Every Saturday, Cracked asks one of our favorite writers to fill in for us. Our readers get to learn about an awesome site, and we get to take a day off to pursue our career goal of finding a big bag of money. This week Cracked contributor Robert Brockway brings you a column from his honestly titled site I Fight Robots.
Like almost every other being on this planet with functional eyes and opposable thumbs, I've spent the last month playing Grand Theft Auto IV and neglecting my loved ones.
I've only just now gotten beyond the novelty factor of Liberty City enough to honestly consider the game itself, and I have reluctantly come to this conclusion:
It is shit.
It's repetitive, poorly implemented, riddled with design flaws, awkward, and above all, glitchy. Yet I understand every word of gushing praise. Everything the reviewers say about the city and its scale is absolutely true.
It's the little things that do it to you: Like how the fast food workers at the various restaurants actually have different duties. They come out from behind the counter and clean the tables. They sweep the sidewalks out front and wash the windows. Cars actually break down--even when they're not yours. I've driven by several random civilians causing massive traffic jams, standing in front of their overheated vehicles completely befuddled. This city is the closest gaming has ever come to a real place, a real New York. The flyers, the newspaper stands, and the grime--all of these aspects pile up to make a truly living, breathing environment.
It is indeed one of the single most impressive achievements in gaming ... so it's just too bad that Rockstar layered an irreparably flawed game on top of it.
It shouldn't surprise anyone. The actual gameplay in Grand Theft Auto IV is nearly identical to every GTA before it, and gameplay has never been their strong suit. They've added and tweaked, to be sure, but it's almost universally for the worse. Or maybe the flaws just stand out more this time because of how great it could have been. In any case, here are the five most infuriating:
5The New Cover System
The new implemented cover mechanic is ridiculously clumsy. You hit the button once to cover, and then as you try to move along whatever cover you've taken, the system often randomly interprets that movement to mean you want to switch cover entirely. So rather than sneaking along a wall to ambush an unsuspecting enemy, it's equally likely that you'll break cover, run two feet to a fire hydrant and crouch behind it while bullets rain into you--leaving you to die squatting in the middle of the road like a diarrhea stricken hobo.
I understand why they wanted to develop a cover system for the game--the idea of being pinned down behind a Dumpster in Brooklyn, desperately fending off the S.W.A.T team from a covered position is the stuff fanboy dreams are made of. But it rarely works out that way. If everything works like it's supposed to, the AI is simply no match for you if you're using cover at all. You can murder an entire city block in seconds by simply holding the cover button and selecting the next target. However, if you attempt to adjust your position in the slightest, you're leaving it entirely up to Niko's better judgment whether he moves further down the alleyway like you intended, or jogs across the street to hide behind a hot dog vendor's legs like a lost child at the county fair.
4Jumping and Climbing Controls
Hitting the jump button will now allow you to execute a number of new actions such as climbing, mounting or just hopping over obstacles. This revamped system allows you to seamlessly hurdle through this vastly detailed terrain without breaking stride ... in theory. In practice, however, assigning all environmental interaction to one button, a button that already has a vital function--jumping--is an exercise in stupidity. No, it's more than an exercise. It's a grand athletic competition in stupidity. It's the motherfucking Olympics of stupidity. Maneuvering through this city is complicated now by the very details that make it great. Because the path is no longer flat, some sense of agility on the part of your character is absolutely, fundamentally necessary. Ideally, small obstacles would be handled automatically--your character should step up foot-high ledges, hop over fire hydrants and make tiny-distance jumps on his own. But he typically doesn't, and you find yourself having to force him to do these things quite often, but not always. This uncertainty leaves you to continuously wonder: Is he going to just step over this curb, or am I going to get caught jogging in place alongside it? If I hit the button now, does that mean hop over that guardrail, or leap in front of that speeding bus? Does pressing jump actually mean jump, or does it mean vault over the safety railing and fall to certain death?
This is a hell of a snap decision to make at a tense point in the game. At no point should pressing one button mean either:
A.) Use the sidewalk
B.) Kill yourself
Maybe Niko is supposed to be dangerously bi-polar and this is just Rockstar's way of simulating his mental instability. Either way, it doesn't help me to not throw the controller at my neighbor's kids.