For me, Grand Theft Auto 4 was highly underrated. And that's not to say that it slipped under the radar, or indeed scored badly on most sites or magazines. However when talking to other gamers GTA4 is one title that seems to receive a heavy slating- the shared opinion being that it has taken a different direction, that it lacks the humor of previous GTA titles, and that the gameplay is less entertaining. Now when you look at it from this direction, maybe all these factors ring true. On the other hand, everything seems better when hiding behind the teary veil of nostalgia. There comes a time when such games should enter the classic box, and should be dug out and played for nostalgia rather than applying their qualities to new titles.
I think Rockstar took a bold step in making GTA4 more mature, more real- a necessary step. With games like Saints Row and Just Cause offering a very similar experience to GTA Vice City, San Andreas etc Grand Theft Auto needed a revamping to stay ahead of the game. And thats exactly what GTA4 did. The realistic visuals and slightly less over-the-top action & gameplay did not dull down the experience for me at all. Rather than feeling like Point Break, it was more akin to Heat- Keanu Reeves had packed up his hair gel and let the twin guns of Pacino and De Niro add some class to the scene. It was grittier. Darker.
Going postal and shooting up the neighborhood probably felt less satisfying as the experience was more lifelike. Interactions with other characters became realistic, and inevitably the guilt of sending a schools worth of AI children to the NPC orphanage took it's toll. On top of this, Niko Bellic was less bulletproof than past protagonists- throw this together with Swat teams that actively flank, snipe from helicopters & aim for your squishy head and crime sprees became short lived. Maybe Rockstar was trying to send a message here, to fight off the controversy that surrounds every release, they cried; "Hey kids, crime doesn't pay. And you shouldn't be playing this anyway, it says 18 on the case!" Or maybe they were just encouraging gamers to play the game differently. To think about each shootout as it happened. I for one thoroughly enjoyed all of these changes- they made the game a more challenging and believable experience. Some of the achievements required some real effort on the players behalf, such as evading the police from a 4 star rating. If the purists had their way, we would instead be left with the "kill 10 people with a dildo" achievement.
Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe the old fans were driven off by Roman's unquenchable thirst for bowling, but the less said about that the better.
By Tom Rossi
Link to original post: http://tom-rossi.blogspot.com/2011/07/30-day-video-game-challenge-day-3.html