Grand Theft Auto IV: Exceeds Every Expectation

Large and in charge, and the satire runs wild

You can't swing a rocket launcher (or toss a driver out of a moving vehicle) without striking the burlesque in this epic allegory about opportunity and alienation. It's in everything from the hours of new television programming you can watch at leisure, from shows like "Republican Space Rangers" ("Don't worry 'bout collateral damage!") to the brilliant documentary cable spoof, "A History of Liberty." It's in shops with names like Bean Machine ("All Beans Lovingly Picked by Children in Central America") and fast-food dives like Burger Shot, with its 6-pound "heart-stopper" burger. You see it in the simpering smile on the aquamarine face of Liberty City's Statue of Liberty analogue, coffee cup upthrust in lieu of a torch. You even spot it in Serbian protagonist and Bosnian war vet Niko Bellic's preliminary choice of hats (American baseball cap or Soviet military winter hat). You can't walk, sprint, or drunkenly teeter an inch -- or steal a vehicle, shoot someone, park a truck loaded with dynamite in a warehouse and trigger the bomb -- without tripping, tumbling, and ultimately getting tangled in GTA IV's endlessly clever caricature of modern society.

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