Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"


Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.

Grand Theft Auto IV

We hope you enjoyed this content. Be sure to share it with family and friends you think will enjoy it as well.

Game Review

Polyester pants and a double knit shirt aren't the usual soldier's attire. Yet they're Niko Bellic's wardrobe of choice as he hits the streets of Liberty City.

I sprint and slide in behind a nearby crate of building materials, cutting down a targeted hood with a spray of assault rifle fire.

He hasn't been in America very long, but his on-the-ground experience on the Balkan Peninsula and work as a human trafficker in the Adriatic Sea has helped him slip into the city's underworld like a scraggly bearded peg in a back-alley hole.

I switch weapons and take a well-placed sniper shot to obliterate another mug's head, sending him falling to the concrete below with a bone-crunching splat.

The pain of Niko's past has robbed him of any concern for life—especially his own—and left him convinced there is no such thing as redemption. He's a simple man who needs nothing but a greasy meal and an occasional lap dance from a stripper to keep him trudging toward the only thing that matters to him now—vengeance.

With a quick leaping movement I flip a grenade into the open bay of a helicopter. The rising chopper erupts in flames and incinerates the last of the bosses I'm sent to kill.

After several attempts, Niko—and I—finish this current mission against an army of mafia thugs. It's a pretty daunting challenge, even by Hollywood standards. But it's just one more day in the life of a Serbian killer in Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto IV.

High Praise
It's the blending of emotionally involving storyline and violent action that nudges this title from mere video game shoot-'em-up toward something approaching interactive cinema. And that's why GTA IV has hard-core gamers and the game-reviewing press shooting their automatic rifles gleefully into the air while cheering themselves hoarse. IGN ranked the title a "10" and claimed, "It's one of the best games we've ever seen." Reviewers at GameSpot mirrored that praise, calling the latest episode in the GTA saga a "superb character-driven story."

USA Today dubbed it an "exhilarating adventure" that is much like "an interactive episode of The Sopranos" from which you can "expect a lot of bang for your buck." But writer Marc Saltzman, at least, went on to admit that "controversy is unavoidable with this game." Controversy? Didn't the out-of-this-world sales figures for Halo 3 finally put an end to everybody quibbling over a few thousand people getting brutally killed in a video game? Well, not quite.

Low Life
As the thickly accented illegal immigrant Niko, players step off a merchant navy vessel and into a digital version of what amounts to be New York City. (Liberty City is "where the American Dream goes to die," boasts the game's Web site.) They then meet up with Niko's cousin, Roman—an eternal optimist who hopes to make it big in America but who's also in debt up to his ears. To help his sad sack cousin, Niko agrees to take on the role of enforcer and carry out a few missions for the Russian mob.

One thing leads to another.

Niko ends up befriending or murdering an array of lowlifes from the underbelly of society—including Russian thugs, Irish mobsters, Jamaican pot dealers, corner crack-pushers, Puerto Rican hoods, a corrupt police commissioner and a variety of other unrepentant operators and hustlers.

As befits the title, most of the open-world gameplay is made up of carjacking vehicles and recklessly racing through city streets. But assigned missions usually focus on strategically figuring out how to kill someone. Or determining the best way to retrieve stolen items. Or evading the police. Or making drug deliveries.

You can also drink and drive in this game, leaving you with a blurred and wobbly view.

"Rockstar has tried to make Grand Theft Auto IV feel like less of a video game," writes MTV News contributor Stephen Totilo. "Shooting a policeman, a criminal or a civilian will cause them to tumble with convincing physics. Shot people look hurt. Cars handle more realistically and more distinctly. ... The improved physics and animation make the game feel more real, the player's actions more fraught with consequence. ... It's a realer GTA. Is it also a game? Of course. Is it still 'just' a game? That depends on your perspective and what your hopes are for how something like this might impact those who play it."

When not making money for murder or spending it on bigger, badder weaponry, Niko can also take time to pursue the "normal" things of life. He can watch TV, go online to explore the Internet and even join a dating service. Players have the option of dating up to three or four different women and taking them out for bowling, darts or pool, hitting a few bars or catching some live comedy. And if the gal feels well-treated, she may extend the night's festivities by inviting the tough-looking Serb up for some "hot coffee." (Which puts you outside her bedroom window to hear her calling out Niko's name during sex.)

But if Niko is a "failure" in the dating department, he can always take a buddy to one of the strip clubs in town. There, busty young women dressed in brief panties and pasties will pole dance, give him an erotic lap dance and coo nasty things into his ear. Similarly, receiving sex from a prostitute is as easy as driving up, calling her into your car and finding a deserted alleyway. No hidden sex scenes needed in this GTA rendition. These women stay clothed (if you can call what they're wearing clothes), but climb onto Niko's lap and talk dirty to him while going through all the motions.

Speaking of dirty, GTA IV immerses its players in a world laced with constant foul language of every stripe. Gamers just walking down Liberty City's streets will be greeted with a cacophony of f- and s-words.

Real Crime
Sex is diversion here, though. GTA games are really all about grabbing the nearest weapon and leaving your opponents' brains splattered across the wall behind them. Gamers can find or purchase a wide variety of munitions—including shotguns, machine guns and RPGs—or simply pick up a brick from an empty lot. Along with an ample rogue's gallery, innocent passersby and policemen can be run down or blown away whenever the player desires.

And if the single-player mode doesn't offer enough bloodshed, gamers are (for the first time) also given the option of online multiplayer modes. Up to 16 enthusiasts can blast each other in a host of cooperative and competitive shoot-outs that include a free-for-all deathmatch called, uh, Deathmatch.

In short, the makers of Grand Theft Auto IV have gathered together all the possible social evils they could come up with. Prostitution. Illegal drugs. Drive-by-shootings. Cop-killings. Carjackings. Political corruption. Racism. Rampant murder. Everything's bundled into one massive and, sadly, cutting-edge game—in which you're immersed for 30 to 80 hours. And that's just the first time around.

Are you mystified that anyone would spend that kind of time on this kind of stuff? Are you certain that at least kids won't be playing since parents won't let them? MTV News and Wired magazine both interviewed groups of gamers under the age of 17 who have played previous iterations of the Grand Theft Auto franchise and who plan on getting their hands on No. 4, too. One said, "My mom doesn't have a clue about games or ratings, so we'll just go in and get it." Another commented, "I am mature, and my parents know this is just a video game." Still another noted, "If my parents took video games as serious as movies and paid more attention to what I was playing, all of this could be avoided. ... Not that I would want them to do that."

We very much do want them to do that.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles



Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews




Readability Age Range


Action/Adventure, Shooter







Record Label


PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC


Rockstar Games



Year Published



Bob Hoose

We hope you enjoyed this content. Be sure to share it with family and friends you think will enjoy it as well.

Get weekly e-news, Culture Clips & more!