Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Chinatown Wars has given me Liberty City nostalgia and I have caught myself hitting up my unfinished second play-through of GTA4.

I was thinking while taking a random phonecall from Little Jacob how I really love how GTA4 encourages you to live the story, as opposed to telling it to you.

While Nico's blind thirst for revenge and the American empire's fall from grace permiates the entire story, many of the events towards the end of the game are quite unrelated to events at the start. This is not a story of a character in a single situation, the story of GTA4 is a slice of time in Nico Bellic's life and video games is the perfect medium for such a story.

You live Nico Bellic's life for several months. You don't just do missions; you live his life. This is expressed so well through the interactions with characters outside of missions with the mobile phone and social meetings. So many of the characters are so complicated, yet the player would know nothing about them if not for the time spent with them outside of missions.

I think this style of storyliving (see what i did there?) is what has garnished the most criticism for the game, as people have an expectation that sandbox games will let them do whatever the hell they want (a la Saints Row). But for me, GTA4 shows the true storytelling potential of sandbox environments. Without being rushed through a fast paced campain that takes place in 24 hours of gametime, the player is really able to explore the characters and world and bring so much more life to the world.

I don't think anything I said in this entry is new, but on this second, more analytical play of the game, it is really standing out to me.

Also, happy 20th birthday Gameboy, that is amazing.

And yay for a new Fallout game in the near future.

My brother finally got Gears of War 2 and we are hammering away at Horde mode on Jacinto. After a few nights, we have gotten to Wave 30. Not looking forward to Waves 45+, not at all....

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Drug Dealing

So after two impatient weeks, my copy of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars finally arrived yesterday. I had read all the positive reviews (9.3, I think, at last glance at metacritic) and was quite excited.

The drug dealing sidequests are amazing yet simple fun... Buying cheap when people sell cheap and selling high when people buy high, not much brains required for that. But the risk factor is very well implemented.

For instance, I spent a good two hours doing taxi fares and selling antidepressants and weed before I could afford any of the hard stuff like cocaine and heroine. Then I got up to like $6000 dealing some cocaine, then spent all that money on a massive amount of cheap heroin I though I could move for a massive amount... only for the cops to bust the deal and for me to get arrested and lose all my heroin that I had just spent all my money on. So I was back to $94 and smuggling cheap antidepressants for $50. The build up, all-or-nothing, gambling with the cops thing is excellently implemented. I got so distracted trying to get my small fortune back that I totally forgot about the missions.

Which, sadly, isn't that bad a thing as the 'cutscenes' are dreadfully written, which is very dissapointing after the amazing acting and dialogue in GTAIV and even the GTA3s. If anything, it is the lame dialogue inbetween missions that isolates this game from the universe of GTA4. But still, the gameplay is utterly amazing. I was laughing with delight so hardly the first time I tried to make molotovs, I spilled half the petrol on the ground.

The PDA UI is also excellent and feels just like using some iPhone equivalent. Only criticism there is the inconsistencies between different touch screens. I think I would prefer to have every touchscreen mini-game to have similarly themed navigation than the different style for different things which it is at the moment. But still, that is a minor criticism. The minigames remind me so much of WarioWare Inc. And that is a good thing.

I forsee productivity stalling in the near future due to this game.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Moral Ambiguity

Wow. I really need to learn to update more frequently.

Last night I reached what I assume is the major decision-point of Fallout 3's DLC, The Pitt. The summary of the plot was simply that the player would "choose to rise up against the slavers, or side with them".

This almost put me off getting the game because I thought it would be too black-and-white for my character. Qwae, the nimble, stealthy, small-guns-and-ranged-weapons character i play in both Fallout3 and TES games draws a firm line when it comes to slavery--she opposes it. She spent hours and hours trekking over Vvardenfell looking for the Twin Lamps and hoarding slave bracelets; she slaughtered every last slaver at Paradise Falls. I thought for this character, the Pitt may be boring because, obviously, i would side with the slaves.

Well, last night proved to me the impermanence of any belief, no matter how firm. Without spoiling anything, the decision Qwae was forced to make in the Pitt was a hard one, and she found herself having to shoot slaves and side with raiders just to defend herself after making the decision.

I had to stop playing and spent at least an hour in bed rethinking my decision. Had I made th eright choice? Had I been weak? Could I really destroy the slaves' only chance at freedom because I felt doing wha thtey wanted me to do was ethically wrong?

Overall, The Pitt feels hastily developed and rushed, and I think the story could have been easily spread out and developed over many more quests and hours of gameplay... as seems to be a reoccuring flaw in DLC releases. Still, an in-game decision like this one hasn't affected me so much since Fable II's Spire. Actually, this may have even stayed with me longer after turning the console off than the Spire did. Amazing.

I may adress this again in a later post when I actually finish The Pitt. I love moral ambiguity in games.