Thursday, May 01, 2008
Please do not read this angry rant
Let me say, at the outset, that I had several good reasons for choosing to take home the PlayStation 3 version of Grand Theft Auto IV, rather than the Xbox 360 version. My PS3 is hooked up to a 26" widescreen, while the 360 is connected to a 20", standard-ratio computer monitor. I just got a Dual Shock 3 last weekend and I wanted to give it a whirl. Shockingly, I have more real-life friends with PS3s than 360s, and I wanted to play with them. And since Rockstar sent one of each to the Phoenix, if I took the PS3 version then my friend at the office could take home the 360 one. All things being equal, it would have been silly of me not to take the PS3 copy.
But all things are not equal.
The ludicrous amount of pre-install time was bad enough. I was willing to put up with it because it was a one-time deal. I am less willing to overlook a non-existent multiplayer mode. For two days running, selecting the multiplayer option has resulted in an error message. I am not alone in having this problem. It seems to be the rule, rather than the exception, for PS3 owners. The biggest game of the year, as shipped, is broken in a big way.
This may not be the game's fault, per se. In fact, it probably isn't. I don't know how the multiplayer archiecture is set up for PlayStation 3 games, but my understanding is that it's not centrally constructed as Xbox Live is (please enlighten me in comments, if you know). Whether this outage is Sony's doing, or Gamespy's, or Rockstar's, or whoever's, it's inexcusable. Was the server load a surprise? Didn't they test this? Didn't they plan for it? How does this happen?
This shows, once again, why early reviews are suspect. Currently, the PlayStation 3 version of Grand Theft Auto IV has a Metacritic score of 100. 100! A perfect aggregate score! And a major component of it doesn't work! (Exclamation points!) Not one of those reviewers had to grapple with the real-world experience of trying to play this game on the PlayStation 3. Their reviews do not reflect the game that was shipped.
Maybe once this gets fixed, the quality of the multiplayer will be enough to make us forgive this little episode. Or maybe, in the rush to anoint TEH BEST GAME EVAR, we're giving ourselves permission to overlook crucial things like poor controls, suspect environmental interaction, and non-existent online functions. This game is fun, and the mission structure is devious in the way it keeps you playing much longer than you intended. I just can't believe amid the flurry of breathless previews and reviews, it never came up until people had already spent their money on the game that it didn't so much work.
But hey, it's Grand Theft Auto! Quit being such a contrarian.