Grand Theft Auto IV has been in my possession since midnight Monday in a Los Angeles mini-mall. Because the game is rated M for Mature, there were a few eager teens milling around in the parking lot, trying to bribe cool adults to get them a copy. What's worse? Buying teens cheap vodka or immersive sociopathic sandbox crime simulators?
With about 20 hours of gameplay (6.24% of the story and a lot of multiplayer) under my belt, here are some first impressions:
If you like endless cut scenes and game chatter spoken in grating Serbian accents, this is the game for you. (Also, The Rockstar creative team's love affair with the number 69 is unabated.)
Unless I'm mistaken, when you kill someone, you can no longer leave cute little red footprint trails of victim blood behind you. However, when you run people over, less cute super-realistic blood stains appear on your windshield. (Exactly one stain per victim.)
For a game whose overall benefit to society is always in debate, there is a drunk driving simulator that's truly terrifying. Perhaps terrifying enough to make the teens who bribed cool adults to buy them both M for Mature video games and cheap vodka think twice before getting behind the real-life wheel. (Kids, try getting actually drunk, then driving drunk in the game, and see what happens.)
There seems to be a lot of time in the game allocated to text messaging, going on the Internet, and online activities. I wasted my life in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas pretending to work out; now I'm wasting my life in GTA: IV pretending to surf the web.
The online multiplayer experience is outstanding. Exciting, chilling, and oh-I-just-got-run-over-by-a-garbage-truck messed up. Racing, sniping, exploding, hiding the diversity of attack strategies available allows for a ride that will never get boring. Ultimately, the multiplayer for GTA: IV is so engaging it might actually overshadow the story. When I wake up in the morning, exhausted and sick with self-loathing from playing till three in the morning the night before, multiplayer is what calls me back. It's so good, I may never get to 7%.