GTA IV PC: Screwing up the big way

GTA IV was recently launched for PC (finally, 8 months later than the console versions).

Loving playing on my PC, and having a 30" more-than-full-hd monitor means I try to buy PC games instead of 360 ones whenever possible (native 2560x1600 plus mouse+keyboard is unbeatable), so I wen't for the PC version.

And what a mistake I did... The game is so full of problems it is the first time I actually recommend getting the 360 version instead...

First, the most apparent failure, tweaks and hacks of drivers. After a +12GB, 2 DVDs and looong install, registering to "Social Club" and updating drivers, Live for Windows and Social Club launch app, this is the first thing I see:

Fantastic, I have an invisible car! And the city is in ghost mode too :)

Official statement is "remove all drivers from the system, run some third party cleaning tool and reinstall latest drivers". Which means, uninstall NVidia display drivers, run Driver Sweeper in safe mode and clean remains (I assure you there are ;) restart, reinstall latest drivers, and finally...

I think this game deserves at least the 2008 Most buggy PC game of the year award. Advertised as improved, delayed a lot respecting console versions, not any cool extras (extra missions or similar stuff)... all to get one of the most graphic problematic games I've seen in years. Bioshock had a small bug causing random crashes and in two days it was patched and working perfectly; with GTA IV I've had to wait 3 weeks until I've finally seen textures correctly.

Achievement system in PC is broken too. While in Fallout 3 is working perfectly, in GTAIV PC it simply doesn't works. I have some unlocked (played offline, with gamepad), and they just don't appear, neither locally on the game or remotely on the Live account. Looks like they have screwed the configuration mapping, because I see different results whenever I'm orline or not and I use 360 controller or keyboard+mouse.

An example of how messy the whole process is, updating the game (happened just today):

  1. Launch "Rockstar Games Social Club"
  2. Wait for the App to self-update
  3. Login (does not remember my password if I played offline last time, why?)
  4. Click Play
  5. Wait until the game loads an logins to Live for Windows
  6. Say yes to apply the Live for Windows available game update
  7. Wait for the download & ┬┐install?
  8. nooo, it was a false alarm, now goes back to windows and UAC prompts to apply a xxx.tmp update (game update we have to assume)
  9. Game auto-restarts and logins again everywhere
  10. Finally you can really click "play" and play!

A funny thing is the big "UX FAIL!" issue of graphic options. The game by default (you have to create a dumb txt file to override it and place config options on it, and then you will loose any change made ingame) restricts a lot your resolution and graphic options (something like 1600x1200 on a 2560x1600 capable monitor) and sets up badly the configuration (and as sadly usual, doesn't detects my SLI properly, so I have "768 available video RAM" instead of the total 1,5GB) * .

You can perfectly increase the values... except that next time you run the game it will be again on the previous ones... unless you use the mentioned txt file.

And, the "View Distance" option...

Rockstar says on consoles it was set to 10. On really high-end PCs sets to something between 20 and 25. But allows values up to 100. So logically, everybody at internet is accusing rockstar of a bad tunning/porting of the game "because nobody can set it up to the maximum quality".

Dear Rockstar people, if something is impossible to achieve right now (play with a 100 on the bar), reduce it to real values! You can always release a patch later allowing [1,100] range, while leaving right now a [1,25] will get everybody more satisfied.

Game runs now quite smooth on PC and looks great, but of course I can't setup any value to the maximum.

So, "improved for PC" Rockstar says?

Yeah, I really believe you it is that and not "waited until all console sales are done, and then release a crappy pc port".

Next time I hear the "piracy problems on PC" I will remember "this incredible experience" of GTA IV. At least the game is great once you solve or get used to all it's problems.

It is "fantastic" to have lost a couple of hours of my life just to make this game work (and still has flaws...). Next GTA won't be on my PC Games buy list, for sure.

* : Michael told me I was wrong with the SLI, VRAM is not doubled as each card does it's own processing of frames.

: Even if I believe them with the "PC is visually better than consoles" speech, the game looks as not very polished for PCs. Looks more as if they just created a graphic options submenu to allow everybody to adapt them, but not spent time in actually optimizing code for PC.

Posted by Kartones on 2008-12-23


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