I’ve played but not reviewed previous Grand Theft Auto games. Most of the modern ones pre-date my reviews, of course, but then San Andreas was never finished by me. There was this thing with impossible-to-fly biplanes that I finally gave up on, since there were only going to be more planes in the future, and the training aspect had overtaken the fun. That said, I have reliably enjoyed all of them, and each more than the last. Grand Theft Auto IV is likely the best in the series; it has kept each of the improvements developed across the previous three games while quickly ejecting the overly bloated chaff that came with San Andreas. The result is a streamlined and mostly trouble-free game experience. Mission-based play and a large world guarantee that there are times when a mission replay will be exasperating, but at least for me, this problem was rare. The sandbox design is even improved, with ever more reasons to wander the streets for the hell of it. Plus, y’know, it is about as pretty as the generation gets.
All of which to say: I am impressed with the game design and playability, and that’s good. Which leaves storyline. On one hand, it’s the same as previous Grand Theft Auto games. You wander the city as it gets gradually opened up to you, making deals with bad people and doing worse things in order to get money. You’re pretty much a bad guy, or at best amoral in pursuit of your own goals. But on the other hand… Nico Bellic is an interesting, conflicted character who is drawn in by events beyond his control at least as often as he makes bad choices. And there are a handful of secondary characters (if not more!) with depth that nearly matches Nico’s. It is possible to disapprove of this game’s morality and not need to know more than that to make your decision. But I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to play the game for any duration and not get emotionally invested in more than one of the characters. The game is every bit as story-deep as Mass Effect, and well worth almost any gamer’s time.
 For my part, I played it over the course of 18 months. I almost never come back to games once I’ve played stuff in between or let more than a few weeks pass.