My 2 weeks leading up to the delay of my Tesco preorder were spent in pure anticipation, and the week spent waiting was worth it, I still believe it.
Now let me start by saying, I have been a GTA veteran, from a totally illegal age, and I know the ins and outs of the series. And I am guessing a lot of you have come to the same conclusion as I.
I have played the GTA's in chronological order, minus the cash-fodder PSP executions. GTA was fun, and was never anything to write home about, but I must have been 9, and hearing swear words and shooting people was enough for me, and although I couldn't analyse it then GTA started that famous gameplay element: sandbox. GTA2 brought hilarious advertisements, that left me and my friends chattering about SUZI machine guns, and the oil skid weapons gave hours of enjoyment. I remember once sitting on the can and daydreaming about finding a jet fighter in the game.... little did I know what the future held. That concluded the generation.
With the next generation came GTAIII, now bear in mind, Driver had also been a favourite of mine, and Driver 2 was astounding. So this was a dream come true. And my favourite part of Driver: Free Ride was the basis. With unparalleled art style, a cast of cinematic legends and undeniably the best storyline in any of the GTA series it was the pinnacle of the franchise. It was it's golden years, and it was good. The follow Up Vice City added more, and had another great story, worse than GTAIII, but with great style again, heightened by the 80's setting. And finally with the most expansive map in a GTA yet, came San Andreas, the behemoth. Not the masterpiece of the series, and in terms of gameplay and content, just due to technical advances it was the best, but it wasn't a masterpiece, that title belongs to GTAIII. I completed the storyline of all 3. This generation was about dreams coming true - fighter jets, and sarcastic jabs at competitors like Driver and big name companies.
Finally GTAIV is released. It seems like a long wait, and something is wrong. It's spring! GTA belongs in fall. But don't think the departures of the series end there nor do they get less noticeable. No famous cast, lack of types of vehicles, incohesive storyline and sometimes less than realistic characterisation.
The story is awesome, and the characters are excellent on their own. But this is the worst executed story ever in a GTA game. And events seems so artificial and easy in comparison to the realism they were aiming for, double standards won't work for a games narrative, if you want some elements to be realistic, make them all reaslistic. The characters are also edgy too as if you can't tell a friend from foe. Depending on which ending you have Jacob and Roman sound dodgy so often it's unbelievable. I expected Roman and/or Jacob as final 'bosses'. And instead my ultimate goal was to get revenge on some guy who sold me out weeks ago to a rather underdeveloped character: Ray Bulgarin. Basically the story has so many loose ends, you just have to hope the DLC for 360 might finish it off, but the game isn't worth it anyway, because some of the ends have been tied off, and yet they are still cryptic and strange.
The phone was an absolutely awful decision. It's a cheap way to avoid a menu, and the integration of multiplayer into it seems strange and unneeded since there's a perfectly great pause screen. It also breaks up the narrative, and because of the short phone conversations, big plot turns seem so minor.
Mission design, this is by far the worst GTA. The only Missions of note were kidnapping a certain woman because of the way the car behaves and pulling over vans to check for TVs. The rest was chase, shoot or follow.
It's whole direction is excellent and contemporary, it gives me; a foreigner, an idea of New York beautifully. The music is great as always, and the art direction although more realistic still retains a beautiful look, due to that post processing watercolour filter.
The graphics are fantastic, for such a huge scale world. Details make the difference: the water effects, the fire effects, and the blood splatters are beautiful. Sparks flickering, and clouds of dust create beautiful atmosphere after shocking explosions. And reflections of lights on cars are especially impressive, when you see them changing on account of the massive dents you inadvertently created.
Physics are just astounding. Cars crash brutally and dent, and boxes go plying, and mailboxes get knocked over and fences are blasted through but the obvious highlight is the 'ragdoll'... or should I call it 'ragpuppet'. It's what Assassins Creed wanted to be in terms of crowd mechanics when pushing past them. Running people over is sickening and you find yourself avoiding it, unless on an intentional rampage. Shooting people is truly shocking as they stumble in accordance to your individual bullets, protecting their anatomy like they won't ever respawn and obviously stumbling down a cellar outside a certain Irish pub when completely smashed is hilarious. It was an achievement.
But an achievement for who? Rockstar? I certainly don't think so, and it's not an achievement for Take2 either, because they had to spend so much on NaturalMotion to come in and sort the game out with Euphoria. The missions are basic, the story is disconnected and graphics can't be praised, we are in the new generation, and the standard is set, the game deserved an overhaul. The disgusting irony of this game is that without Euphoria this game doesn't separate itself from the one thing it used to have the liberty of parodying: Driver.
So... This game is hypocritical, and it doesn't feel like GTA. What is saving it? The name, and definitely the fact that they didn't remove the sandbox completely. In fact, I prefer the game to be realistic as it is, I loved Driver for it, but it's not GTA.