reviews\ Dec 7, 2008 at 7:00 pm

Grand Theft Auto IV - PC - Review

As far as the PC goes, Grand Theft Auto has always been a franchise to show up fashionably late to the party. Often arriving several months to a year after the console launch, PC releases of the series have been a given from the first entries to the franchise, offering some graphical improvements and new features each time. Now, the most recent entry to the series is making its appearance on the PC.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, chances are you’ve heard something about Grand Theft Auto IV. The first entry to franchise to be featured on current-gen consoles, the game released on 360 and PS3 with deafening fanfare back in April and is now arriving on the PC.

Grand Theft Auto IV on the PC offers the same great single-player campaign as the wildly successful console versions, while offering graphical enhancements and higher resolutions and a host of new features and upgrades to the multiplayer and community elements in the game. You’ll now have the ability to import your own music tracks to a custom radio station, as well as record your own videos and edit clips together through the game’s new video editor and share them with other players via Rockstar’s Social Club community element. While the game has some problems here and there with stability, the core game is a fantastic addition to the series and one that no GTA fan will want to miss.

The storyline in Grand Theft Auto IV follows Nico Bellic, a Russian immigrant who comes to Liberty City at the behest of his cousin Roman. He quickly becomes enveloped in the world of organized crime, working his way up the ranks within Liberty City, making friends and a whole lot of enemies along the way.

The game’s single-player gameplay has been largely unchanged from the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game (check out our reviews for those here). The multiplayer element is also pretty solid, offering up the same great multiplayer mode while upping the player count from 16 to 32 while still performing quite admirably with little lag.

The PC version’s video editor is definitely one of its bigger additions. After creating an account and logging onto Rockstar’s Social Club, you’ll be able to capture videos of your gameplay in order to export them into the game’s video editor utility. Capturing videos of your gameplay is a snap, simply press the F2 after you do something awesome and the last thirty seconds or so of gameplay are recorded and stored into the video editor. After you’ve gotten some cool footage, you can open your cell phone and enter the video editor.

From the video editor, you can edit your clips however you see fit, adding in filters, splicing different videos together, adding in music and so on. Once you’ve edited the clip to your liking, you can then post it onto the Social Club for other members of the community to check out and rate, Youtube-style. This is a great touch for the game, as the open world has always allowed for some crazy stuff to go down, and you’ll definitely be able to catch some great videos on the Social Club.

There are some intrinsic benefits to playing the game on the PC when it comes to controls, namely with aiming and shooting. Using a gun is a lot more intuitive on the PC since you have the keyboard-mouse configuration to work with. For driving, a gamepad usually feels the most comfortable. Fortunately, GTA IV lets you use each control option on the fly, switching between the two without requiring you go through the options menu at all.

While the game offers some pretty impressive new features that PC gamers and fans of GTA will undoubtedly want to check out, there are some pretty serious technical issues with the game that have been making their rounds in the public and on various tech forums. The game has some pretty severe stability issues, performing poorly on machines that meet or exceed the system requirements and even locking up and shutting down when some features, like the Social Club, are turned on. While Rockstar has stated that they are currently working on a patch for the game that will hopefully address these issues, gamers should be aware that the game does have some pretty serious stability problems as it currently stands.

Graphically, the game is a noticeable improvement over the console versions, benefiting from super-high resolutions and improved character models. The whole city looks fantastic and filled with details, and that’s only with a few of the graphical settings set higher; on future machines, this game will drop jaws. Still, the technical issues are tough to overlook and many gamers, regardless of how top of the line their PCs are, will need to scale down the settings a lot in order to get it to run properly.

The sound department is largely unchanged from the console versions, which is a good thing, as it sports some excellent voice acting, great sound effects, and a huge and robust soundtrack. One thing that the PC version has over the consoles is “Independent FM”, a special radio station that allows you to import your own MP3s to a special folder and listen to them within the game. Like an actual radio station, you can opt for DJ banter or simply listen to your music.

Grand Theft Auto IV is a solid port of the beloved title, albeit one with some technical issues that will be rectified with a patch soon. Still, if you’re a PC-only gamer waiting for the chance to take this plunge into Liberty City, the new features will definitely impress.

Review Scoring Details for Grand Theft Auto IV

Gameplay: 9.5
The single-player campaign and storyline has been unchanged from the console versions, which is a good thing. The mouse and keyboard controls are also very intuitive when it comes to handling guns, and the new video editor feature is a blast.

Graphics: 9.0
Graphically, the game looks great, with some nice improvements over the console games. The character models sport some nice detail improvements and the environments come alive in great ways. However, the game requires a lot of tweaking and downscaling in order to run properly, even on high-end systems.

Sound: 9.0
The new Independent FM feature is a great touch, allowing you to put your own spin on the game’s already impressive soundtrack.

Difficulty: Medium

Concept: 8.5
The new features are nice additions, but the PC version’s stability issues are too major to overlook.

Multiplayer: 9.0
Same modes as the console versions, but the PC game increases the player count from 16 to 32, which is a nice touch.

Overall: 9.0
Grand Theft Auto IV is a solid port, adding in some compelling features to reward PC gamers for their patience. However, they’re going to want to sit tight and wait for Rockstar to issue a patch to fix the game’s stability problems.


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