While the single player campaign rests on the gameplay foundations set forth by its predecessors, several small yet important tweaks and changes make‚ GTA IV‚ stand out. In previous installments, stealing cars meant merely stepping through the door and taking off (or, walking off is the door was locked), but in‚ GTA IV‚ ”" Niko doesn’t take no for an answer. If a car door is locked, players will need to smash through the windows with either their elbow, foot or gun and then proceed to hot-wire the car.‚ Not only does this add a sense of realism, but it also makes players be a little bit more selective (read: careful) with what vehicles they choose. Sure, that sports car parked in the middle of the ritzy neighborhood looks fun to drive, but if the do-gooders in the area see you smash through the window, you’re sure to have the police following you awfully quick, while doing the same in one of Liberty’s more run-down areas may help you stay away from the fuzz for a bit longer.
Many of‚ GTA IV’s changes are meant to move the franchise in a dramatically more realistic direction. Niko can now be thrown from his car in serious accidents, scale fences, and yes “" can finally take cover behind objects much like the “duck and cover” system found in Gears of War.‚ Even the police seem more realistic as they don’t send the entire force after you for bumping another car in traffic. While you still do have your “wanted” meter (measured by 1-6 stars), your in game GPS will now feature a flashing red and blue circle that grows as your police opposition does. Get out of the circle without alerting any nearby squads (also shown on your GPS) and you’re in the clear.
One of the biggest changes in‚ GTA IV‚ is the ability to make choices during select missions that directly affect the game’s story. Several times you’ll be given the option to kill someone or save them, or to assist someone in criminal activity or take the high road
and opt out. While‚ GTA‚ is always a long game, I found myself eager to play through the campaign a second time to see what changes if I made other choices. This gameplay mechanic was introduced to gamers in a much more limited sense in‚ Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and it’s good to see the developers taking the next step. It’s clear‚ GTA IV‚ borrows heavily from its most recent predecessor, but one can’t help but think it missed some of what made that game so incredible “" the deep RPG like character customization. Sure, you can change Niko’s clothing and jewelry, but‚ San Andreas‚ was much deeper, you could change your haircut, sculpt your body via trips to the gym “" even improve on key skills like driving and shooting through in game tutorials. If you didn’t play‚ San Andreas, you won’t know it’s missing, but it’s a shame that such a deep game is missing such a key element.