Thursday, May 15, 2008

What's Wrong With GTA IV? Lets Start With These 10.

I love GTA as much as well, everyone, but there are a few flaws. Here's a great list of 10 of GTA's inperfections:

1. Money Has No Value

This is my biggest beef with GTA IV: money has little value. You go on a hundred missions to earn cash...for what? More ammo? A new pair of shoes? I have $750,000 in my bank account and I live in a shit-hole. All the clothes I can buy were purchased in the early stages of the game. So what am I supposed to do with all this money? This is the American Dream? Where did the option to purchase real-estate go? The whole game is based on making money but the designers forgot one key element: you need something to spend money on, else your money is worthless. $5 hamburgers and an optional freeway toll just don't amount to very much.

2. Multiplayer

Multiplayer in a GTA game is nothing new if you've played previous PC versions and downloaded certain mods, but this is the first time it's been officially included by Rockstar, so you'd think they'd do it right. Instead, multiplayer feels like an afterthought, sporting a level-up system that takes forever to advance in ranks, all so you can unlock a few items of clothing.

The Lobby system can take ages for a game to start, usually because all the stoners in the room forget to click Ready, or worse, bitch and moan about a specific game setting that usually leads to mutiny.

There's no shortage of multiplayer game modes, which is great in theory, but I'd gladly take two well-balanced game modes over a multitude of half-assed, poorly designed ideas that find the majority of players running around maps searching for a freaking car. It's called Grand Theft Auto, not Grand Theft Pedestrian.

A lot of the problems could easily be addressed by a Host who doesn't have his head up his ass, but most toggle settings that are detrimental to fun, usually forcing the majority of players to abandon a round in mid-stride out of sheer boredom. What GTA IV really needs are maps created specifically for multiplayer, something we'll undoubtedly be paying for in future DLC.

3. Ponderous Story

A lot of reviewers keep harping on the stellar, amazing, and unparalleled story, which makes me wonder if any of these guys actually watch movies or read books. The tale of Niko is nothing original, evidenced by hundreds of movies from the era of film noir, but what sets this apart from its cinematic cousins is the sheer ponderousness of the story. This is a plot that barely moves and keeps repeating itself over and over. As a character, Niko doesn't evolve and his actions have little impact on the game world, save for the ending, which is as empty as everything that preceded it.

The writers of GTA IV make a rookie mistake: they tell me, they don't show me. Telling me Niko is searching for his moral compass is of no use, especially when none of the elements manifest in terms of gameplay, save for a few rudimentary decisions that are no more than, "Kill Mr. X or Kill Mr. Y."

4. No Upwards Mobility

The majority of critics claim that GTA IV is about the American Dream, an ethereal concept that means something different for everyone. In the universe of GTA, the American Dream apparently entails moving from one pigsty apartment to another pigsty apartment, albeit in a slightly better part of town. There is zero sense of social advancement or self-sufficiency, and all the way till the end of the game you find yourself working as nothing more than slave-labor for those who are enjoying the American Dream.

5. A Step Back From Previous Versions

While the graphics engine is an amazing achievement and deserving of the highest praise, every other aspect of GTA IV has devolved. It's as if the designers put 95% of their effort into creating a believable environment and used the last 5% for gameplay. Instead of mini-games involving taxi fares, ice-cream trucks, pizza delivery, ambulance driving, fire-fighting, territorial control, managing a get a boring round of pool, bowling and darts.

6. Wonky Cover System

It's great that GTA IV now has a cover system. It's not so great that it makes me want to punch my Xbox in the face. God forbid you attempt the cover system near several objects as you never know where you'll get attached. I've lost track of how many times I've been in cover mode, only to have the game refuse to fire my weapon for some inexplicable reason, forcing me to uncover and recover. It's annoying, frustrating and lacks polish.

7. Dopey Mini-Games

Billiards, bowling and darts, eh? Three boring mini-games that have little to no impact on anything. You can't even bet an opponent for some cash, which I guess doesn't matter because money has no value anyway. The designers could have exercised a little creativity by developing a little pick-up basketball game at the park, or skeet shooting, or dirt-bike racing. Hell, I'll take a little Frisbee tossing or miniature golf. Something original, for Pete's sake.

8. Relationships Are Idiotic

One new aspect to GTA is the concept of relationships. Unfortunately, it's rudimentary at best, bordering on sublimely retarded. All you have to do is call someone on your phone, pick them up, and head wherever you need to go. Once there, you do nothing that has any impact. As long as you don't total your car or inadvertently shoot your date in the face, they all seem to love you. In the end, relationships in GTA stand as a concept that was never developed. The designers should have taken some notes from The Sims and offered the player tangible options based on the environment the characters find themselves in.

9. Clothing Interface

I made a terrible mistake in the early part of the game: I purchased every bit of clothing I could find. I didn't realize that the clothing interface, which hasn't changed from previous versions, would continue to be a monumental example of crappy design. There is no organization to the clothes, no quick way to select a suit or casual attire, forcing the player to view every single item one-by-one, an act that redefines tedium and borders on torture.

10. Phantom Traffic

I don't know what else to call this, so I'm sticking with Phantom Traffic. Phantom Traffic has been around ever since GTA went 3D and it continues to bug the hell out of me. What is it? It's when you look down a stretch of road and don't see any cars. You turn around, look down another stretch, and still don't see any cars. So you turn back to your original viewpoint and suddenly there's a freaking traffic-jam, cars everywhere. I was hoping the next-gen version of GTA would expand the distance cars appear, but such is not the case. Ultimately, this means it's pointless to look around and see if any cops are around before stealing a car, as the second you turn your attention to the window, you have no idea what has suddenly materialized behind you.


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