I have to be honest, I haven’t been a fan of recent GTA titles. III was groundbreaking, but the installments since then haven’t wowed me so much, mostly because they could never innovate as much as their older sibling did. It’s not their fault, really; you can’t expect developers to make leaps and bounds with every iteration. GTA IV is like that really friendly guy at school with lots of friends and a lot of everything else; You want to hate it so bad, but if you really think about it, the reason it has so many friends is because it’s, you know, so awesome.
While this isn’t the groundbreaking, sandbox gameplay that III created, its breaking of the ground lies in other areas. Having already established an environment in which you could just screw around with, Rockstar decided to throw out the comical aspects of the series proper, and give the game a more sullen tone. Also, they decided to give us a proper story this time, and by “proper” I mean “extraordinary.”
Instead of essentially following the path of some guy as a lowly thug to mastermind of crime, Niko Bellic actually never goes anywhere in life; he just survives. As simple as it sounds, the characters and just the narrative overall are light years ahead of the series previous attempts, so much so that I hardly ever went out and committed my common practice of going around with a rocket launcher and just killing anything, simply because I wanted to continue the story. This is a much more mature game, one that, even if you hate the series, can appreciate for what it does with narrative.