The GTA IV review deadline landed this weekend and hundreds of online publications were allowed to air their thoughts and critiques of the new addition to the GTA franchise. According to metacritic at the time of writing, both the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions are not just topping the charts for their respective formats, they both have an average rating of 100, making GTA IV as close to gaming perfection as its possible to get.
So it’s fairly safe to say that the game is quite good.
It seems unlikely that it will retain its perfect metascore once the game hits retail tomorrow, especially when there’s always a temptation for other publications to buck the trend and go for the shock low score (which in this case is probably anything less than 85/100), but it looks well set to challenge Nintendo 64’s Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for its current top spot.
However, no game is absolutely 100% perfect. That notion is impossible because you can never please every player all the time. I actually prefer to read the negative reviews of games anyway because it can give you a far clearer idea of the individual reviewer’s / player’s angle on a game than you can when fifty different reviews are all competing to out-gush each other. Once you know the flaws, you can decide whether you can cope with them or not.
Well there clearly aren’t many flaws to be found in GTA IV, but here’s what I’ve unearthed:
Frame rate: the bane of the Grand Theft Auto franchise. The problem is that cutting edge graphics, open world gameplay and large number so onscreen enemies puts a lot of strain on the console – it manifests its self in the frame rate dropping from silky smooth to chugging along when the action is at its peak. That’s certainly true of GTA IV, but reports suggest that it only happens when there’s really an awful lot going on and thus is neither a game-breaker nor particularly surprising.
Pop-in: Again a staple of the GTA franchise; bits of scenery can be loaded late and thus create an invisible barrier to your progress, and cars, pedestrians and buildings can suddenly manifest in front of you . The worst affect this has is making high speed chases, where this problem is most apparent, seem less realistic. The general consensus is: Yes it’s an issue in GTA IV, no it isn’t enough to kill the game for you.
Combat: If Rockstar’s previous GTA titles have one glaring flaw, it’s the actual guns-out, on-foot combat. It was an awkward, convoluted affair which made street battles more a combination of luck and legging it wildly about like a scalded cat than actual tactical shooting. This has now had a major overhaul in IV and in the most part the results are agreed to be superb. However, like every game that uses a cover system, it can sometime be hit and miss as to whether the cover works properly and you can get caught on bits of scenery you didn’t want to. Again, although an issue, it’s not a serious one, but we’ll have to wait for the full multiplayer to be up and running before passing final judgement on it.
Difficulty: A contentious one this because there are several conflicting opinions on it. Kotaku reckons that some of the missions are tricky enough to be frustrating, requiring several restarts and possibly some angry controller flinging. No biggie; there’s got to be some challenge after all. At the same time other publications say that the 90 strong mission line-up can be completed on your first or second attempt. In either case, the new, hugely hyped online modes should be enough to give the game lasting appeal if the single player mission prove to tough or not tough enough.
And that’s it. This could be as close to gaming perfection as you’re likely to see this generation. It’s due out tomorrow, although a lot of stores will be opening at midnight for the desperate masses. Stocks are low so if you haven’t pre-ordered a copy, your best bet is to try out of town retailers and as early in the morning as you can.