One line summary at request of Osho: Fondness and preference (IV) versus technical superiority (V):
Ok, this subject has been banded around a lot, I’ve discussed in other posts, but I thought I’d summarise my opinion on the merits of IV versus V, and also observations on other views I’ve seen floating around the forum.
Let me first start by saying that I think a lot of other opinions here are rather extreme. A lot of people either seem to love IV and hate V, or vice versa. I think sometimes we do this subconsciously, because a polarising statement is a more effective way of starting a debate – it provokes a reaction, even if in a relatively gentle way.
I’m going to stick my neck out and say I like both games. Neither are perfect, I will say what I think is good and bad about each. I do have a view on which is the best game, and I do have a favourite. I will consider aspects of both Single Player and Multiplayer for each – whilst GTA Online may have been branded separately, and may spawn a life cycle of its own, it is currently free with GTA V and Los Santos is the only setting, so right now, I view the two as one and the same game.
I will begin by considering the plot and the characters in single player. V has come in for a lot of criticism from stalwart IV fans in terms of its plot and characters. I really enjoyed the sagas of Niko, Johnny and Luis (N, J, L), but I really don’t get how some people say that the three new protagonists Michael, Franklin, and Trevor (M, F and T) weren’t as well developed. I have to say I disagree totally. The IV gang weren’t wooden, but our V trio to me were more like real people. N, J and L were all quite rational in their reactions to circumstances (with a few notable exceptions). M, F and T felt like real criminals because they were more flawed. Trevor’s psychotic nature was given more a background with his abandonment issues, notably by his Mother and then by Michael. Michael himself, whilst being a clear organiser and leader in a combat situation clearly lacked emotional intelligence, visible in his relationship with his family and Trevor. Franklin whilst not being dumb is the new boy and whilst trying to do the right thing has a more naïve outlook to begin with.
So V’s protagonists for me felt more developed and more real. However, IV introduced a much wider supporting cast, and I would argue had a richer variety of characters in this area than V. In fact, V is predominantly supported by borrowing some of these from IV. I thought this was great, and worked well, but if you took these out, V did not really introduce as many new great characters besides the protagonists themselves, in my opinion. V also did not have a bad guy of the stature of Dimitri Rascalov, and I can’t see many people arguing with that.
The other area where IV is ahead for me on single player is simply that it is longer. V was too short for me, it needed more missions, although I think the quality is slightly better on average than its predecessor. I think some people confuse this with feeling the characters are underdeveloped in V. I don’t think that’s the case, we may feel more attached to Niko because he goes through more with us in the story, but that is not because he is a more complex, fleshed out character than M, F or T.
There are other reasons I see why people didn’t like V. I’ve noticed a strong correlation between those who prefer IV were also fans of TLAD but less so of TBOGT. There’s the style of the atmosphere, but also the action in TBOGT is more explosive/over-the-top (delete according to your view), and more similar to the V missions. Also JK fans were always going to react badly to “Mr Philips” – I found it quite shocking at the time and wondered if it would put me off playing as T. My view is though this shouldn’t detract from the game. All our protagonists are fundamentally bad people, who will all most likely come to a nasty end at some point.
If I move on to multiplayer, V is definitely more varied, and the sheer amount of different things to do keeps you entertained for a long time. However, do any of the activities on their own compare to the classics of Team Mafiya work and Cops ‘n Crooks? I would argue not. The latter is where my unashamed bias comes in Cops ‘n Crooks All for One was simply awesome if you had two teams who knew what they were doing. You really had to work together to win, and the reward co-operation and co-ordinating was so satisfying. I’ve played and Platinmumed V on the PS3 with some of my old CnC friends who migrated from the PC, and while it was great fun, it honestly didn’t reach the same heights. I also think they really messed up with the cash card system. It feels like the economy is to geared to encourage you buy these, with mission payouts seriously crippled following multiple updates. I do however like the idea of continual character progression – I just don’t think they’ve nailed it yet.
So, what’s my verdict?
Let me put it like this. My Football team is Coventry City (please don’t laugh). I love them because they are my team, and I would rather watch them than Barcelona. However, it would be plain daft for me to refuse to acknowledge that Barcelona are a more technically skilled team, and if City aren't playing, a Champions League match would still be an entertaining prospect.
It is the same for GTA. I think IV is my favourite (Cops ‘n Crooks and the longer stories swing it), and it probably always will be. However, whatever my preference, I don’t think I can refuse to acknowledge V is technically a better game. It has a bigger, detailed, more real feeling city, with more vehicles, people models, better graphics and is a step forward in many respects. Hopefully VI will combine the best of both (and maybe they’ll add CnC to V!)