Last week saw Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas hit the Xbox 360. Even though some of us still have the original PS2 version, it was fun playing this 6th generation classic when we want to digitally. While still only at the early Grove St. missions, GTA: San Andreas brings back a lot of good memories even if the graphics and character models seem dated by 7th and 8th generation standards.
That brings us to a GTA IV. When first playing the game on PS3, there was a sense of “Wow this is new! This is great! Rockstar really planted their flag in this generation!” Playing the game is a fun experience for the most part: great graphics that were beyond what Rockstar normally did, large map which is a Rockstar trademark and a strong storyline which is something Rockstar delivered around the time they got to San Andreas.
The storylines of San Andreas, GTA IV, GTA V, Vice City Stories and Liberty City Stories added to the scale of the game. However there is a point of contention with the series starting with IV — that sprinkle of outlandishness is missing and lies in how the writing has progressed.
Going back to the top-down original GTA games, you’ll notice that everything was somewhat over the top. In the first two and London 1969 it was the violence, really. By the time the series entered the 3D realm with GTA III, the game could develop these characters that were so bombastic and were involved in some of the most over the top and violent situations that your violent character—whether Claude Speed, Tommy Vercetti, CJ, or Vic Vance—seemed like the most reasonable person in the game. The beauty of the story however is the gradual pull of your character into the ludicrous side of crime.
By GTA IV that was largely gone. Outside of the Ballad of Gay Tony and Nintendo DS offering GTA: Chinatown Wars (worthy of a full 3D game), the game had a much more serious tone all around. Of course that saw the Saints Row series kind of pick up that classic GTA mantle as far as the perfect blend of over the top, comedy, and crime life are concerned.
Cash and Weapons
The GTA series at its core is about the American Dream and how several criminals or guys with a violent past go about achieving it or how it fits into their life in a new city. Niko was different. He is similar to CJ in that he was in town to be with family. Unlike CJ, he didn’t really warm up to the concept of making money and eventually making a criminal empire. In Niko’s case, he simply wanted to live a decent life in Liberty City, but was dragged into all of this criminal activity because of his cousin’s involvement with a crooked hustler.
The drama of Niko’s life in Liberty City was well written, but led to some issues with the mechanics of cash and weapons in the game. Oh, they were there and they worked. There was no awkwardness with that, however since Niko wasn’t about forming a criminal empire and was simply involved in criminal activity, there was forming businesses like in San Andreas, Vice City, or Vice City Stories. No holding territory or any of that. You simply accumulated money from missions, killing NPCs, and other activities in Liberty City.
So if you can’t do stuff with the money, surely you can spend it! Of course you can, you can go to Ammu-Nation and buy more weapons and ammo. Then again, you could just save your money and get upgraded weapons from other enemies, then you’ll probably just need to get ammo. Maybe.
Those are two issues caused by the story approach of GTA IV. There’s also the issue of the cab.
Bonus Issue: The Cab
The cab actually works in GTA IV! There’s an actual use for it in this game! It works the same way as the cab in the Saints Row games. So what’s the issue? It kills the need to drive from one location to another for most missions in the game.
If the cab won’t go directly to the way point you can get at least one or two blocks from the location most of the time. The only time the cab isn’t effective is on missions where you need to race or drive around. Of course some missions that require you to drive around can be reached via the cab and you could jack a car before initiating it.
What are some of your gripes with GTA IV or even the series as a whole? Let us know in the comments.