By Video_Game_King 40 Comments
Grand Theft Auto IV(Again, the time comes when I must review a high-profile Xbox 360 game.) A lot of you see these times as (erroneous) opportunities to call me a fanboy. Those of you who partake in this will see the rest of the summer as a day in the candy shop. I planned on spending my summer reviewing one game I have yet to finish reviewing and blazing through Okami and Panzer Dragoon Saga, but through some odd circumstances, I must now beat many Xbox 360 games in what will amount to a frantic game of Whack a Mole. My journey begins with Grand Theft Auto IV. May God have mercy on your soul.
Actually, I shouldn't be so worried about this game; after all, it is an RPG, a genre I am quite used to navigating. Oh, you're saying that you doubt me? GTA 4 is an RPG, and I will prove it. In this game, you play the role of Niko Bellic, a European immigrant who has come to America to get rich, get laid, and get more people killed than most natural disasters could hope for. Or, as GTA4 calls it, "The American Dream." A lot of the story deals with how Niko's view of TAD slowly die over the course of the game. Oh, and when I say slowly, I mean SLOWLY. It takes quite a while for the story to build up, but when it gets there, everything increases in quality. Events happen more often, the storyline is more dramatic, and overall, it turns out to be really good when it picks up speed..
Along the slow ride that is the story, Niko meets plenty of quirky characters, almost all of whom want to go out with you A LOT. They'll call you up often, asking if you'd like to go bowling, see some tits, or get drunk. You pick them up, play a mini-game, drive them back to their place, and wait for the whole process to repeat again. I've nothing against the feature itself, but it is insistent. Sure, the mini-games are fun and you aren't required to participate, but goddamn, this game makes a big deal out of the feature. You're always getting calls and text messages inviting you to a strip club, but you don't get anything from it, and you can't turn them off.
I guess the reason behind it is because this is GTA4's "thing", like the gimmicks for previous games were things like gang warfare or buying up houses. The main feature of this game didn't work out, whatever; at least the game still manages to retain the Grand Theft Auto charm. It's diluted, sure, but it's still there. For example, the radio is still as entertaining and funny as ever, but you can't turn it off. I know it's minor, but I like to listen to music in Xbox games. Let's say I want to get on a Sanchez, turn on Crazy Motorcycle, and remind myself of how awesome that game was. Wait, I can't turn the radio off, can I? Guess my only options are to turn on some soft jazz or switch over to PLR. *glares at GTA4*
Joining the radio are Internet and TV, and while they both achieve the same level of humor the radio does, they just aren't as good as the radio. OK, at the Internet is, because I can pretend I'm reading Cracked articles, but the TV doesn't have this. You can't do anything while watching TV, so all you can do is think. Think about how weird it is that you're watching TV on a TV within your TV. This is the part where I'd make a joke about Russian dolls, but I feel that would be a bit obvious. Instead, I'll go for something that's a bit less obvious: Grand Theft Auto IV, at least to me, seems ashamed that it's Grand Theft Auto.
Before I continue, let me shoot down any hyperbolic thoughts you might have. The game is still very identifiably GTA (unlike other shame-filled games), it just seems like it doesn't want to be. For example, there's no more good citizenship, like there was in the last two games (I think). Again, I know it's minor, but I'm the type of person who really likes the little details in a game. Anyway, I discovered this the hard way, by shooting a criminal a cop was chasing and then being chased by the same cop. I guess he must have recognized my murder style. I then proceeded to find out several things (some of which I'll touch upon later), one of which was the revamped weapons and the new cover system.
Unlike previous games in the series, you can't carry all the weapons you want; instead, you have to limit yourself to certain classes of weapons (melee, incendiary, sub-machine, etc.). This, along with the new cover system, lead me to believe GTA4 is trying to be Gears 2. Why would it want to be Gears 2? GTA is a perfectly fine thing, and what works in Gears does not necessarily work in other games. I liked chainsawing enemies as much as the next guy, but allowing me to do so in Rapture isn't going to make BioShock better.
Or maybe Rockstar did this because of the missions. Most of them are simple shoot-up affairs, and most of them can be incredibly cheap. For some reason, they thought it was REAAALLLLY funny to hide enemies in places where you can't see them, devolving shoot-outs into trial and error. There's really no way to know where some of the enemies are unless you've already played the mission, since they only appear on the radar if your objective is to kill them. It makes sense, but why can't I have that feature when the objective is something else, like it is for a lot of the game?
Another annoying habit is that the game wants you to do things its way without compromising, which is kinda weird for a sandbox game. The best example I can think of is near the end of the game, where I was tasked with killing some guy. I decided to use my sniper rifle to put a bullet in his head, but immediately found out he was somehow immune to headshots. I kept plugging lead into his skull, and he didn't even notice it! Turns out I was supposed to get on a motorcycle, jump to a helicopter, and kill him on a far-off island. Why couldn't I shoot him in the head there and then, damnit!?
In fact, as I mentioned before, the sandbox feature feels a bit diluted. This may be due to my having rushed through the game (which it actually encourages), but several of the features, like GPS and taxis, seem to discourage exploration. I know you have to pay to use the taxis, but that notion gets quickly thrown out once Roman allows you to call up taxis for free. You'd think the game would encourage you to jack a vehicle and venture throughout Liberty City, but I didn't get that impression. Aside from the aforementioned taxis, the vehicle controls are in dire need of improvement. Let me explain: you accelerate with the right shoulder and reverse with the left. The automatic brake is on the right button, which sounds cluttered until you realize A does this as well. But let's say you're shooting somebody, which you do with the left button. However, you have to aim at your target with the right analog stick, even when you're locked on with B. It all seems messy and inefficient, especially when you're trying to turn your vehicle in a high speed chase (something you'll do quite often). Also, the lock on doesn't exactly lock on; it focuses the camera onto your target, which makes it very difficult to focus on steering and shooting simultaneously. Plus you still have to aim at the target, so what's the point of it?
Well, that's all I have to say on Grand Theft Auto IV. By now, most of you have already typed up your tirades, despite not reading this last paragraph. To those who did read this paragraph, you all win a tour of the castle. To those who only read this to say they did (or after hearing about the castle tour), you are also rewarded with a tour of my castle. *performs evil finger pyramid* Oh, and I reward this game the Least Favorite Four Award. Again, this is not anything against the game. I still liked it. I am just saying it can't compare to Resident Evil 4, Dragon Quest 4, or (of course) Fire Emblem 4.
- Still a good GTA game that does its own thing with mixed results.
- For some weird reason, the shooting is a lot like Gears 2.
- Driving controls need some serious revamping.
In case you don't wish to read my review of this game...
Spider-Man (N64) (To be honest, I probably should have expected this to be crap.) After all, this is a low profile game based on an existing license, and these types of games rarely turn out to be good. However, in the grand scheme of things, comic book games are the best licensed games out there, which is why I played it. The other reason I decided to check it out is a bit more obvious: the summer gaming drought, which usually doesn't hit me. A lack of gaming...water...forces a man to make some horrible mistakes.
Now here's the part where I admit to never having read a Spider-Man comic. I've played two previous Spidey games, but that's just about it. However, I was still able to understand the plot, which follows thusly: somebody has framed Spider-Man for some sort of crime, and now he must exonerate himself and expose the true criminal. Somehow, this leads to a symbiote conspiracy that involves Carrnage and Doc Ock. I've nothing against the story itself (how can I?), but rather, how it's presented. It's either presented in typical cutscene fashion, featuring Stan Lee's enthusiastic voice acting, or through comic panels. That's the only explanation I could think of as to why they're here, since nothing else adds up. They take forever to get through, they look like crap, and the game would've been better off without them. Then again, the only difference between the panels and the in-game graphics is that they're grainier, so that can't say much about the in-game graphics. *checks that off list*
Great, now we can get to the most important part of the review: the gameplay. Here, it consists mostly of two things: platforming and fighting. A good portion of the game consists of webbing your way across rooftops and through buildings. I'd have preferred more open-world aspects, but other than that, I've no major problems with it. What does attract criticism is the combat, which can best be summarized as "button mashing." You have a variety of moves, but most enemies/bosses can be taken down with a simple kick/punch combo. However, the weird thing is that while it sounds easy, it isn't. Most enemies are able to interrupt your combos easily, forcing combat into one simple pattern: punch, punch, punch, ad infinitum.
Hell, this even carries over to the boss battles! Again, trying a combo on them usually takes off half your health, so you have to mash kick/punch without building up combos. It's repetitive and unsatisfying. However, for all the bad things I have to say about this game, it's at least functional. There are no major glitches or fuck-ups, which is more than I can say about some other games. Also, it's quite short, clocking in at about a few days. Normally, I'd criticize a game for its brevity, but for a game like this, it's actually something I liked about the game. After all, if you're playing a bad game, you want it to end as soon as possible, right?
OK, I probably shouldn't call it bad, since I haven't read any of the Spider-Man comics or seen any of the movies. To those who have, this would probably be a better game. Then again, as I've said before, truly good games are good on their own; they don't depend on other games or outside material to make them better. This game relies on outside material, so for me, it gets knocked down a few points. It also gets the Briefest Review Award, along with a 4.8/10.
- The story's OK, but it isn't presented well.
- Repetitive combat is repetitively repetitive.
- A poor camera makes navigating somewhat difficult at times.