Monday, August 4, 2008

Big Budget Disappointments: GTA IV and MGS4

The two biggest games for 2008 that have come out already are, undoubtedly, Grand Theft Auto IV and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. I have owned these games pretty much since their release dates and so far, I have beaten neither of them. These games received so much fanfare and numerous gaming sites have given these games perfect scores. I played through about 30% of both of them and for whatever reason I just could not get back into either of the games.

With Grand Theft Auto IV, the game just felt monotonous to me. I was doing similar tasks over and over again for different people. In general, almost every mission while you are still in Brooklyn involves you driving to a green dot, killing a red dot and then driving back to your original destination in one piece. Niko’s story does get pretty interesting along the way and there are some interesting twists (I won’t spoil anything) but, the gameplay itself was pretty much the same as all the other entrants in the series.


The new aspects of Grand Theft Auto IV are things that I really don’t care about. I don’t want to surf a made-up internet system. The writing on the various sites is pretty funny, but I don’t want to check my e-mail for some car stealing missions. It’s slow, unnecessary and only wastes time. I also don’t care about dating the various girls and taking them to places. They don’t build up the story or gain interesting characters, with the exception of the first girl you date.

GTAIV also suffers from having poor control in every aspect of the character’s movement and actions. Driving isn’t as fun as it was in the older iterations of the series as the driving has gotten more realistic. You can’t blast through close corners anymore without having to brake and the cars move more sluggishly, like actual cars. GTAIV is a video game however, I want to able to do things with a car that I can’t normally do.

Aiming and shooting is also still unnecessarily awkward as the control stick makes the aiming cursor move to choppy and taking cover isn’t very smooth at all. The camera for driving, walking and shooting is also not very helpful, which really hurts my enjoyment of the game. Even if Niko’s story is amazing and later missions are different and fun, it’s hard to get to that point when the controls are not top-notch.

Metal Gear Solid 4 suffers from a slightly different problem. Surprisingly, the game is just too short. I know I haven’t beaten it yet, but every area I’ve been to already has been really small. In some areas, you sneak around three sets of guards and then another cut scene shows up that lasts a good 10 minutes. You get through another set of guards and then you’re having a long talk with Naomi Hunter and Octocon. I expected Metal Gear Solid 4 to have a ton of dialogue and a ton of cut scenes (which I don’t mind) but, I also expected there to be a ton of tactical espionage action and there just simply isn’t.


Metal Gear Solid 4 is also surprisingly easy to get through. Even if you’re seen by the guards you have a litany of weapons available to you and you can order more ammunition at any time. Tranquilizer guns also make taking out guards a little too easy. There’s almost no need to sneak around tight corners since you can knock guards out with one shot. Bosses are also incredibly simple as most of the strategy is fire, find cover, wait, and fire again. Crying Wolf in the snowfield provided a little challenge but once you find a spot to fire from, sniping her is a piece of cake.

Normally, I’m not so critical of a game, as I find most of them fun, but these games have had huge budgets and a lot of time to work on these games. They were hyped up like crazy and they were also very expensive for the PS3 at $60. Luckily, I was able to get GTAIV for free (thank you Jesse!). I expected near perfect games that I would fall madly in love with. I ended up being very disappointed with these two titles but, I probably will finish them before the summer is over. I’ll definitely go back to Metal Gear Solid 4 first, since the story is very engaging. Liquid Ocelot is pretty badass, I must say.

Once I completely finish these games (if I do), I’ll give a full review. This post is more of a rant, I know, but these games aren’t perfect as every other site says they are and I felt it necessary to share my early impressions.

14 comments:

Will said...

This kind of reminds me of Joystiq's nega-review posts; highlighting the negative reviews of selected 'super-awesome' games.

I want to get to GTA4 at some point, but to be honest, your meta-review sums up how I thought I'd feel about the game.

I had heard that MGS4 seemed like 70% cutscenes, 30% gameplay. Never played MGS2 thru 4 at all; never owned any PlayStations, sadly.

ultima301 said...

Nice post. After all of your hype toward MGS4 and it being the reason you bought a PS3, seeing you throw criticisms its way is a testament of anti-fanboyness, anti-bias, and pro-journalism. I respect that.

MGS4 definitely seems like a cutscene fest that tries too hard to take itself seriously / like a movie. As for your difficulty complaints, why not just up the difficulty? Play on extreme mode and I'd be surprised if you were still complaining about how easy disposing enemies / bosses is. Of course, I say all this without actually owning the game.

As for GTA4, it definitely lacks the mission variety found in earlier installments (particularly San Andreas) but I think it has a good number of strong points. I appreciate Rockstar's excruciating effort to make the world feel real; unlike many games that tried this before and fell short (coughFABLE), this was the first game where I actually felt immersed in the world. Seeing a bunch of cops running toward you, only to brush you by to chase after some shoplifter that just held up a store next to you, there's just something really cool about it.

Also, the new physics system kicks ass, especially once you get enough explosives to take full advantage of it. And you can get most of your driving skills back after a little practice, it's not that bad. I actually really liked the shooting system, feels a hell lot better than the PS2 iterations, and the cover system (usually) works well.

At the end of the day, don't let the level of hype dilute the way you enjoy a game. I think both games are really well made; maybe not GOTY material, but very strong in a lot of points. Keep up the good posts!

Richard R. said...

ultima301:

I actually totally forgot that there was a difficulty setting for MGS4. Had I started on a more insane difficulty I might have enjoyed it more.

Maybe what really bothers me is the lack of creativity it takes to beat the bosses or get through the levels. Aside from Vamp, which requires you to do ONE special thing to kill him, the bosses were very boring. Zelda games have this great quality of having to kill bosses is creative ways. Playing a game of ping-pong with phantom ganon's energy ball? Creative. Playing whack-a-mole with the megaton hammer? Fantastic. With a agme like Metal Gear Solid 4, I expect a high level of entertainment. This isn't overhypeing persay, as this game had a ton of money and time to work with and it was made with an excellent Konami team. I expected greatness because MGS games have stereotypically been great. MGS4 fell short. Still a good game, but a perfect score by nearly everybody? Give me a break.

The bosses in MGS4, however, just lack creative thought. Or, rather, some of them try to be interesting, but fall short. One boss tries to play hide and seek with you but it ends up being pretty lame since the boss won't try to hurt you while she is hiding, giving you a free shot.

This being said, if you still want to play this game at my dorm, knowing that you are a crazy MGS fan, you are welcome to come over and beat it.

As for GTAIV, I'm tired of game companies trying to immerse me into a "world." Can I just play a video game? Please? I don't need my games to be realistic, I need them to be fun. Sure, blowing up stuff is fantastic, but I've done that before in GTA3 and Vice City. The missions bored me, and that killed the game for me, regardless of how beautifully realistic it is or how good the physics system is.

I'm still glad I bought a PS3 though. I'm definitely not a fanboy for any system, though I typically lean my faith towards Nintendo products. One would think better hardware will eventually draw the big third-party developers eventually. The PS3 finally starting to live up to potential as well. I have an interest in numerous upcoming PSN games and I'm sold on the upcoming exclusives with Little Big Plant and that Socom Massive Action Game (MAG).

Will said...

This conversation about difficulty reminds me of a good post from the Exploding Barrel:
http://theexplodingbarrel.com/?p=273

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