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Nega-review: Grand Theft Auto IV

Kyle Orland
Kyle Orland|April 29, 2008 8:00 AM
"GTA IV has its flaws as a game." (1) "The flow of the game basically goes like this: you watch a cutscene, someone in the cutscene says that someone has done them wrong, you're told they need to be taught a lesson, and then you get in a car and go teach them the lesson. At that point another cinema is triggered and the process repeats. ... it can definitely become a little repetitive." (2)

"It's not like previous GTAs, or most other sequels, where there are new stand-out features that you can easily discuss and rate." (4) "GTA IV [actually] reduces the amount of activities when compared to the previous game, San Andreas. You cannot go the gym to beef up Niko's muscles. And eating a ton of cheeseburgers won't turn you into a massive, wobbly mound of lard." (3)

"You'll probably be surprised to hear GTA IV has noticeably fewer weapons and vehicles on offer than GTA: San Andreas did. ... Yes, this means San Andreas' more unusual vehicles like fighter jets, hovercraft, go-karts and jetpacks are all absent. Don't expect to be wielding chainguns, flamethrowers or chainsaws either." (4) "The world itself is smaller than the state-sized San Andreas" (7) and in general the game has "a feature list that's a step back from its predecessors." (4)

"Even though the plot line is simpler than previous GTA games, it still gets cluttered at times, with a glut of characters entering the scene; it can be tough to keep track of exactly why things are happening and to whom." (9) "There's still a clear difference between this and [even] a B-level Hollywood production. ... Every story note [is] delivered by flat, to-the-point dialog [and] we get characters over-explaining their feelings and opinions, leading to some awkward exchanges. (8) On top of that, "Niko's Serbian ... is God-awful." (3)

"Combat can be troublesome. ... When you're duking it out with enemies in confined spaces ... it can be easy to get disoriented when the camera moves around." (5) "The sometimes problematic auto-aim shooting" (1) means "you'll still die thanks to the odd lock-on screw up that has you looking at pedestrians instead of the policeman aiming up behind you." (1) Yes, the "lock-on can be a little finicky." (2) In general, "combat controls could be tighter." (1)

"Cover mechanics don't always work the way they should" either. (3) There's definitely "the occasional stickiness of cover points when trying to maneuver quickly." (7) and "times when attempting to take cover behind narrow objects (such as columns) will occasionally result in Niko attaching himself to the wrong side." (5) No, "taking cover may not always work the way you want it to." (3)

"The squirrelly driving control takes a while to master," too. (6) "Some cars in GTA4 are especially loose and hard to control when executing the kind of high-speed maneuvers required by the game. Using the handbrake to execute hairpin turns and drifts is, in general, more difficult than before, and you'll have to actually have to think about slowing down a bit before taking a tight corner." (8)

"Some of the control mapping is a little bit odd as Rockstar chose to do things its own way in some respects." (2) There's "some clunkiness in ladder-climbing and vaulting objects" (7) and "some of the other interactive features, such as shopping for clothes in several clothing stores, have an awkward interface, making it a chore to try on different looks." (8) "The lack of analogue running." is also off-putting. (4) "The analogue stick is there for a reason and having to hold the A button to run and tap it to sprint, stands out as a little archaic." (4)

"GTA4 also suffers from those little things that have always plagued the series, such as sudden pop-in of objects in the environment and the occasional repetition of car models in your immediate vicinity." (6) "The frame-rate also takes punishment throughout ... with noticeable pop-in in places." (7) "I've [also] encountered a few odd clipping issues in certain obscure parts of Liberty City" (3) and "some of the secondary characters look a bit like clunky PS2 holdovers." (8) "The distance blur is also pretty heavy. ... It's ... a little disappointing to look at a distant skyline and see nothing but a complete blur. The shadows are also distractingly grainy at times." (4) "You'll definitely notice glitches." (5)

"The continued absence of mid-mission checkpoints" is another sticking point." (7) "With missions that can take an extended period of time, and require trips to several locations, not having a save-anywhere system will turn off mainstream and casual gamers." (8) "I do wish that Rockstar had added checkpoints in the multistage missions to cut down on the grunt work of frustrating retries." (6)

"GTA IV is very much Grand Theft Auto, which means that if you didn't like the last installments you're probably going to have the same qualms with IV." (1) The game "doesn't reinvent the wheel" (9) and "the game's missions will be familiar to just about anyone who played the last couple of GTA games." (5) In general, everything is just "a little less brave and intimidating this time around." (2)

Welcome, virtual felons and virtual felon wannabes, to yet another Joystiq Nega-review. This edition continues the proud tradition cherry-picking the middling negative points from the reviews of a well-hyped game with near unanimous critical praise, and arranging those points into an utterly unfair whole. This isn't a covert way of panning the game -- far from it -- but rather a convenient way to summarize the valid negative issues that can get lost in the deafening wave of praise.

Despite the length of this review, it was actually relatively hard to pull negative quotes from most of the reviews of GTAIV. The praise about the game was absolutely overflowing, with many if not most reviews calling it the best game of the generation or, indeed, of all time. In the case of Game Informer's review, I wasn't able to pull even one negative quote, even out of context. Not one! That's the first time that's happened, and it definitely says something about the reception this game is receiving.

(1) C&VG
(2) GameTrailers
(3) ActionTrip
(4) IGN AU
(5) GameSpy
(6) 1UP
(7) Eurogamer
(8) GameDaily
(9) GamePro
Check out all our coverage of Grand Theft Auto IV!