My second day of GTA IV went less swimmingly than the first. The first day, I think I was overwhelmed by *new GTA!* and was getting into it for that reason. But it didn’t really take hold of me – even then. I mean, I didn’t feel compelled to play the next day. In fact, I spent much of the next day playing Mario Kart Wii with Candice and Lisa. It was the day after that before I did get back to GTA – and that also happened to be the day I really started seeing the warts:
- The car physics are disappointing. I mentioned in the first impressions that the driving physics are touchy. Well, I’d compare the experience of driving a nice car in GTA IV to driving one of the messed-up hoopties in San Andreas – on a wet, hilly road with sharp turns. I know a lot of people are really excited about the changes. I understand that it’s probably an overall system upgrade and that I just need time to get used to it and what it provides. But right now, it’s a little frustrating. You play GTA for the driving, and right now the driving is not fun.
- Auto-follow cameras suck! Seriously! So many games use them and they bother me. And every time I played those games, I’d say, “Why can’t they do it like GTA does it?!” That is, I like my camera situated a little different from the default; I like it a little higher up than the game defaults to so I can better see the space immediately in front of the vehicle. In past GTAs, I could manually situate the camera where I wanted and the game would leave it there. No more. In GTA IV, you can move the camera up but as soon as you let go the camera drifts back into position. And that’s disappointing.
- I had a mission to chase down some pot dealer. It’s pretty early in the game. The guy runs off down the street and you have to give chase. Well, he hops a fence and disappears. There are big, poorly textured tree leaves blocking my camera. So I stare at the mini-map and see from it that he should be to my left, and up a little. I swing the camera out from behind the leaves and look up to the left and don’t really see anything. Is he in the building? I’m not sure. I don’t see a way to get in. Nor do I see a way to get up there. The game warns me a few times that he’s getting away, and then… I fail the mission.
- That’s when I get a text on my in-game cell that says I can re-start the mission right on the spot. Awesome! Except – I’m re-started at the absolute beginning of the mission. That means I have to drive across the city to get back to the pot dealer. Still, it’s better than driving one way, starting the mission, and then driving back to do it. So I re-start, spend the five minutes driving back to where I was… and the guy gets away again. And again. Three tries, and I’m done with the game. I just can’t figure out where he is and I feel like I’m fighting the system instead of working to overcome the game’s challenges.
- I decide to turn off GTA but realize the only way to quit without losing progress is to hit a safe house – which is back across town. I’m not sure if I’ll lose progress or not by just shutting it off, so I decide to be safe and go for the save point. *sigh* But then I remember that I can call a cab that will take me anywhere I want to go, instantly! Awesome! Except! I call the cab, it arrives, and I get a pop-up that says hold down the *y* button to ride as a passenger. I hold down *y* and… my guys throws the driver out. There goes my ride. Worse, there was a cop nearby (it seems like there’s always a cop nearby in this game). So now I not only have to drive myself to the safe house, but I have to dodge the cops along the way. Generally, that’s a pretty fun thing to do in GTA. But with these vehicle mechanics, I’m not digging it. And anyway, that’s not something you want to go through when you want to shut the game off.
- Final comment, I found it really easy to get the layout of the city in the last three GTAs. You kind of need to figure out the layout in order to get anywhere. However, and this is kind of disappointing, because the GPS and mini-map are so good – I don’t need to figure out the city. And I spend so much time staring at the mini-map and GPS layout that I’m not learning the city – at least, not as quickly as I would in a prior title. :
Overall, the game isn’t bad or anything. The mini-games (I’ve tried bowling, darts, and pool so far) are kind of fun. The humor and story-telling is good. The moral choices (you occasionally get a choice on how to handle a situation) are a great addition. But GTA is supposed to be about the driving and with that frustrating me right now, it’s kind of killing the game for me. I guess I’m just not feeling the “masterpiece!” love right now. And as big a fan as I am for GTA, that’s sad.