Grand Theft Auto: IV - Gaping hole where the satisfaction should be

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Grand Theft Auto: IV - Gaping hole where the satisfaction should be

Post by Ross on Thu May 15, 2008 1:57 am

I thought I'd write this to celebrate my 100th post on the forum.

This week, I have slept with a hooker, killed a hundred people, driven drunk, smuggled cocaine and seen my girlfriend shot to death outside the church where my cousin was getting married. And tomorrow I plan to get revenge on the crime lord who killed her, and maybe kill his family, too.

On April 29th, a man was stabbed to death on a London street just after midnight, in front of a queue of fanatics who wanted to get their hands on the new Grand Theft Auto game: GTA: IV. Shoppers found the brutal murder entertaining, one saying that he thought it was plotted by actors to add suspense to eager shoppers' wait.

GTA: IV is based on New York city, and, as always with the GTA range, built on three islands, each in turn to be unlocked for a wide gaming area for the new generation of strategy action game. Niko Bellic is an eastern European immigrant, who comes to Liberty City to live the 'American Dream' with his cousin Roman. On any good cheat and game strategy website, you will find that the best part of 60% of the game needs to be completed and the story missions will be finished, all the rest is on the side. Very few people have not completed the game, as with all GTA games, it is very addictive.

Gaping hole where my satisfaction should be
But as I sit with controller in hand and feet up, chasing some sly Italian American who gave someone's sister the eye once in a smokey nightclub or something, I can't seem to swallow that feeling of disappointment. Not because this is my third attempt of catching Luigi's cronies, and I feel no closer to succeeding this time around, nor because I don't enjoy playing - don't get me wrong, I've missed a week of mediocre comedy shows on satellite TV playing this. I have this sinking feeling because there is something missing, and I think I've found what it is.

Rockstar, the creators of GTA IV, created huge hype about the game, and the anticipation was so high, nobody seriously believed it would meet expectations. But what Rockstar have done, quite cleverly, is create a monologue worthy of Goodfellas. This intices the player and he carries on playing, creating a false sense of satisfaction. Now, for some, this is good enough. But for pessimists like me, who have such high expectations all the time that nothing is really good enough, it seems that IV lacks the sheer genious that its predecessors were so successful for.

I'm going to talk now, and this may seem very typical, about that feeling of satisfaction you got, and you did, when you played Vice City, and when you played San Andreas. Vice City was successful enough. I mean every person involved in creating Vice City could have retired off the back of the game, it was that successful. And the reason that it was so successful is the reason GTA IV is somewhat disappointing. GTA: VC was ground-breaking. I mean, there were games that specialised in gangs and crime, there were games for driving, there were games for free roam and reality. But this combined them all, and, to an extent, outshone them in each aspect. It was unbelieveable. VC was the Whitney Houston of gaming, what Clint Eastwood was to westerns, what Jay Leno is to quiz shows.

For me, the most important factor of gaming is the place. Vice City did well. It had all the glitz and glamour that Miami does, it combined commercial areas with residential, residential with the nightlife scene. The radio stations had songs like Billie Jean and Run to You, the DJs were controversial, the adverts on radio and on billboards were jokes.

This huge step forward was enough to give that feeling of satisfaction. Although San Andreas was similar in terms of features to Vice City, the breakthrough was just as big, as Rockstar really showed what they could do. San Andreas is still better than IV. No doubt. It was the best selling game of all time, and on the topic of place, it really hit the nail on the head. The San Francisco based islands were split into gang territory, residential and high class residential in Los Santos, with hilltop houses but slums below. The grassy, tram lined, typical American countryside of San Fierro was the second island, with Mount Chiliad adding that extra 'wow'. Desert deadlands of Nevada called Las Venturas, with the Strip in the city was island 3.

Just thinking about it makes me want to play it. The place is very much a factor of this, and GTA: IV lacks what San An had. I have finished the missions on GTA: IV, and I believe they were the only reason I have played it so much. I completed it last night, and I haven't played on it since. However for San Andreas, I copied a friend's memory card, and for Vice City I never even got off the first island. I never needed to. The place was just so entertaining I could just drive around for hours and occasionally kill lots of people and have a police chase. I never needed to do missions because things like countryside and exciting places, combined with lots to do, like listen to good music and swim at the beach, kept me content for ever. I don't love San Andreas any less than I ever have.

I know my way around the whole of San Andreas, better than I know my way around my nearest town, I know street names, I know which woodland roads to drive down to test quad bikes, I know where each and every strip club, Burger Shot, Cluckin' Bel' and police station is. I know because I enjoy driving around and I like the place.

I don't in GTA: IV because the place is boring. I use the GPS system to get there quickly because, completely unlike the other two games, I can't be bothered to drive there using concentration. I even just catch cabs. Even if I tried, I wouldn't learn my way around because they seem to have done what the producers of Scooby Doo do with the background when they are running.

The radio is absolutely poor. I am not comlaining about the game because they have done what 10 years ago wasn't even possible in people's minds, but Rockstar are trying to appeal to the wrong people. They want the gangster teenage generation to play the game when they are done pimping their hoes for the night. But they aren't the people who played it in the first place. They do it for real. They need to appeal to other audiences, like 30 or 40 year olds, because the game will put them in touch with their childhood of Space Invaders, only in an 18 rated way. We don't want to listen to bad boy tunes. We want K Rose, KDST, Radio X, Flash FM. Not songs about running over children in our low riders.

It doesn't stop there. This could potentially be the longest rant in history. But rants are never, ever caused when something is absolutely appalling, but when something is just, very, very slightly wrong, because it is just so hard to accept that so many little things almost ruin what could have potentially been the greatest thing to have come out of technology since the blender.

The missions on IV sum up the game, really. After the first attempt at killing your boss you fail, you are gutted, you have to do it all over again, restart the whole mission, break into his office once more. And you just think, 'Oh.. so close.' And that is exactly what I feel about this game. It had the makings of a true masterpiece. It had the most solid foundations Rockstar could have asked for, in the form of San Andreas, but it appears they got stubborn, and instead of building on it, they started from scratch, until eventually the whole structure collapsed.

And what a shame it is, too.

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