So here it is, “Grand Theft Auto IV,” maybe the best-selling launch game in history. What’s so great and flawed about it?
If you’ve never played a “GTA,” or if you’re a “GTA” fanboy, you’ll probably think this is an awesome game. And it is in many ways.
You play as a Serb named Nick who moves to a New York-like metropolis called Liberty City and shoot bad guys and good guys en masse. You get to hijack the usual “GTA” autos, like beater-cars, cop cars, ambulances, old muscle cars, limos and motorcycles. Plus, you can fly helicopters.
But here are the problems:
1) It’s super dark. You can barely see a lot of the roads. You’re supposed to follow a map on missions offline, and you look at the same map to spot bad guys during online play. But you can’t see much of the map because the screen is so devoid of light. This is highly annoying and impedes the fun.
2) Online, you start each mission and every respawned life with the stupidest handgun I’ve seen in a long time. I mean, it’s one thing that online, you have to shoot people all the way across a battlefield, 100 yards away. That’s standard onlining. But with a crappy handgun? How about starting with a machine gun?
3) Online, your body movements are kind of sluggish. I don’t want to draw too big a parallel with “Halo 3,” but that series also moves slower than crisp-movement games like “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas” and “Call of Duty 4.” Maybe these older games, like “Halo” and “GTA,” need movement updates.
4) The offline missions are extremely familiar, compared to old “GTA” games. But with one exception. There’s less killing to start. You get to date a girl, but you take her bowling and to a pool hall. You actually have to play pool and bowl. Ugh. You do get to have sex with her, but it’s off screen and silly.
Now for other stuff.
1 ) Is there any better dialog than “GTA” games? I complain a lot about how game makers don’t spend the time or money hiring
writers to deliver a killer script. “GTA” conversations are great, funny and frequent. Before you bed that girl, she says, “If this ends up on the Internet, I’ll kill you.”
2) The feel of driving is still pretty good. Although because this is a New York-esque city, there are lots of obstacles everywhere, and you run into things a lot. Still, the driving? Sweet. Nothing beats the motorcycles.
Since I have bashed several things about the game, you might wonder why I’m giving it four stars out of four. It’s like this. The game is fun, inspired, long, cinematic and extravagant. I criticize because as excellent as “GTA IV” is, I’m still taking breaks to play “Frontlines: Fuel of War” online.
That speaks of how not-so-sticky “GTA IV” is for me. It’s fun. It’s great. But I’ve seen it before, and the online “GTA IV” is sloppy.
But whatever. It’s still going to gross $400 million this week. And Rockstar continues its legendary status: It has yet to release a bad game. Now if it can just tinker with the online play, that’s be great, thanks.
By the way, my full review of "Grand Theft Auto" runs here soon. Just thought I'd give you the scoop.