On the Subject of GTA

Posted on Tue 01 July 2008 in geek

So despite my obvious desire for the game I haven't mentioned much about it since I got it. Some times it makes sense to comment on things with a little perspective that time can provide.

Well the first thing to note is I'm a fan of the GTA series and the general concept of free roaming dynamic world environments. As an example of the genre GTAIV does take it to another level with the amount of detail the cram into the living, breathing Liberty City. The next-gen bling has certainly been applied to city and everything looks really nice. The dynamic weather is pretty stunning and a great improvement on what SA supported. You quite often want it too rain because things look a lot shinier :-) The animation has also benefited from the increased horse power offered with the Euphoria engine offering a lot more realistic responses by the random characters. The first time I dragged a police officer along the road as he tried to stop me stealing a random car was pretty impressive. As far as looks are concerned I think the game has it pretty much nailed.

Controls however are more of an issue. I have managed to balls up a mission more than once due to the switching of the "fire" button between foot and vehicle mode. Also the cover system for combat while useful still occasionally grates and gets in the way. It could be I just don't play enough games to have developed a context sensitive control re-mapper in my brain. The ability to re-try a mission directly from the phone does help though although they could have given a little thought to the distance between brief and start location. There are times I swear at the rush hour traffic as I try and get back to the start of the mission. I have to say I think the control system is probably the weakest aspect of the game, however I don't think it's an area the GTA series has been especially strong at anyway. Still who cares about the controls, what about the game?

The main plot is very well thought out. The central character, Niko is probably my favourite GTA protagonist so far. The script, setting and feel is all very well done. The replacement of San Andreas' annoying keep fit system with a more nuanced friendship system for keeping up with all your contacts is an improvement. It remains to see if the morality choices will keep you coming back for replays of the main plot line, as far as I can tell the main plot doesn't branch too much. As you would expect Rockstar have done an excellent job with the satire of modern New York. Little details like dynamic radio news reports (the stations are no longer 60 minute loops) and TV coverage add a lot of colour to game. You can even kick back at a comedy show , or bizarrely watch it on the TV at your home!

I think there are less side missions than previous games. While you can pull taxi journeys I don't think you can just nick a yellow cab and get on with it. You can actually take taxis but I generally avoid it as the AI of the driver is (deliberately?) worse than mine, even in "drunk" mode. There is a sub-way system as well but having ridden it once I don't see it becoming a regular event, unless perhaps it makes escaping cops easier. These issues aside though there are plenty of places to see and I suspect given the scale of the city I will have enough to do if I just want to idly cruise the game.

The multiplayer is a new addition to the game. Unfortunately it's not as slick games like CoD4. When you join a game the system should hurry things along, filling the game up and getting it running as fast as possible. The customisations the game offers offer the promise of depth but so far getting playing has seemed too much of chore to have explored this option much. The free-mode looks intriguing but I suspect that will wait for when some other friends suggest some wacky challenges to meet up complete on-line.

All in all it's a pretty solid addition to the series. I'm not sure it's worth all the 10/10's is has received but I suspect a lot has been due to anticipation and relief when it delivered. It's still a solid addition to any console gamers collection, certainly a must have for fans of the series.