Grand Theft Auto IV: Liberty City Stories
GTA IV is a story about outcasts About people that don’t belong in their world but struggle to make the absolute best of the situation they’ve found themselves in. I was fairly critical of Niko in my last blog about GTA IV, saying that he felt flat in comparison to the characters around him. He plays the straight man and I assume that is due to Rockstar wanting us to connect with him to allow us to make those few moral decisions that pop up during the game. I didn’t connect with Niko, I always play through games leaning on the good guy side if given the choice. I’ll let people live, I’ll put them out of their misery, I’ll save the little sisters. The problem that I had with GTA IV is that the few moral choices that you’re given seem to have no bearing on the story and didn’t fit the character that was shown in the cut scenes. Choosing to not kill a drug kingpin when you’ve just murdered a dozen of his henchmen who are just doing the job that they’re being paid for. Why should you spare the man responsible for the spread of drug addiction, disease and poverty? There is also no risk/reward for your choices making them almost worthless. It doesn’t even make you, as a player feel better about yourself seeing as all the game needs to do is ask and you’ll help in the kidnapping of a young woman and slap her about for no other reason than who her father is.
There is one choice in the game that seems to make a small difference and does show character growth. This did let me finish the game with better feeling towards Niko and the story improves dramatically in the final third. I do wish that Rockstar left the other missions that didn’t lend themselves to the story that Niko is redeemed by the end of our time with him. Especially as after the game you can just wander the map murdering everyone in sight.
Straight away I moved onto The Lost and Damned expansion which introduces the Motorcycle Club of the same name and Johnny their temporary leader. I’m a massive Sons of Anarchy fan so the chance to play as a biker gang immediately appealed to me. The bikes handle like a dream which was a worry having just played GTA IV. There are improvements to the guns as well as the bikes, Bike delivery and gun delivery works perfectly and browsing through the gun van really fits the outlaw vibe. Obviously it’s a much shorter story than the main game but it will still take you at least eight hours to just complete the story, which I loved. Watching a once tight MC disintegrate after the return of their president after a stay in prison is difficult to watch at times. Factions formed between members who are pushing for sustainability and peace or anarchy. Jibes are thrown at the gang by characters you meet for being behind the times. Past their prime during the 60’s before modern gangs turned to drugs and more modern means to survive. Turning their illegal behavior into a business rather than a reason to get drunk and stoned. I may be looking into it too much if I was to say that it’s a coming of age story. A tale about a group of friends, separated for one reason or another, brought back together to only find that things have changed and the old days can’t be replicated. I really enjoyed TLAD. I seem to be in the minority here.
The Ballad of Gay Tony ramps up the crazy in Liberty City by tasking the player with causing massive explosions and winning huge races from the get go. The missions are bizarre and feel completely different from the other two stories. They are a lot of fun and you’ll love them even more if you enjoy using the helicopters to blow stuff up despite it being incredibly hard to aim or control or do anything with any fines with. I do not like the helicopters. The story is the weakest of the three in my opinion but that minus is helped with the boost in flat out fun
Watching another side of a few of Niko’s missions was a lot of fun and really plays to my love of interesting story telling and seeing characters given cameos in the main game fleshed out in further stories is a joy. It was also satisfying actually seeing where the diamonds ended up after playing through almost two dozen missions where they are the focus.
This trilogy of stories charting these outcasts needs to be played as a whole in order to get what GTA IV was about. An immigrant, a loner among friends and an odd couple. All with big plans of how to make it in the modern world while all being stuck in their past. Each has its own focus but to really see how good of a game GTA IV is they should be played as a whole. I wouldn’t completely agree with those that have made this the highest rated game of the generation. There are others that have gripped me with their stories or game mechanics more. I will say that as a whole package, I don’t think another game I’ve played can match the scope of this story and the amount of characters you can interact with.
Now considering I’ve left my copy of GTA V with its cellophane on since day of release so that I could finish its predecessor, I’m off to install and play and hope that it doesn’t crash my aging Xbox.
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