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GTA IV: A Modern Masterpiece

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There's nothing like three days of music and partying to distract a gamer from the release of one of the most anticipated games of the year. This dedicated LAista got back from Coachella in style; straight to my local GameStop to pick up my pre-ordered copy of Grand Theft Auto IV. After about 5 hours of solid playing time, its pretty much safe to echo the sentiments heard all across the internets; GTA IV is a magnum opus.

Niko Bellic is a fresh-off-the-boat Eastern European immigrant searching for the American dream. His cousin Roman welcomes Niko to what he initially understood to be Roman's high society lifestyle, but in reality he's introduced to a roach-infested studio apartment and a low-brow taxi service. The story follows Niko through his trials and tribulations of permeating American organized crime through Roman's various criminal clients as we discover how the protagonist's troubled past contributes to his success.

Not one detail is spared in GTA IV; from paved roads to radio stations, the tongue-in-cheek humor and banter produced by the game's A.I., it would take months to see, hear, and do everything in the game. Just before sitting down to write this piece, I shot a couple drug dealers, roughed up some loan sharks, and even bowled 10 frames with my shady new girlfriend, all in the span of 15 minutes. Normally this would take a week in my world.

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The main reason why GTA IV is set to break numerous records is its depth. It's probably the closest possible thing you could get to controlling a character in a film. The freedom this title allows is infinite, offering the consumer considerable re-playability, and that's not even taking into consideration the online multi-player mode. The fact of the matter is, Liberty City feels like a real place; a living, breathing metropolis that takes its toll on every one of its inhabitants. The game pushes the boundaries of reality and control, cohesiveness and harmony, physics and visuals; this is what garners a 10/10 score from major gaming media outlets.

I'd recommend any casual gamer to pick up GTA IV just to see how publishers strive to set precedence for future titles. It's pretty much a given for anyone interested in epic crime sagas and intense dramatic films. There's no question that the game will incite a media frenzy due to its maturity level, so it'll be interesting to see just when the media pounces all over some story about a kid who finds his father's gun in his underwear drawer. All we can say is, once you get the game, don't forget to check your text messages.

Image courtesy of Conneee via flickr, and videos used with permission from IGN.com