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Late to the Game: Grand Theft Auto IV

Late to the Game: Grand Theft Auto IV

This game sucks.

I tried playing this many years ago, but an irritating video stuttering issue stopped me. I thought I just needed a new graphics card, so I archived it until I got a new computer. Now I got a new computer, and it still plays like crap.

Why doesn't GTA IV need a remaster? - Quora
Okay it wasn’t that bad. I just thought this GIF was funny.

I haven’t dived (dove? diven?) into a GTA game in years. Not since Vice City on my PS2 (which I still have). But I don’t remember it like this. I remember vibrant cities and fun stunt ramps and zippy motorcycles and colorful characters (they were misogynist douchebags, but it’s GTA–you have to expect some “unenlightened” material, just like you can’t be surprised when someone slaps his wife in a Martin Scorsese film).

Speaking of Martin Scorsese, the story needs a cocaine injection. It looks like, instead of ripping off Scarface and Goodfellas, they tried to make their own gangster story. This time, it’s Eastern European immigrants in America, the “land of opportunity”, doing drug runs and taking verbal abuse. Like The Departed meets An American Tail. The protagonist is literally just off the boat and his only ally is a loudmouth cousin who sounds like Ali G if he watched nothing but Casino. He beats up loan sharks and takes shit from another equally Eastern European co-worker.

I appreciate the graphical upgrade, but that’s all it is–an upgrade. The textures are in high def, the corners are smoother, but where’s the style? Vice City and GTA3 all had bright skies, colorful buildings. Here, all the colors are washed out and it’s always cloudy. Every day looks like Ireland in Winter. If it wasn’t for the American radio, I would think this game was taking place in whatever Eastern European country the protagonist escaped from.

A Tour Through Russia's Five Poorest Cities
Is it Grand Theft Auto IV? A city in Russia? Can you tell?

The character movements are the weirdest. Previous GTAs didn’t have the best motion capture. Everyone moved like marionettes with mitten hands. But they were marionettes controlled by trained puppeteers. These guys move like they’re in Garry’s Mod.

But most of all it’s boring, boring, boring. Every mission is driving someone somewhere. Maybe you shoot a few dudes. Then you drive back. That’s it. Over and over again. All I’m doing is chauffeur missions. I might as well be playing Crazy Taxi. Except in Crazy Taxi the cars are actually fun to drive. Here, they all control like bricks. I’m always running into something stupid and then slowly backing out to correct my course. Meanwhile the asshole I’m pursuing is getting away.

gif gta 4 gta iv the creatures danznewz danznewzmachinima kootra  createthefuckingchaos •
Here I am on a date oh sorry motocycle guy watch out no big deal right honey?

I’d understand if this is the tutorial level, but here’s the thing: a tutorial introduces you to the basic activities that reflect what the future gameplay is going to be. And none of these activities are enticing me to play the game any further.

The point of GTA is that I can run around and do what I want. I don’t have to follow a storyline to have fun. I know I’m usually the one rooting for linear gameplay, but I like side missions to break up the experience, to go exploring, to see a part the world that I might not if I stick to the main storyline.

Here, I don’t have any reason to do that. Each city block is the same slate gray as the other. I can’t take “odd jobs” like taxi driver, cop, ambulance driver, firefighter, ice cream truck, etc. I can’t shop at the mall, drive RC cars, find hidden packages, do street races.

Maybe it’s early and I don’t have access to the fun stuff yet. But if I have to get through hours of gameplay to get to the “fun stuff” (I’m looking at you Kingdom Hearts 2), it’s not worth it. Or maybe I’ve been spoiled by Saints Row 3 and 4, which took out everything dull and plodding in GTA and replaced it with fun, wacky, bizarre shit like hoverbikes and zombies. Unrealistic? Maybe. But who played video games for realism? The first video game involved a plumber who could super-jump, shoot fireballs, eat mushrooms, and punch bricks.

Eric J. Juneau

Eric Juneau is a software engineer and novelist on his lunch breaks. In 2016, his first novel, Merm-8, was published by eTreasures. He lives in, was born in, and refuses to leave, Minnesota. You can find him talking about movies, video games, and Disney princesses at http://www.ericjuneaubooks.com where he details his journey to become a capital A Author.


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