Theft Auto IV on the morning of its release, the game inspired a sense of nostalgia -- an odd realization of course given that I had never before played a game in the series. However, the the sensation persisted, chiefly I think because of the game's sense of exploration from the onset, reminding me of playing an adventure game on crack, something it probably scored off some shady dealer in a back alley.
"What immediately struck me about [GTAIV] is that, more than anything else, it's built from the intro out to be a cinematic experience."
What immediately struck me about Grand Theft Auto IV
is that, more than anything else, it's built from the intro out to be a cinematic experience, and despite the occasional glitch and visuals that come in well below the established bar, this feeling of living a movie persists. The game successfully weaves the illusion that anything is possible, and while that mystique may break down once the limits of Liberty City are truly tested, for now I'm enjoying basking in a game that exemplifies the sandbox meme.
Boasting a plot with an obvious black streak, I was prepared for GTA IV
's colorful language and abundance of violence, though to be fair these are not trappings exclusive to Rockstar's magnum opus. Even so, the game's embrace of bending or breaking real world laws is perhaps a bit overzealous, as I was taken aback briefly when trying to get into a taxi, only to have the game's gruff Russian lead Niko take the opportunity to forcibly eject the driver and take the cab for a spin on his own when all I really wanted was a quick ride uptown.
Living on the periphery of the series, talk of the game had prepared me for what I was convinced would be a hooker on every corner, with in-game sex offered up and drunk down like flavored water. However, I was surprised to find the game's first so-called date between Niko and a recent acquaintance to be much tamer than expected. She was a bit annoying, and her small talk left much to be desired, but the real crime of the encounter was having to sit through an arduous minigame of bowling -- a crime against gameplay made all the more criminal by Sixaxis controls that waffled between being broken and unusable.