Tag Archives: GTA

Late To The Party: Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, And Why GTA Online Took Over


I’m coming up towards the end of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas now but I’m going to go ahead and write this LTTP blog about it because I don’t know if I’m going to finish the game.

I have made blog posts in the past about my struggles with GTA games, but I wanted to take one last crack at San Andreas before actually starting the copy of Grand Theft Auto V I bought years ago. I ran into some of the same problems as before and overall I don’t think San Andreas stands the test of time, but from it I also learned some important things about sandbox games which may point to why GTA is so beloved, why Grand Theft Auto Online has taken over its destiny, and what’s wrong with other sandbox games. Continue reading

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Late To The Party: Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag, And The Lost Nature Of Sandbox Games


If finally finished up Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag this week after Nvidia gave me a free copy with my graphics card back in 2013. Playing it made me realize things about how sandbox games have gradually strayed from their original design principles and how that relates to today’s trend of open-world games. Much has been said about how Ubisoft does open-world games, but I think Black Flag in particular highlights its issues because it actually contains a unique and fun classic-style sandbox game buried underneath a lot of modern trends. Continue reading

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Saints Row IV And Sandbox Deconstruction


I originally didn’t plan to bother with Saints Row IV after recently finishing Saints Row The Third, but that free weekend and $5 sale on Steam took me by surprise (and is actually the same way I tried out and bought The Third). A ways into the game, it’s got me wondering about what’s happened to sandbox games and where the game format is headed.

Open-world game design is getting pretty stilted. I hope new hardware can inspire some evolution on them, but the last few years of open-world games have brought us some design that’s so formulaic it’s starting to feel like busywork. SR4, mostly in purpose but sometimes unintentionally, has brought me to a point of deconstruction with open-world games where I’m starting to wonder why the game’s city is even there anymore. Continue reading

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Late to Space Games Part 1: Elite (1984)


One game genre that’s mystified me over the years has been space flight simulators. The buzz surrounding No Man’s Sky convinced me to finally plan to investigate them this year. Part of the reason people are so mystified with the game is because it’s part of a genre that almost doesn’t exist on consoles. So, for a while you might see a lot of posts on this blog about space games. I decided to start off with one of the first and probably the most influential — the original 1984 Elite, well, a version of it at least.

On one hand I was always intimidated by how complex the flying mechanics of Wing Commander or X-Wing look. On the other hand I wondered how games about trading goods like Freelancer could ever be fun, even if it is in space. Even the title “Freelancer” sounds like some kind of economics job description that’s anti-fun. It’s one more area that makes PC gaming look much more intimidating than it actually is. I think I made the right decision in starting my trek through this genre basically from the beginning. Continue reading

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My Main Concern With GTA V


Yeah Grand Theft Auto V is probably gonna be great. Everything looks to be bigger and badder than GTA IV, and that’s cool and all. I just wanna know one thing really:

Do the controls not suck?

This is the main reason I am hesitant to jump into GTA V and why I have really no hype for it at all right now (the other reason being I’m waiting on the inevitable PC version). I’m sorry, but Grand Theft Auto is one of those franchises I just can’t fully get into for one huge reason — I find them all to be nigh unplayable.

I love the work Rockstar puts into the setting of each of its games. That includes the characters, writing, story, graphics, all that. Rockstar games are great worlds to be in that are absolutely packed with content. I’ve been over some of my problems with GTA compared to other open-world games in a previous post, but I’m going to focus on Rockstar’s history with controls here. All that other stuff I praised doesn’t matter to me if I can’t actually play the game.

GTA IV may have been just playable enough for me to finish it with considerable frustration, but you can forget about me finishing any of the PS2-era games. Maybe I can understand them coming from an era before most people figured out how to design third person shooters, but stepping into series with San Andreas introduced me to the most convoluted control scheme I’ve ever seen for a console game.

I think a main issue with GTA is that it tries to give the player direct access to too many functions for a standard controller. Every time I look at the control display on the options screen I shake my head at how ridiculous it is. If you have to sit there waiting for screen to cycle through displays of three different functions for each button then the control scheme has a problem in my opinion. That combined with the archaic shooting controls of the PS2-era games means I can virtually never survive a gun fight in San Andreas. I gave up pretty early on. GTA IV got slightly better control-wise but still felt convoluted, never mind how many hours the game spent teaching you those controls.

What really gets me is how slow Rockstar has been to adopt “good” shooter controls. Red Dead Redemption and Max Payne 3 have good enough shooter controls, but only good enough. In my opinion they still feel inferior to most standard third person shooters today, even other open-world games with standard controls like Saints Row or Red Faction Guerrilla. Rockstar has the functions there, but they still feel somewhat sluggish wrestling with the things Rockstar insists it has in its games.

A big thing is the Euphoria engine. The Euphoria engine is probably a love-it-or-hate-it thing. I’ll agree it gives Rockstar’s games some of the most realistic and smooth character animations in video games, giving the action a more cinematic feel, but that animation also severely slows down the controls. Having to wait for Niko’s or John Marsten’s body to fully rotate in order to turn around has gotten me killed in gun fights. When Digital Foundry did an article on input lag a few years ago GTA IV was listed as one of the worst games in terms of control responsiveness, with controls twice as slow as in most games and nearly four times as slow as those in Call of Duty.

I feel like Rockstar gets away with this because its games are so freaking popular. They haven’t really felt any commercial need to change — sales have justified all the creative decisions they’ve made, and all the open-world games that control much better than GTA don’t sell nearly as much.

I heard GTA V is gonna use some part of Max Payne 3’s control system, and I guess that game and Red Dead have shown Rockstar is capable of doing good-enough shooter controls. I still can’t pull the trigger on GTA V though until I know the controls aren’t a convoluted mess like all the other games have felt to me. I’m afraid I might not be able to find a single game critic that shares my view on the series and on Rockstar in general who’ll give an actual critique on GTA V’s control interface. It’s one of the reasons I’m waiting for a PC version — the hope that maybe the game controls much better on a mouse and keyboard.


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Saints Row the Third and Why I Can’t Play GTA

As of this writing I’ve played about four hours of Saints Row: the Third – a game I resisted for a while, overlooking it as another Grand Theft Auto clone. Now I find that I’m acclimating to the game much more easily than I ever have GTA.

It’s pretty much due to what everyone has told me is Saints Row’s main selling point – how it focuses more purely on the “fun” than GTA does. This has definitely worked for me, but not for the same reason it might work for everyone else. This game get’s at a core reason why I’ve had a lot of difficulty with GTA.

Simply put, I am a terrible GTA-player. For some reason the game’s mechanics just don’t fit me well at all. I could talk about how much I hate the controls, but I think it’s largely due to the varying focuses seemingly pulling each GTA game apart.

The first game in that franchise I actually played was San Andreas, and despite understanding how most people play GTA to reign chaos and destruction on its virtual cities, I mainly got pulled into this game for the setting and characters. Rockstar does such a good job with its cut scenes, characters, voice acting, and backdrops that I felt much invested in the main plot of the game – the part most GTA fans seem to love to ignore.

The game itself seems to want me to ignore that too. A big reason why I have a hard time with GTA is because it’s very difficult to laser-focus on a single task while playing. It wants you to play chaotically and organically, blowing up people and getting into trouble wherever you go, instead of strictly following the main quest. Because of GTA’s controls (and a few other features) I find it hard to get invested in all that and just end up fighting against the game itself much of the time.

Many fans seem to levy similar, but perhaps opposite complaints on GTAIV, a game that focuses more in its story and reigns back the chaos a bit. The chaos is still there which damages the plausibility of a story Rockstar chooses to push so much. I know most people criticize this because the increased story focus makes parts of GTAIV too linear, but in my experience it has made the game slightly more playable than San Andreas, if still pretty annoying at times.

Enter Saints Row which just decides to cut out the serious story and make a game about the part of GTA that everyone else actually cares about, and in my opinion it handles that part of the game better than GTA too. I started to realize this when engaged in Third’s experience system and collection of perks. That alone gives Third far more carrot sticks to keep me playing than GTA.

What I like the most though is how straightforward quests and activities in Third feel. One of the reasons I can’t play GTA is because half the time I’m on the way to do something I’ll accidentally hit someone or something in sight of the police and have to waste time removing my notoriety before I can start a mission or complete an objective during a mission – if I don’t get killed because of my notoriety and have to start over with all my armor and ammo gone.

Having missions completely disregard your notoriety may be a small element of Third, but it makes a huge difference for me. It might not be plausible enough for the world of GTA, and the same goes for keeping all your guns after respawning, but Third realizes that people don’t play these games for realism anyway.

This is why, so far, my favorite open-world games this generation have been Red Faction Guerrilla and Assassin’s Creed II. Those two games each focus on polar opposite sides of a formula, and each one does its job very well as a result.

Guerrilla is mainly about blowing things up. There’s a story there, but that story is mostly about blowing things up. In most cases the missions don’t even specify HOW you blow something up, just that you do it. It’s that freedom along with the game’s unique procedural destruction engine that set it apart.

On the flipside, Assassin’s Creed II puts a lot of effort into its setting with very little incentive wreak havoc on it outside of missions. A large reason why I found myself invested in the settings and characters in the series is because the Creed games make it very easy for me to access that stuff compared to GTA.

Basically what I’m saying is, for me to be able to enjoy one of these games, especially GTA, it needs to know what it is and deliberately play towards that. I’m sure that it’s possible to make a sandbox game with a great story and fun gameplay. A lot of people probably love GTA for both, but for me the whole formula just doesn’t come together in that case. Saints Row may be a game made in GTA’s shadow, but at least it has a more focused formula.


  • I still haven’t even installed that copy of Just Cause 2 I got on a Steam sale around two years ago.
  • I’ll also take this as another opportunity for anyone who plays Red Faction Guerrilla to try out the “Super Sledge” cheat. That cheat alone has ensured that I might never uninstall the game.
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  • What do you do every time they announce a sequel to a game you bought on Steam a year ago for $5 and never installed? http://www.taleworlds.com/images/news/179.jpg
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