Tuesday, June 10, 2008

What I didn't like about Grand Theft Auto IV

First of all, don't let the title fool you. I quite enjoyed my fifty hours spent in Liberty City and expect the online component to steal (get it!?) even more of my time.

What bothers me, though, is the way this game was reviewed. Whenever there's a lull in gaming a title eventually comes along that's good enough to get everyone's attention again. Unfortunately, when this happen, the critics go batshit insane and forget to actually review the title.

Instead we get countless textwalls full of ridiculous hyperbole that, while pretty on paper, doesn't really tell us much about the game you are reviewing. It's like you're giving it a perfect score based on the game's namesake alone.

So, rather than tell you GTA IV is the greatest creation ever built by man-hands, I thought I'd spill the beans on a couple gripes I actually had with the title. If you want to hear all the good stuff, look elsewhere. Here are the things most reviewers are too blinded by the glory of GTA to tell you. And don't worry, there are no story spoilers here.

Maintaining friends sucks: While I appreciate occasionally getting phone calls from folks wanting to play darts or go on a date, I don't like feeling pressured to do these things. I get enough of that in real life. The option to visit with friends makes Liberty City feel that much more realistic. But when I spend thirty minutes completing a mission only to get three phone calls in the five minutes following from people wanting to hang out, that's where I draw the line. What's worse, you're actually penalized for not keeping up with the 20-plus familiars stored in your cell phone's address book.

Controls often fail: You stand in front of a ladder and press triangle to climb it while running from the cops. Nothing happens. You get shot. You press triangle again. Nothing happens. You get shot some more. Triangle again. Niko thinks about climbing, get's confused, gets shot, then dies. This is just one example of how frustrating the controls can be. Half the time everything does exactly what I want it to do. The other half, I'm trying to get on a bike and Niko begins running in circles instead. I don't get it.

Questionable combat: While I appreciate the cover system and enhanced aiming, I can't tell you how frustrating it is to be in the midst of a big firefight and, just because I applied a tenth of a pound too much pressure to the aim button, my sight jumps from the intended target to some random dude walking on the other side of the street. This usually results in a barrel full of bullets for Niko's face. No es bueno.

Helicopters and motorcycles are a death wish: Maybe this one is just me, but no way should these two vehicles be so touchy to control. Gaining any speed on a bike is the equivalent of shooting yourself in the head while trying to actually land a helicopter with any precision is the equivalent of jumping ass-first into spinning propellers. I don't even bother anymore. Avoid the bikes and ditch the copter near land while you're flying over water.

Missions lack in any real variety: There are a few gems sprinkled throughout, but the vast majority of your time spent in L.C. will be "Hey, crazy foreigner. Go to this place and kill this guy for money." Repeat.

Money is useless: After a point, anyway. Make me buy special cars and additional safe houses for crying out loud. Give me at least some reason to bother collecting the greenbacks. After ten hours you've got more money stored up from completing missions than you will ever need for ammo and hotdogs.

Checkpoints: My biggest gripe of all is the lack of better checkpoints in longer missions. I've mastered driving across three islands, shooting my way through a warehouse and navigating a speedboat through some choppy water. Why should I have to waste another thirty minutes doing this yet again just because a sudden incline in difficulty caused a small misstep and mission failure?

So there you have it. Like I said, I really enjoyed GTA IV and will most likely spend plenty of time just tooling around completing random tasks still available after the storyline. But when 101 reviews claim perfection without giving gamers so much as a hint as to some seriously blatent problems, I figured it was time to give bad credit where bad credit was due.

No comments: