The Ugly is in the Controls

Grand Theft Auto is one of those games where it is more fun to talk about what you did in the game, than to actually do it. Let me give you an example:

Early on in the game, I was trying to steal someone's car, the driver got out and we got into a fist fight. The cops arrived and what's the first thing they did? Shot the driver of the car I was stealing in the face. I took the opportunity to hop in the car and drive away.

That's one of those stories that wouldn't exactly be funny in real life, but it's hilarious in the game itself ("hey! I was committing a crime and then the cops shot the victim in the face, woohoo!"). Unfortunately, my example omits struggling with camera, controls and the actual pace of the game itself.

The controls in GTA4 seem sluggish, even moreso than in San Andreas. They do take some time to acclimate, but even after that point they are just not all that great. You can easily play the game with the controls, but your movements always feel slow, almost to the point of frustration. Many have praised the cover system as being very Gears-like; now I liked the cover system in Gears, and the cover system in GTA4 is nothing like it. Conceptually the two are identical, but it's simply much more awkward in GTA4.

The default camera tends to follow you pretty well, so fumbling with the right thumbstick isn't as critical as in a first person shooter (which is one of the things you'll have to "unlearn" when first playing GTA4). But moving around and fighting both feel like the slowest parts of the game.

Decidedly GTA

After reading all of the perfect-score reviews, I sort of expected GTA4 to be a revolutionary take on the franchise. Grand Theft Auto IV is instead more of an evolutionary successor to San Andreas, the gameplay is very similar and the types of things you do are decidedly GTA.

If you were put off by the "drive here, rob this guy and drive back" missions of previous GTAs, then GTA4 does have more of the same. Granted there is a good deal of variation within the missions, but if you fundamentally didn't like the previous games, then there's a good chance that GTA4 will be no different.

At least you can take a cab to your missions, it costs money but you can always murder the driver when you get there and even make money on the trip.

To me, the majority of missions in any given GTA title were never that good, but what kept me coming back was to fill in the gaps in the story or the handful of missions that were unbelievably fun. It's a lot like a season of 24 or The Office, you get a little taste of what you want in each episode which keep you coming back for the whole season. You could even take it one step further and say that GTA4 promotes a healthy outlook on life: if you live for the 1% of the time things work out perfectly, it makes the remaining 99% not so bad. That may be a stretch, but the likelihood of that even being entertained by the mainstream media is next to nothing; they'll be too busy blaming the latest installment in the GTA franchise for some horrible event.

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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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