I Just Uninstalled GTA IV

I started playing Grand Theft Auto IV a few days ago. I uninstalled it today. Steam says I spent 16 hours playing, out of its assuredly fifty-plus hours of content. Many of those hours were spent paused while I was doing something else.

Nico Bellic was drawn to America by his cousin’s stories of wealth and comfort. A life without killing or pain, where things were easy and nothing hurt.

The main characters and relationships in the game are endearing in a dark way. The graphics were quite nice, especially when compared to the previous game in the series, GTA: San Andreas, which my wife is playing right now. The amount of detail in the city and the number of things one can do are amazing.

In reality, life in Liberty City was a struggle. It was the same cycle of steal, kill, flee as before, except in an unfamiliar place where everything is harder and everyone is a stranger. No respect and no opportunities. And always the need for money.

But the game isn’t interesting. The gameplay is the same as previous games, with clumsier driving and walking and slightly better shooting. The missions are more restrictive than ever. In GTA III, you could cleverly solve missions by blocking an escape route with a car or planting a bomb in a target’s truck. In most of GTAIV‘s missions, you must use this car and go here, and then the guy will escape in a cutscene that removes any obstacles, and then you must chase him across the city and he’s impossible to catch and then he flees on foot and you confront him in another cutscene. And if you screw up at any point, you need to start the mission over because we don’t have any checkpoints.

Nico slowly learned something about America. America had a vision of itself: rich, easy, luxurious. And it forced you to pursue that vision. Everyone pursued that vision. Even if you wanted to do something else, be someone else, you couldn’t. You needed money. And you had certain talents that were valued, even when you weren’t valued as a person.

This is one of those games where the developers have crafted this world and this game that they’re incredibly (and rightfully!) proud of, and then realize with dismay that some grubby player is going to get her grubby fingerprints all over it. So they do their damnedest to make sure the player can’t interfere with their lovely work. Any place that the player could screw up the game with her insistence on cleverness, they stop that shit.

And when you got money, it corrupted you. It hurt you. Money made you crazy, bought you drugs that tear you apart, got you in debt, got everything you love set on fire. You needed the money, but the money ruined you.

In the end, once I moved on to the game’s second safehouse, I gradually lost interest. The mission structure sprawls out and the characters are less interesting, and I became less invested in Nico Bellic’s “I’m a man full of guilt who wants a different life yet I don’t even blink when you tell me to kill folks” routine. I simply realized that I didn’t want to play any more. So I stopped.

And so Nico walked away. Got on a boat, a bus, a plane, and went somewhere else where he didn’t need to kill for money. Nico just stopped.

9 thoughts on “I Just Uninstalled GTA IV

  1. Shame you couldn’t get into it.

    Although the general mission structure can get tedious over time there’s some really memorable stuff happening later on and they present some extremly well written characters.
    Maybe someday put a couple more hours into it until you meet Brucie and the Irish dudes.

    1. I’ve met Brucie; he’s fun. I met the Irish cop, although I think I was supposed to have met him earlier, as Nico seemed to recognize him in the mission cutscene but I didn’t.

  2. The GTA series does seem to get more and more restrictive with their mission parameters every time out. And its the extremely narrow story missions that usually cause me to quit playing. I had a blast playing San Andreas but that damn race in the “Farewell, My Love…” is just a pain in the ass, especially considering that most GTA vehicles flip if they hit the slightest bump.

    1. They hit a more serious note in GTA4 so they probably didn’t find it appropriate to put too much ridiculous shit in there.

      I wonder what they’ll do with GTA5. Seems like family plays some kind of role in there so I suspect they won’t go straight back to batshit crazy San Andreas or Vice City.

      1. They did seem to be trying for a more serious tone, but that’s immediately ruined when you find out that the internet cafe is called “Tw@” or you listen to any of the radio host bits.

        1. Yeah they definitely walk a thin line between going for more seriousness in the main story and still keeping that over the top American pop culture commenting humor in it.

          Personally I found they struck a pretty good balance and I hope they keep that kind of stuff in GTA5 but I see how this could get in the way of some people’s overall experience with the game especially when your a little nitpicky about those kind of things.

  3. Too bad you didn’t like them, but to me GTA IV’s characters and story are the most interesting out of all the series (and I have played all its main entries). As someone who’s not American, I can fully appreciate Niko’s excellent characterization: the things he says and thinks reflect the way that many non-Americans feel about the country to absolute perfection. Angst and mass murder aside, he’s one of the most believable characters I’ve ever found in a game.

    EDIT: Oh, to clarify, I wasn’t trying to say that an American cannot fully appreciate the character, or that you didn’t do it for being American. I was just trying to say that I meet quite a lot of Niko Bellics where I live.

    1. No need to apologize; I totally understand what you mean, I think. I did find myself wondering what a non-American’s perspective on Nico would be. For me, he’s heavily contextualized as “the immigrant;” it’s really interesting to hear a perspective from someone who identifies with him from a different angle.

      I found Nico’s character interesting, but the “game” part of GTAIV managed to disrupt my suspension of disbelief in him. It’s very cool that you had a different experience.

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