So many things about this post I agree with so let's break it down:
I really hate it when someone who complains about GTA IV's physics gets accused of being a bad driver.
Fanboyism, pure and simple. I will say, though, that there are definitely some people who don't like what they aren't good at and were never able to get a handle on the more fastidious physics of IV's driving. But I never had a problem excelling at driving in that game, even though I haven't played it in over ten years.
I will say that out of sheer boredom I downloaded the Episodes on Steam for like 5 bucks lol. And all over again, I was struck by how horrible the driving is on that game engine. Though admittedly, I have only played some of TLaD so far. But I can say this: The driving is absolutely no fun at all. BUT it is not difficult and I am not having a problem with it. While I don't remember the specifics of IV's driving, and assume some tweaks were made for the Episodes, I am guessing it is similar across the board. The one saving grace I remember about IV's driving AND I see the same is true for TLaD at least, is that the physics is so God awful that the AI actually has more trouble with it than the player does! lol
Using me as an example, yesterday I passed 10 of the 12 bike races first try, and used the Seagull reward bike to do it. The other two races that initially gave me a little trouble were the ones on sand by the water, but once I ditched the Innovation bike and snagged a Bati 800, I beat them both first try. Like I said, the driving sucks, but at least Rockstar had the decency to make sure the AI sucks worse than most players in both the races and all the missions where you have to drive and shoot against AI or get away from them. Even the cops can't drive for sh*t in the game, so it makes evading wanted levels easy. Boring as f*ck, but easy.
Edit: In fact, from this standpoint, the driving missions in V are actually HARDER! As are the races. Certainly out driving the cops, while not "hard" is much, much harder in V than in IV or TLaD. In V, the cops actually can drive, and drive well. And I believe this is a function of the fact that the driving is so easy, so the AI ends up having an easy time against you. This may also explain, in part, why cops are so easily able to ram you and fly at you in games like GTA III. Because the handling is much better overall, so the AI can also drive straighter, too. Though lol in GTA III the AI also cheats, but that is another conversation.
First of all, they're not realistic!
No, they are absolutely not realistic. But, let's be honest for a second: Even though they aren't realistic, clearly realism was absolutely Rockstar's intent. Yes, they failed miserably, both in making the driving fun and in making it realistic. But in Rockstar's defense, GTA is a game that has a crazy amount of things to do (well, not IV, but most GTA games). So my theory is that driving is only meant to be a part of the entirety of the game, not the whole ball of wax. Unlike racing SIMs like Gran Turismo and Forza, where driving is close to 100% of the game, at least the gameplay part of the game, Rockstar's attempt at realism was all that can reasonably be expected from them, since they had other things to concentrate on, like making a sandbox, missions, on foot, weapons, side activities, collectibles, and story. As empty and lifeless as GTA IV is as a sandbox game compared to other GTA games, even IV still has a huge amount of other stuff besides driving.
So what this means to us is that unlike the creators of racing SIM's, whose titles live and die by their precision realism, GTA games cannot have their devs spend the kind of crazy time on the driving physics as they have to split their coding and dev time out into a huge sandbox. So even though you are essentially correct that IV's driving isn't realistic, it was meant to be, at least as realistic as ROckstar could make the game without focusing all their attention on only that gameplay element. At least that's my hypothesis anyway.
Houser even sort of confirmed this in interviews back in '08, when he proclaimed that IV's driving was supposed to be realistic, and I take him at his word.
Maybe in comparison to the 3d era, but not to any sim I could name. In real life, people can drift cars without losing control most of the time. In real life, cars don't behave like they're hydroplaning on completely dry road.
Definitely! And, yes, as I said above, realism in comparison to the 3D era is what I am sure Houser meant and what the devs were trying to accomplish. One more thing on the driving. The inherent problems with IV and the Episodes is not just the constant hydroplaning like both roads and tires were collectively made of ice. That can be compensated for by just driving a lot slower, which I was able to do and I did just fine in IV ten years ago, and why I am doing well in TLaD now.
But the problems go deeper than "slidey cars." Again, I don't remember IV as well, but I can tell you that, not only are the cars in TLaD prone to act like an air hockey puck if you're not careful, but they also feel really "spongy." I am not sure if that's the right word for it, but the turning and the lane changing feel oddly unresponsive. Which is a strange contradiction of itself in a way, since sliding would seem to make the cars want to turn. Too much, in fact, which is why we call it sliding.
But what I am talking about now is that once you adapt to the slidey cars and can stop falling victim to hydroplaning all over the road like an ice skater with no edge on his blades, you realize that the cars don't even really turn very well at lower speeds. That is something I didn't remember from IV, but I am finding with the bikes in TLaD, as well as the cars. With the bike races, I am noticing that when I drive slow enough to not slide all over the place, the bikes don't quite respond the way I would expect them to for turns. They seem to either slide all over the place when going too fast, or are poorly responsive to turns when going slower. Like I said, they feel "spongy" to me. That's the only way I can think to describe them.
The way I was able to easily beat all the bike races was to not try to brake during turns, and instead brake early, and I just slowed down. I also find myself compensating for the spongy feeling of turns by using the handbrake lightly and initiating a turn just a little sooner than I would for games with better driving physics than this.
In some of the races, I found them easy enough where I felt plenty confident, so I wanted to see how the AI was able to handle the bikes. So I would let them in front of me and hang a little behind the pack so I could watch. Sure enough, they were either sliding all over the road, crashing into one another or AI traffic, slamming into walls or other obstacles, over-steering, or completely missing turns that it kind of looked like the riders were trying to make but couldn't quite get the bikes to respond properly. Even letting them ahead to watch them drive, beating them was still easy once I decided to reclaim 1st place.
You don't want to acknowledge GTA IV's inherently flawed driving physics, so you accuse the people who don't like them of being bad at driving because you don't have any real arguments, so a cheap ass "Git gud" retort is all you have.
This has been a staple of IV fanboys for over 10 years now. Attack people who don't like something without knowing anything about their skill level. Just assume they must suck and that is the basis of all complaints.
You know what? I may not be the best. I am sure if I tried to compete online, there would be plenty of way better drivers in both IV and TLaD. But I am pretty good and had no trouble back then or now in keeping my wheels on the ground and my cars/bikes going in a straight line.
GTA V didn't get it perfect either, in that game it feels like every car had it's suspension tuned to compete in the WEC, but it was still fun. GTA IV was fun when you wanted extra slidey drifting, and sucked for every other kind of driving because you had to constantly fight the stupidly high oversteer of the cars and the apparent invisible ice on the roads at all times. The only cars in real life that drive like that are f1 cars from the 50's, and cars from 2008 definitely have more modern suspensions than a lotus 49.
True. But as I said above, defending Rockstar's coding for IV's driving, the same applies here. I love the driving in V. NOT because it is perfect. Clearly it isn't. But V is an incredibly jam-packed, awesome, immersive, amazing sandbox. A sandbox where driving is only one, small part of the overall game. TO me, the BEST driving was in Midnight Club 2 and 3. But that is personal taste as I am NOT a realism junkie anyway. Also, other than some customizing, driving is the whole thing in Midnight Club.
You can use the "You just weren't SKILLED enough" argument all you want, but at the end of the day, not only were the physics unrealistic to a degree, but they caused trouble for a lot of people. I got used to them. I even got used to drifting with them. But that doesn't mean they're good. And "Git gud" holds no water as an argument, okay? This is a friggin' video game people play for fun, not a military aptitude test. Stop being an elitist prick.
My explanation for the driving in IV (and so far the Episodes) is that it isn't very hard to get used to and be good at, BUT it also isn't fun. To me, that's IV's driving in a nutshell. "Not hard, but also no fun at all."