When it comes to ranking my favorite franchises - not single games, but franchises as a whole - I have no hesitation in putting GTA at the top of my list. As far as the games in the GTA franchise, though, it's not so cut and dried; all of them have their charms, even if the last-gen games are dated. Still, when I have to think about it, GTA4 is my favorite, even though I tend to think about San Andreas the most.
Anyway. This post is only kinda about GTA4. My weekend was spent with a bunch of new and semi-new 360 titles: Mercs 2, Tiger 09, Tales of Vesperia, Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise, and Infinite Undiscovery.
Infinite Undiscovery is intriguing, but underwhemling. Between IU and ToV, IU has better graphics and a better battle system, as well as a stupid story, stupid characters, a noticeable lack of music, and some rough edges.
Viva Pinata feels like an expansion pack, but that's not necessarily a bad thing; I did like the first game a great deal. If anything, my problem with the new VP is that there's too much stuff going on at once, and keeping up with managing everything is more frustrating than challenging. The game does a very nice job of showing you how everything works, and then, suddenly, there's a zillion species that I'm trying to get organized, and most of them have romance or resident requirements that entail getting stuff that I've never seen. Most annoyingly, you get a size increase at level 11; I stopped being able to deal with everything at level 10. I'm not sure that a moderate size increase would have helped me, though.
I made a tactical error in Tiger 09, which is going to haunt me for the rest of the year. I've decided to abandon the Tiger Challenge and simply play the PGA Tour mode, and since my character is a bad-ass and I've set all the tournaments to one round, I've been breezing along. However, I decided to skip one particular low-paying tournament to go straight to a high-paying Major, and after I did so I realized that even if I won every remaning tournament, I'd miss out on one particular Trophy Ball, and thus an Achievement, and that my time-saving choice will actually ultimately mean that I have to play through the entire Tour AGAIN.
I finished the first "dungeon" in Tales of Vesperia; I'm still on the fence about it, although I'm not as quick to return it as I was for Infinite Undiscovery. Not quite sure what it is about that game that isn't resonating with me.
And as for Mercs 2... I'm done with it. Mercs 2 is actually why I decided to get back into GTA4 and go for 100%; I have little patience for bullshit, and Mercs 2 is chock full of bullshit. But even beyond the many design flaws, the technical issues and the stupid story, the thing that finally killed it for me was the in-game advertising. Yesterday I was stuck re-doing a mission that kept going wrong at the last minute, and I happened to look up and saw a movie poster for the new DeNiro/Pacino movie that's coming out. Why a Hollywood movie would be playing in war-torn Venezuela is beyond me, especially since I haven't seen any movie theaters in any of the cities, but more to the point, it was proof that EA felt it was more important to get in-game signage working than to fix all the other problems that game has. The first game generated a lot of good will - it was a GTA clone, sure, but it was striving to do more than just exist as an easy cash-in; it had its own identity and it executed on its vision exceedingly well. Mercs 2, on the other hand, does feel like a cash-in; it feels unfinished, unpolished and, most depressingly, it feels like it was designed by corporate suits instead of game developers.
It was my frustration with everything that Mercs 2 was doing wrong that got me back into GTA4, as a matter of fact, and now I'm back in love with it, if for no other reason than GTA4 understands that RIGHT TRIGGER = GAS and LEFT TRIGGER = BRAKE. Mercs 2 commits many sins, but none greater than fucking up the driving controls and not giving an option to customize them; it took me too long to get used to the Mercs 2 controls, and then it took me a while to un-learn them and get used to doing things the right way in GTA4. Which is ridiculous, considering how much time I've spent with GTA4. DAMN YOU, Mercs 2, for fucking that up.