written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, December 30, 2009
I'm still moving through GTA4. The key to keeping the momentum in the game is taxis. You hail a cab, pick a destination, and press enter. One short loading screen later, you're there. GTA4 is an open world game where the best way to play it is to completely ignore the open world. "There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture."
In some cases, it's your only recourse. Once you've opened up all three islands, any call you get to hang out is likely to be from someone way over on the first island. Unless you've got a helicopter, there is no way to make it to where they are in time. All you can do is hail / call a cab and skip the ride, because if you actually sit through the ride, you'll still be too late.
In all other cases, it's the only way to not fall asleep. When San Andreas gradually opened up new areas, it stuck with them. I got a new base in the new area, then got to explore it through missions. I guess the theme of GTA4 is that you can never escape your past. I suppose Rockstar should be acknowledged for trying to tackle meatier subject matter, but when it hurts the game this much, I'm not sure it's worthwhile.
RFG is already bogging down, too. There are a few pain in the butt missions that have been taking the fun out. I turned the game difficulty down to Casual, but apparently that has no effect on time limits, so the "drive this vehicle really fast from point A to point B" missions still suck.
For one thing, they're trial and error. If you want a Pro time (which I quickly gave up pursuing), you have to memorize both the route and shortcuts. Plus traffic randomly spawns, so sometimes wide marauder vehicles would spawn in narrow places where it was impossible to get around them. Losing hard won progress through no fault of my own is the most frustrating thing in gaming. And RFG has done it to me multiple times.
The problem is these missions are necessary to unlock new weapons and weapon upgrades, so they don't feel optional. I now understand why some players stop focusing on enemy buildings and simply wreck everything they see.