Grand Theft Auto IV (Xbox 360, 2008 )
Niko Bellic's exploits are as varied as they are fun, and the cohesive plot is wonderfully woven.
Having recently completed Rockstar's latest entry in the seminal GTA series, Niko Bellic's exploits -- the sociopath, deadpan-delivering protagonist of the game -- are fresh in my mind. And what exploits they are. From high speed boat chases to bank robberies to the enactment of revenge and streaky motorbike missions, the tasks are as varied as they are fun, and, with ninety-four story missions in total, you're not going to be completing this saga any time soon.
Not that you'll want to. Niko's story is such an immensely engaging one that you'll be disappointed when it's all over, but disappointed in the way that you wish there was more, not an unfulfilled disappointment. I never expected to return to the game after finishing the story but, lo and behold, I slipped right back into Niko's fitting form only some hours after the closing credits appeared. And yes, I was only 60% through the game as a whole.
There are still pigeons to shoot, side missions to complete and new vehicles to filch. But, for the time being, it's only fitting I reflect on the immensely satisfying ride I've been on for the last week. Without a doubt GTA IV provides one of the most exhilarating, absorbing and addictive campaigns I've ever experienced. It proves that sandbox games, when done well, really work. There's so much cohesion at work and the story is wonderfully woven with Orwellian precision. It's astounding Rockstar can get it right so continuously.
There are so many details in GTA IV that are worth sampling. You've probably read reviews by now, detailing the individual aspects of the game - no, hearing about them doesn't spoil the experience. GTA IV is a visceral beast; it has to be experienced first hand.
I'm not going to waste your time explaining in laborious detail why this is worthy of the hype. Take it from me, take it from the numerous print reviews and take it from the millions of fans that have snapped up this gem: it really is one unbelievable journey. And it's 5th on my list.