Saturday, May 3, 2008

Thoughts on GTA IV

By now, everyone and his brother has a copy of Grand Theft Auto IV nestled warmly in their Xbox 360s or Playstation 3s, and I'm sure they all agree that it's the bee's knees. I concur, for the most part, as the game has done what the series is famous for much better than other installments did. That doesn't mean it's infallible, though. In fact, there are some things about it that downright piss me off.

Driving sucks. I've heard countless people tell me that I should "get" the new driving controls after a while and that they're "more realistic." As far as gaming goes, whenever anyone tells me I need to "get" something, it usually means that said thing sucks. I had to "get" Rez and Space Giraffe, and now I'm supposed to "get" something as simple as driving. This is bullshit, plain and simple. The fact that anyone can argue realism in a game where I can kill multiple people without consequences, run around the city brandishing all sorts of firearms without anyone caring, and simply outrun police after a crime until they simply forget what I've done has no moral ground to argue in favor of realistic driving controls.

I don't want the cars to control like those in a racing game; I want them to control well. What's next, customizing suspension and tires? The fact that so many people are even bringing this up as an issue means that it was something that wasn't meant to be tinkered with. No other GTA game had the need for more realistic driving controls, and this holds true for part four. And don't even get me started on helicopters...

Melee combat sucks. Fighting someone in close quarters is an exercise in frustration, as the button combos aren't intuitive at all. And if you're using the auto-aim feature, then forget it. Which brings me to the next issue...

Aiming still sucks
. It's much, MUCH better than before, but I guess Rockstar's Xbox 360 red ringed just as they were getting to know the aiming dynamic in Saints Row. That game fixed the whole issue completely, and I'm shocked that Rockstar still couldn't get this right for their game - which was released an entire year later. Auto-aim makes gun fights impossible, and taking it off is better but too slow sometimes. But in retrospect, I guess anything's an improvement over previous games in the series.

No mid-mission checkpoints
. I start a mission where I'm supposed to follow a drug dealer clear across town to a warehouse where he's meeting other drug dealers. We finally get there, he goes inside and I follow, a gunfight ensues, and I die. I click on the "replay" option on my cellphone, and now have to start all the way back at the fucking beginning of the mission? What. The. Hell. Why can't I just restart at the point before I enter the warehouse? Now I have to redo that tedious-as-hell drive across town again. Did I mention that several missions have you following people like this?

So yeah, GTA IV isn't perfect, and I know that I shouldn't be expecting perfection from this series at all. However, the fact that this is the sixth installment with this type of gameplay and some problems have never been fixed (I'm not even mentioning game-crashing bugs and glitches) is unforgivable. Moreover, some stuff that never was a problem before now is, and I still find the competition - Saints Row - doing stuff better a whole year earlier. Part two of that franchise is coming this summer, and it features full online campaign co-op, so I will definitely be watching it to see how it compares to Rockstar's magnum opus.

Anyway, I still love GTA, and the storytelling is incredible. Niko's the man, and Little Jacob is hilarious. Good show Rockstar. Not perfect, but good show.