Review by dante1st
"far from perfect, and not very close to great"
Revised version of IMMT 115, HP7
Unlike most professional reviews, I don't feel this game deserves the perfect, or near perfect scores it received across the board. The gameplay is repetitive, the graphics are above average at best, and certain gameplay functions are broken. I'll give this game an A for effort and a C+ in its content, execution, and fun factor.
While not up to the same extinction level media hype that Modern Warfare 2 received, the release of GTA IV was definitely the video game event of the year when released (I myself took four vacation days off from work to play it). Really the only reason it received such high scores is because of the fact that it was the next GTA game, and the first one of this console generation. Naturally, that means an upgrade in graphics. And while the graphical jump from San Andreas to GTA IV is obviously gigantic with this new generation, compared to other games released during (and even before) this time, the graphics are just not all that great. It's just a combination of greys and browns, and everything looks oversaturated. Also, the character models are about on part with other games released during this time, nothing too spectacular, although this is understandable, given the nature of a wide open game like this.
As far as the explorable world goes, I'll say that the level designers did a great job. Part of what gives this game the feeling of grandeur is its very real sense of scope. This is the most realistic depiction of New York City in a game, and that's no small feat. What would've been more interesting though is if they could've had more variety in the types of locations, and maybe different terrain, etc. Gameplay-wise, it becomes very boring driving around the city, or driving to your next mission destination because it all more or less looks the same- it's just building after building after building, with streets and sidewalks. This is a step down from its predecessor, San Andreas, where one moment you're deep in the hood driving past gangbangers, then next you're up in the hills of the suburbs, and next you could be in a wide open countryside going 80mph towards a mountain, a mountain you can climb no less. This design decision made it so that I'm constantly choosing to take a taxi to all of my destinations and use the "skip" option to instantly arrive at my destination.
I really wish they could've implemented more indoor locations to explore. Sure you've got your occasional bar, bowling alley, and strip club, but that's it. The hundreds of other buildings in the game might as well be a flat 2D backdrop, similar to the background in Hill Valley in Back to the Future part 1. It feels shallow and empty with all these buildings you can drive past, with 99% of them being unexplorable. Going back to my previous paragraph about the lack of varied terrain, one may argue against me by saying "exactly how much variety can you give New York City, it's an urban location for god sake's." Well that's true, but had it not been for the lack unexplorable indoor locations, I wouldn't have a complaint about the repetitiveness of the graphics. In other words, my whole argument is saying that due to the lack of terrain, it's pointless to drive since all you see are the same streets and buildings; BUT, if some of these locations were more explorable, and able to be interacted with, then I wouldn't have a problem driving around, since at any given time, I might see a location that looks fun to play around in, and that would be my incentive to stop the car, and go explore the inside of that building.
Speaking more about the gameplay, the missions were repetitive. I can't complain too much, because fundamentally speaking, GTA is basically one big fetch mission: go to point A, drive to point B, murder person C, and extract item D. There's a culmination of reasons why I originally quit this game probably 20 hours into it, but the two major factors were: 1) the driving physics, and 2) the star system. These two things to me broke the gameplay, and made it feel like a task, instead of fun, number two primarily. First though, the driving; put simply, you CANNOT drive properly. You can't turn without completely slowing down, and everything about maneuvering the vehicle feels very unresponsive and very unintuitive. Just maybe, this is what all the physics and math equations work out to when implementing a 100% realistic engine, but you know what, it makes the game less fun, for the sake of realism. The second problem with driving is the fact that due to the camera being too close to the ground, whenever you're going up even a very slight incline, you can't see anything coming towards you. You HAVE to keep your right thumb on the right analog stick and manually keep the camera positioned in a slightly upward tilted angle, otherwise you're going to crash head first into cars or just trees on the sidewalk (trees being the one thing that's forbidden to run over in this game....). There's no excuse for this. What, did the beta-testers and quality assurance not DRIVE in the game so completely missed this flagrantly broken aspect of the game?
The second problem with the gameplay as I stated earlier was the star system. It's too easy to get stars, and there are way too many cops. In previous GTA games you could decide to be a little mischievous and maybe randomly fight people on the street, or even kill them. In this GTA, cops are seemingly everywhere, and anything you do will have them on your tail, even if you've previously made sure to check for patrolling cops on foot or in cars. I'm not speaking of full blown murdering sprees, OBVIOUSLY that's gonna get you stars, and I welcome that. I'm specifically just referring to randomly killing one harmless dude on the street, or just stabbing him or fist fighting him. These are the little things that made the game fun previously; little side distractions and diversions to break up the monotony of the missions. But now with the inclusion of invisible cops that pop out as soon as you commit a crime, out of the most impossible places, it becomes a CHORE to quickly hop in a car and elude their search radius. You're far better off simply not committing the crime in the first place, and just play the game straight. This right here ultimately killed the game to me. It was no longer GTA since I could no longer commit minor crimes for fun without having to immediately flee the scene.
**I hate when a game makes a downgrade from its previous version, because it's "too hard" to implement these previous features into the new game. Why can't I swim underwater anymore? Why can't I purchase property anymore? How about a larger variety of clothing to buy? If any game needed the option for masks, it's this game. Niko Bellic is one ugly, unattractive mofo. I'm not gonna get into it here, but Metal Gear did the same thing with these unfortunate downgrades. Think of some of the gameplay functions and extra things you could do (and easter eggs) that were in Sons of Liberty, that completely got scrapped from parts 3 and 4. Just think about it.
**The walking is sooo weird in this game. The way you sort of swivel when you turn, feels like you're weighed down by some giant magnet. And I thought Resident Evil 5's walking/turning mechanics were stiff.
**The graphics on the strippers look very bad. When you go in the back for a private lap dance, the VIP booth you're walking into might as well be a time portal back to 2001, to the time of PS2 graphics.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 12/18/09
Game Release: Grand Theft Auto IV (US, 04/29/08)
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