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The Many Doormen Of GTA IV

IGN's got a remarkably long Q&A up with some anonymous mouthpiece of the Rockstar hivemind, specifically detailing all the various copy protections and mandatory login guff next week's murder simulator will require to install and run. There will, it seems, be quite a few barriers between you and your hooker-killing; the internet will not be happy.

First, the DRM. Gentlemen, start your squealing:

GTA IV PC uses SecuROM for protecting our EXE... Product Activation is a one time only online authentication when installing the game. GTA IV has no install limits for the retail disc version of the game, and that version can be installed on an unlimited number of PCs by the retail disk owner.

Which seems about as reasonable as SecuROM gets, but of course there are those who object violently to its mere presence. A few weeks ago, the RPS inbox was stuffed with outraged mails about Fallout 3 employing some fairly gentle SecuROM variant that didn't, in practice, seem to impact installing or playing the thing at all; we didn't post about that because, well, what's to say? Similarly, there's no Spore-esque installation restriction madness here, just the brief inconvenience of it checking your install key online.

Much more worryingly, there's no offline activation option (e.g. a phone line) at all. If your PC isn't on the web, you need to track down an internet-connected PC from somewhere else to register/activate your game on your PC's behalf, via some as-yet unrevealed system. Could be annoying.

SecuROM will, I suspect, be the least of GTA's problems. Certainly, what bothers me more - what, if I'm honest, makes me impotently rage like a common AIM - is that GTA IV requires both the unloveable Games For Windows Live and a further app known as Rockstar Social Club. Both must be logged into for online play, and both lurk and nag even if you play only offline. Bypassing or removing either one means the game will not run. GFWL is a bitter we're getting used to swallowing now, and at least we know it does the Achievements thingy and multiplayer matchmaking. What isn't at all clear is what RSC really brings to the table in addition to GFWL, or a convincing justification for it being mandatory.

Furthermore, while GFWL only runs when GTA4 does, the Social Club is an external application, which runs outside of the game. As well as this potentially eating up system resources and leaving yet another icon in our overburdened system trays, it's heckuva lot of hoops to jump through just to play your game, no? Especially if you also throw in a Steam login, or whatever other digi-distribution app you might buy it through: that'll involve three seperate usernames and passwords. Ludicrous.

I've experienced these two systems first-hand, having played GTA IV PC for a review. I believe I'm not yet allowed to discuss it, but what I will say is that GFWL and RSC are not invisible systems by any measure. They certainly make their presence known. Let's hope their demands don't trip up our driving'n'killing shenanigans too much.

If, however, all these mandatory checks end up simply wasting our time rather than genuinely improving our GTA experience (and there is every chance yet they will be a force for good - e.g. RSC's neat video replay editing/sharing feature), then this will be a certain case of publisher paranoia and control-freakery causing them to treat their audience with contempt. Even at this stage, I strongly feel that Rockstar should patch the game to make RSC an option rather than a necessity. It might enable some cool stuff, but it's only going to annoy people who just want to play the singleplayer mode. We'll see how it all feels and what the community's reaction is next week, anyway.

Again, read the full q&a here.

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