Finishing: GTA IV

I haven't been rushing through GTA IV, preferring to enjoy the whole experience and spend just as much time completing missions as driving around the big beautiful city, trying out side missions, attempting big insane stunt jumps, watching a little cabaret or standup comedy (Ricky Gervais and Katt Williams) and developing friendships.

The need to get on with other things in my life though (and an interest in the twists and turns of the developing game story) finally led me to the last story mission last night. (Ok, several nights ago but it's a tricky bastard - particularly when you have no money left to buy weapons and ammo).

After a hectic car chase, epic abandonned casino battle, motor bike chase, spectacular jump to helicopter and helicopter/boat chase, I ended up beneath the Statue of Happiness for a final showdown. Got to love the escalated difficulty of those final GTA missions - though I'm not sure whether it's just me and my extensive GTA training but most of the leadup missions seemed easier than I would have hoped.

The story itself unfolds in its own time, the 30 - 50 hours of gameplay required allow a much more realistic approach to story telling than a 2 hour movie, where everything needs to be dealt with there and then. We touched on issues of love and loss, revenge, moving on and working out exactly where your principles sit. I had to make some interesting moral life and death decisions about people I had come to know, which I think shaped the rest of the events to a degree - these decisions have given the game some good replayability as I'm curious to see what else might have happened.

The overall feeling at the end was much more downbeat than triumphant - I'm not sure if there was any kind of character arc as such, Niko Bellic seemed the same guy at the end as at the beginning. Of course, this is a more complex thing to assess given that Niko is effectively me in many ways.Perhaps the question is - have I changed at all? Probably not hugely but I think the game has actually made me want to be more social, so perhaps it has. I have no more desire to run around shooting people or driving like a maniac than I did before although there are times when I see pigeons that I have a strange compulsion to see them explode in a big puff of feathers.

I still haven't played the multiplayer games yet - something in me wants to wrap up the single player elements first. Still need to finish the assorted races, car stealing missions, pigeon shooting and I'm not sure what else. I think this is partially about a concern that the other gamers out there have something of a head start on me in the multiplayer arena, with knowledge of the maps and strategies and whatnot.

Already my thoughts have been idly wandering to where and when the next GTA might be set. Poor developers, probably could do with a break I'm sure.