Few games in the industry can be considered ‘Events’ rather than just titles in a franchise, things that surpass normal game launches and catapult our hobby to the forefront of public conscience on the day of release, something that stands out to all.
Grand Theft Auto is one of those titles, one of the tent pole event games whose release is shown to millions on the daily news and breaks sales records the world over. The latest game in the series, Grand Theft Auto V, is no different, but is it worthy of the title? Well, the answer, for me at least, is yes and no.
GTAV was always going to be big, every other game in the series has been and it is such a cultural event that the game is almost review proof, in a very similar way to Call of Duty. It is lucky then, that even despite this fact, it is a great game, not the best in the series, but still great. The newest game takes you back to the fictional state of San Andreas, and the expanded city of Los Santos, the GTA Universes version of modern day Los Angeles, and you start the game as Michael.
Michael is one of the three protagonists of this game, in one of Rockstars more interesting switch up’s of the standard formula. He is a supposedly retired bank robber, of the fairly violent variety, but retirement is proving some what boring and his relationship with his wife and kids has taken a turn for the worst, leaving him heading to the shrink.
The game opens fairly slowly, and a chance encounter switches you from Michael to young gang banger Franklin. This is a kid who just wants to get out of the hood and make something of himself, but not necessarily in the normal, or indeed, legal way. Put upon by cousins and best friends, Franklin does his best make a better life for himself, but can't seem to get anywhere.
That is until that chance encounter, and as Franklin starts to be drawn into Michael’s world, things get more interesting, both for the character and the player was well. A few hours into the game, you finally get to the meet the third protagonist, Trevor, Michaels former best friend who thought he was gone for good. This is the point where the game really starts to open up and the true meat of the game comes to the fore.
Trevor, as a character, is probably the most ‘GTA’ of all three. Let me explain, the way he acts and talks shows a highly disturbed and psychotic character, so running up to a car on the street, jacking the driver and throwing them onto the road makes perfect sense for him, same for gunning down hundreds of guys over the course of the game and not batting an eyelid. This kind of applies to Michael as well, but to a lesser extent and Franklin just kinda goes with the flow, so long as he gets paid.
At first I thought that while Rockstar had solved the problem of GTAIV, where the character you played consistently bitched about wanting to get out of the life of crime and stopping killing people but then went to murder hundreds of goons without shedding a tear, they had caused a just as bad issue where the main story feels totally disjointed and incoherent. While that feeling never really went away, by the end of the game the lives of Franklin, Michael and Trevor were so intertwined that it actually brought the whole thing together into a pretty damn good story.
Rockstar have done what is now their forte and created a living, breathing world, full of life even in the middle of the desert, and it looks astounding. If Grand Theft Auto V is this generations swan song, the last great hurrah for what the current batch of consoles can do, then god damn did it go out with a visual bang.
The draw distance is amazing and the sunsets and mountain ranges are simply beautiful. The people look great, especially the protagonists and the vehicles look good too. It is one of the prettiest open world games I have ever played and while there is a little bit of texture pop in at times, it isn’t so bad that it brings the visuals down in any way.
Audio wise, the soundtrack is just as good as it ever was, with all the licensed tracks you could want on the various radio stations. Those stations still reflect some of the acts you perform in the world via news reports, and satire remains strong through spoof ads. I especially enjoyed the spoof of fifty shades of grey.
Voice acting is top notch, with the stand out easily being Trevor, played by Steven Ogg. His random shouting, paranoia and general psychotic state are portrayed brilliantly, and while he is not my favourite character, he is definitely the one who is best brought to life. Just so you know, Franklin is my favourite character, just because of the way his part of the story plays out.
Actually playing the game is significant improvement over its predecessor, with gunplay, driving and on front controls spot on. Using weapons especially is much improved, to the point where you no longer have to wear body armour to go into every encounter. It helps, but isn’t as necessary as previous games, and indeed, I did not buy a single piece of armour for the whole game. Part of this is the great aiming and lock on targeting, but also the fact that the cover system is pretty smooth, getting your character into decent cover with a click of the bumper.
The ability to tip your car if it turns on its side after a spectacular crash is a welcome addition as well, allowing you to continue in the vehicle you have rather than constantly changing. Each character has a personal vehicle too, which is one of the best additions as you no longer boot the game and have to searching for a vehicle to nab immediately. Car handling seems better too, especially as you level up your driving stat some slightly dangerous driving.
Those stats cover a variety of things, from driving and shooting to stamina and swimming ability. This actually adds exactly zip to the game. There is very little information to tell you you are increasing a particular stat, only a bar that appears above your mini map when it increases by 10 up to a total of 100. I would have prefered to not have that in the game at all, and the overall character just be better. It also doesn’t help that you have to level all 3 individually, but that is a minor point.
That is the biggest problem I have with GTAV actually, that I would have preferred they did some things differently. It’s a strange problem to have because you want to respect the developers creative vision, but at the same time enjoy yourself with it, and one does not beget the other. The best missions in the game are the Heists, and this idea most prevalent here, due to the actual lack of freedom you get the plan said heist.
Heists are big main story missions and most are a definite highlight, giving you a couple of ways to go about the mission. This generally is a more silent and professional way, or the guns blazing way. Once you have decided which method to roll with, you then have to do the setup, which includes picking certain ancillary characters to form your crew and help you in the heist. These include gunmen, drivers and hackers, who each get a cut of the heists takings.
The good thing about these characters is that they can start slightly rubbish and get better as you use them, but their cut never increases, so trying to level a character is a good way to go. The problem with this system is that not every heist is setup so you need every type of character, so you might only get two opportunities to use a given hacker etc. It just doesn’t work as well as it should.
Also, the setup for each mission is much more linear than you would hope. It would be brilliant to be able to park the getaway vehicle anywhere you want, hoping that you choose correctly only to find how wrong you were. But no, there is a pretty such set area you're allowed to park it in and thats it. Now I am all for being shown what is required, but the potential of those missions is totally destroyed when this type of thing happens. Its the same when you have to get a fast car as a vehicle, instead of letting you choose which to use, you are given three specific cars and have to go find them because that is what the game wants.
The heists are great, but could be so much better, so much more free form. Its a weird combination of things where you have this expansive open world to play around in, and mess with the rules of, but the missions where this would be most impressive and innovative have that aspect almost completely removed.
Always with the sense of they should have done that differently, I played through the main campaign and still enjoyed my time with it. The side missions, now called Strangers and Freaks provide some great characters to laugh at/with and are pretty numerous and there is always something to do in the world of Los Santos and its surroundings. Its a great game, but some of the potential was lost in favour of giving a pretty guided experience with just the right level of challenge on the default difficulty.
You can go back and replay any completed mission to try and earn a gold rating, though I found this to be completely pointless. Yes, it is something extra to do, but earns you very little apart from bragging rights. The whole rating of the missions was a bad idea in my eyes, as what you need to exactly do to earn that gold rating is never fully explained, even after the mission in the summary, you are just given somewhat nebulous things you haven’t done.
In all, Grand Theft Auto V is a great game with some wasted potential. The whole thing combines to bring a great crime story to life, with larger than life characters and an absolutely stunning location to run around in. Its a shame that so much potential was missed, but do not mistake that for it being bad, GTA is as good as it ever was, if not better.
Rarely in games do use the word 'pleasant'. That's not because they aren't pleasurable experiences, far from it, it just not a word that describes the majority of the titles many people play. The current exception to that, though, is Attack Of The Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale, and it really is one of the most pleasant games you will play.
Set in a small town just outside Japan's capital, you play as new kid in school Sohto, the son of the local dry cleaner. It is the 1970's and as per the games title, every friday at 7pm monsters appear in the town and battle. The story is extremely Japanese, but that is not a bad thing, as it is a love letter to childhood, and the TV shows kids in Japan would have grown up with at the that time.
The basic gameplay, much like sister title The Starship Damrey, is a modern take on the point and click adventure, with a collectable card game thrown in. The CCG is the main form of 'combat' in the game, allowing you to battle other kids in the town once you collect enough 'glims' to create five cards. The 'glims' are simply shiny balls scattered on the ground and picking up a certain amount of the same one creates a battle card.
The card system is basically rock - paper - scissors, but it works and can be surprisingly deep if you choose to go that way. There is no real peril to the game, it is a title you relax and play through on a sunday afternoon, just getting lost in the pleasantries it puts in front of you.
Story plays a great role in the game, and though I found it especially Japanese, I could also relate to what it was evangelising, and could really get behind it. This is a game made from the heart, and it shows in every aspect of the world it creates. The childhood innocence and naivety that pours out of the kid characters feels exactly how it should and it really adds to the game.
It is only short, maybe three hours at most, but that is all you need to come out satisfied. If you are one of the those people who want to get the maximum time to cost ratio out of their games, maybe Attack of the Friday Monsters isn't for you, but if you can get past that, you wont be disappointed. You might not leave the game having it change your life, but you will have had an enjoyable afternoon.
The popularity of the smaller game at present is proving a great boon for the games industry, proving that great, creative endeavours do not been a studio of hundreds and a multi million dollar budget and allowing the staff of said studios to do something different from their main job. The Starship Damrey is one such game, bringing together the talents of Level 5 Studios (famous for the Professor Layton series) and some upcoming talents from Japan in the form of Takemaru Abiko and Kazuya Asano, a writer and designer respectively.
The opening of The Starship Damrey is not your typical affair, and having to hack a computer to get it to power up is certainly different to most opening sequences. It sets the scene though for the excellent sense of place and atmosphere that seeps into every aspect of the game. You have to discover what happened aboard the ship, and why the computer is out to begin with, but you are trapped and once the computer is on, you can only investigate by the use of maintenance robots.
Its a great bit of design, because in the back of your head your always thinking that your trapped, despite being able to move about the ship freely. That, I realise, is a confusing sentence, but because you are controlling a robot through the computer you have freedom to move about, but your character is still trapped and having to do everything remotely.
The game is billed as a survival horror, which I guess it is, but the horror isn't really there. It is certainly a creepy game, the first person perspective really allowing the sense of being alone to sink in, but the horror never really comes through. There is no combat, so it is more of a first person point and click adventure set on a space ship, not a bad thing, but once you get into the swing of things the core gameplay loop is fairly standard, and I found the game be a decently made, if unremarkable, sci-fi adventure.
The Starship Damrey isn't especially long, but the conclusion is satisfying, though the 'twist' wasn't particular special, and I mainly remembered it due to just how umremarkable it actually is. You do leave the game feeling like there is more to the story, and the universe the game creates in its short time span, but you will also feel like you have played much better survival horror games many times before.
It is a game that can while away a few hours if you have a lazy afternoon with nothing to do and do not want something especially challenging, but that is about the best I can say about it. For the price though, it is worth a look.
Nah not upgrading my main setup as yet. I have a 47in' LCD LG 3D 1080p smart TV (thats a lot of words for one device) and my PS3 hooked into that.
We only have a small house so no kind of sound boosts for me. When I upgrade I am just replacing my PS3 with PS4 and jobs a good un.
I am thinking of upping my TV in the little bedroom though because I use it to connect my gaming rig and my Xbox 360, but it only has one HDMI port on it so it is a bit of a pain to swap the cables every time I want to play GTAV.