Grand Theft Auto IV: A Review of the Reviews

I’ve been reading a fair number of print reviews for Grand Theft Auto IV over the past few days, because when a game has a Metacritic rating of 99 and the New York Times says that it “sets a new standard for what is possible in interactive arts,” I try to pay attention. But it’s been a while since I was really into video games, and the print reviews haven’t really sold me on this one. So I thought I’d see if video reviews could change my mind.

Most of the coverage has a fawning quality (which is understandable, given that tomorrow is like Gamer Christmas 2.0), offering few specifics. IGN’s rave review stitches together scenes from the gameplay with an unstructured, but friendly and engaging voice-over — the star of the video isn’t reviewer Hilary Goldstein, but the game itself. After a few minutes the game footage begins to blend together into a visual assault of violence, juxtaposing commentary on the new and improved game A.I. with footage of the protagonist mowing down passive bystanders with an Uzi. Still, Goldstein’s enthusiasm is infectious.
This review from CGaming is very similar in execution to IGN’s, but the contrast between its creator (an independent blogger) and IGN (an established gaming news site) is striking. This video is full of detail, but it’s also littered with bad grammar and generally poor phrasing, giving you get a real appreciation of how important good writing and editing are, no matter what the topic.’s epic review (10 minutes long!) covers everything from story to gameplay, and the editing is fast and compelling. Plus, rather than just focusing on explosions and gunshots, they give a broader sense of the interaction that’s possible in the game, both physically and socially. They also offer the first critique I’ve heard so far — that the story structure gets a little repetitive — and make mention of specific details that might turn you on or off of the game (for example, your character can visit an Internet cafe called “[email protected]”). It’s a longer haul, but I learned more about the game in the first four minutes than I did in the entirety of IGN’s coverage (which is problematic anyways, given that it was an ethically troubling “exclusive” review).

No matter the quality of the review, though, online video is a perfect medium for this sort of discussion. I have to admit, I’m now pretty intrigued. Though I’ll probably avoid the strip clubs. And the Internet cafes.