The Problems with Grand Theft Auto IV

GTA IV arrived yesterday, and I was actually quite excited about playing it. Before it came out, I wasn’t all that fussed, actually, and was prepared to wait until it hit less than ¬¨¬£25 (because I won’t pay more than ¬¨¬£25 for a game), regardless how long that was. As it turned out, it was just one day.

Since ordering it, my excitement did build a bit, and I was really looking forward to it. Sadly, I feel a bit let down. As I posted on Usenet this morning:

I played it for a couple of hours last night. And honestly? I’m not impressed. Sorry.

Graphically, it is obviously a huge step up from previous GTA games (and Saints Row), but there are still issues. Pop-up and texture draw-in is as bad, or worse in some cases, as San Andreas, which is a shame. And what’s with this stupid fuzzy effect on everything? It’s like everything is made of felt. It’s more distracting than VC’s trails 🙁

Then there’s the camera. Oh god, the camera. Lets count the faults, shall we?

  1. When you spin your car, or handbrake too hard, or hit a wall, or something, it takes *ages* for the camera to re-centre behind your car again. Like, sometimes 5 or more seconds. Long enough to pull away and hit another wall.
  2. You can’t reverse the camera controls for just one plane. I want to reverse up and down, but not left and right. And you can’t. So I’m either stuck not being able to drive (see 3) or stuck not being able to run. Unless I don’t mind not looking where I’m going, of course.
  3. All of the camera angles in the car are crap. The default one is too low, meaning you can’t see the road. The next one is too low, but further behind. The dashboard view is useless for navigating as you can’t see to the left and right of yourself. The aerial view is nice, but ultimately useless.

Speaking of cars, why don’t they go round corners? If you brake, you can’t steer. If you handbrake, you steer way too much. Nasty.

Then there’s the phone. Which is impossible to use because:

  1. It’s too small, so I can’t read the text.
  2. The text is black on dark grey (or possibly dark green?), so I can’t read the text.

And why can’t you run while on the phone? Or get in a car while on the phone?

And fighting. Jesus. It’s rubbish. Why does the jump button also kick? Why do you have no control over whether you jump, or kick? If you’re fighting two people at once (like in the mission you have to rescue Roman from the Albanians) you can’t win. The crap controls coupled with the impossible to understand camera meant I had to leg it to a car and run them down instead.

It’s also nice to see they’ve kept up the grand GTA tradition of graphical bugs too. In the two hours play, I’d managed to make my car vanish (it reappeared though) while driving it, drive *through* the floor (I was on the overpass thing that leads away from the bridge you can’t drive across yet – the car dipped under the road, hit something I couldn’t see, through me
through the windscreen, and launched me into the sea), get trapped in a car wreckage (the mission you have to scare the Korean bloke – I couldn’t find anything to chuck through his window, so smashed my car into his door until it blew up, then the cutscene had me stood inside the car as I talked to him, then I couldn’t move when control returned), Roman’s jaw vanished part way through a conversation I was having with him, and I got stuck in Roman’s
fridge when I tried to see if I could open it.

And! Why does Niko tilt all the time? It makes me feel sick.

As does the awful FOV warping when you look up and down. It’s like being in a fish bowl.

Why, when you change TV channel, does it randomly pick the next channel? Why can’t it do them in order?

And why are there no bikes? I want bikes. I thought this had bikes? I haven’t seen a single bike. Bah.

Oh yes, and another glitch. I went into the park (opposite the Pay and Spray) and there was a gardener there watering plants. I bumped into him, and he dropped his watering can, stood on it, then couldn’t move off it again, even when I punched him.

Anyway. I basically spent all my time struggling with the game so didn’t really enjoy it at all. I’m sure some things I’ll get used to, but so far it seems to be a better looking GTA with the same old problems, some new ones, and a couple of steps backward in some respects.

Also: The talking is too quiet. Bumping SFX volume up and music down seems to make little difference to hearing the speech. I had to sit with the TV remote on my lap so I could put the volume up every cutscene, then put it down again as the cars and effects would be too loud. I’ve put subtitles on, but they don’t appear on the screen. I haven’t heard any of the radio stations with any clarity yet as I’ve had to put the music volume so low.

And everything is too dark, even in sunlight.

Phew, eh? Of course, the resulting conversation fixed some of these problems, but that doesn’t lessen the disappointment of my first play. In all likelihood, in a couple of weeks I’ll have forgotten all about most of these issues – I had many similar grievances with Vice City and San Andreas – so this post will mark as a record of my first experiences and how they have (or haven’t) changed.

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