A new game came out this week, you may have heard of it.

As the biggest installment in the GTA series, Grand Theft Auto IV has garnered quite a bit of attention, even more given its reception of many perfect-score reviews. Given the sheer importance of a title like GTA4, and my love for virtual carjacking, I couldn’t resist but putting together some quick thoughts on the game. By no means is this a thorough review, I'm no where near done with the game yet, but it’s simply a collection of my thoughts on the title.


Grand Theft Auto is one of those games that you don't expect to actually look good, mostly because it never actually looked good. It's not a Gears of War, Assassin's Creed or even Halo, it's a game where you sacrifice visual appeal for gameplay. Grand Theft Auto 4 however restores the balance a bit and actually surprised me with how good it looked. Again, it's not as good looking of a game as Gears, but it's pretty damn good for a GTA.

The cutscenes look pretty good, but in-game graphics aren't nearly this detailed

The graphics of GTA4 fall short in two areas: draw distance and animation. The draw distance issues are pretty annoying; while the game looks great in close quarters, look off into the distance and you're met with a sea of blurry. It's like the cameraman just discovered depth of field and went nuts with it. I get that there are technical limitations that mean we can't have infinite draw distance, I just want to point it out the blemish.

Here's a crop from the picture above it

My second complaint is about animation, and it's not one that's GTA4 specific but really applies to all modern day games. To understand this complaint I must first talk about telling a story in a video game.

It's rare that when a game is praised for having a great story, that it actually has a great story. We must be very careful about how we throw around phrases like "great story" because you might accidentally give someone the wrong impression that the Halo franchise could somehow have a story that is on par with the Godfather. There are some games that, in my opinion, actually come close to having a decent story (read: Mass Effect) but even those pale in comparison to the best stories in movies.

Just as a good story in a movie can be ruined by bad acting, a good story in a game can be ruined by poor, or un-lifelike animation. The problem is that we're not quite at a stage in both the CPU and GPU space, where we can apply lifelike animations to many highly detailed characters, in complex worlds, in real time. GTA4 comes closer to reality than any other previous GTA, but we still have a long way to go. Facial expressions, body movements, environmental interactions, etc... are all no where near lifelike, and it's simply tough to believe in a well written story if it's acted out in a choppy fashion.

These two don't look very convincing, I'm sorry

The story in GTA4 isn't bad by any means, but I'll reserve complete praise for when we've got the processing power to tell it in a way that can truly rival a movie (and this is why we'll continue to need faster CPUs and faster GPUs, we're no where near done folks).

The Ugly is in the Controls
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  • FITCamaro - Thursday, May 1, 2008 - link

    While I'm not saying the game is bug free (there will always be glitches in a video game), what exactly are you referring to? I've found nothing wrong with it so far.
  • zainab12345 - Monday, September 14, 2020 - link

  • zainab12345 - Monday, September 14, 2020 - link

    Really the best game ever, really liked it https://hdpcgames.com/gta-iv-pc-game-download/
  • Locutus465 - Wednesday, April 30, 2008 - link

    This is a very sad truth... Particularly since I do still enjoy PC gaming because typically this is where you first see the major break throughs with gameplay, graphics and all the rest.
  • Ivan244 - Wednesday, April 30, 2008 - link

    Glad to see you brought a critical eye from seeing all the unabashed frothing I'm seeing elsewhere.

    Would love to get your take on the Halo3 matchmaking. For me personally I refuse to play Halo3 mp because of MM. I don't like, for unranked matches, being told what I'm going to play and on what map I get to play it on.

    Yes I understand friends list but then you have to have x number of people on and x number who want to play Halo and x number who want to play that map/game type.

    I much prefer Gears and all the other games out there that give me a list to choose from. Pick what I want and if I don't see it host my own.

    Plus with Halo and Forge all those people create great custom games and yet it's like pulling teeth to find them. Finally there are some workarounds but you got to admit it's far more hassle then if we had a server list.

    So curious to see what you like so much about matchmaking that draws you to Halo.
  • tfranzese - Wednesday, April 30, 2008 - link

    I'm holding out for a PC version, like I've done in the past. Dunno, maybe I'll change my mind if the wait is more than a year.
  • Baked - Wednesday, April 30, 2008 - link

    I was gonna pick-up the MGS4 PS3 bundle and GTA4 because I love Sony products and have loved the GTA series since the beginning, but after reading Anand's excellent review, I've decided to spend my money on a Xbox 360 and Halo 3 instead. Even though I've never played Halo and absolutely hate the FPS genre, Anand's review has convinced me otherwise. Thank you Anand.
  • BZDTemp - Wednesday, April 30, 2008 - link

    Don't by a console for Halo 3!!!!

    The Halo series is overrated and for each installment it has been going downhill. Sure there are some nice points but it is nothing special.

    If GTAIV is worth getting a console over or not I can't say. I have not played it and release day reviews are to be taken with a grain of salt. Anyway I have both a 360 and a PS3 and if getting just one console of the current ones then get the PS3.
  • Locutus465 - Wednesday, April 30, 2008 - link

    No offence... But what's your problem? Anand made graphical comparisons to games known to be graphically very good. I.e. Gears of War and Halo 3, the point being the graphics in GTA4 aren't quite on their level. That doesn't mean that graphics aren't good (indeed anand points out that generally they are) or that the game isn't any good or that you should buy Halo instead. It's called creating a point of reference, many of us here have seen/played Gears an halo, so we understand the point of reference.
  • aikendd - Wednesday, April 30, 2008 - link

    I love Anandtech for technical news, so I suppose it shouldn't be surprising that this review is technically focused in forest/trees sense.

    There's confusion about story: in movies, story is distinct from acting and cinematography, and it's silly to confuse the three here. I'm fine with faulting the story in GTAIV, but saying the story is weak because the animation isn't photorealistic is like saying that the story in Toy Story is weak because everyone knows toys can't talk. It shows a lack of understanding of how the word is generally used.

    The review also misses the single most important question: is the game *fun*? There's some half-in, half-out comments about "if you liked other GTA's, you'll like this, if not then not", but how about the reviewer? Did he have fun?

    I more or less agree with the conclusions, such as they are, but on the whole this seems like a review of the draw distance and character animation with only cursory attention to the actually game experience.

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