The GTA community has always maintained that there isn't a single underwhelming title in the series.
This sentiment holds true in a way, as Rockstar Games has enjoyed successes with the mainline GTA titles as well as the smaller games like Vice City Stories and Liberty City Stories. Except for the wonderfully misguided GTA Advance, the series has had as consistent a run in the industry.
While fans appreciate the creative risks and ambitious nature of Rockstar Games, some GTA titles continue to spark debate.
Despite being the highest-rated game in the series on Metacritic, GTA 4 is one of the titles that continue to divide fan opinion to this day. While some regard it as the definitive GTA experience, others feel it is a product of its time that hasn't aged well.
Here, we take a look at some things in GTA 4 that could have been done better.
5 things in GTA 4 that Rockstar Games could have done better
#1 Better combat
One of the major complaints regarding GTA 4 comes in the way of its massively problematic combat system. At the time, the cover-based shooter approach from titles like Gears of War had become the norm, as it was an extremely effective mechanic for third-person games.
Rockstar attempted to emulate a similar mechanic for GTA 4, but with moderately successful results. At the time, the combat felt adequate. However, playing the game in 2021 just feels off, especially in terms of how lifeless the shootouts are.
Ducking behind cover and shooting at enemies until the health bar depletes not only breaks immersion, but also increases the challenge in an uninteresting way. The combat is definitely an area that needed more polish and should never have been this undercooked.
#2 Wonky controls
As mentioned previously, combat in GTA 4 feels more like an afterthought than a core mechanic of the game, which is odd for an action-adventure title.
One of the main reasons why combat feels so off in GTA 4 is the confusing controls of the game, both on PC and consoles.
Even to this day, running by tapping the X/A button just doesn't feel right as it makes it much harder to aim and shoot. While that still holds true for GTA 5, it was an absolute nightmare in Grand Theft Auto 4.
On top of that, the cover mechanics never seem to work as GTA 4 treats covers as more of a casual guideline than an actual ruleset. The game has a hard time deciding whether enemies can shoot through certain covers, leading to unnecessary deaths.
Niko's movement around covers also doesn't feel very authentic and rough, which adds to the sense of discomfort while in combat during the game.
#3 Uninteresting visuals
GTA 4's uninteresting visuals were a result of the game not having aged well rather than it having been a misguided decision.
In the 2000s, the world witnessed Christopher Nolan take on the Batman ethos and give it a gritty, dark reboot that resulted in global acclaim and success. This led to a lot of films, TV shows and games adopting a similar tone, both visually and tonally, regardless of whether it was in service of the story or narrative.
Similarly, GTA 4 was a far darker and grittier affair than what came before, adopting a visual style that can only be described as "very gray and very 2000s."
All color seemed to have been drained off the picture, making the game look like a contemporary art installment of the most uninteresting visual ideas. While it is in service of the game, it simply doesn't add to its replayability factor in 2021 as the game world can feel drab as a result.
GTA 4's visual aesthetic was a commitment to the vision, and while it was appreciated, it simply hasn't aged well.
#4 More open-world activities and side missions
GTA 4's game world is an absolute work of art when one considers just how incredibly detailed and specific it is.
The tone of the game called for Liberty City to be an absolute hell-hole. Even with all its technological advancement and booming economy, the city feels archaic. In a way it gobbles up ambition and empties out its residents to have them pursue an unattainable dream.
Liberty City accomplishes all of that but lacks severely in terms of interesting gameplay opportunity.
Side missions are far too scarce in GTA 4, and it is a major absence in the game. These missions can often help flesh out the city, as evidenced by the ridiculously funny ones in Grand Theft Auto 5.
It almost feels like GTA 4 had to make concessions with regards to gameplay in order to have a higher focus on story and narrative.
Fans cannot seem to agree on whether GTA 4's driving was a positive or a negative. However, the truth is that it is somewhere in between.
The purpose of the driving mechanics was to ground the game in reality and, to that end, it succeeds in a major way. Every turn, brake and push of the gas pedal feels like it has a ton of weight and consequence attached to it.
Having said that, driving in GTA 4 isn't typically a very fun experience. This is quite a detriment for a game that includes driving as one of its core mechanics.