I've spent about five hours with GTA IV. Five hours with a GTA game is basically just scratching the surface, but I've played enough to experience the core mechanics and a reasonable chunk of the world.
This game currently has a 99 Metacritic, which (I think) makes it the highest game *ever* reviewed.
That is fucked up.
While obviously no game is perfect, and I don't mind giving a "10" or a "100" or whatever to a game that really moves me even if it has some technical flaws, GTA IV has some serious problems that I can't ignore (on top of the control issues mentioned in the previous post).
The car physics are horrid. I mean really, genuinely, almost-unusably awful. Every single car I've gotten into has barely been able to go around a normal 90 degree turn at a relatively normal speed. The motorcycle handling is abysmal. Yes, I understand "GTA Physics" are not real-world physics, but when your car can't take a single goddamn turn in an entire chase sequence, something is *wrong* with the way you have the cars set up. When I dread driving in a game that's called Grand Theft AUTO you have a pretty serious problem. When you have that problem in one of the two major mechanics of your game, it would seem to me that that's the kind of thing that should affect your score.
Will I get used to it? Probably. But I've been playing for HOURS, and I still can't go around a standard corner with any sort of regularity. It's unbearable.
The second thing (again, this is all in addition to the awful character controls) is that they spend a huge amount of time giving me beautifully animated representations of SHIT I DON'T CARE ABOUT.
You know what the last thing I want to do in a game is? Play pool. There have been dozens, if not hundreds, of shitty pool games throughout the years. I don't want to spend 10, even 5 minutes to play a shitty version of a shitty videogame. Arguments that it lends the world depth and believability have been made, but they don't fly with me. The makers of GTA have spent a huge amount of time building a gorgeous world of epic scope, and they've filled it with minigames I wouldn't even play for free. The bowling sucks. The pool sucks. I haven't played darts yet, but given the quality of the other two games, I'm not all that compelled to.
Take a game like Crackdown - there's an open-world game (by one of the original creators of the GTA franchise) that takes what's fun about the open world sandbox (exploration, visceral combat, freedom of movement) and makes the fun stuff even more fun. GTA IV has taken exactly the opposite approach - they've removed the fun (by making the car physics unmanageable), and increased the real-world tedium (phone calls, people nagging you, etc.).
Yes, the story and characters in GTA are lightyears beyond Crackdown. Yes, the world is more detailed and fully fleshed out. And in the end, I don't care. I don't give a shit you can play darts. I don't give a shit I can buy clothes. I don't give a shit about all the real world bullshit I do *in the real world*. I feel guilty for doing the stuff the game requires me to do because the narrative is REALLY confused about what kind of guy Niko Bellic is. Sometimes I'm free to choose my morality, and other times I'm not - with no clear cut reason why, other than some stuff needs to happen because the core story is linear. It's lazy, it's inconsistent, and it really breaks the feeling of immersion and investment in the character.
I really want to like it. But I keep hoping it'll be more than it is. The controls are horrible. The car physics are even worse. The missions (so far) have been more tiresome and tedious than interesting. The world, while more realistic, has been less fun than previous iterations of the game. That every reviewer and their goddamn mother has given the game a nearly perfect score is *absurd*.