Also, for the love of all that's holy, let's take a serious look at the state of in-mission saves. Granted, the Grand Theft Auto series has its roots in the Playstation era, during which occasional save points were the best you could hope for, but the rest of the industry has moved on. There are plenty of reasonable methods for to creating tension and a feeling of urgency; dictating how and when a player can save his progress should no longer be considered one of them. Rockstar, I beseech you, give up the ghost. I don't mind trying a race over and over again to learn the fine art of braking vs. speed, but when each attempt is prefaced by a meaningless drive from Point A to Point B, I start looking for needles to jab into my eyes. Both modern consoles have a hard drive. Use it, people.
OK then. Criticism voiced, wage justified, I can now carry on wetting my pants over this game - and playing it. I mentioned above I'd been playing for about 30 hours. That's spread out over the course of about five days, by the way, one of which I hardly played at all. So I've been playing for almost eight hours a day since I bought it and leaving every play session wishing I could play more, regretting my body's feeble need for sleep and food. This is rare for me. This describes my appreciation for this game far more succinctly than any amount of words could ever do.
Case in point: I took a day off from work to play this game. I never do that. Unfortunately, the day off didn't go so well. I kept getting torn away by my ringing phone and pinging emails; only to return to the game where my character's ringing phone and pinging text messages kept distracting me from nailing the perfect stunt jump, or swooping under bridges in a helicopter without crashing into the water. I was glad to discover the option to turn the phone off, something I need to learn how to do in real life.
I predict this game will fuel the fires of many a game writer for months to come. Prepare yourself for an onslaught of "Hero or Antihero?" and "What You Do in an Open World Game Says Something About Your Upbringing" articles, some of which may or may not be written by me. All pretensions to elevation of the medium through social discourse aside, however, I'm enjoying the shit out of this game. More so than I have any game in a good, long while.
Occasionally, I ask myself when playing a new game, "Is this a game I'd want with me if I were stranded on a deserted island?" Never mind that this island would require a sofa, a generous supply of scotch and electricity in order to make gaming there a viable alternative to painstakingly perfecting a shelter that can survive the ravages of wind and tide.
If you were asked to pick one game to help you stave off lunacy and the embarrassment of conversing with sporting equipment, which game would it be? For the longest time I didn't have an answer to this question. Now I do. Compass, fire starter, knife and GTA IV. These are the things I'll have in my pockets the next time I travel. Buy this game. Stop reading now and buy it.
Russ Pitts enjoys few things in life more than punching the accelerator in a fast, fat rear-ended American muscle car, tearing over a bridge in the rain, then heeling the wheel over hard and sliding into a complete 180. If someone is shooting at him, so much the better. His blog can be found at www.falsegravity.com