Grand Theft Auto IV: San Andreas is the hottest game of 2008. Open-world action, violence, and story-telling come together for the most enthralling experience this side of a world conflict. Why play GTA IV when GTA V is around the corner? Let me tell you.
It's acclaimed: It has won more game of the year awards than any other video game.
It's established: With two expansion packs and numerous spin-off games, you have hundreds of hours of gameplay at your fingertips.
It's multi-platform: Available on Windows, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3.
It's modern: Unlike previous GTAs, you have a cellphone in-game to receive communiques. There's no messing around with dirty pay-phones.
You play Niko Bellic, a former mercenary haunted by the failure and betrayal of his teammates. During his adventures, he will engage in many R-rated activities and a few PG-13 ones. He will fight his demons and gain power in his quest for redemption. Chief among his enemies is Dimitri, a Russian mobster bent on annihilating everything Niko stands for. There are two possible endings, enabling you to choose your path. Will you pursue the righteous path, or will Niko, who fell and climbed so far, fall again?
The game began development in 2004. The game's long development cycle is surprising; typically games take one to two years, but quality takes time. The developer Rockstar was also concerned with side projects. The result of the long development is a game that spans 400 square miles of San Andreas, has over 2000 speaking non-player-characters to interact with, and about 100 quests. You can, and should, lose yourself in this game. Live vicariously through the characters; you cannot do just about anything they do.
Verdict: Excellent. High replay value, a lot of fun. The only downside is GTA V is around the corner.