grand theft auto iv

a review of Grand Theft Auto IV
a videogame developed by rockstar north ltd.
and published by take-two interactive software inc.
for Microsoft Windows, the microsoft xbox 360 and the sony playstation 3 computer entertainment system
text by Brandon Parker

3 stars

Bottom line: Grand Theft Auto IV is “keeping me awake at night.”

I remember my tenth birthday. I was at the hospital because I only get sick one day of the year, which is my birthday. So you might wonder how I remember this specific hospital visit in particular. Well, I’ll tell you: I was in the waiting room and my mother said this birthday was very important because “you only hit double digits once.” While talking about getting older and whatnot, she asked me what I thought I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said, “Retired.” I couldn’t wait, I said. That was ridiculous, was what she said, that I had my whole life ahead me and etcetera. That was the point, though, because I had wisely realized very early in my life that I would never like working, wanted to waste as little of my life doing it as possible, and have yet to feel otherwise about the matter.


So at some point later on I realized mine would absolutely have to be a life as either a writer or bank robber. Obviously, I decided to try out bank robbing first, as it’s the most interesting and feasible of the two. However, on the day of the first big heist, I ended up with one hell of a stubbed toe and, being the cautious man I am, didn’t want to take even the slightest of chances, so I put that on hold for awhile.

That’s all in the past, however. Now I’m living the dream as a career criminal, currently spending some time in Liberty City, and a while back I came into contact with a particular Irish family, the McReary’s. There’s five brothers, four of whom are gangsters, while the other one, Francis, he’s a cop. You might think maybe he’s still close with the rest of them, or maybe he’s an inside man for them. Well, no. Whey talk about what a piece of stuff he is, so I’m thinking he probably doesn’t get invited to the family happenings and get togethers for a little bowling or anything.

Let me tell you about the four criminal brothers. Gerry is the scary oldest brother all the others follow and look up to, who seems like he probably kills people on regular basis without thinking much of it. Michael is the youngest and an imbecile. Derrick is a heroin addict, but he doesn’t let it interfere with his work, and he makes the bombs. He seems like a pretty smart guy. And then there is Packie, who was my introduction to the family. He enjoys cocaine and on one job where he proposed to steal money from the mob, he compared himself to Robin Hood. As far as I’m concerned, Robin Hood is one of the historical Badass Worthies, and anyone who uses him as a model for their way of life is a man of quality.

Not so long ago, Patrick, Derrick, Michael, and myself – we did a bank job, and you might say things “didn’t go as planned,” or that any and all stuff “went south.” Michael was shot and killed right in the goddamned bank lobby, and the remaining three of us had to shoot our way through three stuffloads of cops, two hecktons of SWAT guys, one goddamn attack chopper of some kind, all while navigating through alleys, streets, and the damn subway system. In the course of shooting our way out of that scenario, I think a real bond had been established between myself, Packie and Derrick. Since then, Packie had started calling me up, wanting to go out drinking, encouraging me to date his sister, asking me to look out for Derrick (who was riding the white horse real hard, if you know what I mean. He was doing a lot of heroin, I mean). I was getting involved, is what I’m trying to tell you. Emotions were coming into play. It wasn’t just for money anymore, dammit.

Anyway, some time passed, there’d been a turn of events, etc. – the point is that something came up. The cop brother, Francis; I’d done some work with him in the past. Well, he calls me up and tells me that he’s meeting his brother Derrick in the park and he needs me to kill him, because he’s going to talk to reporters and cause trouble. He’s not real specific. I assume it’s going to lead to some corruption on Francis’ part being revealed, being that that’s the same reason I had done work for him before. Right after that, Derrick also calls me and says his brother has just asked to meet with him, and could I do something because he’s real scared he’s going to be killed.

Now, I was in a real quandary here. I mean, an honest bind, a genuine fix, I didn’t know what to do. In fact, I was a little confused at first because I got mixed up and thought it was the older brother, Gerry, that Francis wanted killed, since he’d previously mentioned doing something about him, and Gerry, he’s headed for prison, soon, so I thought maybe he was trying to get out of that here. But then, as I was watching the meeting place through my rifle scope and the reality of the situation was finally setting in, Derrick is the one that shows up, making me extra befuddled, and so now I had to think extra quick.

Francis – he’s obviously a corrupt cop. In the past he’s also hired me to kill; even a damn lawyer, once, who was trying to clean up corruption and had dirt on him. Francis claims he’s only just had some bad luck, that he’s really trying to do good, and that he’s had to resort to illegal methods to fight crime in Liberty City. Maybe he’s right, maybe he does do good and once he becomes commissioner he’ll really have the ability and resources to do some good. He probably has the better chance of accomplishing something meaningful with his life at this point than Derrick. In a place like Liberty City, where I drive like a maniac, damaging other cars and injuring and killing numerous pedestrians because I’m not patient enough to follow the rules of the road, too lazy to try subway and too much of a miser to take a taxi, who am I to disagree with a policeman’s stance on crime or his methods of operating?

Meanwhile, Derrick spends most of his days high and sprawled out on a bench in some stuff hole of a park over in Alderney. He doesn’t seem to value his life much, but, then again, he also says he’s just been dealt a bad hand for a lot of his life, and that he’d like a way to start fresh. I’ve been trying to help him out with that, too, because I’d like to see him pull out of this rut he’s stuck in. I have to admit, I’m more than a little disgusted with myself for initially favoring him for the shooting, and almost unconsciously pulled the trigger without giving any real thought to it when I realized it was him instead of Gerry showing up. Oh, the heroin addict brother, my subconscious must have said – here I though it was Gerry. I disgust myself sometimes.

I remember the drive on the way to that bank job. Derrick voiced some concerns he had for his brother Packie, who seemed to have a meaner temperament that he remembered, since Derrick had only just recently returned from a long stay in Ireland. He spoke of Packie being such a “sweet kid” in the before times. Derrick’s obviously got a good heart. But most importantly, during the robbery itself, after setting up the explosives on the vault, he took the time to explain to the hostages that they shouldn’t worry about their money, the bank’s insured, it’s going to a good cause anyway, etc. I thought that was pretty great of him, though Patrick yelled at him for it. Derrick replied that he was only trying to be honest with the customers. We were putting them through a pretty stressful situation, after all.

Francis does not seem genuine in the least bit. Maybe he did originally believe in something, but he seems to have lost his way. I don’t believe he’s interested in getting actual policing and public defending done, rogue methods or not. He’s just a politician, now, wanting only to climb the ladder and make rank. The other brothers, while leading criminal lives, aren’t leading dishonest lives at least. When Derrick apologized to those bank customers, he sorta reminded me of myself, actually (which I told him when he asked why I was later helping him). And I knew Packie and those customers didn’t appreciate his honesty at that moment, but I did, and it’s what ended up saving his life.

Besides, if Derrick was really up to something terrible, Francis shouldn’t have been so vague, the dumbass. He really brought that bullet in his head on himself. Still, it wasn’t an easy decision. Thank god for Pause.



Well, there it is. That’s what I thought about when deciding which of two lives had more worth to the world. A responsibility I enjoyed not enjoying. I don’t think I was entirely sure of myself until now, but after getting it all out here, I know I made the right choice. Probably.

As for the rest of Liberty City, I don’t have much to say, other than something is going to have to be done eventually about these regular citizens and tax payers. Some government programs are going to have to be enacted, here. They need their quality or life improved. They walk around like mindless automatons who spawn into view just out of sight and come preprogrammed to say a handful of phrases. I don’t kill them because I’m concerned for their lives. It’s more like I don’t kill them for the same reason I don’t just walk up and stark kicking over other people’s sandcastles, or try to avoid driving through some guy’s yard, running over his garden and hedgework and stuff. Back in my day, in a place called Britannia, every citizen had a name and a job and a schedule for the day. I know you damn kids in Liberty City have always been like this, but your condition is only made all the more obvious now compared to the better expressiveness available to my close circle of friends and enemies, who have the luxury of cinematic non-interactive viewing scenes and all. I can’t empathize with the common man. The best I can do for them is jack a police car and hunt down ne’er-do-wells of society that aren’t myself using Johnny Law’s computer system.

Maybe the apathy of the citizens has something to do with there being not a whole lot to do in such a big metropolis. Just miles of empty stuff, looking like it could be easily made into something interesting that you have to drive past for forever to finally get to somewhere that is even vaguely interesting. Reminds me a lot of Missouri, actually, except you’d need a lot more effort to make the empty stuff into anything interesting.

And I was kidding about Pause. Good for Derrick there’s Pause. I hope he prays to the Pause every night, now, but I think my excitement would have benefited more with its absence. That’s about it, I guess.

–Brandon Parker


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