*** CAUTION – POSSIBLE SPOILERS ***
It’s been just over a week since the fine folks at Rockstar have released their latest edition of the Grand Theft Auto series. I’ve uploaded an Unboxing Vid as soon as I scampered home from the Midnight Release, and I was able to give you some gameplay of the Intro Mission, up to the first Achievement Unlock. Up to this point, I’ve been able to unlock all three protagonists, Michael, Franklin, and Trevor, and I feel that I’m about to enter the true “meat” of the game.
So far, the game has lived up to (almost) all the hype that preceded it. The environment is absolutely beautiful, to the point where I have paused in the middle of a busy street to just look around at the massive and highly detailed cityscape. Lighting and shadowing, a diverse pallet of color and style, the player can actually feel the city’s demeanor change as you travel between sections and neighborhoods.
Below is a Time Lapse video created to show the game’s visual beauty. Yes, I am fully aware of the amount of gushing I’m guilty of, but it’s just that significant!
So, obviously the visuals are the pinnacle of the current gen tech. Moving on to the writing, the behavioral nuances are crafted and portrayed with equal integrity. Everything about Michael reminds me a bit of Tony Soprano. He’s trying to be a dad the only way he knows how, which isn’t very effective at all. Franklin is doing his best to rise out of the streets, but as predicted from his backstory video he’s running in to some stiff opposition. Trevor is wild and a loose cannon with network for meth distribution. From what I’ve observed, it would seem that Michael is the main focus, and the other two’s storyline is based on how their lives ultimately affect him. Sure, we stray away from Michael to focus on how the others are developing, but so far they seem to always come back to being a support role with Michael calling the shots.
Gameplay and controls have been improved since IV. The Aim Assist sometime is a little too effective; I can be hiding behind cover and instantly snap to an enemies chest and pop two bullets before my character fully stands up. I won’t complain too much, though, since it does allow the fantasy of being a super thug with a sure shot. Without that little bit of additional help, I’m not sure Trevor would’ve been able to take on that full biker gang by himself! Something somewhat small that I did not think I would be thankful for was the radial dial to select the radio station. Not that its a huge change in the mechanics, but’s kinda nice not having to cycle through all the others to get to my rock station!
Side note: The “West Coast Classics” Station is making me relive my highschool days! Thanks, Rockstar, for the reminding me of the days where a “Mixtape” meant a cassette with an actual magnetic tape!
Another thing that I absolutely love about GTA and what I try to emphasize to my friends is the social commentary embedded in the dialogue. Sure, you can laugh at Weasel News broadcasts, but if you actually do listen in to what the reporters are say, they are throwing heavy punches at the media and society! one conversation in particular that had me laughing was when Trevor was learning to hunt with his other redneck buddy, and they start talking about (WARNING: Terrible Paraphrasing ahead) how all these new-age hipsters are so concerned about “Farm-To-Table”, or organic or locally sourced food supplies. All he does is go hunting like he always has, and these fools are giving him ridiculous amounts of cash for the same ol’ squirrel he’s always shot! Yep, who knew red-necks were so eco-sensitive?
As shown in the previous trailers, there are an immense amount of things to do in the game outside of bank heists, assassinations, and weapons smuggling. I’ve only played a few thus far, such as the street racing, tennis, and Yoga (yes, because even sociopaths need to find their Zen). While I do not feel that they are critical for the development of the game’s plot, I do enjoy the option of being able to take a break from the mayhem for something so utterly mundane. Aside from the Shooting Range which can be used to unlock new guns and increase each character’s Shooting Skill, I do not see myself getting involved in much of the auxiliary activities simply because it’s just not my preference. I wholly thank Rockstar for being awesome and adding such depth, but…meh, maybe later I’ll get around to it.
The only, and I mean ONLY, thing that has not lived up to the hype is the idea of being able to switch between the main characters in the progress of a mission. Perhaps I haven’t reached the point in the game where I am able to voluntarily control who I use, but so far if I have multiple characters involved in the mission, I am told who I am supposed to be controlling at each point. So, rather than working my way through a sequence and deciding who’s perspective would be most effective, or fun, at this point, the game has told me “Switch to Franklin to blah blah blah”. Again, maybe I haven’t played enough in to the game, but thus far the switching between playable characters is ultimately scripted.
Now, the part of the post where my morals compel me to state the obvious: THIS GAME IS NOT FOR KIDS!!!
The level of profanity and obscenity has reached an all time high in this game. The vast number of “N-Bombs” and “F-Bombs” is staggering. The acts that you are either encouraged or even required to do are deplorable, at best. Yet, I will continue to thoroughly play, enjoy, and complete this game, because I am well over 17 (see statement about mix-tapes in highschool) and I have every confidence that my mind is not as susceptible to such influence as a younger and developing one. As an avid gamer, I fully understand that the term “Video Game” continues to have the connotation of being a “Child’s Toy”. Also, I am subject to people coming to me everything there is a national crisis and the news jumps all over the fact that the real-life psychopaths were “addicted to violent games”. In these cases, there is something much deeper going on in the individual’s psyche than just this past-time. However, I will also accept the fact that the continuous engagement in video games at a young age does increase aggressive (not violent) behavior. One way that I would suggest to prevent the possibility of artificially increasing your child’s aggression is to READ THE ESRB LABELS NOT BUY THEM VIOLENT GAMES. Consider the pic above. How much of that would you consider acceptable for a child of 8 years of age to view?
One thing to understand is that Video Games have evolved with the times and now contain everything that a Rated R Motion Picture would contain. Since this is an older form of media, this rating system is more readily understood and accepted. Since Video Gaming is still relatively new, it seems as the warning labels are not as readily heeded. Please heed them.
Ok, that’s enough buzz-killing for one post! I still have much, much more of Los Santos to vandalize, exploit, and explore. I am currently ~30% complete judging by my save data. Currently, the Multiplayer is still locked, becoming available on October 1st, 2013 (NEXT WEEK!!!) I’ll be sure to hook up with my usual crew and probably a few more. As to what additional adventures await once you get along with a few friends?