Tag Archives: Rockstar

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Smuggler’s Run

To me, Smuggler’s Run was probably my first dip into an open world environment. The fact that I was driving a vehicle and could leave the road at any point for a zip through the desert, going left or right as I pleased, felt revolutionary at the time. In fact, this type of driving was encouraged, especially when the U.S. border patrol began chasing after you. I wasn’t locked into a course with walls and barriers or even invisible walls, forced to follow the path that the developer wanted me to follow, doing the same thing as anyone else playing the game was doing. I was a smuggler on the run, running how I saw fit.

Like I just said, in Smuggler’s Run, you play a smuggler who needs to prove himself in this underground world and has a number of different vehicles at his disposal to do so, including dune buggies, rally cars, and military vehicles. These vehicles are used to smuggle assorted cargo through three different large, open levels. It’s a fairly weak plot to begin with, and your mission objectives are spelled out for you via some quick narrative before each mission. The missions  range from basic smuggling operations that involve moving the contraband from point A to point B, to customized versions of a checkpoint race and the loot grab modes, to completely original objectives like destroying a series of radar towers.

Smuggler’s Run had a couple of different modes to explore, and I’ll cover ’em briefly here because, honestly, I really only played one mode over and over again before eventually using this game and some others as a trade-in offer for…well, I have no idea what I got for them, but that’s beside the point. Smuggler’s Mission mode is basically the story campaign I described in the previous paragraph, seeing you go through three consecutive levels (forest, desert, and snow) with about ten missions per level. Turf War mode had three different mini-games, two of which involved smuggling cargo while fighting against a rival gang; the final mini-game involved a race through a popular spot in a level. Lastly, Joyriding mode allowed you to freely roam to and fro in any level without having to deal with the U.S. border patrol or CIA, and it was a great way to get to know the ins and outs of any level before taking it on via the story missions.

If I recall correctly, your vehicle will take damage not only from collisions with other vehicles and objects, but also from bouncing all over the particularly rough terrain. When your damage meter runs out, your engine stalls, and if a police vehicle touches you while you’re stalled, you’ll be placed under arrest. If no cops are around, you can restart your engine and continue on your merry way…though chances of that were seriously unlikely. The AI-controlled police were absolutely relentless, chasing you everywhere you go, which is why I mostly spent my free time in the Joyriding mode, free from such hassles.

For its time, Smuggler’s Run looked fantastic. The game’s terrain is large and detailed, and pop-up and fog were nowhere to be found…though that giant green arrow pointing you to your mission objective was then and is now beyond fugly. Each of the three maps are massive, with the missions taking place in smaller sections, but you aren’t limited in where you can roam. There’s also quite amount of small details everywhere, such as tire marks, active wildlife, train tracks, and actual hiking trails, which are just things you expect nowadays, but really helped add a bit of realism to the game on the PlayStation 2.

Evidently, they made a sequel with Smuggler’s Run 2, though I never played it. The only interesting factoid I know about it is that the game was originally supposed to take place in Afghanistan, but following the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, as well as the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan, the developers changed the Afghanistan levels to the deserts of Georgia/Russia instead. Rockstar also later released downloadable content for Grand Theft Auto Online named Smuggler’s Run, which added a customizable hangar and additional vehicles to play around with. At least they didn’t completely forget about this IP.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.

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GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Midnight Club: Street Racing

This might be hard to believe, considering my long and well-documented love for all things racing games, but I willingly bought a copy of Midnight Club: Street Racing for the PlayStation 2 some time back in that wacky, inexplicable decade known as the aughts. I suspect I got it for cheap at the Blockbuster near my college’s campus when they started selling used games–or rather “previously rented”–but that’s just a suspicion, based mostly on the fact that that is where I got a small chunk of my early PS2 collection during my poorer days eating ramen noodles and working a few hours during the week in an art gallery. For the record, and yes, I just looked, here are all the games still in my collection rocking a “Previously Rented Game – Quality Guaranteed” label from the now defunct Blockbuster business:

Yup. Quite a super-squad there. With that said, let’s get on to the star of today’s show. Everybody, start your engines. Vroom vroom vroooooom…

Surprisingly, for a game centered around driving speedy cars quickly and aggressively, Midnight Club: Street Racing kind of had a story behind all its engine-driven action. Granted, around that timeframe, my experience was fairly limited to car-related adventures through things like Vigilante 8, Super Mario Kart, and Crash Team Racing, where vehicular combat was the central element, and it didn’t matter who was behind the wheel so long as they could toss projectiles out like everyone else. So, taking place in both New York City and London, you’re a bored-as-bored-gets cabbie looking for some street-style racing action…for reasons. Magically, you stumble across your first challenger named Emilio and are then invited to join the titular Midnight Club to continue proving your worth and burning gang leaders in races. There’s no real introduction, and the dialogue sections are flat images with character portraits speaking while two cars sit idly next to each other. Look, it’s not Great Expectations, or even Fast Five, but it’s something.

Not shockingly, when you see that Rockstar had a hand in this, but Midnight Club: Street Racing is a bit open-worldish. Y’know, a genre just starting to hit its stride then. You’re able to cruise around the respective cities, looking for trouble in the form of hookmen, which are visible on your mini-map, which, when you glance at the screenshot above, defies the definition of the word mini greatly. I mean, that was the UI for the era–big, bright, and loud. Anyways, once you get behind them, you’ll have to keep up with their ride until they feel that you’re worthy of a race, which is you against that driver’s entire posse. Also, you can call up these hookmen on your cell phone–a novel concept back then–for a more fair one-on-one race. If you win the race, you get to add your opponent’s car to your garage, which I guess is akin to carving up a dead animal and wearing its skin as a prize. I don’t know a lot about cars.

I remember being initially impressed by the scale of Midnight Club: Street Racing offered, but do remember the cities feeling lifeless and empty. Now, I’ve only ever been to New York City, and I remember a lot of cars and honking while there, as well as swarms of people; here, it is just mostly empty streets, with little traffic to deal with, and that just wouldn’t cut it today. Still, one must consider that this game came out before things like Grand Theft Auto III and Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2. It was also frustrating that, to even start a race with another member of the Midnight Club, you needed to follow them to the starting line first, weaving through traffic and praying they didn’t get too far ahead of your slow whip, which was often more challenging than the race itself.

Most races are checkpoint races, which means you can veer off the beaten path so long as you hit all the checkpoints and cross the finish line before anyone else. That might sound like there’s a ton of freedom at hand, but this is a condensed city-scape and not miles of Smuggler’s Run‘s open terrain, and there were generally only one or two ways to get the job done efficiently. If rubbing and racing isn’t your thing, well…there’s an arcade mode, which lets you set up head-to-head, checkpoint, and two-player races. Also, some sort of capture the flag mode where you need to bump into the car carrying the flag to steal it and then deliver to some hotspot on the map. I don’t believe I ever took down the gang champion of New York City, thus never even seeing the second half of the game set in London.

I have no idea if Midnight Club: Street Racing hold up in 2018, and I’m not interested in finding out. Still, if I had my copy around, I might pop it in randomly one night for a zip down memory lane, but oh well. Much like Blockbuster, this franchise stalled years ago, and newer, more efficient racers have taken the lead, like Burnout Paradise.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.

A batch of anticipated games for the year 2018

When you search the Internet for the keyword of “2018,” you get a lot of pictures of that number in big, bold font or images of cars. Hmm. However, when I look forward into this new year, I see only videogames. Eh, that’s not true. Totally not true. There’s a bunch of other things to see, related to life and love and liberty, but this Grinding Down blog of mine, creeping into its ninth year in action, despite the random dips into other topics, is mostly focused on digital entertainment, and so it is all eyes locked hard on the adventures I’m most interested in playing in two thousand great-teen. Oh, and I’m sure to have copious 2017 titles to catch up on as well, as well as ones from years past (I just started playing Wolfenstein: The New Order and, uh, StarTropics), dating all the way back to the birth of this very planet.

Naturally, we don’t know every single game coming out in 2018 just yet, but here’s a number of ’em that certainly have my attention.

Mineko’s Night Market

Mineko’s Night Market, an indie adventure from Meowza Games, is the first title from the young, two-person indie studio. The adventure title stars Mineko, a girl who takes on a job as a vendor in a weekly marketplace. With responsibilities ranging from collecting resources, crafting items to sell, participating in local events, and befriending customers around town, the game sounds like a much fuzzier take on Stardew Valley and Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale. Plus, that art style is to die for.

Release date: sometime in 2018

Staxel

Staxel is a sandbox farming game. Yup, I guess I can officially say that, after dumping hours into Stardew Valley and Slime Rancher, I like farming games. Well, so long as they aren’t too serious and actually about watching a crop grow from seed to final product over the course of several weeks. This one features voxel-based graphics, which are always cool. Remember Voxatron Alpha? Well, I do. Anyways, the general goal is to tend to your farm and work on the village by yourself. Or you can enlist the aid of your friends via online multiplayer to turn it into a thriving farmstead! I wonder if this will ultimately beat Stardew Valley to the multiplayer aspect and whether it’ll be the better experience. Time will tell.

Release date: January 2018

Ooblets

In the words of Glumberland, the game’s developer, “Ooblets is a farming, town life, and creature collection game inspired by Pokémon, Harvest Moon, and Animal Crossing. Manage your farm, grow and train your ooblets, run a shop, explore strange lands, battle wild ooblets and other ooblet trainers, and unlock the mysteries of Oob.” Yeah, that sounds great to me, and it also looks super-duper adorable, so I’m more than simply all in on this.

Release date: Sometime in 2018

Red Dead Redemption 2

Look, I like to poke fun at myself by constantly mentioning that I haven’t played the first Red Dead Redemption still, years after missing out on it during its year of release, so I might as well give up on that dream and place all my bets on the forthcoming Red Dead Redemption 2. I enjoyed a good amount of Grand Theft Auto V, but didn’t linger too long in the online multiplayer aspect, and I have to imagine that Rockstar will be implementing a number of features from that into this violent world of cowboys and the American frontier. I should probably also watch Westworld at some point. Just sayin’.

Release date: sometime in 2018

State of Decay 2

Much like the previous entry on this list, I also missed out on the original experience. That’s okay. From everything I gathered, State of Decay was cool, but somewhat flawed–technically and gameplay-wise–and so with this sequel now having some time to fester, I’m hopeful for a more focused, polished take on making ends meet in the zombie apocalypse. Also, all of this PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds of late is ultimately preparing me for survival among both the living and the dead. Or undead, if you want to get specific.

Release date: sometime in 2018

The Lord of the Rings LCG

I played so much Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game, an out-of-print collectible card game produced by Decipher, back in the early 2000s, and I miss it greatly. I miss the game, and I miss the crew I hung out with that played the game, and I miss that it, along with something called Magic: The Gathering, was always there to fill in the gaps, to kill time, to make memories. That said, Lord of the Rings LCG is not the same thing as that now forgotten friend, but it is an upcoming, free single-player and cooperative multiplayer card game based on one of my favorite things ever. It’s already on my Steam wishlist and going for the market dominated by the likes of Hearthstone.

Release date: Early 2018

Long Gone Days

Please do not confuse this with Days Gone, that open-world action-adventure game where you play as some generic-looking dude trying to survive in a world overrun by really fast, mindless, feral creatures that want to do you great harm. No thank you. Instead, Long Gone Days is a 2D modern-day character-driven RPG that combines elements from visual novels, shooters, and dystopian fiction. You play as Rourke, a soldier from an underground unrecognized country named “The Core”, after he’s deployed to a mission in Kaliningrad, Russia. There, he discovers the truth about the operation and decides to desert. It’s written, developed, and illustrated by Camila Gormaz, and I think it looks particularly neat.

Release date: February 2018

The Swords of Ditto

Here’s the quick summary: The Swords of Ditto is a compact action RPG that creates a unique adventure for each new hero of legend in the relentless fight against the evil Mormo. Uh-huh. The game’s core mechanic involves the legacy of the game’s playable heroes, kind of like in Rogue Legacy, and that’s all well and good, but I’m honestly coming to this for its art and animation over anything else.

Release date: sometime in 2018

Legendary Gary

Speaking of slick-looking art and animation, take a look at Legendary Gary. The titular character is evidently a mess, and he’s trying to become a better person. Gary spends his evenings playing Legend of the Spear, a fantasy adventure game in which the hero and his friends journey through strange lands and engage in hand-to-hand combat deadly creatures. Naturally, these battles take place on a hexagonal grid, and on each turn, all fighters act simultaneously. This means you must decide what action each member of your party will perform. Sounds like the game is split between this type of gameplay and dealing with Gary’s normal, everyday life. Also, Evan Rogers, the game’s developer, is a Giant Bomb fan, and that’s plain cool, duder.

Release date: early 2018

Knights and Bikes

Knights and Bikes, from Foam Sword and the second one on this being published by Double Fine (I’ll let you figure out which is the other one yourself), is a hand-painted action-adventure set on a British island in the 1980s. You’ll play as Nessa and Demelza, tough imaginative girls who are exploring the island in a Goonies-inspired fashion. Heeey, youuu guysss. Looks like the adventure will see them riding their bikes right into danger, seeking treasure, and solving ancient mysteries.

Release date: TBA

There you go, a whole batch. I fully expect more to pop up unexpectedly over the year because, alas, I can’t know about every single game coming into existence at any given moment.

What titles are you most looking forward to in the coming year? Speak up about ’em in great detail in the comments section below. Fill me in on the ones I’m not calling out. Share and enjoy.

Grand Theft Auto V, crass comedy in a crazy world

GTA V final overall impressions just okay

Grand Theft Auto V is the first game in Rockstar’s entire hooker-killing franchise that I’ve actually completed, and by that I mean I successfully played all of its main story missions, picked my A, B, or C choice for the finale, and watched the lengthy end credits–over thirty-five minutes long–scroll by as I pondered my collective time and experience as three unsavory souls stuck in Los Santos. And…exhale. Considering I still can’t even get past the second mission in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, this is a real, genuine accomplishment, a feat worth featuring.

To be honest, I don’t think much overall about GTA V. Now, please be sure to read that sentence a second time before you blow a blood vessel; I did not say “I don’t think much overall of GTA V,” but rather about. It’s kind of everything I expected it to be based on past experiences with the franchise, and I feel like it went through all the motions, and I went with it, a mute player. If you must know, I enjoyed what I played of Grand Theft Auto III, really dug Vice City for its vibe and tunes, and never got too far in San Andreas. Also, Chinatown Wars is a surprisingly good time, but quite a different beast from its bigger siblings. Truthfully, Saints Row: The Third is more my kind of freedom.

The story in GTA V revolves around three men: former bank robber Michael Townley, repo man Franklin Clinton, and uncontrollable psychopath Trevor Philips. They have their own personal stories to see unfold, but they also eventually all get mixed up in the same nefarious business, which involves running a bunch of heists and making some serious moolah. It’s clearly a videogame story, as things happen so that the player can take part in extravagant setups and scenarios and leap from tall buildings and blow up important locations and all that. A few missions feel like they just came up with some third part to play, spur of the moment, so all three protagonists could be there, even if there was absolutely no need to bring the greenhorn Franklin along. Of the three main characters, I was most disappointed in Franklin’s overall journey, as it seemed like the whole “other guy got the girl” subplot fizzled within the game’s first hour. Michael has heavy family stuff that gets resolved, but not in a way that fills me with confidence. And Trevor…well, he’s pure crazy, a lot of fun to watch, but just walking insanity, and GTA V would actually be a lesser game without him to keep everyone on their toes.

The open-world gameplay in GTA V is everything you’d come to expect from the company that certainly had a big hand in creating the genre. When you’re not accepting main story missions as either of the three gruff dudes, you can drive around the sprawling city and its outskirts, play a round of golf or tennis, do some yoga, get a haircut, shop for new clothes, invest in buildings, visit the strip club, surf the Internet, watch TV or a movie, take the dog for a walk, and so on and so on. There’s quite a lot of miscellaneous, nontrivial time-wasters for those wanting just a bite of action, as well as larger side missions in the forms of Strangers and Freaks. Random events like “Stop that purse snatcher!” occur from time to time, and you can also just stand still and watch the world go by or sit in your car listening to your favorite station. I found a lot of the side stuff more interesting than the main missions, as they are clearly trying to be big and bombastic, and there’s always an excuse for a gunfight, no matter what the scenario. Thankfully, thanks to a rather easy auto-aim feature, shooting down gang member after gang member is no big thing, and probably the biggest aid I had for completing this game next to Franklin’s bullet time mode when driving.

Let me talk briefly about the collectibles scattered around and outside of Los Santos, as I only stumbled across one during my entire criminal career. Which is very similar to my experience in finding those golden film reels in L.A. Noire. Either they are extremely well-hidden or I’m going blind, a likely case. According to the Internet, there’s a ton of things to find: Spaceship Parts, Stunt Jumps, Letter Scraps, Hidden Packages, and more. I found a single Letter Scrap, which ties into the Mystery of Leonora Johnson side quest–and that’s it. I started the missions that opened up the ability to find Spaceship Parts, but never came across them, and I felt like I did a lot of “off the path” exploring, mostly because I was trying to hide from cops, and changing elevation is a vital tactic.

A lot of material in GTA V is extremely off-putting, and for good reason. Rockstar’s treatment and regard of women is abysmal. If they aren’t there to either have sex with the main characters or sex with someone else to anger the main characters, then they are on their way. Take Michael’s family. He has a wife and a daughter. His wife is sleeping with her yoga instructor, and his daughter wants to get into porn. Take Trevor. Past the early intro scenes, you first truly meet him as he’s having sex with meth head Ashley, who never plays a further part in the game. Later, he kidnaps a man’s wife and begins to have a relationship with her. And lastly, take Franklin. He lives with his aunt, who self-describes herself as a “new age feminist,” and the two are constantly bickering. I don’t recall a single time that I returned home as Franklin that she wasn’t whining or complaining loudly from the other room. He has a childhood friend Tonya Wiggins, who is a crack addict. At first, it seems like he’s a man all about winning back his ex-girlfriend Tanisha Jackson, but that plot fizzles very quickly, so much that her sudden appearance near the game’s end was befuddling. Aside from these, there’s a few other women that stand out: Devin Weston’s lawyer Molly Schultz, the athletic MaryAnne Quinn, and celebrity-crazy old Mrs. Thornhill. In short, why couldn’t there have been a female gang leader or a woman working closely with Michael to keep his identity better hidden? Or some role more involved. Because to Rockstar, men do the ruling.

Early on, I actually watched some in-game TV, something I never even attempted before in Grand Theft Auto IV, despite a lot of people going gaga over the fact that such a large and completely skippable thing existed way back then. I ended up watching “Gordon Moorehead”, an animated detective drama radio show that looks innocent enough, that is until anyone starts speaking. I don’t recall the specifics of the episode’s story, just the constant degradation of Gordon Moorehead’s assistant Molly Malmstein, who Moorehead constantly treating her as a woman of little intelligence, often slapping her. I think the show is trying to to poke fun at sexism and misogyny, but actually just reinforces it all the way. It’s extremely disappointing; you literally can’t go anywhere in Los Santos without some knock against women.

I dunno. Looking back over this post, maybe I do think a lot about GTA V, just nothing too great. It’s got its problems, but it also felt very routine and predictable and crass for no good reason. The use of crude language, especially. I played a single post-credits mission, but haven’t really gone back to do any further exploring or money spending, and I just don’t really see myself getting back into the swing of things. I guess I’ve had my fill.

Land the plane, bury the hatchet in Grand Theft Auto V

gta V bury the hatchet mission rant

Hello again. I’m back to moan and groan about Grand Theft Auto V, but this time it’s not about a glitch, rather an examination of my inept plane-flying skills and strange, faulty mission design stuff on Rockstar’s part. Also, the stupid tug of Trophies, the poor man’s Achievements, both of which I keep telling myself I really don’t care about any more, but find myself still interested in unlocking nonetheless. Le sigh.

I’ve made a big push to see GTA V‘s main storyline come to a close–something I want dead and done before we ring in the new year because I want to move on to at least one of the other two new PS3 games I’ve recently added to my collection, namely Sly Cooper 4–and I think I’m a few missions away from the big finale. That’s good. So long, that is, as I don’t get distracted with side stuff or simply driving around, blasting Eddie Murphy’s “Party All the Time” and zooming through red lights. Anyways, the other night I finished up “Bury the Hatchet,” a story-heavy mission with some graveyard shooting and flying that sees a major revelation brought to light and puts both Michael and Trevor in dangerous, but interesting places. I won’t spoil the exact details of the mission, but the final section has you controlling Trevor as he flies his plane back to Sandy Shores.

Let it be known: I hate flying planes in videogames. I was only ever okay at it in Saints Row: The Third, but mostly because no one designing that game cared a lick about treating vehicles right, putting fun first and realism last. However, that is not the case in GTA V, as one small tilt to the left can bring your plane nose-diving into Los Santos.

That said, I couldn’t finish the mission. I tried four times, but could not land Trevor’s plane. The first two times saw me overshoot the landing strip, crashing into whatever. I landed on the ground with the third attempt, but nowhere near the yellow targeted marker, and I thought I could just have Trevor hop out of the plane and run over to finish the job–nope, nope, nope. The fourth time, well…let me mention that the last checkpoint in “Bury the Hatchet” is pretty far back, and you have to fly straight for a few minutes, listening to mildly different dialogue between Trevor and [redacted] until you get near the airfield again. It’s frustrating and really harkens back to Grand Theft Auto IV‘s poor structure. So, for the fourth attempt, I simply crashed the plane into the ocean and opted to “skip mission,” just like I had a few times in L.A. Noire, an option presented to you after one too many failures. Not ideal, but I wasn’t interested in spending another 15 to 20 minutes attempting this touchdown. The “mission complete” screen came up with the general list of stats, I saved my game, and kept playing.

However, no Trophy unlocked. And I know from perusing some websites, that this is one of the few main storyline missions that rewards you with an Achievement/Trophy at the end, so you know your progress in all the main path stuff. Alas, I got nothing. I did 80% of the mission, failed four times at the end to land a plane, skipped it altogether, and got gipped on a supposedly unmissable digital reward. When selecting to skip, there was no indication that this would happen, no warning; if there had been, surely I’d have kept trying, scared to break the chain.

Evidently you can trigger this mission with either Trevor or Michael, but it really only affects the beginning part of the mission. If I’d gone with Michael, I’d have cut down 50% of the flying stuff, but it wouldn’t have matter because I’m definitely more of a pro at take-offs than landings, which I’d still have to do to properly complete “Bury the Hatchet.” Boo hoo and a bunch of Trevor’s curse words, too.

Unfortunately, I’ll have to “replay” the mission tonight because a part of my brain refuses to finish this game with mission-specific Trophies unlocked for everything but one mission. I guess Rockstar did this so Achievement-whores couldn’t just skip through everything and rack up those sick e-peen scores in their journey to have the largest, most meaningless number ever, but I’m not in it for that. I like seeing proof–however you want to call it–of my spent videogaming time. To this day, I’m still really annoyed with Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter for not giving me the “you beat the game” Achievement after I totally beat the game.

In short–what have I become?

Los Santos, a virtual playground for Grand Theft Auto V’s motley crew

GTA-5-082313-8 early imps

Originally, I had no plans to get Grand Theft Auto V. I’ve not had a great track record with the franchise over the years, though I always enjoy the scope of the games, especially Vice City and Chinatown Wars. The mission structures and high level of difficulty have always worked against me, and thus I’ve never completed any GTA games. More or less, I play them for a bit, do what few missions I can, and then explore randomly, taking in the radio and sights and all the wee details that Rockstar throw in to make up one living, breathing city, the kind that can feel downright sentient in some spots.

But then, out of nowhere, I suddenly wanted to be in on all the GTA discussion spreading across the Interwebz, and so I went out and bought a copy for the PlayStation 3, which I think speaks oodles for how much I care about my Xbox 360 these days. You could also blame it on the mandatory 8 GB install one needed to perform to play the game on either system, and I have a ton of more free space on the PlayStation 3 than on my dwindling 360’s internal 20 GB, which is nearly full. Another bonus to getting the game on the PS3 is that I can fly some blimp, but I’ve not yet punched in the code to unlock it.

You could normally sum up a GTA game like so: the life of a criminal. Except in this case, it’s the lives of three criminals–Franklin, Michael, and Trevor. At the start of the game, you come to learn about Franklin and Michael a bit, eventually seeing how they become amiable with one another. Franklin has some gang history problems, and Michael is a retired bank-robber with a difficult family. They are difficult in that his wife, his daughter, and his son are all extremely shitty people. Michael also has a history with Trevor, a wild-eyed man that is the very definition of unstable. Eventually, through a series of crimes and plot twists, the three come together to…well, I still don’t actually know. Pull off more crimes? Bury the hatchet? Stick it to the Man? I guess I’ll find out in a few more missions, as I’m just before the second heist, which seems like a doozy, the sort that goes bad from the first breath. But we’ll see. I don’t expect Grand Theft Auto V‘s story to go anywhere astounding; I’m more interested if they resolve a lot of the sub-plots they keep hinting at (Michael’s troubles with his family, Franklin’s love not feeling the love, Trevor’s drug problems).

At only just over 25% completion, I actually think it is safe to say that Grand Theft Auto V might be the first GTA game I will ever complete. This is due to a better checkpoint system, as well as auto-aiming when firing weapons, which helps me immensely. The missions vary from chasing after someone in a vehicle, to sneaking through a building, to flying planes, to performing mundane tasks like towing cars and using a crane to lift cargo crates, and so on. Some missions are more fun than others. There’s also side missions, which venture into stranger territory, as well as random events. You can totally just not do anything specifically, too, and I’ve speak some good time just walking around, looking at graffiti and store signs and so on. Golf, tennis, barber shops, TV, movies, yoga, the Internet, strip clubs–there are a lot of non-mission distractions to spice up your mindless exploring. The heists are neat as a concept, but from the sound of it, there aren’t many in the game, which is a shame, as positioning everyone and setting up the perfect plan is surprisingly enjoyable.

At some point, I will also talk about Grand Theft Auto V and how it portrays women, but today is not the day.

And as for Grand Theft Auto Online, well…there really isn’t much to say. For two days now, I’ve tried connecting and getting online to play, but I kept hitting black screens of death or endless loading animations that eventually just give up and dump me back into the story mode. More frustrating than that is that I can’t even get the game to save the character I create for online play, so I’ve had to recreate her–yes, I said her–each time, and each time I just put less and less care into the matter. Pretty sure by the time I do get to create a character and have it save, I’ll just hit the “randomize” button and go with whatever first pops up. Truthfully, I doubt I’ll do much with the multiplayer stuff, but I am curious to see how it plays out; I can get into my own fun in the main game just fine, thank you very much.

UPDATE: I was able to get online last night, and it looks like the game saved the second character I created, which is a woman named Paula with fiery red hair and no reservation about tossing up the birds. I did the first mission, which was a car race against Lamar and no other players. I beat Lamar, got a bunch of experience for things like RP and JP, ranked up, and then found myself sitting on a loading screen that never went away. My only option after five or six minutes was to quit the game entirely and reload into story mode. I’ve not tried hopping back online since though.

30 Days of Gaming, #28 – Favorite game developer

Still struggling with these final few topics for the 30 Days of Gaming meme, this one in particular. Why? Well, I don’t really pay developers much attention, to be honest. Sure, they are the people behind the products that I either end up falling in love with (Suikoden II – Konami) or absolutely hate (Grand Theft Auto IV – Rockstar) or find confusing and hard to pick a solid stance on (Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Eidos Studios Montreal), but they’re the puppeteers, not the main show. Yes, it is their ideas and work and coding and crafting that make the product come alive and end up on retail shelves, but at that point, I’m eating up the product and not those that made it. I’m not leveling up and thanking XYZ for creating the leveling up aspect of the game. Let me try it this way: when you go out to a restaurant and eat a great meal, do you talk more about the meal or the specific chef that cooked it?

So, with that all laid out, I guess Konami is my favorite developer. Mostly because they developed a lot of games I love. Suikoden, Suikoden II, Silent Hill 2, Metal Gear Solid, and Castlevania for NES and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night to name a few. And they also worked on some other games from my collection, which I do not love per se, but did play (or watch Tara play) for a decent amount of time: Magician’s Quest: Mysterious Times, X-Men Arcade, Yard Sale Hidden Treasures: Sunnyville, and Dance Dance Revolution.

However, I could not name a single person that works or worked at Konami. Not for a million bucks. But a lot of their games really hit home for me, and that’s more than enough reason to call them my favorite developer. And now I’m imagining a universe where this company made every game ever, including a proper new entry in the Suikoden series; this Genso Suikoden: The Woven Web of a Century for the PSP is no good. Simply no good, ya hear?

Right. Well, I know there’s not a whole lot of text here, but I can’t figure out what else to say about my purported favorite developer. Only two more topics to go, and then this meme is complete. I know you’re all excited for me to count up how many actually days it took me to round up thirty posts of content. While we wait, tell me a bit about your favorite developer and what makes them oh so special. Please. I need to comprehend this all better.