Because some people would rather not go through page after page of my rant about GTA IV, here’s the skinny on the flaws. It’s also a little more organized.

1) “Living” city must be on life support.
Just go to Star Junction. Maybe people who have never been to Times Square wouldn’t notice, but the number of people who walk the streets is absolutely unacceptable. Rockstar essentially built an architect’s model of a city. The buildings are all there, the architecture is visibly appreciable, the signage is modeled accurately. But where are all the people? Where are all the cars? It feels like a ghost town. You can get away with this in some areas of Liberty City, but certainly not in Star Junction. The other thing that I kept reading about was the “verticality” of the game. I was incredibly disappointed to see that Niko couldn’t seem to learn how to reach his hands up to grab onto a fire escape.

2) Liberty City currency is worthless
You earn money as your rise through the ranks of the criminal underworld. You would think that there is something to do with that money. What can you do with your hard earned cash? Buy weapons and ammo; clothe yourself; feed yourself. There is little to do with your money in this game. There isn’t any reason to hoard your money, there isn’t any reason to earn it either. In GTA IV, money is worthless.3) Lack of depth in regards to activities, shopping, etc.Your currency is worthless because there is nothing to do with it. All we get are a couple of mini-games. We get to bowl, shoot pool, and play darts. There are only three clothing shops. Life feels hollow after the story is complete. There is no reason to keep going. Having $750,000 means nothing. You don’t feel that striving for the American Dream has got you anywhere. There is motivation to earn money because there is no reward, nothing to spend it on.

Now, about the cops…

4) Cops have no use of force training
The LCPD really needs to brush up on their use of force training. They jump straight to deadly force when none is necessary. The sad thing is that the civilians are better than the police officers in this respect. If I start going at it with my fists or a knife, the civvies will hit back with their fists. But if they are armed (as they often are around my Alderney safe house for some reason), they will pull it out only AFTER you have pulled out a firearm. For some stupid reason, the police officers would rather shoot you. I don’t know if this is some stupid political statement on Rockstar’s part, but I don’t think it is. I do like it when someone gets arrested. However, unless an RMP rolls up to take the perp down to the local precinct, he just stands there with his hands up. Give him some time and the cop will shepherd him to some unknown location. Then off the perp goes, trying to run away. Eventually the cop catches up and up goes the hands. And the cycle is perpetuated. Considering that crime is a main part of this game, a realistic rendition of law enforcement would go a long way in enhancing the immersiveness.

5) Ridiculous automotive experience
My memory is fuzzy, but if I remember correctly, the PC game Mafia had traffic done right. There were no disappearing cars or cars that appear from thin air like coins in the Miser’s Dream. If you go down a street and are tired of traveling by foot, all you have to do is stop where you are and turn around 180 degrees. If there are no cars that are suddenly bearing down on you, turn around again, then again once more. And there, you should have a nice line of traffic waiting for your criminal attainment. This is one of the things that totally ruins the immersion of a realistic environment. Another thing I noticed, particularly when I was driving back into Bohan to my safe house, is that often the cars that spawn are all your car. It’s nice if you happen to be driving an Inferno (which I was in my case), but it’s weird to see eight sports cars in that part of the neighborhood…

6) Relationships are silly
You can actually maintain your relationships by canceling the plans you either initiated or accepted. They’re nice to have, and certainly the perks are worth it. But friends just seems like a thinly veiled system to explain having built-in cheat codes (such as regenerating health and being rid of your wanted level). I will admit that having Dwayne’s thugs back me up is quite a lot of fun, and quite useful when fighting gang activity. There just needs to be more venues: I hate having to drive Carmen from Bohan all the way to Algonquin for a comedy club or a drink.

7) Car jacking is still stale
I could’ve sworn that we were promised random animations for Niko to break into a car. We still see the same animations though. Niko beelines for a certain position by the door of a car, and most of the time he will slide into place. He reaches for the door handle, yanks on it twice, then smashes the window with his elbow. Is it so much to ask for a couple of different animations? Maybe he can take a step back and kick it in like he does all the time on the passenger side. Maybe he can punch it in once in a while. Also, some people have guns. Would it be out of line to have Niko get shot when trying to jack someone? Or maybe the driver could resist, resulting in Niko getting thrown to the ground. From there the driver could either drive the hell away or proceed to kick your ass. Just keep it fresh.

How can they fix it?

Build in more content and things to do. Have more clothing to purchase. Let us search the craplist housing section to rent or buy a new apartment. Let us buy a computer to keep in the apartment. The radio channel in the apartment should be changeable. Maybe we can get different beds and sofas, a better TV set, new posters for the wall. The fridge should have food so we can heal without sleeping/saving. Let us buy a new cellphone (maybe even the BitterSweet). Let us buy fancy cars and let us put them in garages. Maybe if we purchase the car we can abandon it and have it reappear in our garage anyway (like in Saint’s Row). In short, let us live the American Dream of buying everything we want with the money that we slave away to tuck into our bank accounts.

I should be able to climb up all of those fire escapes as long as I can reach them. That makes exploration much more fun. I should be able to find shady OTB places to blow my money on horses. I should be able to find back room card games. I should be able to go into the corner deli and grab a soda. I should be able to get drunk at a liquor store. The police ought to learn how to use batons, mace, or their fists when dealing with non-lethal incidents. They should also learn how to use handcuffs.

GTA IV took so many steps back. It’s disappointing to see so many things that are still broken. The new physics and actor animations are great fun and add realism. The wonderfully modeled reinterpretation of New York City is beautiful. But the game lacks depth. GTA IV is an easily unveiled illusion, and it’s a real shame. I just hope that DLC will fix some of these flaws. Until then, I hope GTA V will address these long-standing issues.