Choice of one

Why is GTA4 still the only sandbox game worth playing?

One thing we’re not short of in the world of gaming is choice. There are quite literally hundreds of thousands of games available today, with every title fighting to be the number one of its respective genre. But most genres don’t have a definite number one title. For instance, if you want to play a really good FPS, you can go for Half-Life 2, Bioshock, Modern Warfare 2, Halo, Killzone 2, plus many others. If you want a racer, then there’s the Forza series, the Gran Turismo series, the Colin McRae series. Fancy some 3rd Person action? Then there’s Uncharted 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Fable 2, Gears of War. I could go on listing games until my digits are worn away to stumps, but you get the idea. With most genres, there’s no clear ‘Big Cheese’, just a lot of similarly excellent Babybels.

But, there is one genre where a sole title can truly claim to be the strongest cheddar, the bluest stilton or the runniest brie (that’s probably enough cheese puns); the sandbox genre, and Grand Theft Auto 4. When compared to all the other sandbox titles, such as Just Cause, Saints Row 2 and The Saboteur (You could also include Assassin’s Creed 2, but that’s not a true sandbox title, and any of the Mafia/Godfather games, but they’re dated and poor), and even the eagerly anticipated Just Cause 2, GTA4 is miles ahead of the pack. But why? Why isn’t there another title that at least gives Rockstar’s masterpiece a run for its money?

GTA4 is pretty much perfect. The graphics are superb, the ‘playground’ is vast and full, the missions are diverse and exciting, the story and characters are multi-layered and smart, the car handling is outstanding, the controls are perfect; I could go on, but again, I’m risking my digits. Basically, GTA4 ticks every box and punches every chad with precise and confident excellence. Due to this, it’s probably no surprise that it’s the genre leader, but then again, you’d think that at least one title would compete in some of these aspects?

Take the visuals for instance. GTA4 looks superb, at any time of the day in any weather from any angle. But it’s not THAT good looking, like a perfectly cut slice of edam (that’s enough!). Just Cause features some excellent visuals, and the whole of its vast tropical island is a work of beauty. But overall Just Cause is far too ‘cartoony’, and flat. It’s the same with Saints Row 2; it looks OK but its visuals are massively dated for such a recent game. The Saboteur has an extremely clever mix of styles (monochrome and colour) but again, overall it’s a bit of a muddle

It’s the same with all the other aspects we look at in a game. The setting; GTA4’s Liberty City is alive and bustling, while Just Cause’s Island is often baron, The Saboteur’s Paris is lifeless and Saints Row’s city is clichéd and dull. The Missions; GTA4 has a great mix of action and pace, while JC has an above average mix, SR2 has nothing we haven’t seen before and TS isn’t sure of which direction to go in. The story and characters; GTA4 features an epic plot and some memorable and haunting characters, JC is nothing more than a popcorn movie, TS tries to be clever but collapse in a heap of pathetic dialogue (although the line “mail it teh me arse” still makes me laugh) and SR2 is just a mangle of pointless swearing.

The car handling; GTA4 is by far the best, with vehicles that actually feel ‘real’, while the others have vehicles that behave like they’re on rails made of Gorgonzola. The controls; GTA4 gives you total control of everything without a single flaw, while JC is glitchy (shooting is so easy it’s a joke), SR2 feels slack and TS’s controls feel as sharp as three week old Feta.

As you can see, GTA4 is by far the best game, not because it’s does certain things better than the competition, but because it does everything better than the competition. And add to that the fact that even GTA4’s expansions (The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony) are far superior to the competition, it shows how far ahead GTA 4 is. Hopefully a title will arrive soon that can take the fight to GTA4, because as they say, racing improves the breed. But Just Cause 2 doesn’t look anywhere near this level, and the horizon looks barren of incoming competitors. The only title that could possibly take the crown is GTA5, but that could be many a year away.

But it’s not all bad. At the end of the day, GTA4 is still a truly exceptional game, and when a game is this good, it doesn’t really matter that’s there’s nothing else out there. The cheese board of the sandbox genre may only have one wedge of dairy-based goodness on it, but it’s the only cheese you’d ever want.

Scott Tierney

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2 Responses to “Choice of one”

  1. Saboteur is a much better game than GTA4

  2. Nice blog. great info. Thanks for all this. Todas las estaciones de radio en vivo por internet en un solo lugar radio por internet

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