Many Happy Returns

Not many of you will have remembered this, but yes, today is the 1st birthday of GTA IV. However, as anyone who knows me well will tell you, I’ve always been a little bit ‘on the fence’ about GTA IV. I appreciate that some like it and some don’t, but I just can’t quite make up my mind either way.

I’m sorry, I can’t keep that up with a straight face.

Who am I kidding? I’m a fan. A huge fan. A massive super giganto-fan. How much of a fan? Perhaps this will show you how much I like this game:


Yep, it’s a real birthday cake baked and decorated entirely by me to celebrate GTA IV’s first birthday. And this is no Photoshop job or me stealing others’ glory via Google Images, this is actually the real thing: a sponge cake with chocolate butter icing covered in real chocolate. (My colleagues will get to eat most of this cake, and who knows, many of them may even survive).

I still remember what I was doing exactly one year ago today, on April 29th 2008. It was a Tuesday, a normal work day – for some – but for me it was the long awaited and once delayed GTA IV day, and I had a day booked off work just to sit and play it to my heart’s content. What me and my friend Matt – who had travelled all the way across London to play it – found was an amazing, beautiful game, brimming with a million details and on a scale that virtually no-one (except Rockstar) had ever tried before.

I was blown away. Little did I realise, though, just how long my amazement would last. I loved the thirty-five hours it took me to complete the single player, and then I peeled off another layer of the GTA onion and discovered the amazing multiplayer modes.That was a year ago, and even now I find new and interesting details in the game.

Two weeks into playing I discovered you could pop the tyres of a rear wheel drive car by wheel-spinning it continuously for a couple of minutes. Eight months into playing I managed to break off the tail off a helicopter and careen wildly through the air with no control – that had never happened to me before, even in hundreds and hundreds of hours of play. One week ago I discovered a bubble gum machine outside of a gas station in the game, and was stunned to find that when you shoot it all of the bubble gum balls burst out of the broken machine and fall to the floor.

When the game was originally delayed, I was annoyed. Now I fully understand why it took longer than planned. Have you ever built a real, breathing city? Was it on time?

Liberty City

Rome Liberty City wasn’t built in a day

For me GTA was already the game that kept on giving, beating even Burnout Revenge for the title of game I’ve spent the most hours on, and then it just got bigger, with The Lost and Damned expansion pack.

Sure, it was set in the same city, and some had wanted more real estate – but in a masterful stroke of genius, it managed to show off parts of the city that I had never seen before, and get across an entirely different feel to the whole place which made the game feel almost new again. And, as some of the other writers and forum members will tell you, it also added a few brilliant new multiplayer modes, Witness Protection, Chopper vs Chopper and Lone Wolf Biker which I personally think are worth the price of entry alone.

And it’s not just me getting some pretty amazing mileage from this game – far from it. Our Ready Up GTA nights on Monday nights have never been so popular, with us having to turn people away at the door even now, after a whole year, which might as well be a decade in the hyper-fast play-em-and-move-on world of videogames.

Happy Birthday GTA IV, and thanks for a great year. I’m sure I’ll still be going back to it for quite some time yet, so there are guaranteed to be many happy returns for me, too.

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A few shots of my culinary wizardy…







19 responses to “Many Happy Returns”

  1. Darach avatar


    Altogether now! Ha-ppy Birthday to yoo!
    Happy Birthday to yooo!
    Happy Birthday Dear GrandTheftAutoFourrrrr!!!
    Happy Birthday toooo Yooo! 😀 😀

    *sets off streamers and steals a piece of cake*

  2. Celeste avatar

    Lovin’ the cake Tony. I mean it’s completely mad, but that’s the type of madness I can really get on board with!

    Oh, and GTA IV’s pretty cool too.

  3. Kat avatar

    Cake! *wants* That’s fab Tony 😀

  4. Pix3l avatar

    I want the middle piece :p

    I can remember the day I got GTA IV too. I booked the tuesday and wednesday off because I wanted to celebrate its release but didn’t get paid until the Wednesday. Luckily my girlfriend took pity on me and popped round tuesday morning with the last copy of GTA in the entire town 🙂

  5. arc14716 avatar

    Looks like we have another chef in the house. Eleanor better watch out because you’re all catching up. That cake looks good. Real good.

    I did give GTA IV a try after it came out on rental. It was good, but the game seemed too dark for me, in terms of lighting, shading. I guess I’ve played one too many sessions of Vice City, which was more sunny and bright. Then again, it took place in a Miami like city whereas GTA IV is more like New York City.

    Other than that, GTA IV was a good game. Maybe I’ll try it again one of these days.

  6. John.B avatar

    God, a whole year. Experiencing that game first time was incredible, the scope and the depth of the city was just mindblowing. And GTA nights are a good giggle 🙂

  7. The Rook avatar
    The Rook

    The popularity of GTA nights came from Tony pimping it for a long time as far as I know. I joined before the rooms became full. I remember the dream to get a full room of RU, now you need to form a queue.

    Well to Rockstar for making such a great game and added multiplayer modes in TLAD (what wil the next DLC bring us) and well done and thank you to Tony for running the monday night gaming and enabling us all to have much fun and many laughs.

  8. J avatar

    Gimme that cake! :O

  9. van-fu avatar

    Happy Birthday, GTA.
    The reviews that you got were spot on and you deserve your millions of sales. I’m glad I have you in my collection.

  10. Jonah A McDoogl avatar
    Jonah A McDoogl

    Happy B’ Day GTA!

    Wow, I thought I was obsessed with GTA but making it a cake…

    It has brought many good memories and introduced me to ready-up. 😀

  11. Jonah A McDoogl avatar
    Jonah A McDoogl

    Ooh and I bought a xbox 360 after playing GTA at a friend’s house. Yay GTA!

  12. Laura avatar

    Yay! Happy Birthday GTA we loooove you 😀

  13. MarkuzR avatar

    I’ve never played it… I’m not one for driving games (I know there’s more to it than that though, so no interventions required!) and it’s honestly never sparked my interest… until now. I’m a graphics whore, and adore when developers go into a lot of (mostly unnecessary) detail.

    Finding two corpses spooning in Fallout 3 with MedX on their dressers while their corpse child lay on the floor beside building blocks was the pinnacle of detail for me. If you look around, that entire scene tells a HUGE story… but if you blink, you’ll just see some dead folk. To me, that level of detail just makes a game.

    I’m convinced. I’m going to persuade by better half to let me play her GTA IV and immerse myself in what seems to be VAST detail.

    Thanks for an excellent blog… and if you’re taking requests on cake making, I’ll get in line!

  14. Loz avatar

    *droools* chocolate cake

    *double drools* GTA!!!

    God bless Niko Belic!

  15. Michael avatar

    “Finding two corpses spooning in Fallout 3 with MedX on their dressers while their corpse child lay on the floor beside building blocks was the pinnacle of detail for me. If you look around, that entire scene tells a HUGE story… but if you blink, you’ll just see some dead folk. To me, that level of detail just makes a game.”

    Jesus… that’s like the ogre(?) in Oblivion. Bethesda is awesome. 😀

    I might have to start playing GTA IV again…

  16. MrCuddleswick avatar


    As you know, I could also wax lyrical on GTAIV for hours. Did I ever tell anyone how on release day last year, by 9.15 in the morning I had three copies in my possession? I got up, got one from Sainsburys, along with a massive bag of Doritos, and got home, tearing off the wrapping like Charlie Bucket. Minutes later, my cousin phones and asks me to go and get him one too. Then once I arrive back at the house, I see that Tesco Direct have sent me the order I’d cancelled a month earlier.

    So there I was, £120 lighter, with three copies of the same game. That hasn’t happened before or since.

  17. MarkuzR avatar

    @Michael… do you mean when Agronak Gro-Malog finds out he’s descended from a vampire and is so ashamed that he refuses to fight you in the arena? There are so many touches like that with Oblivion.

    For me Fallout does it in such a clever way though, because if you’re not looking for it or you’re not that way inclined, you won’t actually see what’s going on.


    There’s a little township in Fallout 3 (in the south, as far as I remember) where you come across a wrecked house with a suitcase on the front steps. There’s a car in front of it with a child’s corpse inside it and an adult corpse at the back of the car with another suitcase so they’re obviously putting their belongings into the car and fleeing. On the ground there’s a letter from Vault Tec telling them that they’ve been given access to the Vault… so this parent and their child were on their way to safety when they were killed. Very moving.

  18. Michael avatar

    No, Mark, though I’d forgotten about that! 😀 I found the father while wandering about the conutryside and checking out the fort (or whatever it was) he was at. I meant the suicidal troll or ogre, I can’t remember, that jumped and left a note in the cave he did the deed in. 0_o

  19. DunK avatar

    It took me FAR too long to read this post. No more cake left. 🙁

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