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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Grand Theft Auto IV – Improving and Progressing

When I gave my initial impressions of Grand Theft Auto IV my biggest complaint was at how slowly the story and game play started developing. In addition, the first few missions started building the background for the game – however the missions were somewhat passé. I was looking for more.

(Additionally, to my fault – I did not like seemingly sluggish controls of the vehicle driving in the game. I failed to mention that I had just spent a couple of weeks at the controls of Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, I realized that I was expecting similar controls on the cars for Grand Theft Auto 4. Not a reasonable expectation in any case.)

Now that I have passed some significant milestones in the game, including 30% completion – have my opinions on GTA 4 changed?

Warning, if you have not played the game at all, there may be some minor spoilers in this post. Please do not read any further if you are concerned about that.

There is no question that the game has evolved and picked up in excitement and violence for that matter, but it has yet to wow me with anything spectacular or beyond my expectations. Is it a good game? No question about it and probably worth the $60 price for the Playstation 3 version – but thus far it has been far from a ground breaking advance in gaming from Grand Theft Auto 3 San Andreas. I have seen a few reviews on the game rating it as outstanding or a perfect 10. I am just not there yet; the game has yet to wow me. To me it is an 8 at the most, keeping pace with the previous Vice City and San Andreas offerings.

To me, the standard meet a “boss”, work for him for a few missions, and then end up killing him is repeated too often. In some ways, it has become a little bit too predictable in how the game will flow – maybe that is just the missions and paths that I am choosing, but they do feel repetitious and tired.

Here are some other thoughts I have had:

Similar to GTA3 (San Andreas), there is an awful lot of driving. After Niko’s shared apartment with his cousin burns down, your residence requires a 10 minute drive (in real time) to get to the missions.

The “Choose Your Own” adventure nature of it is a welcome addition. Early in the game I had the choice on whether to kill someone based on a hit that was ordered by a boss. I had the choice to throw him of the building or to save him. My choice was to save him and send him away to a different borough hoping that I may benefit from it in the future.

What do I do with all of this money? In the past I could buy real estate (I have not looked yet) or other interesting things. Thus far with $100k banked, the only thing it seems I can spend it on is hot dogs ($5, including health), repainting/repairing the car at the Spray and Wash, $2000 suits at Perseuphes, or additional ammo for my cache of weapons. With over 1000 AK-47 rounds, I do not think I will need any more for awhile.

The addition of the Grand Theft Auto Internet Cafés for email and communication is a nice touch. Complete with spam, online dating services, a good way to provide additional information and missions. If only they would have a GTA 4 Facebook.

The one twist that I have really enjoyed so far is the fact that your first “girlfriend” is really an undercover agent for some unnamed government agency. That was a little unexpected and played out very nicely.

Perhaps I am still passing judgment too early on Grand Theft Auto 4 – but it is best to see how the game is experienced and whether or not Take Two can pull the story together for a fantastic ending. Regardless of how I feel about the outcome, America has definitely voted for GTA4, with $500 million in game sales after the first week.

Thus far, GTA 4 is living up to its much hyped arrival on PS3, but it has yet to set another standard the way previous release have.

On a technical note, outside from the slow startup speeds, I have not experienced any of the other issues with the games locking or possibly skipping / shutting off as others have reported. Also too bad it is not even in 720p for the Playstation 3 version – unexplainable, yet alone 1080p.

I also have not tried online game play yet, but will probably do so once I pass 50% completion.

How is it stacking up for you?