Niko, it's your cousin! We should play Grand Theft Auto IV!

:nws: :tw: This is a Grand Theft Auto game, so expect plenty of violence, tasteless humor and general depravity as well as some unfortunate portrayals of gay characters.

“Life is complicated. I’ve killed people, smuggled people, sold people. Perhaps here, things will be different…”

Grand Theft Auto IV, developed by Rockstar North and released in April 2008 on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 and in December 2008 for Windows, is the fourth main installment in Rockstar Games’ open world crime series and GTA’s first foray to HD. It is also the third best game ever made, at least if you trust Metacritic scores.

GTA IV is sometimes considered a bit of a disappointment by fans of the series, as it went for a more down-to-earth approach after the insanity that was San Andreas and put more emphasis on the storyline and characters than any of the previous GTA games (to the detriment of the urban mayhem gameplay most people enjoy the best in GTA – I tend to focus on the missions in these games and rarely go on any rampages so I had no problem with it, but a lot of people were very angry). If I were a game reviewer in 2008 and used appalling clichés in my writing, I might call it “darker, grittier and more realistic”. Since this is a game everyone bought but nobody finished (apparently, only 28% of all players finished the story on the Xbox 360 version), I decided it would be a decent choice for an LP. I did finish the game back in 2008 and enjoyed it at the time, so I’m also trying to see if it holds up at all.

GTA IV could be best described as an ambitious (the open world is amazingly detailed) but extremely flawed game, which tries to be both an open world asshole simulator and a serious crime story and doesn’t really pull either of those off. The issues are compounded by the increased presence of tight mission scripting, which really started to pop up in San Andreas but is even more jarring here as the game frequently breaks its own rules to make the story missions more cinematic. The game may tell you that you need to kill a biker, so you chase him down only to find he’s impervious to bullets until a certain point. Or you’re pulling off a huge bank heist and decide to steal one of the police cars out front to get away, only to find the game does not allow you to steal cars in that mission until you’re specifically told to do so. The button to steal a car still works, but you only break the window and that’s it. To reiterate: A game called Grand Theft Auto does not allow you to escape the police by stealing a car. How about that. There are several examples of this kind of thing in GTA IV, although other missions do at least allow for more lateral thinking and are more fun as a result.

Since this is a 2008 release, the combat is now cover-based - while this might sound like an improvement over the earlier GTA games and their rather wonky shooting mechanics, the combat in GTA IV is really a bit of a slog that tends to devolve into a bunch of men sitting behind boxes and slowly plinking away at each other (there is no health regen or mid-mission checkpoints, so you don’t want to try anything reckless). Cars are much heavier than they were in previous GTA games, and while some folks dislike the handling I absolutely love throwing the muscle cars and high-end sports cars around corners. Bikes are utterly awful, though; luckily we don’t have a bunch of extremely difficult scripted chase missions involving them or… oh yeah, we do. Great.

GTA IV’s protagonist is Niko Bellic, a Balkan war veteran who fell on hard times and turned to crime after the war and now comes to Liberty City (completely redesigned for this game, now heavily based on New York City) in an attempt to escape his former life and search for “something”. Since this is GTA and Niko is a man who is only good at violence and killing, you can expect things to go south pretty quickly. For one, it turns out that Niko’s cousin Roman, who has lived in Liberty City for ten years, has embellished his stories about life in America just a little bit and is actually up to his ears in debt to some Eastern European gangsters. Also, he would really like if you took him bowling. Or to play pool. Or darts. Or to drink. Or eat. Or to the strip club to look at BEEG AMERICAN TEETEES. Or… yeah. He’s not the only one who wants to spend time with Niko, though; many of the upstanding citizens of LC Niko meets along the way will also want to hang out and constantly call your phone to tell you as much. This generally happens when you’re right at the mission marker or save point, of course. If you still find your phone isn’t ringing often enough, you can go out with various ladies and try to figure out what their idea of a successful date might be. Realism! If you can’t be bothered with any of this, you can just stay at home and watch shitty shows on TV (or surf the internet at an internet cafe). Excitement!

This LP is a straight playthrough of all the storyline missions and most of the relevant side content with (more or less) informative solo commentary in my sexy Nordic accent. The general structure is somewhat in the vein of the Red Dead Redemption LPs that have been done on SA. Each video has a couple of story missions (probably one mission per video once they get a bit more involved), along with some side stuff like hanging out with friends or doing the stranger missions (a type of side mission introduced in GTA IV, where you do tasks for random people you meet).

I edit out a lot of the downtime, so you won’t need to see me go bowling a million times (I’ll briefly show each activity the first time they come up, but since nobody wants to watch me play pool or something for ten minutes I’ll just cut most of it out) or drive ten miles to the mission area. Any important dialogue during these parts is kept, of course, and occasionally I keep shorter drives in the video if there’s something good on the radio during that particular trip or I need to explain a game mechanic or something, but as a general rule I’ll cut out most of the driving. If you find I’m cutting out too much (or too little), yell at me in the thread and I’ll see what I can do.

No, I will not hunt down all the goddamn pigeons, and you should be ashamed of yourself for even thinking about such a thing. I will shoot any I come across, but getting all 200 simply isn’t worth it. I also don’t do any of the side content that only rewards you with money (Vigilante/Most Wanted missions, assassinations), because there’s nothing to spend that on anyway.

I don’t have any kind of strict update schedule because I’m a lazy bum, but I generally try to update at least every couple of weeks. As for the two DLC episodes, The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony, I plan on making a separate thread for those somewhere down the line after I’m done with this and a few other projects.

:siren: NO SPOILERS! Not even in tags! :siren: The story has its issues and most people watching this will probably have played the game, but let’s keep this spoiler-free anyway.

Aside from that, just keep things civil. I know GTA discussions can get somewhat heated at times, whether they’re about which GTA game (or Saints Row) is better or about Rockstar’s handling of certain topics.

The first three videos (as well as two other episodes very late in the LP) were recorded on the Xbox 360 version, so they don’t look that great. From episode 4 on (with the exception of the two later videos I mentioned), I’m playing the PC version for that 1080p/60 fps goodness. Well, 40-50 fps for the most part because it turns out lossless recording at 1080p/60 fps does a number on the framerate especially on a terribly optimized game like this. The PC version also has some minor graphical glitches popping up every so often, but they shouldn’t be too distracting.

Youtube playlist for all the videos!

Episode 01: The Cousins Bellic
Episode 02: First Date(s)
Episode 03: Physics
Episode 04: Little Jacob & Uncle Vlad
Episode 05: A Faustin Deal
Episode 06: Final Destinations
Episode 07: Rush Rush (Side Missions #1)
Episode 08: Easy As Can Be
Episode 09: The Lowest Point
Episode 10: Cleaning the Hood
Episode 11: Luck of the Irish
Episode 12: No. 1
Episode 13: The Snow Storm
Episode 14: Proper Grenade Use
Episode 15: Hostile Negotiation
Episode 16: GENETICALLY SUPERIOR (Side Missions #2)
Episode 17: Bonding
Episode 18: The Holland Play
Episode 19: Waste Not Want Knots
Episode 20: Three Leaf Clover
Episode 21: Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Episode 22: I Need Your Clothes, Your Boots, And Your Motorcycle
Episode 23: A Long Way to Fall
Episode 24: Taking In the Trash
Episode 25: Museum Piece
Episode 26: Weekend at Florian’s
Episode 27: Late Checkout
Episode 28: Tunnel o’ Death
Episode 29: Blood Brothers
Episode 30: Union Drive
Episode 31: Pegorino’s Pride
Episode 32: Do It Again, Stupid
Episode 33: Flatline
Episode 34: Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend
Episode 35: To Live and Die in Alderney
Episode 36: Pest Control
Episode 37: That Special Someone
Episode 38: Mr. & Mrs. Bellic
Episode 39: A Dish Served Cold (R Ending 01)
Episode 40: Out of Commission (R Ending 02)
Episode 41: Stranger Mission Roundup
Episode 42 (FINAL): The Victory We Longed For

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:saxophone: MUSIC HIGHLIGHTS :saxophone:

Music has always been a major part of GTA’s appeal, and GTA IV is no exception there. I occasionally hear complaints about this game’s radio stations and the music selection, but I’ve never understood them. Obviously, it’s all very much a subjective thing, but GTA IV has an absolutely gigantic selection of music spanning numerous genres and eras and frankly I’m quite baffled if you can’t find anything to enjoy on the soundtrack.

As such, I decided to showcase some of the music in the episodes. This is by no means a comprehensive list, just a bunch of songs I enjoyed while playing the game.

Episodes 1 & 2:

Glukoza - Schweine (Scripted to play during the drive in “The Cousins Bellic” in the console versions, not on PC for some reason)
Oleg Kvasha - Zelenoglazoe Taksi (Club Remix)

Episode 3:

Ruslana - Wild Dances (Ukrainian FM Version)

Episode 5:

Ranetki - O Tebe
Leningrad - Nikogo ne Zhalko

Episode 7:

The Stooges - I Wanna Be Your Dog
The Isley Brothers - Footsteps in the Dark

Episode 8:

Sisters of Mercy - Dominion/Mother Russia
Electric Light Orchestra - Evil Woman

Episode 9:

Kino - Gruppa krovi
Philip Glass - Pruit Igoe
Jean Michel Jarre - Oxygene Part 4

Episode 10:

Black Sabbath - Heaven and Hell

Episodes 11 & 12:

Q Lazzarus - Goodbye Horses
Smashing Pumpkins - 1979
Stevie Nicks - Edge of Seventeen
Genesis - Mama
David Bowie - Fascination
Queen - One Vision
Brand Nubian - All for One
Jeru the Damaja - D. Original
Thin Lizzy - Jailbreak

Episode 13:

Hello - New York Groove

Episode 15:

Juliette and The Licks - Inside the Cage (David Gilmour Girls Remix)

Episode 18:

Duke Ellington - Take the A Train
David McCallum & David Axelrod - The Edge

Episode 21:

Underdog - Back to Back

Episode 28:

Kavinsky - Testarossa (SebastiAn Remix)

Episode 42:

David Axelrod - Holy Thursday

Episode 38: Mr. & Mrs. Bellic

It’s a nice day to start again.

Ah RIP, unlisted videos mean I can’t watch them the way I prefer to (loading them on my wii u youtube app so I can watch from the couch). Hopefully I’ll have the energy to attempt to watch this on my laptop sometime!

Sorry about that! I’ll probably make the videos public and put them into a playlist once I’m finished with the LP, which will not take much longer. There’s going to be four more videos: two for the alternate ending path (that’s the next update), one where I round up the rest of the stranger missions, and finally the “canon” ending.

Episode 39: A Dish Served Cold (Revenge Ending 01)

We go back to the Xbox 360 version to look at the other ending path and wrap up a couple of loose ends.

Here’s a transcript of the post-mission phone call I missed because of shitty controls:

[quote][spoiler]Niko: I killed Dimitri, It’s over. He was on the Platypus, the boat I arrived to Liberty City on, so it seems it ends where it began.

Roman: I guess you did what you thought you had to do, no deal, no money, no hot tubs and models, but Dimitri will not bother you again, I will see you at the wedding yes? Remember to wear a suit.

Niko: I’ll be there Roman, Don’t worry.[/spoiler][/quote]

Episode 40: Out of Commission (Revenge Ending 02)

I don’t know, J-Peg just feels like such a weak antagonist for the final mission of the game. I think the Deal equivalent of this mission is a lot more dramatic anyway, but we’ll be seeing that soon enough. Also, I do apologize for my terrible driving (and general poor gameplay performance) in this video.

Episode 41: Stranger Mission Roundup

There really isn’t much to the stranger missions in GTA IV, it wasn’t until Red Dead Redemption that you could call them actual sidequests. Still, might as well show them all off in the LP because at least we meet some interesting characters during these things. This episode was actually recorded between parts 37 and 38, but I figured I’d leave it for a little bit later.

Episode 42 (FINAL): The Victory We Longed For

We wrap things up with the Deal ending. The mission is mostly the same as its Revenge counterpart, but Dimitri makes for a better final antagonist and the climax feels more dramatic in general.

It seems I forgot to update the “skip credits” timestamp when I went back to do some more editing and shorten the video by a couple of minutes. If the annotation with the correct timestamp doesn’t show up, skip ahead to 22:11 if you want to skip the credits.

MUSIC HIGHLIGHT: David Axelrod - Holy Thursday (David Axelrod died a couple of days ago, and I’m highlighting this as kind of a tribute to the man even though we only hear a brief snippet in the video)

And with that, this LP finally reaches its end after nearly a year. Thank you so much for watching! The thread is now done and ready to be shipped off to Completed LPs. (paging @moderators)

As for my next project, I’ll obviously be working on the Jade Empire SSLP (over on SA) but I’ll also start another VLP soon enough – while the initial plan was to move on to Red Dead Redemption after this, I haven’t yet decided if I’m actually doing RDR now or if I do Saints Row 1 first. I’m kinda leaning towards the latter at this point, as I think it’d be nice to have an HD-quality VLP of SR1 (Edna Mode’s old LP is good, but the video quality is showing its age). Whether it’ll be in Blackwater or Stilwater, I’ll see you later.