Artistic vs Technical: Grand Theft Auto IV

Posted by marlow83 (239 posts) -

I sat here for a while, wondering how to begin this little post. Appeal to the controversy that surrounds the Grand Theft Autoseries? Nah, that’s been done to many times. Start with some memorable quote from the game? No, too obvious and lazy. And really, how many people really care about the superfluous flairs in the introduction? So fuck it, I’m going to get to the point. Grand Theft Auto IVis not a good game. It is a pretty damn great experience, but it fails as a game. Why’s that? Because the focus during development was clearly on the atmosphere and character, not on the gameplay. Now, I love me some character-driven, atmospheric games. Hell, I have a hard time playing games that don’t fit that description. But those qualities need to be backed up by gameplay that is at least competent. There’s no excuse here, this game doesn’t feel like it sacrifices fun for atmosphere or for its open world, it feels like making the gameplay satisfying was ignored outright. Do the strengths of the storytelling and characters outweigh the weaknesses of the gameplay? Read on

The Issue: Throughout my 25 hour experience playing Grand Theft Auto IV, I had to constantly remind myself what the game was doing right. The game creates a shockingly real recreation of New York City, capturing the atmosphere of the area impeccably well. It tells a decent story with some fantastic characterizations. You will care about a select few of the people you encounter as Niko. On the complete other end of the quality spectrum is the gameplay. The weapons don’t feel especially powerful, and the lock-on targeting system in place is broken. The combat itself is, at its best, moderately interesting, and at it’s worst, infuriating. Combine this with some loading and framerate issues, and what’s left is a painfully poor playing experience. 

The Debate: GTA IV focuses on the adventures of Niko Bellic, a former Special Operations soldier from Eastern Europe. He comes to America to live with his cousin, Roman, who has written to him of his exorbitant wealth and luxurious lifestyle he leads in Liberty City, which totally isn’t anything like New York. We soon learn that Roman is a sort of a dirty liar, since he lives in a small, dirty apartment and runs a moderately successful taxi service, and owes money to the local bully. Niko has to take on jobs for this local bully in order to keep Roman safe, all of which involve driving and shooting. This bully eventually crosses the line by going after Roman’s girlfriend, which is enough to make Niko want to kill him. After this little series of events, Niko and Roman are catapulted into the world of crime, and they associate with all manner of drug dealers, theives, murderers, and mobsters. 

The main story is structured like a series of smaller vinettes, in which Niko does 3 or 4 jobs for a certain person, all the while learning about their lives and their aspirations. These vinettes are tied together by Niko’s mission for revenge on a man named Florian Cravic, who betrayed him in his old country, and got many of his friends killed. Also tying these stories together is Niko’s growing understanding of America, and how the supposed “land of opportunity” is just as violent as his homeland. 

Niko is easily the best thing about Grand Theft Auto IV. He is very well characterized, and completes a well-realized character arc over the duration of the game. He is a stone-cold killer, who will end a man’s life at the drop of a hat. He feels regret for his past actions, but will still kill because all his years as a soldier numbed him to it. He is a broken man, and he is fully aware of it. It makes him angry because he feels he is powerless to change his fate, but he seems to accept it sadly. And near the end, when he feels ready to leave the violent life behind him, his chance to move on is taken from him. 

     

The character development is as great as it is largely thanks to some extremely impressive voice work. Every character is played straight, and it is shocking just how beliveable every character is, even the incredibly over-the-top Brucie (Roman’s friend who is addicted to testosterone). Michael Hollick is particularly great as Niko (like I said, he’s the best thing in the game) because he makes this sociopathic killer likeable. There is never a moment where the player does not root for their avatar. He is funny, down to earth, and when he’s abarasive, you feel as though he is right to be. Jason Zumwalt is another high point as Roman, who plays his part as Niko’s biggest source of both stress and happiness. My other personal favorite performance in the game is that of Ryan Johnston, who plays Patrick McCreary, an Irish mobster whose friendly attitude and devotion to his family makes him hard not to like. It’s disappointing that the voice actors in this game aren’t more prolific, since they are the only reason I could bear to play this game for as long as I did. And they should have been paid more.

I love this guy 
Another thing that is truly masterful about GTA IV is the way it approaches drug use. It’s depicted casually, but is never actually condoned. The relationship between drugs and the McCrearys is particularly interesting. There is a scene in which the McCreary brothers are all doing lines of coke in their kitchen, and Packie often makes references to cocaine. These two things are not designed to shock or horrify the audience, nor do they seem to support the use of cocaine; it is just part of the depiction of Packie’s lifestyle. The destructive effects of drugs are depicted in the game. During the bank heist mission (arguably the best mission in the game) Packie and his brother Derrick are at each others throats, blaming each other for everything that goes wrong during the heist, and they use each other’s drug problems to insult each other in this exchange:

Packie: “Fuck you! Take the needle out of your arm then tell me what to do!”

Derrick: “I’ll let you tell me what to do when you stop shoving half of Bolivia up your nose every Saturday night!”

After this mission, Derrick’s problems with heroin are further developed, when he is depicted as a washed up, pitiful addict. He is not the only character to suffer from drug issues, though. Ray Boccino’s wife references her use of Crystal Meth and says that it’s killing her. The final result of this representation of drug use is a message that is essentially anti-drug, but subtlely so. 

Actually, commentary on other social issues is another of the game’s strengths. Once again, Niko delivers, and he makes some of the most sensible, I hesistate to say profound, statements in the game. In particular, he remarks on the status of immigrants in America, calling them the new slave class. These words rang true in my eyes, and actually made me pause and consider the hierarchy that still exists in my country. Niko also comments on the whole notion of “family values” in politics; how it is pointless for politicians to deny who they are to appeal to the average white Republican family, and should just embrace their true feelings. As I mentioned previously, Niko discovers that America is not so different from his former country; it is still a land of violence and crime, where the small prey on the weak. This is perhaps the most profound statement that the game has to offer: The American Dream is a lie. America is no different that any given war-torn third world country, but the evils come in a prettier package. 

Speaking of pretty packages, GTA looks phenomenal from a purely artistic perspective. Simply put, it captures the vibe of New York stunningly well. During the day, the city is dirty, brown, and oppressive. During the night, it is a wonder to behold. Whether the player is in the middle of “Star Junction” (Times Square) or looking at the city off in the distance, the lights can inspire awe if a player is willing to stop murdering things for a few seconds and just gaze. I can’t really go into more detail about this, so I’ll just sum it up with these screenshots: 


Beauty, sheer beauty 
I realize that up until now that my description of GTA IV has been incredibly positive. The number of positive aspects certainly outnumbers the negative ones, but there’s a certain caveat with that statement: the negative issues are gameplay and graphics. Simply put, not one gameplay mechanic is implemented well. Simply making Niko move is a pain, since he controls like an automobile and it is extremely difficult to make him do sharp turns or have him run through small doorways. The player has to repeatedly tap a button to make him sprint, which is also annoying. Adding to this is a Call of Duty style limit to the distance the player can sprint, which is incredibly ill-defined, since there is not a meter or any sort of indication at all as to when Niko is ready to stop briskly jogging and book it again. The driving controls are also frustrating. There is a realistic, weighty feel to the driving, but this sort of driving does not work in a game where the player has to make sharp, unexpected turns. The chase sequences in the game often require the player to either drive slowly or to just be clairvoyant. But what really ruins the basic movement controls is the terrible camera. The camera is always a step behind the player, meaning it is impossible to see where the fuck you’re going for a good second or two every time the player turns in a car or walks a different direction on foot. This problem is remedied by allowing the player to control the camera on their own, but constantly moving a thumb down from the buttons to adjust the camera slightly is an unacceptable annoyance. 

The player will spend copious amounts of time shooting from cover, and these parts of the game control even worse. The lock on system is dreadful, since it doesn’t prioritize targets, and half the time will not actually allow the player to switch targets, but will stay stuck on a single dead enemy gangster/policeman/whatever. The shooting levels themselves aren’t very interesting either, since they all seem to take place in abandoned areas, utterly devoid of civilians. But perhaps this is for the best, since in the roughly two levels that take place in the bustling areas of the city, the targeting system chose to focus on the innocent bystanders rather than my assassination target, or the motherfucker who is directly next to me putting his fist in my face. There is analog aiming, but the guns are so underpowered and it’s so hard to see the enemies that it’s impossible to pull off any sort of efficient killing without the lock on aiming. 

The missions are more than a tad repetitive as well, with most of them boiling down to this: 

1. Go to mission start and get yelled at

2. Drive to an area that is just far enough away to make the drive tedious

3. Arrive at a bland, abandoned area and either a) shoot at guys from cover or b) chase after guys on foot/in a car/ in something else until they stop, then get out of car and shoot at them from cover.

4. Escape from cops

There is very little deviation from this formula, save for a few standout missions, such as a bank heist (probably the best locale in the game), an assassination mission that takes place in a hospital with some great stealth, and the final level. 

There are some issues with the visuals and sound design as well. Given that the game came out in 2008 and that it was a large scale open world experience, it feels unfair to critisize the technical aspect of the graphics. But throughout the entire game, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the models all looked like they were from the original Max Payne (except the faces, they looked better). There were a few problems with texture pop in, especially in a specific tunnel that was often completely white for a good few seconds whenever I drove through it. The sound design isn’t broken, but leaves something to be desired. The only issue is that none of the guns, except one of the Assault rifles, sound powerful. Because these weapons dole out relatively little damage, having them sound punishing should have been a priority, in order to make the shooting at least somewhat satisfying. 

All of these issues might have been acceptable if the storytelling aspects of the game were flawless, but they are not. The latter portion of the game’s story simply drags, as Niko does favors for seemingly endless numbers of similar gangsters. Also, many of the moral choices that take place early in the game simply have no emotional weight to them. Prior to playing this game, I heard endlessly about Dwayne and Playboy X, and how the former was a great character and how the latter was a piece of trash. None of the great characteristics of Dwanye were conveyed in the game to me. Dwayne is an old whiner, and Playboy X is a greedy, naive drug dealer. Neither one is likeable, and the choice of which one to kill didn’t affect me at all. I didn’t care. Also, while some of the social commentary is smart, the Fox News and NPR parodies are too juvenile and blunt to be considered clever. They were funny, to be certain, but they weren’t clever. 

Verdict: For all of the strengths of GTA IV, I can’t recommend it to anyone. Great characters and atmosphere aren’t enough to carry a game with mechanics this broken. It’s not as though GTA IV is even a unique experiment that failed to deliver on the gameplay front (a la Shadow of the Colossus). It’s an open world cover based shooter. It’s a poor open world cover based shooter. And that’s the bottom line: there are games that have better stories, and there are games that play better. GTA IV has a lot to offer the gaming audience, but none of it is worth the frustration of actually playing it. 

#1 Posted by marlow83 (239 posts) -

I sat here for a while, wondering how to begin this little post. Appeal to the controversy that surrounds the Grand Theft Autoseries? Nah, that’s been done to many times. Start with some memorable quote from the game? No, too obvious and lazy. And really, how many people really care about the superfluous flairs in the introduction? So fuck it, I’m going to get to the point. Grand Theft Auto IVis not a good game. It is a pretty damn great experience, but it fails as a game. Why’s that? Because the focus during development was clearly on the atmosphere and character, not on the gameplay. Now, I love me some character-driven, atmospheric games. Hell, I have a hard time playing games that don’t fit that description. But those qualities need to be backed up by gameplay that is at least competent. There’s no excuse here, this game doesn’t feel like it sacrifices fun for atmosphere or for its open world, it feels like making the gameplay satisfying was ignored outright. Do the strengths of the storytelling and characters outweigh the weaknesses of the gameplay? Read on

The Issue: Throughout my 25 hour experience playing Grand Theft Auto IV, I had to constantly remind myself what the game was doing right. The game creates a shockingly real recreation of New York City, capturing the atmosphere of the area impeccably well. It tells a decent story with some fantastic characterizations. You will care about a select few of the people you encounter as Niko. On the complete other end of the quality spectrum is the gameplay. The weapons don’t feel especially powerful, and the lock-on targeting system in place is broken. The combat itself is, at its best, moderately interesting, and at it’s worst, infuriating. Combine this with some loading and framerate issues, and what’s left is a painfully poor playing experience. 

The Debate: GTA IV focuses on the adventures of Niko Bellic, a former Special Operations soldier from Eastern Europe. He comes to America to live with his cousin, Roman, who has written to him of his exorbitant wealth and luxurious lifestyle he leads in Liberty City, which totally isn’t anything like New York. We soon learn that Roman is a sort of a dirty liar, since he lives in a small, dirty apartment and runs a moderately successful taxi service, and owes money to the local bully. Niko has to take on jobs for this local bully in order to keep Roman safe, all of which involve driving and shooting. This bully eventually crosses the line by going after Roman’s girlfriend, which is enough to make Niko want to kill him. After this little series of events, Niko and Roman are catapulted into the world of crime, and they associate with all manner of drug dealers, theives, murderers, and mobsters. 

The main story is structured like a series of smaller vinettes, in which Niko does 3 or 4 jobs for a certain person, all the while learning about their lives and their aspirations. These vinettes are tied together by Niko’s mission for revenge on a man named Florian Cravic, who betrayed him in his old country, and got many of his friends killed. Also tying these stories together is Niko’s growing understanding of America, and how the supposed “land of opportunity” is just as violent as his homeland. 

Niko is easily the best thing about Grand Theft Auto IV. He is very well characterized, and completes a well-realized character arc over the duration of the game. He is a stone-cold killer, who will end a man’s life at the drop of a hat. He feels regret for his past actions, but will still kill because all his years as a soldier numbed him to it. He is a broken man, and he is fully aware of it. It makes him angry because he feels he is powerless to change his fate, but he seems to accept it sadly. And near the end, when he feels ready to leave the violent life behind him, his chance to move on is taken from him. 

     

The character development is as great as it is largely thanks to some extremely impressive voice work. Every character is played straight, and it is shocking just how beliveable every character is, even the incredibly over-the-top Brucie (Roman’s friend who is addicted to testosterone). Michael Hollick is particularly great as Niko (like I said, he’s the best thing in the game) because he makes this sociopathic killer likeable. There is never a moment where the player does not root for their avatar. He is funny, down to earth, and when he’s abarasive, you feel as though he is right to be. Jason Zumwalt is another high point as Roman, who plays his part as Niko’s biggest source of both stress and happiness. My other personal favorite performance in the game is that of Ryan Johnston, who plays Patrick McCreary, an Irish mobster whose friendly attitude and devotion to his family makes him hard not to like. It’s disappointing that the voice actors in this game aren’t more prolific, since they are the only reason I could bear to play this game for as long as I did. And they should have been paid more.

I love this guy 
Another thing that is truly masterful about GTA IV is the way it approaches drug use. It’s depicted casually, but is never actually condoned. The relationship between drugs and the McCrearys is particularly interesting. There is a scene in which the McCreary brothers are all doing lines of coke in their kitchen, and Packie often makes references to cocaine. These two things are not designed to shock or horrify the audience, nor do they seem to support the use of cocaine; it is just part of the depiction of Packie’s lifestyle. The destructive effects of drugs are depicted in the game. During the bank heist mission (arguably the best mission in the game) Packie and his brother Derrick are at each others throats, blaming each other for everything that goes wrong during the heist, and they use each other’s drug problems to insult each other in this exchange:

Packie: “Fuck you! Take the needle out of your arm then tell me what to do!”

Derrick: “I’ll let you tell me what to do when you stop shoving half of Bolivia up your nose every Saturday night!”

After this mission, Derrick’s problems with heroin are further developed, when he is depicted as a washed up, pitiful addict. He is not the only character to suffer from drug issues, though. Ray Boccino’s wife references her use of Crystal Meth and says that it’s killing her. The final result of this representation of drug use is a message that is essentially anti-drug, but subtlely so. 

Actually, commentary on other social issues is another of the game’s strengths. Once again, Niko delivers, and he makes some of the most sensible, I hesistate to say profound, statements in the game. In particular, he remarks on the status of immigrants in America, calling them the new slave class. These words rang true in my eyes, and actually made me pause and consider the hierarchy that still exists in my country. Niko also comments on the whole notion of “family values” in politics; how it is pointless for politicians to deny who they are to appeal to the average white Republican family, and should just embrace their true feelings. As I mentioned previously, Niko discovers that America is not so different from his former country; it is still a land of violence and crime, where the small prey on the weak. This is perhaps the most profound statement that the game has to offer: The American Dream is a lie. America is no different that any given war-torn third world country, but the evils come in a prettier package. 

Speaking of pretty packages, GTA looks phenomenal from a purely artistic perspective. Simply put, it captures the vibe of New York stunningly well. During the day, the city is dirty, brown, and oppressive. During the night, it is a wonder to behold. Whether the player is in the middle of “Star Junction” (Times Square) or looking at the city off in the distance, the lights can inspire awe if a player is willing to stop murdering things for a few seconds and just gaze. I can’t really go into more detail about this, so I’ll just sum it up with these screenshots: 


Beauty, sheer beauty 
I realize that up until now that my description of GTA IV has been incredibly positive. The number of positive aspects certainly outnumbers the negative ones, but there’s a certain caveat with that statement: the negative issues are gameplay and graphics. Simply put, not one gameplay mechanic is implemented well. Simply making Niko move is a pain, since he controls like an automobile and it is extremely difficult to make him do sharp turns or have him run through small doorways. The player has to repeatedly tap a button to make him sprint, which is also annoying. Adding to this is a Call of Duty style limit to the distance the player can sprint, which is incredibly ill-defined, since there is not a meter or any sort of indication at all as to when Niko is ready to stop briskly jogging and book it again. The driving controls are also frustrating. There is a realistic, weighty feel to the driving, but this sort of driving does not work in a game where the player has to make sharp, unexpected turns. The chase sequences in the game often require the player to either drive slowly or to just be clairvoyant. But what really ruins the basic movement controls is the terrible camera. The camera is always a step behind the player, meaning it is impossible to see where the fuck you’re going for a good second or two every time the player turns in a car or walks a different direction on foot. This problem is remedied by allowing the player to control the camera on their own, but constantly moving a thumb down from the buttons to adjust the camera slightly is an unacceptable annoyance. 

The player will spend copious amounts of time shooting from cover, and these parts of the game control even worse. The lock on system is dreadful, since it doesn’t prioritize targets, and half the time will not actually allow the player to switch targets, but will stay stuck on a single dead enemy gangster/policeman/whatever. The shooting levels themselves aren’t very interesting either, since they all seem to take place in abandoned areas, utterly devoid of civilians. But perhaps this is for the best, since in the roughly two levels that take place in the bustling areas of the city, the targeting system chose to focus on the innocent bystanders rather than my assassination target, or the motherfucker who is directly next to me putting his fist in my face. There is analog aiming, but the guns are so underpowered and it’s so hard to see the enemies that it’s impossible to pull off any sort of efficient killing without the lock on aiming. 

The missions are more than a tad repetitive as well, with most of them boiling down to this: 

1. Go to mission start and get yelled at

2. Drive to an area that is just far enough away to make the drive tedious

3. Arrive at a bland, abandoned area and either a) shoot at guys from cover or b) chase after guys on foot/in a car/ in something else until they stop, then get out of car and shoot at them from cover.

4. Escape from cops

There is very little deviation from this formula, save for a few standout missions, such as a bank heist (probably the best locale in the game), an assassination mission that takes place in a hospital with some great stealth, and the final level. 

There are some issues with the visuals and sound design as well. Given that the game came out in 2008 and that it was a large scale open world experience, it feels unfair to critisize the technical aspect of the graphics. But throughout the entire game, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the models all looked like they were from the original Max Payne (except the faces, they looked better). There were a few problems with texture pop in, especially in a specific tunnel that was often completely white for a good few seconds whenever I drove through it. The sound design isn’t broken, but leaves something to be desired. The only issue is that none of the guns, except one of the Assault rifles, sound powerful. Because these weapons dole out relatively little damage, having them sound punishing should have been a priority, in order to make the shooting at least somewhat satisfying. 

All of these issues might have been acceptable if the storytelling aspects of the game were flawless, but they are not. The latter portion of the game’s story simply drags, as Niko does favors for seemingly endless numbers of similar gangsters. Also, many of the moral choices that take place early in the game simply have no emotional weight to them. Prior to playing this game, I heard endlessly about Dwayne and Playboy X, and how the former was a great character and how the latter was a piece of trash. None of the great characteristics of Dwanye were conveyed in the game to me. Dwayne is an old whiner, and Playboy X is a greedy, naive drug dealer. Neither one is likeable, and the choice of which one to kill didn’t affect me at all. I didn’t care. Also, while some of the social commentary is smart, the Fox News and NPR parodies are too juvenile and blunt to be considered clever. They were funny, to be certain, but they weren’t clever. 

Verdict: For all of the strengths of GTA IV, I can’t recommend it to anyone. Great characters and atmosphere aren’t enough to carry a game with mechanics this broken. It’s not as though GTA IV is even a unique experiment that failed to deliver on the gameplay front (a la Shadow of the Colossus). It’s an open world cover based shooter. It’s a poor open world cover based shooter. And that’s the bottom line: there are games that have better stories, and there are games that play better. GTA IV has a lot to offer the gaming audience, but none of it is worth the frustration of actually playing it. 

#2 Posted by themangalist (1716 posts) -

The opening to GTA 4 is probably THE best game opening I've ever ever seen. It's just touched me right away. And then everything started to drag on and on and on and on and on and on and on....

#3 Edited by Doctorchimp (4067 posts) -

I didn't use lock on.... which is where I stopped reading.
 
So since I was free-aiming I think that's why my opinion is so much different than most people. Since I had to aim...I found the game more fun. 
 
I'll keep reading and edit this post later. But I always find it funny when people talk about how broken and boring the lock-on is in Grand Theft Auto 4 and RDR...you can turn it off... 
 
EDIT: Oh and Shadow of the Colossus isn't fun either? Alright, in that case I'll simply acknowledge you didn't like GTA 4.  
 
 

Also, while some of the social commentary is smart, the Fox News and NPR parodies are too juvenile and blunt to be considered clever. They were funny, to be certain, but they weren’t clever. 

God forbid their stupid throwaway radio skits are just funny right?
#4 Posted by marlow83 (239 posts) -
@Doctorchimp: I mention why i didn't use free aim in my post, but I probably should have gone into more detail. But in my defense, even if it can be turned off, that doesn't excuse how bad it is.
#5 Edited by CaptainTightPants (2834 posts) -

I never had any problems with the driving, making sharp turns is really incredibly easy ( Drifting around corners is especially fun). I am not going to say the shotting was fantastic or anything, but I never found that it was broken. It might be because I rarely used the Lock-On, who knows though.

#6 Posted by Akrid (1356 posts) -

GTAIV is probably my favourite game ever. The driving quickly grew on me, the shooting's decidedly measured pace even grew on me, and most importantly, the characters grew on me. Such an incredible game.

#7 Posted by DuhQbnSiLo (2139 posts) -

Game was great until it ended, completely useless after that.

#8 Posted by Evilsbane (4522 posts) -

@themangalist said:

The opening to GTA 4 is probably THE best game opening I've ever ever seen. It's just touched me right away. And then everything started to drag on and on and on and on and on and on and on....

I've spent over 50 hours in game and story completion was at the mid 70's? Last I checked. Anyways yea this is what this game did to me, wow me with Awkard pretty graphics and a bunch of amazing characters but the GAME ...The driving...ever...single Time...I am not bad at games but sometimes this game would just decide I was going to die on this mission over and over so I have to drive and listen to the same 2 collection of character voice overs on the way there.

#9 Posted by marlow83 (239 posts) -
@Akrid: A lot of people agree with you. I don't, and I'm certainly in the minority. But I can't help my opinion. 
#10 Posted by Napalm (9020 posts) -

Even though I am a vocal advocator of how Grand Theft Auto IV is a terrible videogame and mostly fails amazingly at engaging storytelling, this horse has been beaten to absolute death.

#11 Edited by mikeeegeee (1549 posts) -
@Doctorchimp said:

I didn't use lock on.... which is where I stopped reading. So since I was free-aiming I think that's why my opinion is so much different than most people. Since I had to aim...I found the game more fun.   I'll keep reading and edit this post later. But I always find it funny when people talk about how broken and boring the lock-on is in Grand Theft Auto 4 and RDR...you can turn it off...

I echo this sentiment. It bothers me when people write off GTA4 and RDR because of the shitty auto aim. Yes, it's shitty. Play without it, you'll have a much better time once you get the hang of it. Being able to aim for a leg to cause a cop to fall out of cover is one of the most satisfying and immersive experiences I can think of. Euphoria shines when you aim for different body parts.
 
If I knew how to record feed from my 360, I'd make a video of a rampage to show you how exciting GTA4 can be. One life. One use of max health/weapons. One fire truck. The quest to six stars.
  
@marlow83:
PS: Were you aware that this game has different camera angles for both on-foot and in-vehicle cameras? Moreover, there is a cinematic angle button (WITH SLOW MO) that you can press at any time in a car! Too damn cool!
#12 Posted by RockAction (376 posts) -

 
Good post. I've been debating whether I should get the complete GTA4 for PS3 because i haven't played the episodes and want to play through the main story again.  
But this post pretty much sums up why i haven't yet - that and i never saw it for a good price. 
 
They are the same issues I had with Red Dead Redemption. I should also preface this by saying GTA4 is one of my favourite games this gen, the reason i got into this gen and remains the only game i've paid full price for so far this gen.  

While playing GTA4 - granted it was three years ago - i never noticed that the guns were especially unsatisfying, or that the driving controls were difficult; i did notice Niko was hard to control but it didn't put me off at the time. I forgave it though for, as you mention, the great atmosphere and story which was probably the most involved i'd been in a game story to that point.  
 
I think you put it correctly in that its a great experience and poor game, maybe not poor - it is three years old - but its not a great game, or tight in terms of control. The characters, setting and story sold it and it was also fun running around and killing people. I think thats why the controls never bothered me in GTA4 and why they bothered me so much in RDR or the game i'm currently playing LA Noire. I think in the case of GTA4, the unrealistic, cartoonish controls are a reflection of the game, i never tried to drive perfectly unless i went slow and tried to appreciate the city, so they never bothered me, similar to the guns; it was almost always crazy hyperrealistic shoot outs so i never noticed. 
  
But those mechanics are in place in RDR and LAN and they don't make sense, the horse controls in RDR are terrible as are the guns, not as bad from recollection as GTA4 but still not great, and more than anything the characters and story that were lauded in reviews and from friends for RDR were abhorrent. The setting got me through that. My favourite part was travelling from place to place. Similarly in LA Noire the car controls aren't satisfying or realistic, which wouldn't be a problem if it was like GTA4 but you get fined for damage to the car and city at the end of a mission; which is hard to take considering the controls given and the AI of drivers which doesn't make it easy to drive naturally.  Unlike Red Dead, i find the characters and story especially engrossing in LA Noire and find it easy to forgive the small annoyances - but the boat-like walking/running mechanics are still annoying; as they were in red dead and as they were in GTA4.  
 
And not to show dislike for Rockstar games, its the same reason i didn't like Uncharted 2; the mechanics just felt floaty and the combat wasn't great, decent but not great. The thing that annoyed me most was the jumping - watching drake frog splash everywhere even when it wasn't necessary just got so annoying. I've always been a fan of story; not strictly games but in film/literature, and with GTA is was easy to look past the mechanics, same with LA Noire but Red Dead was horrible to play through, hated almost every character and Uncharted, Drake was funny but it all seemed so superficial that i don't care enough to want to play another uncharted game, i have one and thats all i need. 

I think i've gone off my original point and derailed the thread, but to get back on it; I will almost certainly buy the complete GTA4 for PS3 as i do want to experience that game again and think i have enough nostalgia  - even for a 2008 game - to mask the small annoyances. I think that is what's so hard to take about RDR and LAN the fact that those games came out so long after GTA4 and yet still have similar annoying mechanics, they really should have been ironed out before Red Dead and especially for LA Noire. 
 
The worrying thing is if they intend on using RAGE for GTA5. If that game plays the same as the games i've mentioned above it'll be hard for me to buy/continue. But I suppose its Rockstar so they'll craft an atmosphere and setting that will be fun to drive/run/shoot/fly around in with engrossing characters and narrative which will cover, probably, once again for poor mechanics. But these games are about atmosphere, character and story but its becoming harder and harder to look past basic mechanics that so many other games have done right.

#13 Posted by marlow83 (239 posts) -
@mikeeegeee: Yes, I was aware of that. The slo mo was cool, but useless, same for the cinematic camera. And I know about the various other camera angles, but all of them (save for the psuedo first person driving) had the same issues. But I generally go for the default options when I play games, since I assume those would be the ones the developers thought were the best. Kinda stupid, but it's my philosophy when I play games. 
#14 Posted by mikeeegeee (1549 posts) -
@marlow83 said:
@mikeeegeee: I generally go for the default options when I play games, since I assume those would be the ones the developers thought were the best. Kinda stupid, but it's my philosophy when I play games. 
I actually totally understand, dude. I'm the same way when I order sandwiches.
#15 Posted by marlow83 (239 posts) -
@mikeeegeee said:
@marlow83 said:
@mikeeegeee: I generally go for the default options when I play games, since I assume those would be the ones the developers thought were the best. Kinda stupid, but it's my philosophy when I play games. 
I actually totally understand, dude. I'm the same way when I order sandwiches.
Lol, glad you understand.
#16 Posted by marlow83 (239 posts) -
@RockAction: First let me say thank you for the compliment. Second, I agree with you, especially your last statement, that basic mechanics are becoming harder and harder to overlook even when they have great stories. I think it's just that as the standards for storytelling in games rise, simply having a great plot isn't enough to impress people anymore. 
#17 Posted by Doctorchimp (4067 posts) -
@mikeeegeee said:
@Doctorchimp said:

I didn't use lock on.... which is where I stopped reading. So since I was free-aiming I think that's why my opinion is so much different than most people. Since I had to aim...I found the game more fun.   I'll keep reading and edit this post later. But I always find it funny when people talk about how broken and boring the lock-on is in Grand Theft Auto 4 and RDR...you can turn it off...

I echo this sentiment. It bothers me when people write off GTA4 and RDR because of the shitty auto aim. Yes, it's shitty. Play without it, you'll have a much better time once you get the hang of it. Being able to aim for a leg to cause a cop to fall out of cover is one of the most satisfying and immersive experiences I can think of. Euphoria shines when you aim for different body parts.
 
If I knew how to record feed from my 360, I'd make a video of a rampage to show you how exciting GTA4 can be. One life. One use of max health/weapons. One fire truck. The quest to six stars.
      
EXACTLY! 
 
Man the gun play in GTA4 is probably the most dynamic I've ever had experienced because I was thinking on the fly. Cops speeding towards me? Shoot tires or blindly shoot into the windshield. I wouldn't say GTA4 is too realistic, if anything I would say GTA4 is just Hollywood gritty. 
 
Nico isn't agile when compared to the stunts he can do in cars and bikes, but neither are people you fight. I personally absolutely loved how it handled, Nico is just a fragile man in the city yes....but give him the tools he needs and he can do anything.
#18 Posted by yinstarrunner (1181 posts) -

Man, I've been playing through red dead recently and was just thinking today about how all the easily fixed little gameplay quirks kind of bum me out about the game. You seem to have come to the same conclusions that I did with the boring cover-based shooting, repetitive mission structure, and crappy character control. At least it doesn't have that damn cell phone, though.

It's a shame, I love everything about the game besides the part where I have to play it. I mean, the act of shooting dudes is probably as close to being perfected by this point as a game mechanic can get; numerous developers have made fps and tps games with great, snappy aiming and movement. It still seems to elude rockstar, though, for some reason.

Which is a shame, because I feel the gta style open world is such a good fit for the setting, and the dialogue between characters is even better than it was in GTA 4. It's good to know I'm not alone in my criticisms though.

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