So I went out and got a copy of…

the game everybody’s playing and the thing that’s racked up some of the highest-scored reviews of all time. The games media across tha intarwebs have been falling all over themselves to pile shimmering, golden scores on top of it, delivering the kind of unparalleled fellatio that’s usually reserved for the kind of sweaty teen dreams that only hormones can bring on.

As I write this, it’s currently got a 98/100 at MetaCritic after 66 reviews, the first 41 or so being perfect 100s—seriously, that’s insane success. Rockstar must be thrilled, since any publisher out there would sell their firstborn for numbers like that.


Niko Bellic, on the hunt for Dan Weissenberger

So, after two days of playing, what’s my take on it?

I’m not at all impressed.

It’s not that the game is terrible because it’s not, but it’s certainly not deserving of all the accolades and perfect scores. Granted, I’m still very early on and have not yet completed the single player portion, but based on what I’ve seen so far… I don’t think I actually will. How's that for a ringing endorsement?


My man CJ from San Andreas… Check that fly ride.

Now before going any further, don’t start thinking I’m some sort of GTA hater. That couldn’t be further from the truth—I gave the first perfect score of my review career to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas on PS2, and that’s a number I stand by. That was a tremendous game and a major achievement. GTA IV? Not so much.

I mean, looking at the game, I’m not even sure what I’m supposed to be impressed with.

Graphics? Well, the graphics are all right, but they’re not as stellar as most people seem to think they are. Quite honestly, I think there are a lot of games out right now that look a lot better


Do you play games to admire the architecture?

Realistic replication of a city? Having never set foot in New York, I couldn’t tell you whether it’s realistically modeled or not—and really, who cares if it is? My ability to recognize landmarks or particular neighborhoods has absolutely no effect on gameplay.

Improved controls? I find the vehicle control to be atrocious, quite possibly the worst in the series, and controlling main character Nico Bellic is only slightly better. Everything feels slow and clunky, and quite frustrating at times.

Gameplay? From what I’ve seen so far, it’s business as usual. The same sort of ‘go here, kill someone’ missions that have always been in GTA have made up the majority of what I’ve done so far, with nothing interesting occurring, or even being promised.

Environment? I get very little value from observing AI characters exhibit random behavior while walking down the street, and I don’t usually play games for the scenery. Simply being somewhere and spending time is not a draw.

Story? Granted, this could be the game’s homerun, but it has completely failed to draw me in so far, and I feel (raspberry sound) for the characters. Sure, I giggled at some of the absurd lines and obvious jokes, but I don’t feel compelled to follow Nico on his journey, and I have absolutely no motivation to improve ‘relationships’ with the faces I’ve seen so far. I’m absolutely willing to admit that there may be some quality drama later on, but part of good game design and creation (and really, of any creative media at all) is the ability to capture a player’s imagination and immerse them in the world; motivate them to rise to the challenge and emerge victorious. At this point, I’m completely bored by what’s been happening, and I don’t feel at all engaged—without intellectual buy-in, I have no incentive to put up with what I see as a below-average (compared to San Andreas) GTA boilerplate.

Although I’m considering pressing on if for no other reason than it’s likely going to be one of those ‘must-play’ titles that any good critic should probably have under their belt, it already feels like work and that’s not a good thing.

If anyone out there can tell me what exactly is so great about this game, I’d honestly love to hear it… keeping in mind that graphics aren’t enough to sway me and that I’ve already played through four previous GTAs, exactly what am I supposed to be getting from IV? I would guess that if this was the first time I was playing a GTA I’d be more impressed, but I find absolutely no significant between what IV offers, and what every other GTA did before it.

Whatever critics are getting out of this game in order to justify the universal adoration, I just don’t see it.


It may be generic, but Saints Row plays like buttah

As a sort-of comparison, today I picked up a copy of Saints Row, since it had been billed as a GTA wannabe, and I thought it would be interesting to see what my reaction would be to it.

Not surprisingly (or perhaps surprisingly) I thought it started out really fun and frenetic, and I was quickly engaged with the customization and absolutely solid controls. I mean, this game is pretty much a next-gen version of San Andreas with the gang slant, recruiting homies, capturing territory, and so on, only it skips the pretense and gets right to the action.

I can't say that it's a good game since I only put in about 45 minutes with it, but not having to fuss with controls and camera was quite welcome, and it had waypoints and a mini-map, so it was almost exactly like IV minus the immigrants and New York ambiance. (Bonus points awarded for the prominent display of zaftig ladies.)

Saints Row and IV almost seem like flip sides of the same coin when played them back to back like that. Take that irresistible GTA hype out of the equation, and IV seems like standard GTA, just offering less than the last iteration and still not nailing the controls.

Read more at Drinking Coffeecola blog.

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been playing games since arcades were a thing and Atari was the new hotness. He's been at GameCritics since 2000. Currently, he's juggling editing duties, being a homeschooling dad, a devoted husband, and he does try to play a game once in a while.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:

bradgallaway a t gmail dot com
Brad Gallaway

Latest posts by Brad Gallaway (see all)

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
11 Comments
Newest
Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

You don’t play games for the scenery!Really?
What else has your highly acclaimed competitor “Mass Effect” to offer?
Gameplay?

It’s like you said.
“The same sort of ‘go here, kill someone’ missions.”

epitav
epitav
12 years ago

“Maybe you geniuses should stop complaining- prove me wrong and design a ‘real’ game.”

See, here? That’s were you lost any credibility you had going. The old “if you can’t do better than don’t say sh*t” argument made famous by grade-school children the world over. Precious.

Dfunk
Dfunk
12 years ago

First off let me say that I played through San Andreas; loved it. GTA IV, while lacking in the swimming and amazing customization of SA– is greatly superior in every other way. You’re probably not far enough to know all the toys GTA4 has to offer. Since you’ve already played GTA SA, you assume you know the apex of what’s available. But even in SA you didn’t get a gun until a few missions in, weren’t customizing cars for some time. What GTA4 has is continuity; wings were clipped in order to keep the story realistic. What happens here is… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

He said he has been playing for a couple days, The 45 min was referin to Saints Row.

Eddie
12 years ago

I have to agree with you on the game being over rated by reviewers. I am a huge fan of the GTA series and was very excited about this game coming out. Now that I have finished the game I have to say I am disappointed. I played Vice City and San Andreas till the discs were ruined. I played GTA IV to completion and don’t feel the urge to play it anymore. GTAIV as a stand alone game is a really cool game but compared to vice city and San Andreas it feels kind of empty and not as… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

I think this article is spot on. Granted I never even played through the old GTA games, but your feelings basically described exactly how I felt while playing this game.

Scott
Scott
12 years ago

What made GTA4 so great was its missions. You say your only 45mins in, you haven’t even made it to any of the bigger missions yet. A lot of mission for the first couple of hours are your normal GTA stuff but theres far better and bigger mission later in the game. It really picks up midway through and uses the new cover system a lot. It takes awhile to work up to those since a lot of the early missions they try and make you get use to all the new controls. Same with the driving, its not prefect… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

yeh totally agree. When I first bought the game I had no idea why the game deserved a 10. It takes you a fair while just to get a gun so before that your just driving to places watching clips. They say MGS has long clips but atleast there interesting. I ended up skipping scenes because they became so boring. If it wasn’t for the physics in the game I think it would be bad, cause now the only thing I do is see how long I can roll for. Don’t get me wrong thoe, I would still give this… Read more »

malkav11
malkav11
12 years ago

I think what you’re missing is precisely what you say you don’t play games for: the ambience. GTA IV does a far, far better job of setting up a living, breathing world for me to explore and play in than any of the previous games (which, in turn, I felt were most special for doing just that, rather than the somewhat flawed actual gameplay). It’s true that the graphics are not up to the standards of the prettiest games on the console (when has GTA ever had the prettiest graphics?), but it looks better than its open world competition, with… Read more »

Fr002
12 years ago

just little anecdote about the Metacritic score… Dont forget that this score is not an average of all the notes that the game get : “The METASCORE is considered a weighted average because we assign more significance, or weight, to some critics and publications than we do to others, based on the overall stature and quality of those critics and publications” So the 98 % on Metacritic is not a “real” 98 %, because when you check on Gameranking, the real average score is 97,3 for the PS3 version and 97,6 for the 360… Some days ago, the Gameranking score… Read more »

mystique cated
mystique cated
12 years ago

Hello Brad, You have just pointed out that the Emporer is wearing no clothes. I tend to agree with you on this one. Videogames are, after all, games first and, possibly, simulations second. GTA IV flips that premise, by focusing more on being an environmental simulation instead of being a fun game. In essence, nothing has changed from the original GTA: drive from A to B, stay out of the hands of the police, drive through an open city. Story-wise, videogames have not reached the literary levels people claim they have. I do not think this will happen any time… Read more »