GTAIV – Lieberman would be proud.

Just finished the storyline based portion of GTA IV, and to that end – I am not disappointed. The plot in this game was much deeper than any of the previous titles, and I definitely enjoyed the ‘choose your own adventure’ aspect of the game, albeit some didn’t quite pay off as I would have preferred (should have just shot a couple instead of letting them go).

The graphics, I eventually got used to them. I realize that a game with such grand scope, and such detail, must make compromises when it is rendered on the fly – as was the case with GTA IV. I’d happily call it as close to photo-realistic as I have seen yet in a sandbox title.

The controls, again I either got used to them or stopped trying.

Now for the complaints:
1. No fixed winged aircraft? So what if I want to take a virtual 747 and crash it, it wasn’t a problem with any previous title, and it should not have been with this one. Yes, I realize the land area is MUCH smaller than offered in San Andreas, and NYC has a valid issue with low flying aircraft – but this is a game. If I can take my helicopter through a crowd and hurl people through the air in bloody pieces with my rotor blades – a Cessna or a Piper Cub isn’t too much to ask for.
2. Not enough internals. Yes, you took away the fixed winged aircraft, but every other title had an airport with all kinds of flying machines, now we’ve got a big pixel brick with pixel brick aircraft. What if I want to use that spiffy helicopter with the machine guns, hm?
3. No rampages. Was their a problem with setting a goal of killing X number of NPC’s with a flamethrower in X seconds? Was it too cartoony? Too game like? It’s a game, and the rampage was a staple of the series. I’m hoping a future episode on the 360 reactivates this.
4. Flamethrower? Hello? The flame effects in this game are OUTSTANDING. I should be able to use them on a crowded street corner too.
5. No craters. Personally, I think a firefight at ground zero would have been pretty damned cool. If you’re going to render the city properly, either put in some towers, or give us the fine craters that have graced the cityscape for nearly 7 years now while the dickhead politicians and developers work on other projects.

Anyhow, it wasn’t perfect – in fact besides the plot I’m willing to call GTAIV woefully generic. Compromises were necessary, and some just should not have been made. They did a great job of rendering NYC/Liberty City in all its virtual glory – but IMHO if making the game more realistic takes away from the cartoon violence, then stick to the virtual scapes. The bar has been raised in some sense, such as vehicle and weapon control for an open sandbox title, but it has also been dropped by removing some of the features that made the past titles so damned addicting.

I mean come on, I quit my Warcraft account when I bought this, a week or two later – I’m looking to develop my Mario Kart Wii skills instead of setting a new rampage record. Rockstar – PLEASE – bring back the rampage, bring back the flames, and for God’s sake let me fly a plane over NYC. The 9/11 terrorists learned in crop dusters, not on a Playstation, so I highly doubt there is any reason for concern here.

Maybe in the next two years we’ll see a new episode in the GTA saga based on this engine – after which we’ve seen Saints Row 2 – and many other sandbox titles to come – Rockstar needs to start putting its middle finger in the air again, GTAIV was a peace sign, not a bird.

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