GTA IV is all based on depth of play and story, unlike SA and even VC. They decided to go back to GTA 3’s formula of being a crime drama instead of a sandbox king of the crime hill type of game, and that’s why many of those who loved SA didn’t like it, it’s not about killing everyone and owning everything. Sure it has some of those elements (or it wouldn’t be GTA), but it’s about following the main character’s story as it plays out, for better or worse. And boring is based on each individual’s perception of the story, I was held all the way through, but I can see where it could happen.
Most of the reviewers likly had time to play the game’s engine (which was great), see the graphics (awosme), and play some of the story (which can take 30+ hours to finish). Since reviewers don’t spend that much time on average on a game, you can see how even if a game gets a little tedious near the end of it’s story, the reviewers might not catch that (like saying that there’s issues with the story on FF VII on disc 3… it’s just not going to come up in a review of such a lenghty game). Many also reviewed it before it’s release and online wasn’t really going much. It was ok online, it just didn’t stand up to long term scrutiny. There are many reviewers who would probably downgrade the game based on the online if re-reviewed, but that’s not going to happen.
Note: I’ve liked all the GTA games since GTA3 (3, VC, SA, IV)