I think I realised last night why I feel such apathy towards Grand Theft Auto IV; it’s a sandbox game with most of the sand missing.
Even back when it was top-down on the original PlayStation, there was always lots of stuff to do in GTA, aside from the actual missions and the progression they bring. GTA San Andreas took this to a new level – you could hunt for pearls, horse shoes, gamble in casino’s, take part in turf wars, iron man events, hovercraft races, coast guard challenges – the list of things to do when you aren’t immersed in the narrative is huge.
But GTAIV just seems to lack that – I went wandering around for half an hour or so last night, just wondering if I’d stumble upon something, anything, that I could do to increase my comfort with the camera and controls that wasn’t critical to the storyline. I found nothing. Nada. Back alleys filled with trash and dumpsters, but nothing collectable. People on the street that I cant interact with. Shops I cant go in to. It was just dull.
Maybe it’s because I only have the right hand side of the map to play with right now, but I just cant see it delivering the same level of fun and distraction that its predecessors managed with aplomb. I’ll concede that it looks and feels more realistic than any GTA that came before it, but reality bites a lot of the time.
I wouldn’t steal a fire engine and put out fires in real life, or an ambulance and use it to take people to hospital, but in previous GTA titles I could do that and it was fun. In fact, I’ve always spent more time just messing around in the game worlds than I have taking part in the story, but when there’s nothing much to do in GTAIV it doesn’t leave me with much option but to plod through the storyline or maintain the faux relationships by way of minigames.
The name Grand Theft Auto hasn’t really fitted the game since it moved into proper 3D with GTAIII, due to the sheer amount of distractions that were nothing to do with stealing cars. However, I didn’t see Bland Theft Auto becoming a more fitting a title for the series, but I guess that’s progression for you. 😐