Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Sandbox War

There are articles talking about how buying into Rockstar's advertising blitz and taking the word of game reviewers who give early copies of the game 10 out of 10 ratings will say to companies that it's ok to overhype any game, even when it's mediocre or trash, because unrationalizing consumers will buy right into it.

In some relation, ex Editor-In-Chief at popular video game mag "EGM", Dan Hsu, wrote an article about how his magazine is mostly the last to get their hands on exclusive and upcoming games from publishers, because publishers know that his magazine's opinions will not be bought out and that they remain honest to their readership.

The writers at EGM will not take offers from game companies to be flown out on free flights to stay in free hotel rooms, so they can play some new, unreleased game on a huge 40" HD plasma screen that amplifies the sounds and graphics in order to cover up its essential crappiness. They will say that a certain game is mediocre if they feel so, even when everyone else says it's great (Gamepro, Game Informer, etc.). This is why I only read their magazine.

As for Grand Theft Auto 4, I must admit that I personally bought into the hype completely. Rather, the hype was within myself. I wrote a previous post about how, after reading that they've addressed issues that I've had problems with in past installments, I was fully ready to cause new, graphically updated mayhem in the "sandbox". I obtained a copy at midnight (actually around 1:30 a.m.) waiting online at the grand release at my nearest Gamestop and played it that morning.

The controls are kind of awkward and sometimes even work against me. Shooting, for instance, is occasionally a hassle. Although the new take-cover ability makes taking out rival drug dealers and being a gun-for-hire much more approachable then the last games, I still have to struggle with a terrible camera and awkward character movement. Trying to drive can also frustrate. When coming to a sharp turn in the street/road, the car's turn is too little or, even when trying to moderately use the handbrake, the car spins way out of control. Perhaps there's some sort of regular/hand brake/acceleration combination I'm missing.

However, focus on progressing the game's story is much more staple, thanks to the new mission replay feature and the fact that all my weapons aren't taken away when I die. In past installments of GTA, whenever I've failed a mission, I had to drive all the way back to the person who issued it, which could sometimes mean driving across whole cities (or in GTA 4's New York City rendition, driving across whole boroughs). Rather than do that, my attention just diverted to running pedestrians over on sidewalks and seeing if I can get the full police force to come after me.

But now, you'll get a text message on your (game) cell phone asking if you'd like to redo the mission, with all my weapons (that cost money) still on me. This is unless you get arrested, then you have to buy new weapons. But now, even when the police stop you, you have the ability to run away.

Other than the aforementioned problems, I love the game. I always want to see what's going to happen to Elizabeta (a South Bohan Dominican drug dealer), or how Niko is going to resolve a situation with a corrupt cop, or listening to the entire game's incendiary critique of America's capitalist system and unending immorality. But the game is not all money, grand theft and state's evidence. The player must guide Niko Bellic in his social life by answering calls from friends to go bowling, play darts, eat or play pool (which is just as boring in the game as it is in real life [to me]). This adds a sort of "Sims" dimension to the game, and makes the "sandbox" a living, breathing thing.

I'm not sure how EGM rated the game just yet, but I think the hype was definitely worth it's salt.

1 comment:

  1. The Disturbed OneMay 6, 2008 at 11:35 PM

    Anytime I buy a game, its for something I think is interesting. Not for what mags say.

    I love this friggin game.


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