Any negative comments? Well, I have a few. I won’t go on about the odd bit of slowdown, and I understand that there’s less pop-up and texture pop-in on the PS3 version (which I’ve been playing) than the 360 version (which I haven’t), albeit at the cost of a slight reduction in screen resolution and a five minute wait while the game installs. I would however like to moan about a couple of things. First, Rockstar still hasn’t introduced mid-mission checkpoints. 75 per cent of the time it’s not an issue, but in some of the larger, multi-part missions it can be really, really annoying to have to go back to square one because you did something dumb during the final section. A quick ‘replay mission’ option from the mobile phone helps, but you’ll still find yourself repeating some lengthy drives and sections of the game several times (though using taxis and public transport can cut this down).
Secondly, the context-sensitive controls can sometimes be a bit fiddly. I’ve had trouble getting up ladders in a hurry, while using the L1 button to interact with objects can demand a little too much care over your position. Finally, I’m a little disappointed that the game is still very selective about which objects you can interact with. If I want to throw something through a shop window, I’d like to be able to pick up the bin, the abandoned trolley or the dislodged fire hydrant – not just the can that the developers have already chosen for me.
Does this affect the final verdict? Well, the truth is that I haven’t yet come to a final, final verdict. At the time of writing I still have to test the multiplayer – and I think that’s going to take a little getting used to – and I still have a way to go before I can say I’ve seen and done everything that I’d like to. Luckily, thanks to the wonders of Internet publishing I can come back and update this review when I’ve done so. For now, my few niggles stop me giving GTAIV the full 10/10 perfect score, but that could easily be subject to change. Right now, I can safely say that this is one of the greatest games to come along this generation, and that GTAIV is everything we hoped it would be, and more.
GTAIV shows the pretenders how it should be done, with an incredibly rich world, strong characters, great technology and a truly compelling story. Provided you can handle its skewed morality, it’s the year’s most essential video game.