OPINION: The story of GTA IV and Fallout 3 – Why GTA IV Sucks and F3 rocks?

Ever since PC piracy got out of hand, and developers begun their exodus to the safety of multiplatform world, there was a distinct difference between developers that spent time in optimizing for platforms and releasing games that work like a charm, and developers who made conversions that would work slower on a ninja-PC than on performance-limited Xbox or PlayStation.

The story of Rockstar Games and Bethesda Softworks is a story of two development teams that switched positions. I played The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind and Oblivion on both PC and Xbox 1/360, and I remember that gameplay was always crisp-smooth on the PC (Morrowind was played on P4 2.4@3.36 GHz +Radeon9700Pro, Oblivion was C2 QX6800 + 8800GTX) and not so smooth on consoles. Those marvelous outdoors would stutter on some occasions, and overall, you could see that it was a cut-down PC conversion.

On the other hand, Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City rocked even on slower computers, and the game was a dream conversion – plays great on consoles, plays great on PCs, even the weaker ones. A buddy of mine played GTA III and Vice City on Duron 650@750, 1 GB of RAM and ATI Radeon 9500Pro – and it worked like a charm.

But when the time came for Fallout 3 versus Grand Theft Auto IV, the tide turned. Fallout 3 plays perfectly smooth on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and any decent PC out there.  Just for kicks, I am playing in 1920×1200, 8xAA/16xAF on AMD Phenom 9950 2.6 GHz, 2GB GeIL DDR2-800 CL3 and a single Palit GeForce GTX 280 1GB. I also tried ATI Radeon 4870X2 in the same machine, and the game works like a charm with 16xAA/16xAF (2GB GDDR5 makes wonders).
A friend of mine runs the game on Intel Core 2 Duo E8500, 4GB Corsair DDR2-800 and Palit GeForce 9800GX2. Folding@Home runs all the time, and the game works in 1680×1050 with 16xAF.

But with the release of the PC version of GTA IV, the internet exploded with comments from people that had horrifying problems with the (in)stability of the game. More fuel to the fire was added by Rockstar themselves, with company reps being caught saying “high level of setting is reserved for upcoming hardware generations”.
All would be fine if there wasn’t for the fact that the game works more stable on my Phenom+GTX280 system than on Core i7+4870X2 QuadFire. So, if next-gen CPU, 4GB of DDR3 emory and four GPUs with 4GB of GDDR5 memory and aggregate bandwidth of 225 GB/s (yes, much more than SRAM cache in any of the CPUs on the market) is not considered enough for “getting high (details 😉 )”, then something is fishy.

My dear Rockstar, I would say nothing, absolutely nothing if you created a game that looks like real, with utterly brilliant graphics, real physics, if you had made a game that looks like OTOY’s Ruby demo or their real-time Transformers videos (in case you wondered, teaser trailers for the Transformers movie were made in real-time using Radeon 2900XT 1GB).

So, did we got Real-Traced game that chokes on Radeon 4870X2 adn GTX280? Nope, we got a conversion based on multi-platform engine designed for PlayStation 3. Playstation 3 is nothing more than Cell CPU plus GeForce 7900, thus, GeForce 8800/Radeon 3800 equipped system should see this game fly in FullHD resolution.
But sadly, that is not the case, and here is where I have to use harsh, M-rated language. You see, in my personal and professional view, GTA IV looks like s**t compared to Unreal Tournament 3, Race Driver GRID, Crysis, Crysis Warhead, Fallout 3, Far Cry 2 and the list goes on. Trees in the game don’t look any better than original Far Cry, and Far Cry came out almost half a decade ago! I love GTA world, played GTA III, Vice City, IV Hot Coffee and so on and so on. I paid over 200 bucks for Collector’s versions of these games, but today, I feel robbed.

You’re accusing PC hardware vendors of not having powerful enough hardware, and at the same time you did not delivered anything else but a pathetic effort on conversion to PC Platform. This is where any person that shelved out 50-60 bucks (or worse, Euro) for a game should feel robbed because the developer decided not to spend resources in optimizing for the platform, but decided to shift the blame and basically, treat you like an idiot. You are not an idiot for having a PC or a powerful PC – give kudos where kudos is due. UT3 works in 30-40fps on GeForce 8600-based system with all the bells and whistles, and in well-above 100 fps on 8800GTX, yet alone on 2007 and 2008-class hardware. Why Gears of War work on both PC and Xbox 360 like a blast? Because developers worked their behinds off on making the game run. Any PC with higher-end components produced from 2006 onwards is more than capable of eating GTA IV for breakfast, if there wasn’t for broken code and sloppy work on developer’s side.

There are two types of developers – ones with their heads above the ground, and ones whose heads should be above the ground, but they’re busting their balls/ovaries to make the game work great on most affordable hardware, yet alone high-end one. Fallout 3 was worth my money. GTA IV sadly, failed completely and the game is not worth before it ends up in bargain bin – by that time, who knows, Rockstar may even learn how to optimize the game on PC. Let’s hope that a combination of a game from bargain bin and DX11-class hardware will be enough to power this game with decent framerate.

Somebody just got a nice X-mas present, because it is certain that I don’t want to have this game in my 400-title strong games collection. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…

P.S. Yes, I know that the game is getting a big patch. But a big patch is not enough when you delay the release of the game from November to December to fix those bugs and “optimize the gaming experience” – followed by a delayed release of something that still looks like it needs 2-3 months of work. Half-baked jobs ain’t cut any more. For premium money, you need to deliver premium content.