We're huge GTA fans, but sometimes you have to be tough on the ones you love. As good as the series is, there are some things that have bothered us since it first switched to three dimensions. Care to add to the list?
1. Dumb AI
There are few things in the GTA series as frustrating as failing a mission because your AI companion died. This problem has plagued the series since its first 3D incarnation, and Rockstar don't seem to have realised that escort missions of any kind are a recipe for smashed controllers. If we really must work alongside other characters, make them smart and independent, not dead weights.
The cops should be smarter too. Instead of just repeatedly smashing into your car, we'd like to see them working together to box you in, or lure you into traps. On foot, we'd love chases to be more unpredictable and dynamic. If the police felt like more of a legitimate threat, getting on the wrong side of the law would be much more thrilling.
2. Frustrating checkpoint placement
There's a mission towards the end of GTA IV, Catch the Wave, that involves driving a truck really slowly from one island to another. Then there's a gruelling shootout in which your AI buddy, Phil Bell, repeatedly dies for no reason. So every time you fail - we did almost twenty times - you have to repeat the long, boring drive, over and over again. This is just unforgivable.
We appreciate that checkpoints are there at all, of course. Earlier GTA games didn't have them. But their placement is just baffling at times; almost to the point that they're rendered utterly pointless. Why not put the checkpoint outside the warehouse where the shootout happens, rather than force us to drive that damn truck back every time? This is just one of many similarly maddening examples.
3. Narrative dissonance
Since Rockstar's attempts to make CJ a more rounded character in San Andreas, there's been a conflict in the series between the story and the gameplay. In cut-scenes, he laments being drawn back into the world of crime; in the game he's stealing cars almost constantly. Cut-scene Niko Bellic speaks with regret about his troubled past; game Niko runs people over and makes jokey quips.
If you want to create realistic, nuanced characters, you can't have them starring as the heroes of a Grand Theft Auto game. The conflict between what happens in the game and the cut-scenes is just too extreme. The solution? Create ones that revel in it. Tommy Vercetti worked because he was unashamedly a ruthless gangster. Claude from GTA 3 worked because he was totally mute. GTA isn't, and never will be, The Wire, so just have fun with the characters. Imagine how much more enjoyable it would have been if Roman was the star of IV.