Grand Theft Free Time

Ever since GTA4 came out and I wasn’t entirely thrilled with it, I’ve had a goal to get back into the series give it another run through to see if my memories were accurate and if GTA4 really did stink that bad.

Thanks to a ridiculous sale at STEAM, I picked up every single GTA title for $40.

I started by playing GTA, the original.  Still fun, my biggest complaint overall?  No save ability.  Essentially, you beat all the missions for a city, then move on, and that city is now unlocked.  I’m glad that they got it to run on Windows 7, that’s for sure.  So then I jumped up to GTA 3, the sandbox title that started a gaming revolution.  I dove right in, the controls were familiar, the gameplay just as addictive, it was FUN!  The only complaint I’ve had so far?  I can’t remember how to access the in-game map, if there was even that ability.  Surprisingly enough, in the years since I played the game, I still remember the layout.

So I take a break from GTA3 and fire up the GTA4 title I haven’t touched yet, ‘The Ballad of Gay Tony.  Graphics?  Photorealistic.  Controls?  Sluggish.  FPS?  Choppy.

I’m not playing this on a low end system either, I’ve got a top of the line gaming rig with the latest i7 CPU, NVidia gaming card, etc…  This thing chews up games and spits out framerates that’d make any gamer cry.

So while the plot isn’t anything huge, I’m already distracted by how shitty the game runs (and I’m using the auto-config from Rockstar to select my settings), I’m annoyed because the controls are so sluggish compared to GTA3, and don’t even get me started on the physics engine.  Well, why not.  The physics for the driving engine were always somewhat realistic, you can’t drive like an Andretti and expect to keep the car in one piece… but the physics in GTA4 have just gotten… ridiculous.  We’re talking Forza Motorsport / Gran Turismo style physics in an arcade style sandbox shooter.  Instead of wrecklessly hurtling from point A to point B, trashing the car in the process – you have to pay attention when you drive or you’re just not going to get to point B.

Visually – GTA4 is an unbelievable improvement over its predecessor.  The ways people die, blood splatters, and cars wreck / detonate are entertaining in themselves…  But the game play feels numb, disconnected.  I feel more connected to the game world after 5 minutes in the cartoonish GTA 3 and its two subsequent titles than after glitching for an hour through the updated GTA4 world in all of its really spiffy photorealism.

I’m going to guess that we may get one or two more expansions minimum in the GTA4 engine, and I don’t know that they’ll really be able to rejuvinate it to the extent that will bring about the satisfaction of prior titles, but maybe – just maybe – when they bring about GTA5 – they’ll remember first and foremost that this is a GAME and should play as such.

I’ll have more updates as I progress.  I figure I’ll take a quick jaunt through GTA2 before I put a stopper in my ADD and begin to complete them one at a time. 🙂

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