There are obviously going to be problems with reviewing Grand Theft Auto IV on the PC, but we expected most of them to be raised by the fact that we’re essentially re-reviewing the same game again. We didn’t expect them to be a result of simply trying to get the game running.
Oddly though, the barriers that were thrown up when we first tried to play GTA IV weren’t anything to do with hardware issues or faulty drivers. They were thrown up by the huge amount of requirements that are bought up when you try to first install and then run the game.
Some of these requirements are understandable, like DirectX and Adobe Flash updates. Others are not, like having to install Rockstar Social Club so that it can have a constantly-running app on your system tray or that you have to create a Games for Windows Live login to be able to even play the game.
These things aren’t easily redeemed, despite how Rockstar has tried to ease it all by allowing players to link the Rockstar Social Club with Games for Windows Live accounts. The fact is that it’s just plain obvious that both Rockstar and Microsoft are using Grand Theft Auto IV PC as part of a greater plan to drive people onto Games for Windows Live and to gather gameplay data from players.
If it were just one or the other system in play here then we might not make that big a deal of it, admittedly. Fallout 3 featured Games for Windows Live too and we didn’t hate that, for example. The problem though is that there are just so many things with so little a benefit – SecuROM and Rockstar Social Club and Games for Windows Live? It’s too much.
And what benefit is there to offset it? Well, the only appreciable one from the player's perspective is that you’ll be able to save videos and upload them to Rockstar Social Club, play around with them and so on. There’s a community around the Rockstar Social Club and they’ll rate your videos and watch them and so on.
It’s nice if you want to use it and we approve of it on paper, but the problem is that it doesn’t honestly interest us all that much. It’s good for those people who want to use it, but we’re going to bet that the vast, vast majority don’t care. Those people still have to cope with constantly running bloatware and sign-ins though and It doesn’t seem entirely fair.
Equally baffling is the fact that the game has apparently swelled a bit since the Xbox 360 version. GTA IV PC comes on not one but two discs and requires a 16GB install as standard.
Speaking of requirements, it’s probably worth taking a look at the hefty minimum requirements for Grand Theft Auto IV PC too. The game requires a dual-core system for instance, either an Intel Core 2 Duo 1.8 GHz or an AMD Athlon X2 64 2GHz being the models quoted. You’ll also need 1.5GB of RAM as miminum, a 256 MB graphics card (an Nvidia GeForce 7900 or ATI Radeon X1900 or higher), plus an Internet connection.
On the plus side though, if you can meet all of those minimum requirements then you’re probably able to take advantage of some of the enhancements for 64-bit and multicore systems. Swings and roundabouts, eh?