My First Impressions on GTA IV

(based on a few hours of play:)

  • The graphics are good but from what few previews I had read, I assumed a more major upgrade. Some things are really nice – like the vehicles and lighting. But some things, like the player textures and animations, are more on par with the past few GTA titles. I’m not all disappointed. I’m not really a graphics whore. It’s just that, well, see, Rockstar kept preaching that they made the graphics as good as they could so as to ensure that game-play came first. I assumed they were lying, that they over-did the graphics and that the game-play would suffer. Happily, I was wrong.

  • Driving is a lot more touchy than it was on prior GTA games (III, Vice City, San Andreas). It’s easy to lose control of the car as you drive by too much tapping left-and-right on the steering. And heaven forbid you slam the emergency brake while going at a decent clip; you can easily do a 540 degree turn. I feel like I’m still getting used to the driving and I tend to not go full speed as a result.

  • The prior point makes me realize I miss the “RPG elements” of San Andreas. For example, in GTA IV, running around does not improve your stamina. Driving does not improve your driving skill. Etc. Too bad! 🙂

  • The cell phone is awesome! It took me a second to get used to it (kind of like real life!), but once I did I became addicted to it. After every mission I call everyone (all three!) people in my contact list. And when one told me to call back after 6pm, I waited around until exactly 6 so I could use the phone again. I dig that you can change the ring tone and such, and that it looks as though you can use it to manage your schedule with a calendar function. What a good idea this one is working out to be.

  • As awesome (or maybe more so) as the cell phone is the trip tracker. Yes, you have a full-on GPS. That is, if you open the map and select a landmark, when you’re driving you’ll see a route on your mini-map showing you where to go. You’ll also hear comments such as, “in 200 yards, turn left.” Fun! One bit of confusion, some missions there seems to be a yellow trail, while on some there is nothing. And if you mark it yourself, it’s usually a dark blue/green color. I have to figure that one out.

  • I love the little “hot coffee” and “warm coffee” pokes at themselves and their past controversies. On a date, my character asked the woman if he could come inside for some hot coffee. She responds that she doesn’t want to get burned. Later, after you spend a *ahem* romantic evening with her, you unlock a “Warm Coffee” achievement.

  • Fighting system is *a little* wonky. I mean, in a general sense, it’s just like the past few GTA titles with the ability to half-lock the controller for free-aim and to also duck behind cover. That said, it doesn’t feel quite as responsive to me. But I’ve only gotten into a few fights, so we’ll see how that progresses.

  • The land mass feels as big as San Andreas. But making that easier to manage is the ability to hop on a subway and, also, the ability to take a cab – in case you don’t want to drive all over.

  • Jumping from the last item, the game has an uncanny ability to make the mundane entertaining. I’ve never been so tickled, in a game, as I have been, sitting in a cab, watching the city roll by as someone else drove, or sitting in a chair watching TV – even though you can hit “A” to skip past the wait time. Craziness.

  • Final comment: overall, this GTA feels a lot like the last few – in all the good ways. That is, it’s a steady evolution. It definitely feels like “the next GTA”. And, for that, I’m happy.

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Side note: I also bought Mario Kart Wii. Candice, Lisa, and I sat down in front of that one with a lot of excitement, but it fizzled kind of quickly. I think we were all a little frustrated with the difficulty.

The first tier (the first four new tracks) was pretty easy. The second tier (next four) was a lot more difficult. We went from largely getting top 3 finishes to regularly hitting bottom 3. We ended up jumping back to the first tier (of old track) and having a bit more fun – but that ended with both Candice and Lisa deciding that they didn’t want to play anymore.

I played a little more and feel like I could get into it with some practice and experience on the new tracks, but… GTA IV is a little more compelling.

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