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Grand Theft Annulment

Brad Gallaway's picture

So I went out and got a copy of...

the game everybody’s playing and the thing that’s racked up some of the highest-scored reviews of all time. The games media across tha intarwebs have been falling all over themselves to pile shimmering, golden scores on top of it, delivering the kind of unparalleled fellatio that’s usually reserved for the kind of sweaty teen dreams that only hormones can bring on.

As I write this, it’s currently got a 98/100 at MetaCritic after 66 reviews, the first 41 or so being perfect 100s—seriously, that’s insane success. Rockstar must be thrilled, since any publisher out there would sell their firstborn for numbers like that.


Niko Bellic, on the hunt for Dan Weissenberger

So, after two days of playing, what’s my take on it?

I’m not at all impressed.

It’s not that the game is terrible because it’s not, but it’s certainly not deserving of all the accolades and perfect scores. Granted, I’m still very early on and have not yet completed the single player portion, but based on what I’ve seen so far… I don’t think I actually will. How's that for a ringing endorsement?


My man CJ from San Andreas... Check that fly ride.

Now before going any further, don’t start thinking I’m some sort of GTA hater. That couldn’t be further from the truth—I gave the first perfect score of my review career to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas on PS2, and that’s a number I stand by. That was a tremendous game and a major achievement. GTA IV? Not so much.

I mean, looking at the game, I’m not even sure what I’m supposed to be impressed with.

Graphics? Well, the graphics are all right, but they’re not as stellar as most people seem to think they are. Quite honestly, I think there are a lot of games out right now that look a lot better


Do you play games to admire the architecture?

Realistic replication of a city? Having never set foot in New York, I couldn’t tell you whether it’s realistically modeled or not—and really, who cares if it is? My ability to recognize landmarks or particular neighborhoods has absolutely no effect on gameplay.

Improved controls? I find the vehicle control to be atrocious, quite possibly the worst in the series, and controlling main character Nico Bellic is only slightly better. Everything feels slow and clunky, and quite frustrating at times.

Gameplay? From what I’ve seen so far, it’s business as usual. The same sort of ‘go here, kill someone’ missions that have always been in GTA have made up the majority of what I’ve done so far, with nothing interesting occurring, or even being promised.

Environment? I get very little value from observing AI characters exhibit random behavior while walking down the street, and I don’t usually play games for the scenery. Simply being somewhere and spending time is not a draw.

Story? Granted, this could be the game’s homerun, but it has completely failed to draw me in so far, and I feel (raspberry sound) for the characters. Sure, I giggled at some of the absurd lines and obvious jokes, but I don’t feel compelled to follow Nico on his journey, and I have absolutely no motivation to improve ‘relationships’ with the faces I’ve seen so far. I’m absolutely willing to admit that there may be some quality drama later on, but part of good game design and creation (and really, of any creative media at all) is the ability to capture a player’s imagination and immerse them in the world; motivate them to rise to the challenge and emerge victorious. At this point, I’m completely bored by what’s been happening, and I don’t feel at all engaged—without intellectual buy-in, I have no incentive to put up with what I see as a below-average (compared to San Andreas) GTA boilerplate.

Although I’m considering pressing on if for no other reason than it’s likely going to be one of those ‘must-play’ titles that any good critic should probably have under their belt, it already feels like work and that’s not a good thing.

If anyone out there can tell me what exactly is so great about this game, I’d honestly love to hear it… keeping in mind that graphics aren’t enough to sway me and that I’ve already played through four previous GTAs, exactly what am I supposed to be getting from IV? I would guess that if this was the first time I was playing a GTA I’d be more impressed, but I find absolutely no significant between what IV offers, and what every other GTA did before it.

Whatever critics are getting out of this game in order to justify the universal adoration, I just don’t see it.


It may be generic, but Saints Row plays like buttah

As a sort-of comparison, today I picked up a copy of Saints Row, since it had been billed as a GTA wannabe, and I thought it would be interesting to see what my reaction would be to it.

Not surprisingly (or perhaps surprisingly) I thought it started out really fun and frenetic, and I was quickly engaged with the customization and absolutely solid controls. I mean, this game is pretty much a next-gen version of San Andreas with the gang slant, recruiting homies, capturing territory, and so on, only it skips the pretense and gets right to the action.

I can't say that it's a good game since I only put in about 45 minutes with it, but not having to fuss with controls and camera was quite welcome, and it had waypoints and a mini-map, so it was almost exactly like IV minus the immigrants and New York ambiance. (Bonus points awarded for the prominent display of zaftig ladies.)

Saints Row and IV almost seem like flip sides of the same coin when played them back to back like that. Take that irresistible GTA hype out of the equation, and IV seems like standard GTA, just offering less than the last iteration and still not nailing the controls.

Read more at Drinking Coffeecola blog.

Category Tags
Series: Grand Theft Auto  
Articles: Editorials  

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Finally....

Hello Brad,
You have just pointed out that the Emporer is wearing no clothes. I tend to agree with you on this one. Videogames are, after all, games first and, possibly, simulations second. GTA IV flips that premise, by focusing more on being an environmental simulation instead of being a fun game.
In essence, nothing has changed from the original GTA: drive from A to B, stay out of the hands of the police, drive through an open city.
Story-wise, videogames have not reached the literary levels people claim they have. I do not think this will happen any time soon. After all, it took comics more than 40 years to become a literary medium of any substance. We still have a very long way to go.

none

just little anecdote about the Metacritic score...

Dont forget that this score is not an average of all the notes that the game get :

"The METASCORE is considered a weighted average because we assign more significance, or weight, to some critics and publications than we do to others, based on the overall stature and quality of those critics and publications"

So the 98 % on Metacritic is not a "real" 98 %, because when you check on Gameranking, the real average score is 97,3 for the PS3 version and 97,6 for the 360...

Some days ago, the Gameranking score for the two versions on GTAIV was 98 %+, but since more critical review was publish, the game go down to the 97,... %

What we care about ?

The "best noted game ever" was Ocarina of Time, witch was surpasse by GTAIV when it was release. But since more reviews are added to the Gameranking score, the GTA score is lowered, and Ocarina of Time is about to retaking his pole-position for the "best noted game ever"...

//English is not my first language

I think what you're missing

I think what you're missing is precisely what you say you don't play games for: the ambience. GTA IV does a far, far better job of setting up a living, breathing world for me to explore and play in than any of the previous games (which, in turn, I felt were most special for doing just that, rather than the somewhat flawed actual gameplay). It's true that the graphics are not up to the standards of the prettiest games on the console (when has GTA ever had the prettiest graphics?), but it looks better than its open world competition, with the possible exception of Naruto, and the graphical improvements, again, really help sell the world they've created.

Saints Row does provide better gameplay (in some respects), but it's so flat and uninteresting a world that it has consistently failed to engage me. And I really, really wish it had some of the things GTA IV does, like lockon (free aiming with joysticks in the heat of combat is not my idea of a good time), and the glorious Euphoria physics engine that makes it a positive pleasure to shoot people or run them over with my car. Also, it's completely (and bizarrely) lacking in blood. I'm not a gore fanatic or anything, but if I can't tell if I've killed someone or just knocked them down for a few moments, there's something wrong, y'know?

I also think you're giving the story way too short shrift, but I haven't played San Andreas fully or in a while, so my point of comparison on that has been Vice City, which I was working on right before buying IV. And lemme tell you, leaps and bounds are involved in the level of improvement there. (Though Vice City is still a great deal of fun and an incredible atmosphere.)

That said, the perfect score people are nuts - some of the missions are reeeeeally frustrating (I've taken a hiatus because the two missions currently available to me are both driving me insane), the new cop system is certainly more dramatic but also more of a pain in the ass (which is saying something), and they've done more than I'd like in terms of restricting your options for approaching situations - the hidden packages and side missions open up on a much slower basis and aren't particularly rewarding compared to previous GTAs, it's annoyingly difficult to come by body armor and better guns than the pistol, good cars are harder to come by and harder to preserve, etc.

yeh totally agree. When I

yeh totally agree. When I first bought the game I had no idea why the game deserved a 10. It takes you a fair while just to get a gun so before that your just driving to places watching clips. They say MGS has long clips but atleast there interesting. I ended up skipping scenes because they became so boring. If it wasn't for the physics in the game I think it would be bad, cause now the only thing I do is see how long I can roll for. Don't get me wrong thoe, I would still give this game like a 9.4 but not a 10. A 10 should be perfect or something revelutionary.

What made GTA4 so great was

What made GTA4 so great was its missions. You say your only 45mins in, you haven't even made it to any of the bigger missions yet. A lot of mission for the first couple of hours are your normal GTA stuff but theres far better and bigger mission later in the game. It really picks up midway through and uses the new cover system a lot. It takes awhile to work up to those since a lot of the early missions they try and make you get use to all the new controls. Same with the driving, its not prefect but after a few hours you do go more use it.
Overall everything else about the game has improved. Everything tedious from all the past games have been taken out. No more need to restart missions from your last save points and taxis are huge saver for the game. Such a pain in GTA:SA having to drive all the way across the map to pick up a car and then drive it to another location. None of that tedious gameplay is in GTA4.

I wouldn't rate this a perfect score like most other reviews but its right up there being close to it. Even though it is long your first time they did take some stuff that they could have stayed in the game that the past GTA games had. But for a sandbox game its easily the best sandbox world in game a today. Reminds me a lot like when GTA3 came out. Every other GTA after they just kept adding on to the cities. GTA4 is a lot smaller then SA but its far more detailed then what any other game today.

I think this article is spot

I think this article is spot on. Granted I never even played through the old GTA games, but your feelings basically described exactly how I felt while playing this game.

Agree

I have to agree with you on the game being over rated by reviewers. I am a huge fan of the GTA series and was very excited about this game coming out. Now that I have finished the game I have to say I am disappointed. I played Vice City and San Andreas till the discs were ruined. I played GTA IV to completion and don't feel the urge to play it anymore.

GTAIV as a stand alone game is a really cool game but compared to vice city and San Andreas it feels kind of empty and not as fun.

What disappointed me the most is every thing that I expected in the game that was not there, both things from the past and things implied.

Some of the things that screen shots and previews had me thinking I would be able to do were....
(Using trunks of cars) I was excited about this feature, I was ready to throw random civilians into the trunk and drive the car off the pier.
(Hanging off of moving trucks) Thought this was something we would be able to do in game, not just for one mission!

It was mentioned many times that Liberty City would be smaller in map size but bigger in square footage and mentioning how many buildings there was going to be and how you could move into most buildings etc, but you can only go into a few buildings in the game, this huge city and 99.9% of the buildings are just solid boxes.

What the hell happened to all the fun stuff?

Customizing cars and or character?!

Garages to park cars?! Park in a yellow box? lame!

Buying Property was cool, felt like you were wealthy and owned stuff, Safe house feels like a buddy letting you crash at his place. I feel homeless the whole game.

No non-vehicle controls? why cant we use cranes or other machinery in the game?

JET PACK, GTA IV is a big beautiful city and I want to explore it all, close up, I want to go mess around on top of all the bridges, I want to cruise around and explore with a jet pack!, I am grateful for the helicopters but I miss the Jet Pack!

No Diving? Why cant we swim under water now?

And the one that really Pisses me off! They don't let you use your own sound track as a car radio station anymore! Some of you may not know why, well here is why, GTA IV has the ZIT system, where when you hear a song on the radio you can dial the zit number and the name of the song and (where to buy it) will be emailed to your social club! rock$tar does not want you listening to your own music, if you are listening to your own music you are not hearing what they are trying to SELL YOU!. This is the number 1 SH+++++st thing Rock$tar has done. Restrict your fun so they can try to sell you something! I would expect this from M$ but not rock$tar!

They took out all the little things that add so much fun and re-playability. I played GTA IV through once and have not picked it up again since. Not because I hate it or anything, I just don't feel the urge to play it.

I think San Andreas ranks above GTA IV as far as fun factor goes. I might even Trade my GTA IV in for a bundle copy of Vice City and San Andreas.

2 days

He said he has been playing for a couple days, The 45 min was referin to Saints Row.

GTA IV deserves a 10

First off let me say that I played through San Andreas; loved it.

GTA IV, while lacking in the swimming and amazing customization of SA-- is greatly superior in every other way.

You're probably not far enough to know all the toys GTA4 has to offer. Since you've already played GTA SA, you assume you know the apex of what's available. But even in SA you didn't get a gun until a few missions in, weren't customizing cars for some time.

What GTA4 has is continuity; wings were clipped in order to keep the story realistic. What happens here is an emotional ascension; where the world can only be interpretted in a more familiar context; it hits closer to home without the jetpacks.

Game characters are now much more tangible than ever before-- the level of interaction is unprecidented. The cell phone system is pure genius-- some other posters have already mentioned the brilliance of the Taxi ride for a GTA game. Much frustration is eliminated completely.

That's not to say GTA SA wasn't fun, because it was, and it was great-- but GTA IV strives to be something more mature and focussed. Rockstar was very brave to take this risk; as obviously not everyone appreciates it. It shows artistic integrity.

The dialogue is better than most movies, and the character arcs are fully realized, leaps and bounds ahead of any other game I've ever played.

They've dared not to cheapen this by using jokes as saftey nets.

And customization is still there, but on a more meaningful level-- now you can steer the actual story with your choices. This isn't apparent at first, but if you keep playing you'll see.

Missions aren't as cut and dried. Your actions have more defined consequences... Rampages are gone, and if you do go on a rampage, it's much more dramatic as the repercussions are more realistic, and you're no longer an invisible tank.

I found the driving difficult at first, but just chalk that up to a learning curve-- they have new physics in place, this is to be expected.

The cover system isn't perfect, but I find the combat much more satisfying than previous GTAs-- it feels more in tune with an action movie.

The graphics impress me, but I know games can do better-- but can they right now, at this scale? Seamless transitions, minimal loading times-- come on!

The depth must be experienced to be appreciated. I advise you to keep playing, or you'll have no idea what you're missing.

The games missions vary greatly in scope-- and this makes it all the more exciting when there's a huge action set piece rather than the "standard" car chase/assasination mission.

The way you can deal with situations can truly feel epic, you have to approach the missions smarter now, you have a whole city full of tools. I could replay this game, over and over with dramatically different results.

Despite it's flaws, the game achieves exponentially more than it fails.

For everyone that says it doesn't deserve a ten, I really wonder what does?!

Maybe you geniuses should stop complaining- prove me wrong and design a "real" game.

I think this game gives you back what you put into it; it's as great as your imagination permits you to discover what you can do.

"Maybe you geniuses should

"Maybe you geniuses should stop complaining- prove me wrong and design a 'real' game."

See, here? That's were you lost any credibility you had going. The old "if you can't do better than don't say sh*t" argument made famous by grade-school children the world over. Precious.

Smart reviews for serious gamers

You don't play games for the scenery!Really?
What else has your highly acclaimed competitor "Mass Effect" to offer?
Gameplay?

It's like you said.
"The same sort of 'go here, kill someone' missions."

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