Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Grand Theft Auto IV (XBOX 360)



very early impressions.
9 missions passed, 7.53% complete
about 3.5 hrs (that's with about 4 side missions, dating, etc and just messing around and finding places)

- I'm going to try to keep this as spoiler free as possible but if you want to be surprised and discover stuff on your own you probably shouldn't read this or anything else on GTA IV.
- On the 360 depending on lighting (usually during mid day) the shadows kind of shimmer. It's a bit distracting but I got use to it after a while. I'm wondering if the PS3 version has this issue.
- I've had zero lock ups or issues so far.
- Framerate is more than acceptable so far. No, it's nowhere near 60fps but I'd say it usually stays around 30 or above. It's very playable.
- Lots of post processing and lighting effects. I love the day/night and weather cycles. Rain at night just looked amazing with the street lights. Graphics really are rather great with good draw distance and little popup.
- Excellent learning curve/mission structure so far. This whole first part is like a well designed tutorial teaching you all the different aspects and types of gameplay.
- Lots of mini games in the world: bowling, pool, darts, arcade machines, etc. You can burn a lot of time just watching TV or surfing on the "internet" that's part of the game.
- Pretty funny response when I tried to" "press your luck" on my second date.
- I've only done a little combat but it's seems quite a bit improved so far. It takes a bit of getting use to the half left trigger (manual aim) vs full left trigger pull(lock).
- Starter cars kind of suck with not much grip. You really gotta break and slow down before using the emergency break.
- Nice quick retry of missions. It's just a menu option on your phone. Skippable cut scenes! Nice auto save too + many manual save slots.
- The whole save your care in the reserved spot is ok but not near as nice as the Saints Row system. If you total the car it's pretty much gone.
- GPS system works really well. Pretty much just like Saints Row.
- Load times aren't bad at all.
- I've only explored maybe 1/6th (maybe only a 10th? I haven't even been to the subway) of the map so far.
- Lots of nice cut scenes. Voice acting, characters, writing, and story have all been pretty darn good so far.
- Ammo and money hasn't been much of an issue. Just don't blow it all on lap dances at the strip club :-)
- The amount of content in this game is mind blowing.

I've never finished a GTA game before because of a lot of annoying design decisions. I did finish Saints Row because it fixed most of them. This might be the first GTA I finish because it seems like they finally got it right this time. I'm definitely impressed.

UPDATE: 5/29/08
WARNING: potential very minor spoilers from here on out.
So I finally found some time to work on the storyline missions again. I just finished up for the evening and decided to just mess around a bit. I kill a few cops and run up my wanted level. I then climb some stairs that happen to lead to under one of the bridges with two sets of train tracks under neath it. So I'm running along on the tracks shooting at the few cops that followed me and at the helicopter that is buzzing around. I can hear all these cop cars pulling up on the road part of the bridge above me but they have a hard time spotting me. I notice there is a little walk way between the tracks creating a good sized gap between the different flows of traffic for the two directions on the bridge above. The cops finally spot me and start jumping down except it's a pretty far fall between the road level and the train track level where I am. They land with a crunch, groaning on the floor with little health. So I'm sitting there finishing them off with the shot gun as more cops jump down. It's like freaking lemmings as more and more cops keep dropping to their near death. I'm up to 4 stars at this point just enjoying killing all these cops raining down around me. I then go back to walking on the tracks and notice something coming towards me in the distance. First I think it's a train but it turns out to be a police car. I take down the two officers with my m16 and take their car. Now I'm racing down the train tracks in this squad care noticing that all the police cars are having a hard time spotting me. I'm thinking maybe I can actually lose my wanted level. You can pretty much go full speed because you are on a suspended train track platform, most of the track has a nice rail so it's pretty hard to drive off the edge, cops on the ground have a heck of a time spotting you, and several parts of the track goes through tunnels helping with the helicopters. As I'm racing along the tracks at high speed I can see I'm nearing the edge of the agro circle (dang it's a big circle at 4 stars) and then some random cop somehow spotted me. I continue racing and lose line of site and eventually make it out of agro and lost a 4 star wanted level. And that is how I got my Walk Free achievement.

I still have no idea how the cop car got up there in the first place. I'm also pretty amazed I didn't really see/hit any trains during the escape.

Progress report:
40.59%
57 missions passed
20:17:38

special abilities unlocked:
Dwayne
Jacob
Carmen
Kiki

working on:
Brucie
Packie

Oh and I now have a helicopter parked in the reserved spot in front of one of my safe houses. It was a bit tricky landing it but now it persists between saves just like a car. It pretty much takes the entire space though.

UPDATE: 6/4/08
- Finished: 67.50%, 94 missions passed, 36 saves, 30:25, $691K, 660 people killed, 17 missions failed, 68 days passed
- I then went back and finished it again under 30hrs for the Liberty City Minute.
- Finally I went back and finished it a 3rd time for the other ending.
- This is the first GTA game I've ever finished and it was time well spent. I really enjoyed it. I actually thought the later missions were more fun and not all that frustrating. The ending was pretty short but the credits were really long say 20 min or so. After that you'll get a few phone calls to wrap things up. It also auto saves and then you can continue playing to finish up any side quests/achievements you didn't get yet. If you want the < 30 hr achievement don't waste a ton of time messing around (or at least don't save after you waste time messing around). Take taxis everywhere. Call Jacob frequently for cheap ammo and vest. The only thing he doesn't sell are rockets. I just barely squeezed it in with just 10 min to spare.

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