GTA IV is the first game in the series where the gameplay and controls are JUST polished enough for me to actually be able to play the game. San Andreas had amazing atmosphere and really good writing (and voice acting), but I couldn’t get very far in because the mechanics and controls were just a mess for me. Oh it’s great for just screwing around, but the minute I try to laser focus on one task in GTA, the whole game just falls apart.

For a while I was stuck on a mission in San Andreas that you have to drive clear across town to activate, then drive halfway back to do – only to get killed in the game’s horrendous combat controls. The whole “respawn at hospital” thing may be more “in-the-world” but it’s also frustrating as shit. Having to re-buy weapons and armor means you might as well reload the game – and drive across town AGAIN.

Okay so I wanna get a safe house on that side of town to make things easier. I gotta collect enough money to get that house, and oh, it’s on the other side of like a dozen blocks of enemy territory in which my car usually doesn’t last five minutes. Trying to gang war myself all the way over there just brings back all the frustration with the combat.

Like I said, GTA IV is JUST polished enough for me to actually be able to play it, but not without great frustration when the scenery and detail aren’t drawing me in. The “retry mission” option is basically worthless because your health and supplies remain depleted from the last attempt, forcing me to reload and reactivate the mission AGAIN.

So far the only R* game I’ve completed has been Bully, which focused more on detail and polish than sheer breadth of content. I’ll check out Red Dead Redemption after I get around to playing Revolver since I went to the trouble of actually buying it, but I’m hoping it’s more like Bully and less like GTA.

I’ve considered re-buying the games on PC, but I don’t wanna waste this really nice PS2 special edition I got for San Andreas and I’m not sure yet that I can run GTA IV since it was apparently scaled for future systems.