Tag Archives: Grand Theft Auto IV

Well met, Landsmeet

After finishing up my latest review for The First Hour last night, I switched on the ol’ Xbox 360 and to my better judgment…did not play Grand Theft Auto IV. C-c-c-combo breaker!

Instead, I loaded up Dragon Age: Origins, which I had previously taken a break from because the game itself seemed to be at a perfect spot for break-taking. That is, moments before the Landsmeet was to gather and discuss what Ferelden should do about the darkspawn threat, who should be king/queen, and whether or not Loghain is guilty of his purported crimes. Reviews said this was a crucial moment in Dragon Age: Origins, with the potential of game-changing results, meaning party members might up and leave (or worse) depending on what actions you, the Grey Warden, take. Not something you walk into lightly.

Spoilers to follow, readers.

So, with some trepidation, I started the Landsmeet. This was set up like a town hall meeting, with all the different delegates standing around, shouting their claims and strategies. Loghain very quickly enters to try to sway support his way, but the Grey Warden proves to be a thorn in his side. Your goal is to get more votes of support than Loghain. Depending on what sidequests you’ve done, different options come up. I first decided to rat out Loghain’s misuse of elves in the Alienage, upsetting the nobles tremendously. But then I mentioned Alistair and how, seeing that he’s Maric’s kid, should be the rightful king. This didn’t work out well. Eventually, support swayed my way, and Loghain rebeled. I fought him myself in a one-on-one duel, allowing Alistair to lop the turncoat’s head off. Alas, this moment was ruined by the fact that the sound effects of a sword swinging, blood gushing, and viewers gasping were off by three to five seconds. Way to go, beta testers.

But then I had to pick who should be Ferelden’s new ruler, and since Alistair would not stop whining about how he didn’t want it–despite getting both Anora and Alistair to agree to wed and rule in unison–I passed the torch along to her alone. It’s not like she’d want to marry her father’s murderer now. This isn’t the Lifetime channel after all.

So, other than Loghain’s demise, which was not a super shock considering his villainy persistance, the Landsmeet did not surprise me like I thought it would. Nothing terribly dramatic or party-shattering happened. I guess I just made the best decisions and did enough vote-swaying sidequests to make it easier to get Loghain tossed aside. Oh well. It’s done now, and the final battle approaches. Too bad I still have some sidequests to do before heading back to Redcliffe…

Also, I simply love the name and artwork for the Achievement unlocked after the Landsmeet is over:

Rabble-Rouser (20G): Completed “The Landsmeet”

BioWare obviously cares about Achievements. And not just having them, but giving them attention and detail. The Mass Effect series has Achievement artwork that looks like medals or badges earned from military service, and the ones for Dragon Age: Origins so far are like ancient relics forged by the Maker himself. Simply astounding. I don’t think there’s any other company out there currently that puts this much effort into e-peen things that ping. Kudos to them!

Admitting to videogame rage

I think it’s official: Grand Theft Auto IV makes me videogame rage. Not like this or this, mind you, but it seriously gets on my nerves and even has gotten me uttering phrases like “Oh come on!” and “Fuuuuck!” when alone in my apartment. That’s not a good sign. Just ask my neighbors.

Last night, I spent 40 minutes on a single mission–it’s called “Museum Piece” and it involves escaping a museum heavy with enemies and then avoiding further detection from them once outside in the public park–and then failed thanks to unclear directions. Inside the mansion, I meticulously took out every goon shooting a gun my way, a process which took some patience and a lot of crouching.  I’d already previously failed the mission for running blindly around a corner and was not going to let that happen yet again. But it was worth it because I had a full thing of body armor still and was ready to venture outside.

So I exited the park in hopes of hi-jacking a car for getaway purposes. My original ride got blown to bits from a tossed grenade. I don’t get three steps across the street before two black cars zoom by and run me over. As Niko slowly gets to his feet after this traumatic event two goons pump shotgun blasts into him. Body armor and health vanish instantly.

When you die, you are revived back at the hospital and pay a small fee. Not only that, but all the ammo I used on the mission is gone, as well as that 40 minutes of my time. I can restart via a text message or reload to at least get my ammo back. Neither option sounds appetizing after all that worthless work.

Seeing as I’ve done several posts on GTA IV and my hating on it, some might be wondering why I keep playing. It’s simple. I’m a masochist. Also, I bought the game with hard-earned money (eh, it was $12.00 used)  so I might as well experience it.

Honestly, I’ve never griped about so much in a single game before. I could go on for days about GTA IV‘s faults. For instance, why did Rockstar design the Xbox 360 controls to be horrible? You press Y to steal a vehicle, but if you want to say take a tour or cab ride…you hold Y. But if you don’t press it down hard and fast enough, guess what? You just stole a helicopter and taxi cab when you were just trying to play the game. Fun, fun, fun dumb. Why not instead, just like when you want to buy a hot dog or soda, press the left bumper? WHY NOT?!

I enjoy Liberty City’s openess and the sandbox potential, but maybe I just have to take off the blinders and see GTA IV for what it is: not a game for me. The mission structure and harshness of lost time, money, and bullets for failure is just too punishing. Maybe Saint’s Row is more up my alley?

Things I’ve yet to do in some videogames

Videogames, if we’re lucky, are full of things to do. Main missions, side quests, collecting items like coins or flags or severed heads, Easter eggs, mini-games, and so on. I realized the other day though that for some games from my collection–games I’ve played for many, many hours–there’s at least one thing I’ve yet to even try…or experience. For certain gamers, these missed elements are probably really big deals…

Fallout 3 – Find Dogmeat and use him/her as a companion

To be honest, I’ve never used a companion in Fallout 3 unless the quest required me to do so. Both of my playthroughs at this point have been very ninja-like, requiring me to slink around corners and slip through darkness with skill and silence. Bringing a dog with me would be like inviting a marching band along. I’ve yet to even go to the junkyard and get the chance to dismiss this puppy. Many tout the beast as a literal beast, a fighting tank at your side that, so long as you keep him alive, is just brutal and powerful and your BFF. I know I’d get him killed in a split so it’s best just not to even go after him. The only Dogmeat I’ve seen at this point is the kind I loot off fallen Super Mutants.

Grand Theft Auto IV – Purchase a hooker

I think I might have done this once in Grand Theft Auto 3: Vice City, just to see what it was like. I suspect I wasn’t terribly impressed, and then ran her over to get my money back. In GTA IV, I don’t even know where to look for hookers. They were much less subtle in previous iterations, and I’m always too busy trying to go from mission to mission to slow down and have some fun. Rather eat a hot dog than have my hot dog eaten, if y’know what I’m saying.

Pokemon HeartGold – Breed my very own pocket monster

Every message board/forum I come across for Pokemon talks fervently about breeding these little guys/gals into perfect babies. I don’t know what they’re talking about because I have yet to figure out how to do this. I guess it’s something that happens after you beat all the gyms? I’m on the eighth of the first set of gyms at the moment.

Having not done these things has certainly not taken away any enjoyment from the above games (well, not that I really enjoy GTA IV all that much). I’ve just not found time to fit them into my gaming schedule…

Niko Bellic, the jerkiest jerk that ever jerked

Niko Bellic: Life is complicated. I… I never thought I’d live like this.
Ileyna Faustin: No?
Niko Bellic: When the war came, I did bad things, but after the war I thought nothing of doing bad things. I killed people, smuggled people, sold people.
Ileyna Faustin: And you don’t worry about your soul?
Niko Bellic: After you walk into a village and you see 50 children, all sitting neatly in a row, against a church wall, each with their throats cut and their hands chopped off, you realize that the creature that could do this doesn’t have a soul.

I really do loathe him. How could someone not? The above passage–so far–is about as honest and human as Niko gets, and even then it’s not saying much. See, we’re supposed to feel bad for the 30-year-old mysterious ex-soldier pursuing “the American dream” in Liberty City, but with each subsequent mission it becomes harder and harder to take him for more than anything but a cartoony videogame avatar controlled by us to explore a city, shoot people in the face, and generally cause havoc. He is not real. He is that creature without a soul.

Some seem to think Niko’s a real charmer. Especially every girl he dates. Must be heroin in the soda. All I see is cynicism and a down-to-business attitude, which would not be the worst thing in the world…y’know, if said business was not extreme violence. He came to Liberty City to see his cousin Roman for a better life, and now he’s all tangled up in a dozen different plots, all full of murder and betrayal and heartbreak. Boo hoo. He could stop at any point. Really, there’s enough Internet cafes and TV shows to keep him busy 9 to 5. But he doesn’t because, and I’m paraphrasing here, “I need the money, and I’m good at what I do.”

That is, being Mr. Jerk.

It’s not like other protagonists for Grand Theft Auto haven’t been cruel and unkind. It’s just that this one is unwilling to be anything else. Even his chuckling is malevolent.

I suspect I’m halfway through Grand Theft Auto IV now. It’s kind of hard to tell, especially since I haven’t had a Roman-centric mission in awhile. I’m guessing those are more of the main storyline ilk while everything else I’ve been doing is like side missions and BS time. I’m trying to complete the game as straightforward as possible, saving all the silly exploration and stunt jumps for later. I’m even actively avoiding hanging out with friends in-game to keep the momentum going, but now that I think about it, we can just chalk that up to Niko continuing to be the jerkiest jerk that ever jerked.

Try, try, try again with GTA IV until I go bonkers

Irrefutably, the most frustrating aspect of Grand Theft Auto IV is failing a mission. It’s not over the feeling of being let down or the confusion about where one went wrong. It’s just simply torture: after failing a GTA IV mission, you are given the chance to try again (uh, thanks, magical cell phone!), and while this sounds nice and easy, it’s not…because some missions have you starting on one island and driving to another, a trek which could take anywhere from five to ten minutes. This is pretty tiring after you just did it all previously, especially when all you want to do is complete the mission and keep the story flowing. Fail another time, and it’s back to driving, paying tolls, avoiding cop cars. And again. And again. Until you get it right. Or turn off the game and have some ice cream.

Currently, I’ve failed Dwayne’s mission “Undress to Kill” more than five times. In this one, you drive to a strip club, putz about until you identify three managers, and are then tasked to take them out. The problem is, once you kill one manager, everyone in the club pulls out a gun and you’re left to try and survive. If you don’t plan well and move fast, it’s over quickly. One time I was able to live long enough to kill the second manager, but the third escaped in a car and when I jetted out the back entrance it was right into the (not so) loving arms of the law.

I’d really prefer to beat all the story missions and such first so I can fart around the world without being bothered by drug dealers, ex-convicts, and jerky cousins. Alas, until I can get past some of these missions (there’s another one involving cocaine, an abandoned hospital, and cops giving me grief), that won’t ever happen.

Achievement roundup from free Gold weekend

Well, the free weekend access to Gold features such as online gaming and social apps has come and gone. Mighty fast, too. Alas, between traveling and the Easter holiday, I only got to log on for one night. Boo. However, I did unlock some online-only Achievements, making good use of my time in that sense, but I would’ve liked more time to try other features. I’m still not convinced it’s worth paying for. Anyways, let’s see how I did, yah?

For Fable II, I quickly popped the game back in, earned something like 708,945 gold since I last played, and…gave a gift to a complete stranger. Ping! Didn’t really feel up to badgering people for Hero dolls though…

The Philanthropist (10G): A gift was sent to an Xbox LIVE friend. Aren’t Heroes nice people?

Then I tackled a round of deathmatch for Grand Theft Auto IV. I didn’t win or have a wonderful time, but I did manage to pop these two with ease:

Let Sleeping Rockstars Lie (10G): You killed a Rockstar in multiplayer.

Cut Your Teeth (5G): You were successfully promoted up a rank in multiplayer.

Lastly, I hit up SEGA Superstars Tennis, thinking this would be a cakewalk. It turned out to be more of an uphill climb. Online opponents are much tougher than the computer-controlled ones, always making me run left and right to hit the ball before they smacked it down hard and fast and far away from me. It took me a number of tries just to win a single ranked match, and I knew it’d be a long road ahead to winning multiple matches. Here’s what I was able to, er, achieve:

Top of the Tree (20G): Win a Tournament on Xbox LIVE

Space Channel 5 (10G): Watch a match on TV

Surf the Net (10G): Win a Match on Xbox LIVE

Don’t worry; I totally hate boring Achievement pics like the ones above, too.

So, in conclusion, six new Achievements unlocked for a total of 65G (not like that means anything). Not too shabby for one night of quick and rushed gaming. Until next time, free Gold access!

Grand Theft Auto IV multiplayer, home of hostility

Last night, I took advantage of the free Gold access weekend for Xbox LIVE and played a single deathmatch round of Grand Theft Auto IV. It was a pretty terrible experience. Let me break it down for you.

First, I had to use the Internet to figure out how to start a multiplayer game. Evidently it’s via Niko’s cell phone. Makes sense now, but at the time I was just kind of boggled and running around his stupid apartment, dry-humping the fridge in hopes that it would take me where I needed to go. Kind of wish GTA IV had, um, a main menu screen or something.

Second, I decided to see what it was like to use the headset and chat with fellow gamers. Er, big mistake. While waiting for a game to load and get enough players, I listened to what might have been a beached whale moaning out in displeasure. Then someone kept calling someone else a Nazi. Lastly, this little kid just kept screaming, “COME ON! START! STAAAAAAAAAAAART! STARRRRRRRTF*CKERS I WANNA GO!”

Yeah, I remained silent the whole.

Third, the deathmatch itself. I had no idea what to expect…only to shoot other players as much as possible, die, respawn, and try again. And that’s mostly what I did. For 10 straight minutes. Sometimes I’d just die, respawn, die, respawn, die. Every now and then I’d get lucky and take someone out. I guess the goal was to kill as many enemy players and collect as much cash as possible. I didn’t win after 10 minutes, but I unlocked two Achievements and immediately turned the game off.

It was a very…empty experience. The level we were on was an airport (which I don’t think I’ve come across yet in the single-player mode), and you could run behind planes or hide behind boxes or desperately try and survive out on the open-as-all-gets runway. Listening to other players as they made unhuman noises and called them nasty words only made the deathmatch more not-fun. There seemed to be little skill involved the whole time; a lot factored on where and when you respawned, which ultimately would determine if you did or did not get the jump on other players. So you run around, you shoot things, you listen to people moan, and you do it all over again. Um…meh.

Don’t think I’ll try any of the team or racing multiplayer games after this, too. But I guess I’m in the rare here because there were a lot of gamers on last night, all ready to pew pew pew me in the head. To each their own, I suppose.

Liberty City, Home of the Minigames

I’ve been playing a bit of Grand Theft Auto IV recently. It’s a massive game, truly elephantine, and that’s kind of amazing to think about considering I’ve only experienced one island so far. There’s driving and escorting and TV watching and potential girlfriends and clothing shops and and and…minigames!

What? I’m a sucker for them, which is beyond clear when one sees that three out of my seven first unlocked Achievements are the following:

Pool Shark (10G): You beat a friend at pool.

King of QUB3D (15G): You beat the high score in QUB3D.

One Hundred and Eighty (10G): You scored 180 with 3 darts.

That’s right. Niko visited Liberty City, and all he got was this lousy t-shirt were some mediocre minigames. Only one I haven’t tackled yet is the bowling Achievement for three strikes in a row. But I will, oh yes, I will.

But yeah, the minigames aren’t really anything to write home about. I was looking forward to pool the most because I have oddly always enjoyed Flash-based pool games and such. Here, however, it was extremely difficult to tell solids from stripes, and lining up shots was frustrating, as well as determining power and angles. I did, however, unlock the achievement properly by sinking the eight ball, but I know it can also be earned by your opponent scratching at the end. Doubt I’ll go back and play pool, even if it is my date’s favorite activity ever. She’ll just have to learn to love something else. Like drive-by shootings?

That said, the missions, so far, are okay. Pretty GTA standard. Haven’t done many though, just a few side gigs for Roman and F-bomber Vlad. Love the cell phone integration. Can’t really control cars too well. When it rains, it’s just amazing looking and I want to steal someone’s umbrella and go for a stroll. And lastly, mopeds for life!

Cheap videogamer is cheap

Recently, New Jersey got some snow. Enough to close schools and offices and make driving around a bit like controlling Mass Effect‘s Mako. Now, my motto to people is that when they hear snow is coming to not buy bread and water, but rather a new videogame. You’ll have more fun that way.

And since I already knew to expect a heaping of snow, I visited the local GameStop the day before to see if there was anything worth buying. Sure, I am still planning to make my “purchase of the month” before February ends (most likely Dragon Age: Origins), but I wasn’t in the mood to spend a big chunk of change so I perused the bargain bin and found the following:

Grand Theft Auto IV – $11.99
SEGA Superstars Tennis – $3.99

Sure, why not. These games definitely don’t go hand-in-hand, but the prices were just right for me. I’ve never had much luck with the GTA games before, always growing tired of the missions looooong before I probably should, but for twelve bucks I figured it couldn’t hurt to see if Rockstar made it more fun this time around. And don’t ask me about the tennis game. I really can’t give you an honest answer on why I picked it up. Just remember: curiosity killed the cat.

Haven’t gotten too far in either of them yet. In one game, I sped down a highway and jumped out of the car to let it smash into oncoming traffic; in the other game, I served tennis balls with unseen tenacity. Feel free to play detective with those clues.