I feel the realistic approach is what makes it that much better. The controls and physics felt clunky and heavy but I think they were just testing the waters and getting it in place, you can see they polished it more in RDR.
But the game was much more boring compared to San Andreas, still loads of fun though.
GTA has always been serious. III and Vice City were dark comedies. Nothing about them was "wacky." San Andreas started that, and IV went back to being a dark comedy. SA super fans seem to think the GTA games were always about gangstas flying jetpacks.
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A lot of people feel in moving toward a more realistic and dramatic tone, it forgot that it was a video game and is supposed to be fun more than anything.
I don't feel that way at all, but that's the synopsis of their argument.
Actually that's not the problem, the problem is that it did those things poorly in my opinion. Story wise the game isn't even as good as your average mob/organized crime type of movie. There's really no reason to care about the characters at all and they have very little in the way of development from beginning to end. Not to mention the whole "Is the American dream even real?" thing never rings true since all of Niko and Roman's problems are their own fault for the most part. Roman keeps gambling away all their money with no signs of stopping or even regret, and Niko jumps right into crime almost immediately off the boat. Then he randomly acts like he wants to get out at the end because of Kate, just so that we can have some unwinnable decision to remind us how "gritty" and "realistic" the game is.
In terms of gameplay there is very little variety across missions, older GTA games featured a lot of car chases and shootouts, but car chases weren't scripted for the most part and could end at any time. Scripted chases results in a feeling of just driving to a destination rather than actually having an exciting chase. The driving forced you to drive more realistically (but not at all close to resembling reality) which caused driving to feel slower and less fun to some of us. Getting the hang of it didn't make it any more fun. On foot Niko felt very stiff and clumsy, instead of just running uphill to go up stairs, Niko has to go step by step. Realistic yes, but it adds nothing and just serves to slow things down for the sake of realism. The shooting is fine, not the best but it is what it is.
The city was designed with pain staking detail in mind but rather than being a playground it felt more like a painting or a sculpture. Look, don't touch. I always see people saying it's so detailed and that's true but I have seen so many games before and after have more immersive detail than GTA 4. It's impressive the level of detail they went to but they could have given us more things to do in this huge detailed environment. Looking around is something I have done in tons of games but it shouldn't be one of the only worthwhile things to do.
I understand that a lot of people like it and that's fine but I didn't. I hope GTA 5 is a much better game because I am a huge fan of the series. As far as I am concerned the real GTA 4 is Chinatown Wars.
I think GTA4 was a great game technically. I just think that they forgot to put a 'soul' in there somewhere, and that killed it for a lot of people.
My biggest problem with the game was its characters. There weren't any of them that I cared about until the DLC came out. I ...kinda... liked Roman, but until TBoGT came out, none of the characters stuck with me the way that those from other GTA games had. None of them were memorable. They were all just kinda ...there... to me.
And while I love what they did with the city, it could come off as being kinda lifeless sometimes. There needed to be more random stuff going on. One of my favorite things about GTA-style games is me walking out of one of my houses and seeing a fight of some sort going on that I had nothing to do with. That happened some in GTA4, but I could have used more of it. Stuff like that helps to breathe life into the city, and that is always welcome to me.
As for the whole 'realistic' approach, I could take it or leave it. It didn't make the game for me, and it didn't break the game for me. If I had a say in it for GTA 5, I'd tell Rockstar to make it as real as possible while keeping it fun. There is a balance in there somewhere, and I hope they find it. I do hope that the cars are less floaty this time though. I think they overdid it with that in 4. Some older cars have a lot of body roll to them, but not THAT much body roll!
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