We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
Games software Reviews
15,669 Reviews

Grand Theft Auto IV review

£39 inc VAT

Manufacturer: Rockstar Games

Our Rating: We rate this 4.5 out of 5

Grand Theft Auto is many things: a popular video game and a controversial subject, among others. It's also a brilliant satire wrapped in an ingenious crime story inside an interactive masterpiece. It really is.

Grand Theft Auto is many things: a popular video game and a controversial subject, among others. It's also a brilliant satire wrapped in an ingenious crime story inside an interactive masterpiece. It really is.

In Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto IV, Liberty City lives like Frankenstein's monster, a concrete- and billboard-plastered jungle sparked to life and spoiling for a fight around any street corner.

Come ready, come wary, come emotionally steeled: it's Liberty City as you've never seen a fully interactive metropolis before. The ninth iteration in Rockstar's acclaimed - albeit controversial - series wields the fruits of its astonishing $100m budget so effectively, in fact, that it's difficult to imagine this deluxe sandbox and crime spree simulator being a single penny better.

Just some good ol' boys

Most of what you do in GTA IV still boils down to hustling jobs, stealing cars, trucks, and motorbikes of all makes and sizes, chasing and frequently stabbing, beating, or shooting enemies by land, sea, and air, and evading the law (only when you're caught, of course). Missions come in twos and threes and are usually conveyed through a convenient pop-up mobile phone, as are calls, contacts, text messages, and plenty of bling-tones if you've got the money and inclination to buy upgrades around the city.

The phone lets you manually dial outbound as well, which allows you to optionally interact with numbers cleverly strewn on or around signs and on websites in internet cafes sprinkled throughout the city - you can even dial 911 to summon a police car for help or just to engage in a little extra-brazen car-thievery.

Lining up money jobs through the phone's a snap, too, once you work yourself into the good graces of employers, who'll send you on missions ranging from taxiing patrons and vehicle jacking, to intimidating the stubborn or just plain stupid - even the occasional hired assassination.

Grand Theft Auto

I'm Niko from the block

Being Niko Bellic - the illegal East European immigrant you play for the game's duration - is a frantic tarantella with fate. He's a soft-spoken tough guy able to kiss or kill on a dime.

His early jaunts where he almost innocently intimidates or roughs up Liberty City's delinquent payees quickly devolve into a violent scrabble through a bullet-clawed, thug-fouled, cacophonous urban labyrinth in search of money, sex, respect. And, when all those evaporate (as we know they ultimately must), he looks for a sense of identity, place, and belonging.

Niko clambers off an industrial freighter in Liberty City's harbour as the game's opening credits roll, wearing his ideals carefully under his sleeve. But he quickly becomes embroiled in escalating feudal battles between warring powers who cat-paw him around until he's forced to take matters in hand and come to grips with his own sordid history.

NEXT PAGE: you want this one, or is it my turn?

Visit Digital World for the latest digital audio, games and home-entertainment news and reviews

  1. I'm Niko from the block
  2. You want this one, or is it my turn?
  3. Large and in charge and the satire runs wild
  4. Shattered glass and plastic
  5. Eeny meeny miny moe
  6. Grand Theft Auto IV screenshots page 1
  7. Grand Theft Auto screenshots page 2

Grand Theft Auto IV Expert Verdict »

Microsoft Windows PC with 15GB hard disk space (requires Windows Live and Rockstar Social Club membership)
Microsoft Xbox 360, Xbox 360 Elite
Sony PlayStation 3
broadband connection required for online elements
  • Overall: We give this item 9 of 10 overall

To this day, Grand Theft Auto seems almost like a serendipitous fluke to me, a fascinating but improbable tale of two incredibly ambitious brothers almost stumbling into their third-in-sequence megahit by tapping a niche freeform legacy reaching back to David Braben and Ian Bell's seminal 1984 space-trading game "Elite". How Grand Theft Auto morphed from a plotless arcade racer (originally dubbed "Race N Chase") about stealing and selling cars for profit, into an epic crime drama with all the moral subtext of a Coppola or Scorsese blockbuster, is one for the history books. It's also a series that's managed to galvanize and, in some cases, rabidly polarize people over the ethical legitimacy of its violent and sexually explicit content, which to be fair is probably tamer than a lot of HBO dramas and comedy acts. Wherever you stand, you have to admire the brass of the Houser brothers, from GTA IV's opening nose-thumbing BDSM clips or Niko's request for sex by asking his girlfriend Michelle for "hot coffee", to the pumped up TV show "The Men's Room with Bas and Jeremy" "Come to Liberty City," teases Bas Rutten (voiced by the actual super-buff Dutch martial artist) at one point. "And you can get strong in this weak world."

  • Grand Theft Auto IV for PC review

    Grand Theft Auto IV for PC

    A demanding port of an excellent game, Grand Theft Auto IV PC is only worth a look from gamers that missed Niko's venture to America the first time around.

  • Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned review

    Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned

    Good things come to those who wait. First Rockstar pushed the original release date of GTA IV back six months, then the game's first DLC (downloadable content), "The Lost and Damned," wasn't made available until almost a year after GTA IV's release.

  • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City for iPad & iPhone review

    Grand Theft Auto: Vice City for iPad & iPhone

    Grand Theft Auto Vice City is still an excellent game, with incredibly high production values. Read our full Grand Theft Auto: Vice City for iPad & iPhone review to find out more.

  • Grand Theft Auto 3 for iPad review

    Grand Theft Auto 3 for iPad

    This iOS port of landmark video game Grand Theft Auto 3 is a fun ride

  • Red Dead Redemption review

    Red Dead Redemption

    Arguably Rockstar's finest effort to date, Red Dead Redemption is a game that does an exquisite job of capturing the iconic essence of the Wild West, presenting one of the most engaging and enjoyable open-world climates in recent memory with the dusty plains of New Austin.

IDG UK Sites

Windows 10 release date, price, features UK: Staggered release with PCs coming first this summer -...

IDG UK Sites

In defence of BlackBerrys

IDG UK Sites

Why we should reserve judgement on Apple ditching Helvetica in OS X/iOS for the Apple Watch's San...

IDG UK Sites

MacBook Pro 15in preview: better battery life, faster storage and a new discrete graphics chip may...