Okay, I was going to wait and add this to a proper Monthly Musings post later this week after I (likely) finish the storyline in GTAIV, but I simply can't wait anymore. I need to get my hatred and frustration off my chest.
What could possibly make me throw a controller in frustration amidst the gameplay of the highest reviewed game ever? What aspect of the guaranteed GOTY could make me wanna slit a man's throat? I'll tell you what... relationships.
Now, I know a lot of people have talked a lot of shit about how annoying the relationships in IV often are, but honestly, I never had a problem with them up until about 2 minutes ago when a series of events TAKEN COMPLETELY OUT OF MY HANDS by the game initiated my utter loathing of the feature. Let me tell you my story, my story let me tell you it.
Now, as was previously stated, I actually liked the relationship feature in the game up until this following series of events. I thought they offered a nice distraction from the single player campaign and filled a boredom gap that used to be filled by the likes of pizza delivery, fire truck, ambulance missions, car customization, property buying, business profit gathering, etc. in older titles. Since IV lacks most of these side quests, I've found the relationships rather pleasant. Up until now.
I booted up IV this evening specifically to try and get my relationship level up with Packie. I've been neglecting to call the guy but really want his ability unlocked just to get it over with. I generally find that after you have a person's ability unlocked you don't have to call them because they call you, so you know when you're in need of hanging out with them to keep their levels up.
Duuuuuuuuuuuh... I'm a fucktard.
So I started playing and played a mission or two and decided it was time to give Packie a call. Now, his "like" level for me at this point was 77%, so I figured one or two more instances of hanging out and I'd unlock his ability. I proceeded to call him at 13:04 game time (1:00 in the afternoon) and he answered saying he was hungover from the night before and I should call back some time after 4:00 in the afternoon or 16:00 (the reason the game switches between military time and standard time telling is really fucking beyond me at this point). His "like" then dropped 15 whole percent for me calling him while he was sleeping. In the afternoon. Fuck me, but I guess that's partially my fault, but honestly? 15%? You serious, Rockstar?
So to kill time I went and found a speedboat so I could get the two water-based hidden jumps (fuck a spoiler warning on that). I found one and, literally RIGHT BEFORE I hit one of the jumps Packie calls me, I quick hit 'A' (I play on 360) to answer his call but the boat hits the jump and the cinematic FORCES ME TO HANG UP ON HIM. This results in another 4% drop in his "like" for me. Awesomesauce. I'm real jazzed about this at this point.
So then I get onto dry land and grab a car and call him right away to drink. He's psyched and really wants to go. Now, I landed my boat near Bohan so that I would be relatively close to his Ma's house. He tells me to "meet me at his place." Cool. Only, wait, this time "his place" is ACROSS THE FUCKING MAP on some random street corner. This means that I definitely won't make it there "within the hour." Double Mint Fresh Cool.
On my way to pick him up, as I'm speeding through traffic I get a call from the Paper Company dude telling me to meet someone (I'll hide as much as I can) to finish a mission I did like twenty minutes ago. Now, I decide to screw the mission and meet Packie, only when I get there, he DISAPPEARS from the corner he was standing on. The game FORCES ME to finish the mission. So, reluctantly, I drive across town, meet the guy, finish the mission. Bada bing bada boom.
I chalk up Packie disappearing to a glitch or anomaly in the game and call him back, only he doesn't answer his phone (it's the early evening again game-time by this point thanks to the mission taking so long). As I get out of my vehicle to look for a new one I get a text from Packie saying he "didn't know what happened to me, but it was real fucking uncool of me to stand him up like that." His like dropped a straight 20 fucking percent in an instant. Excuse me? All I wanted to do in-game for the past 25 minutes was hang out with the dude and instead I get dropped 39% in a matter of minutes? Fuck YOU, Rockstar.
This whole story brings up my major complaints with the relationship system. The first of course being the whole cinematic thing. I didn't hang up on the dude, the game did. Fuck that affecting my levels like that.
Second point, why the fuck does everyone expect you to meet them within a damn hour? It's mother fucking impossible to do because if you're too close to a person when you call, ya know, 'cause you were strategically choosing when to call, the game FORCES you to pick the person up in an area outside of a one minute drive EVERY time. That INSTANTLY drops their like for you when you pick them up. Shouldn't the time scale to a more reasonable amount depending on how far away you are? Like, make it a little challenging and force the player to drop what their doing and drive like a bat outta hell, sure, but give me one minute to cross two fucking islands? Screw you.
Hey, hello. What's up? Am I doing something? Yes, yes I am. What? Huh? You don't care? But... Fuck me? But... *click*
This brings me to my next point, that being the use of your date book in your phone. Fact is, you never fucking use the thing. I've been on one mission (I'm over 54% through the game) where you set a date and then in a day had to be somewhere specifically. Why is that everyone who calls you has to hang out with you RIGHT THEN? When you get called you either say, "Yes," and fail sprinting across town to meet them or you hang up and lose points automatically. Why is it not possible to request a day and time IN THE FUTURE when you could meet them and then have it added to your schedule in your datebook? That way, the player would strategically have to plan ahead and meet them appropriately, maybe even sometimes AT the place you want to meet instead of playing chauffeur all the fucking time, which would be FAR MORE realistic than somebody getting pissed at you for not being able to teleport like Nightcrawler upon their every whim and desire. Maybe they could even stand YOU up, adding frustration for sure, but make it quite a bit more realistic, which is somehow what they claim the system is currently, which is a blatant crock of shit.
In addition to all this, I have a general hatred for the system when I am on a date with one person and get a call from another. The same 'yes/no' mechanic applies, which means I ditch one person or lose points with another. I believe that if I'm in the middle of a mission or date with someone else there should be a legitimate 'I'm doing something, forgive me' option that would not drop your levels with the person. I mean, let's face it, we've all been delivering a package or tailing a dirty cop and had Roman request to go see some BEEG AMERICAN TEETEES or something. If I'm in the middle of a legit mission or sidequest, I want the game to recognize it and not rape me for it.
So, that is my rant. I have officially joined the party of people who condemn Rockstar for including such a shitty gameplay mechanic into their magnum opus title. Now, do I think relationships could work in future titles? Sure, even just my four basic fixes, if implemented, could make the system that much more forgiving, enjoyable, and realistic, but there are certainly more ways in which to improve upon the experience.