The craftsmanship in this title is simply stunning. It is clear that it was designed and implemented by people who really wanted to produce something that was revolutionary, and without skimping on the details.
I'm not much of a gamer, so I can't compare this to other titles. But what I can say is that I have been, and continue to be surprised with what the game is offering.
It seems almost limitless. From AI cars flashing their high beams when you're driving on the wrong side of the road on a collision course with them, to the seamless integration of the radio stations with the world you influence, to . . . well, a dozen pages could be written on the details alone.
And then there's the characters. Niko is great. He's likable, despite being a murderer. As the story progresses, you find yourself empathizing with him more and more, which is something I'd never expect from a video game.
Some of the other characters are annoying, but they ultimately lend themselves to a plot that is just fantastic. I would recommend to anyone playing the game to not seek out spoilers; the story is compelling and full of surprises, to the point where a plot turn will have you sitting in your easy chair, holding your controller, dropping your jaw saying "wow", with a little bit of drool rolling down your face.
Yes. It's that good.
Players of previous iterations of the GTA franchise will be happy to know that Niko is not some dopey guy who does whatever anyone tells him without reason. Whereas CJ from GTA:SA was unquestioning in his desire to just make everyone happy, Niko is far more complex. There are times when you think he's doing things out of dumb sense of "I guess I have to do this", but then you discover it's something else. Something more believable.
It's rare that a title has this much hype surrounding it. It's even more rare when it actually delivers on that hype.
And what were seeing with this game is history. Video games are a new genre of entertainment. Until recently, they've been resigned to the domains of hard-core gamers, with developers seeing how far graphics or sound can be pushed. But it's never been seen as a legitimate art form, like cinema.
GTA IV changes that. It suggests that a video game can be, in essence, a beautiful work of art. With this as a starting point, it's likely that in another 20 years interactive entertainment will be considered just as worthy of critical praise as film, or painting, or music.