Grand Theft Auto IV
is three-quarters of the way done. More specifically, 75.12%. A long session ended with what seems to be the start of the next act in the plot,
finding out that not only was Florian Cravic not the traitor in Niko Bellic's unit during the war, but he's become a gay lifestyle coach who is fucking the "family values" deputy mayor. (Ah such halcyon times when that was thing)
Pretty much all but two of the side missions are done, with one of the remaining two currently active. All that really remains is the plot and such, which is fine...except for one thing: The friends system.
As I noted before, the Friend system is super needy. The game all but demands you hang out with your friends once every two in-game days. When you have one or two friends, not that big a deal. When you have 3 or more friends, it's such a pain in the ass to juggle. And the game makes a point to remind you when they call you at the most inopportune times, which is any free time you have outside of missions. Now, in theory, you can address this by turning on Sleep Mode on the phone, which will stop all incoming calls, and it does work. But there are three problems with it:
1. It turns off if you load a game or start a main mission, and the game doesn't really tell you that.
2. Some missions, including main
missions, only trigger with a phone call. More on that later.
3. The game goes out of its way to make you feel bad for turning it on when you actually call the friends for one reason or another. Instead of the usual banter, the phone just beeps a couple times then hangs up.
The game seems aggressively parasocial in a way that predates but defines the mainstream use of the term by a decade. You can say "no" to people when they call you, but the game always punishes you for doing that by dropping your like rating. On its own, not necessarily a bad thing. But then the game locks 100% behind making sure three of the friends you can befriend (Packie McReary, Brucie Kibbutz, and Little Jacob) have their like status above 75%, since that is the level to unlock their special abilities. Further, the game goes out of your way to make you feel bad even more by having your friends text you constantly when you either don't hang out or refuse to answer their calls. It's so frustrating because not only does this cause the game to have extreme padding, but also...that's not how friendships work
. And I doubt that this was one of those "critiques on American culture" situations that the team was known for. It was just shitty design that takes a very dim view on how friends work.
And what sucks is, the friends system would be interesting if they let the player enjoy it on their own terms rather than be punished for not playing it "properly." Like over time, I warmed up to Roman. Brucie became funnier over time. Packie's an interesting character to me because his family shares A LOT of similarities to my dad's family. Little Jacob, as said, is super chill. Kate opening up (and in turn having Niko open up about the war) was a great experience to witness. (Dwayne's the one exception. He's always a downer, and Niko's responses make them seem worse. I get that he just got out of prison and he had to let his protege die, but even so). Hell, I have no doubt dating in the game is interesting, but again, I can't play it by my own terms so I don't involve myself.
Plus, it would make me more willing to use the special abilities to some degree. Only ability I really use is Little Jacob's discount gun shop. Roman's taxi service might be useful for drinking excursions, but it means giving up the car I drove in. Brucie's chopper service seems to be a Metroidvania-style fast travel when used properly, but it's kind of undercut by the fact that, well, you could just steal a car (though it might be useful in getting rid of pesky Wanted Levels). Dwayne's backup kind of requires advance notice for missions, and that's a bit frustrating. Finally, I haven't found a situation where Packie's car bombs can be useful.
Finally, going back the phone thing: the game makes use of your phone by calling and texting you about missions. The texts aren't too bad: They tend to either be side missions, or just a trigger for a mission. However, when it's a call, that becomes a frustrating thing, especially if it comes from a mission giver or a friend. That's because if a mission is given over the phone, it starts automatically. And you're only given a minor notice or warning to expect a call. So you might be ready to call it a session, and then you get a call and the mission starts, and you cannot
save. That's happened to me more than once.
I expect to finish this game in the next couple weeks, hopefully. After being sick a while, I think I can focus on it again.
Had some things to say about a couple demos I played today in lieu of GTA IV, but I'll hold off until tomorrow.