Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thank Goodness There Is No Insurance Mini-Game...

It has happened. GTA4 (Grand Theft Auto 4, for those of you cave dwelling folk (which, if in a cave, how on earth do you have a computer and internet?)) has finally sunk it's teeth into me. I am about 15 hours into the game, and officially loving every minute of it. Want to get an idea of the fun I am having? Here is what I did just in the last hour of gameplay.

I drove an SUV from Bohan (Queens) into Algonquin (Manhattan) and bought some body armor and uzi ammo. I bumped into an old friend from the boat over to the US selling hand bags, and drove him over to get some money from a guy who owed him. The dude took off, and we hunted him down in a high speed chase, and got the money back. With some new cash, I bought a stylish new shirt, fancy jeans and brown loafers. I walked across the street into a car dealership, went upstairs, got into the seat of a Ferrari, drove it directly out of the 2nd story window and onto the streets. With my new speed machine, it took mere seconds to escape the pursuing cops. I drove into Times Square and jumped off of a conveniently placed dumpster over half of the plaza. With my car pretty much totaled now, I got off and walked down to the lower east side, and took a helicopter tour of the city. Once the tour was complete, I ripped the pilot out of his seat, and took my new toy for some joy riding under several of the cities bridges. After catching the attention of the cops and getting a full 6-star wanted level, I flew back Bohan, with police copters on my tail, and cop cars directly under me. I landed directly in front of my safe house, went inside, and took a well deserved nap. And yes, when I started the game back up again, my helicopter was still there in my parking space.

I am quite surprised at how much I am enjoying GTA4. I was ready to be disappointed and bored and underwhelmed while simultaneously being overwhelmed, but the game does an incredible job of slowly and methodically teaching you how the game works, and what is necessary to succeed. Gun battles are no problem any more, I can easily control almost any vehicle, and I no longer need the GPS or map to get thru all of Broker and Bohan, and half of Algonquin.

Yes, there are problems. Escaping the cops can either be the simplest 5 second escape, or an impossible onslaught that you will never escape. If you fail a mission 75% of the way through, you must completely start over from the very beginning, which is extremely taxing in the longer missions (I am looking at you Snow Storm!). The AI for the cars is the single most annoying aspect of the game. Other drivers tend to follow your lead, so they go the same speed as you, making it very hard to get around cars on highways or on bridges when going fast. Sometimes all of the cars on the road will suddenly, all at once, slam on their brakes, or all slam into the walls of the road for no reason. And do not get me started on waiting at the toll booth; it can take 30 seconds for a car to pay and pull forward.

But in the end, the fun you have far outweighs these complaints. The voice acting is very well done, with the only downright bad acting done for a character that you later find out is under cover, so the acting is probably done bad on purpose because the person is acting. The level of detail still astonishes me, with cab rides actually a bit fun when you can just watch the city go buy. I am only 28% of the way through according to the stats, so I have a ways to go, but I think I will enjoy the rest of the ride quite a bit.

Picture courtesy