I'm slowly exhausting my backlog of reviews, I promise there are not many old ones left.
I was really looking forward to this game before its release, it was clearly my most anticipated game at the time. Occasionally I would play with the idea that I should buy an XBOX 360 just to be able to play the game, since the PC version was delayed for so long. But in the end common sense prevailed, I waited for the PC version, and boy I was glad that I didn't give in to the dark side. First because there were hardly any interesting exclusive games for the XBOX that would have justified owning one for me.
Second, because the game didn't live up to my expectations. I had a clear idea about the game that it would be a rich sandbox world filled with interesting activities and side quests. Just like in San Andreas, only more and better. I was disappointed to see, that there aren't any worthwhile activities in the game apart from the main story. This reminded me of Assassin's Creed, that's plagued with the same problem. You can't just create a large open word, and put nothing in it for the player to do.
It's not only disappointing compared to San Andreas, but to all the previous GTAs as well. There are no Firefighter activities, no Ambulance activities, no Taxi activities. Only the transport missions you get from Roman, but those are nothing compared to what we had in previous games. There are some races, but most of the time I just got the message that there aren't any races going on right now. And you can't even fail in them, because all your opponents pile up two corners into the race, and you never see them again. From there it's just the menial task of having to drive 10 laps on a long route.
What we have instead of fun challenging activities, is hanging with friends or taking out a girl, but the two are basically the same thing. And these are boring and frustrating distractions, nothing more. You get no fun from these at all. After a few tries I simply ignored their requests to go drinking or do anything. It makes no real difference how big of a pal you are to them. True, some friends grant special abilities that you can call on, but for story missions, where they'd really make a difference they are disabled anyway. You can ask your cop pal, to get rid of your wanted status, but that only works up to a certain wanted level anyway, which you can get rid by yourself easily enough. Or you can get free Taxi from Roman, but that's pointless, because the regular Taxi will take you anywhere for $50 max, and that kind of money can only be a problem in the first few minutes of the game.
Everybody knows that the hardware demands of the game were horrendous, you couldn't max out the graphics even with the best hardware available at the time. But since it looked much better than the console version even on low settings I didn't consider that to be a problem, more of a future proofing of the game.
One usually strong aspect of GTA games is the handling and physics of vehicles, so in that department there is no disappointment, it delivers. Every vehicle moves the way you would expect it to move. There are only two small inconveniences. The first is that the top speed of the vehicles is unrealistic. Almost everything tops out at 60-70mph, even hi end sports cars. And the other thing is that the cars are too durable. Almost indestructible, you can hit a truck head on an continue on like nothing happened. Fortunately on the PC version it's fairly easy to modify these things, so I edited the top speed and durability of cars, to be more realistic. This instantly improved my experience by tenfold.
The length of the main story is commendable. Albeit after finishing it for a second time I've noticed that none of the missions are exceptional. And the blatant scripting is really disappointing. Not so much in the shooting parts, but in the car chases. Until the script runs out, your enemies cars are made of granite, and defy every aspect of physics in the game. Their speed is always matched to you, if you're really good at driving, you can see things like the enemy car accelerating from zero to sixty in 0.1 seconds, or pushing trucks out of the way like they're helium filled balloons. Unfortunately the scripting is necessary otherwise chases would be really short, since the AI driving is very poor. As soon as the script runs out he will crash and die without much effort from you, like in races.
There are some missions in the game where you can decide to kill someone or not. But story wise these don't have much impact. The only difference is that if you spare someone, you can meet them on spontaneous encounter type missions later. Actually these are the only side missions that are funny, so it's better to spare everyone in the hope that you'll get a fun mission later.
Unfortunately the radio stations are much less to my liking than in previous GTAs. The only channel worth listening through once is integrity for fun. But the handling of radio channels in the game is chaotic. You listen to a station, get out of the car, do a mission, get back into a car, and the station will start playing from the point that was five minutes before you last listened to it. So some parts of radio programme you'll hear a thousand times, while you never hear others. Or when I listened to Independence FM (where the game plays your music) sometimes it started playing the same track five times again within 30 minutes.
Another issue is that the triggers work too quickly in the game. You do a mission, and in a few seconds you get a message from a third party saying: "I heard what you did".
- Vehicle handling and physics
- The atmosphere of the evening traffic in the city center
- The main story is just the right length, it's not too short or so long that it becomes a torture.
- Finally the game world really feels alive, the traffic is not made up of a few scattered vehicles, but sometimes there are really endless rows of cars.
- There is hardly anything for you to do besides the main story.
- Some missions are very short and easy, while others are extremely long and difficult, like the bank job
- If you fail a mission, you can only restart from the very beginning, even on multi-part missions.
- In theory there is a way in the game to quickly restart missions after dying, but this is useless, since it makes you start again with the amount of ammo and armor you had when you died. So you must load your previous save anyway, and if you don't already have a full armor and enough ammo, then you have to go to a store, and stock up, then drive to the place where you get the mission, then drive to the place where the actual mission takes place, and prey that you don't fail this time, or you have to start this torture again from the beginning.
- I never found out how to properly throw a grenade in the game, many times Niko doesn't throw but tries to roll the grandee from underhand, but if that happens you have to run for your own life every time.
- The main story is incoherent, you play a small time criminal who takes on any job for any money, which is OK I guess for the start of the game, but when you already have a million credits it doesn't make sense anymore to play errand boy for a few thousand bucks.
If Saints Row had the graphics and physics of GTA, then it would wipe the floor with it. But unfortunately both are one armed giants. One has the looks and the feel, the other has the fun and the content. But because to me physics takes precedence GTA is still the better of the two for me.
This is no more than a mere 7/10, it's a fun game, with great graphics, but nowhere near as fun as GTA3, Vice City, or San Andreas was.