A new game came out this week, you may have heard of it.

As the biggest installment in the GTA series, Grand Theft Auto IV has garnered quite a bit of attention, even more given its reception of many perfect-score reviews. Given the sheer importance of a title like GTA4, and my love for virtual carjacking, I couldn’t resist but putting together some quick thoughts on the game. By no means is this a thorough review, I'm no where near done with the game yet, but it’s simply a collection of my thoughts on the title.


Grand Theft Auto is one of those games that you don't expect to actually look good, mostly because it never actually looked good. It's not a Gears of War, Assassin's Creed or even Halo, it's a game where you sacrifice visual appeal for gameplay. Grand Theft Auto 4 however restores the balance a bit and actually surprised me with how good it looked. Again, it's not as good looking of a game as Gears, but it's pretty damn good for a GTA.

The cutscenes look pretty good, but in-game graphics aren't nearly this detailed

The graphics of GTA4 fall short in two areas: draw distance and animation. The draw distance issues are pretty annoying; while the game looks great in close quarters, look off into the distance and you're met with a sea of blurry. It's like the cameraman just discovered depth of field and went nuts with it. I get that there are technical limitations that mean we can't have infinite draw distance, I just want to point it out the blemish.

Here's a crop from the picture above it

My second complaint is about animation, and it's not one that's GTA4 specific but really applies to all modern day games. To understand this complaint I must first talk about telling a story in a video game.

It's rare that when a game is praised for having a great story, that it actually has a great story. We must be very careful about how we throw around phrases like "great story" because you might accidentally give someone the wrong impression that the Halo franchise could somehow have a story that is on par with the Godfather. There are some games that, in my opinion, actually come close to having a decent story (read: Mass Effect) but even those pale in comparison to the best stories in movies.

Just as a good story in a movie can be ruined by bad acting, a good story in a game can be ruined by poor, or un-lifelike animation. The problem is that we're not quite at a stage in both the CPU and GPU space, where we can apply lifelike animations to many highly detailed characters, in complex worlds, in real time. GTA4 comes closer to reality than any other previous GTA, but we still have a long way to go. Facial expressions, body movements, environmental interactions, etc... are all no where near lifelike, and it's simply tough to believe in a well written story if it's acted out in a choppy fashion.

These two don't look very convincing, I'm sorry

The story in GTA4 isn't bad by any means, but I'll reserve complete praise for when we've got the processing power to tell it in a way that can truly rival a movie (and this is why we'll continue to need faster CPUs and faster GPUs, we're no where near done folks).

The Ugly is in the Controls
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  • Nihility - Wednesday, April 30, 2008 - link

    The massive amount of perfect scores GTA4 generated is amusing. There will never be a perfect game and this is just an example of that. I'm sure it's a great game and provides hours and hours of awesome funsies but it ain't perfect.
    I had the same problem with the bioshock reviews. Everyone was going crazy giving it perfect scores but when it came down to it the game was very repetitive and annoying.
    Anand points out the flaws in the game even though it obviously makes the fanboys cry at night.
  • psxguru - Wednesday, April 30, 2008 - link

    "It's like the cameraman just discovered depth of field and went nuts with it."

    this comment made me laugh - it's what I think of most of the pictures in the hardware reviews! Concentrate on your focus please! lol

  • spudboy23 - Wednesday, April 30, 2008 - link

    ...anand, or the anti-liberal legions that comment on this site will come after you for labeling the viewpoints expressed in "Weazel News" as "satire" instead of TRUTH.

    also, you mentioned an iPhone...probably won't be long before the anti-Apple forces will attack with all the fury of their sharp opinions. i'd be cowering in fear if i weren't so busy admiring how pretty my Jesus phone is.

    interesting perspective, btw. likely there's no PC version (yet) because they want to milk all the $$ they can out of the console versions before people starting pirating away on the PC version.
  • spudboy23 - Wednesday, April 30, 2008 - link

    sorry, i couldn't resist...actually it's Dailytech that gets all those comments, not Anandtech itself. i was kind of surprised to realize this wasn't a Dailytech page.

    apologies for sarcasm.
  • SerratedDrums - Wednesday, April 30, 2008 - link

    GTA VI PC!!! I can't wait to buy this game. The multiplayer will be huge on PC. And stop pirating people.
  • Locutus465 - Wednesday, April 30, 2008 - link

    For the record I'm against piracy... But you have to admit there's a degree of irony calling out for people to stop pirating a game that's all about stealing cars and beating people to death with intamate aids... ;)
  • SerratedDrums - Wednesday, April 30, 2008 - link

    Haha. True that.
  • frinky525 - Wednesday, April 30, 2008 - link

    going to any of the east coast shows?
  • Casper42 - Wednesday, April 30, 2008 - link

    I was reading somewhere that newer FPS style games on the consoles were including support for USB Keyboards and Mice for us "PC Gamers" who simply cant let go.

    Was curious if anyone knows if GTA IV provides such an interface?
  • andrew007 - Wednesday, April 30, 2008 - link

    I am sorry but this comment just doesn't carry much weight. For example you will be hard pressed to find SciFi movies or TV series that have stories that can compete to Wing Commander series. Or RPGs requiring 40-80 hour investments. I could easily say the same thing in reverse as I don't really watch movies and TV - they are just dumbed-down mass entertainment as far as I care. Unless you are heavily involved in both, you can't really make that kind of comment.

    I mean Anand is a busy guy who doesn't have much time to play games that require serious investment of time. If you follow the website regularly you know he mostly plays FPSes or other games that can be played in short spurts or - more importantly - benchmarked. How many games has Anand had a chance to actually play over the years? For example he still thinks that Gears of War is a great game today which no serious gamer that plays 30+ games a year would say. On the other side he can find time to watch movies since they can be watched in 2-3 hours. And he loves movies, as witnessed by creating a full blown mini home cinema from scratch.

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