8.5

Technically, the best GTA game yet. But Niko's story doesn't compell like previous GTA outings.

In Vice City, you started off as a common thug and worked, stole, and killed your way to be the undisputed kingpin. And when you returned to San Andreas, you were a gang-banger gone clean, dragged back into the street wars by events beyond your control. And as much as I like Niko Bellic, the protagonist from GTA IV, I just don't think his story is as compelling as the previous games. Niko's quest for the American dream is often a little convoluted and confusing. Sometimes I wasn't quite sure why he was working for who he was, or where his motives were bringing him.

Technically speaking, GTA IV is the best game yet. The improvements upon nearly every aspect of the game from graphics to controls is better than any GTA game before. The ability to instantly retry a failed mission is a long-needed feature, but it is still disappointing that there are no checkpoints on some of the longer and more difficult missions. It's not a perfect game and there are things that will frustrate you, but there is nothing game-breaking to ruin your experience.

There is no lack of things to do in GTA IV. You can spend dozens of hours completing every main and side mission, and spend dozens more on all the other activities in Liberty City. You're never too far from a laugh-out-loud moment with some of the game's more absurd, and fun, pastimes. Though sometimes you wonder what would compel Niko to scour the city looking for glowing red pigeons to shoot. Plus there's an entire lineup of online play just waiting for gamers so inclined to join up with friends for some multiplayer mayhem.

If you are a fan of past GTA games, you don't want to miss this seminal chapter. And if you are a fan of open-world driving, shooting and general mayhem games, but have never played a GTA before, this is a perfect time to jump in. GTA IV is a great game in my book, and you can't go wrong picking up a copy.

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