Grand Theft Auto V Review!


Well, the biggest videogame launch of the year is finally upon us. Some fortunate folks have even received the game early, and they’re currently knee deep in divorce proceedings from neglecting their families. Other have gone back to their basements and abandoned any semblance of a social life. Yes, the game that makes reality look about as colorful as the contents of your belly button has arrived.

Rejoice! Grand Theft Auto 5 has landed!

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to play the game for a while. I’m a devoted PC gamer, so I have to wait for my preferred version to be released (or even announced officially). I’m sure it will be worth it. For now, I have to get by with reviews and gameplay videos from around the net. So for your pleasure, I have linked to some of the latest reviews of the game below. The overall consensus is that Rockstar has done it again.

Kotaku:

“By the end of GTA V, such as there is an end to GTA V, the player will have stories to tell. One is the story of Michael, Franklin and Trevor and follows the main plotline. That one’s ok. The better story to tell will be the one about all the things that happened at the margins… in the streets and alleys, off the airfields and down in the valleys. Much of that was written by Rockstar, too, and some of it was simply enabled by the marvelous chemistry-set of their game world.”

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CVG:

“Part of Grand Theft Auto V’s magic is discovery, and enjoying the thrilling, unpredictable ride the story takes you on. Whether you’re in the thick of a bank heist or exploring the wilderness listening to Johnny Cash on the country station, it always feels tight, refined, and polished. The world is breathtaking, the script is funny, the music is superb (both the licensed tracks and the atmospheric original score), and, most of all, it’s really, really fun.”

Polygon:

“It’s fitting that the game arrives at the cusp of the next generation of consoles. Grand Theft Auto 5 is the closure of this generation, and the benchmark for the next. Here is a game caught occasionally for the worst, but overwhelmingly for the better, between the present and the future.”

Gamespot:

“GTA V is an imperfect yet astounding game that has great characters and an innovative and exciting narrative structure, even if the story it uses that structure to tell is hobbled at times by inconsistent character behavior, muddled political messages and rampant misogyny. It also raises the bar for open-world mission design in a big way and has one of the most beautiful, lively, diverse and stimulating worlds ever seen in a game.”

IGN:

“Grand Theft Auto V is not only a preposterously enjoyable video game, but also an intelligent and sharp-tongued satire of contemporary America. It represents a refinement of everything that GTA IV brought to the table five years ago. It’s technically more accomplished in every conceivable way, but it’s also tremendously ambitious in its own right. No other world in video games comes close to this in size or scope, and there is sharp intelligence behind its sense of humour and gift for mayhem. It tells a compelling, unpredictable, and provocative story without ever letting it get in the way of your own self-directed adventures through San Andreas.

It is one of the very best video games ever made.”

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You Are Being Watched…


Could this game have come at a more appropriate time? If you follow the news, then you will undoubtedly have heard of the whole Edward SNowden vs. NSA scandal where they were revealed to have been “spying” on their own citizens. Placing my personal opinions on the topic aside (i.e. you ave to be naive to think this is some revelation!), I would like to introduce the following game: Watch Dogs.

The game was announced in 2012, but I’m just getting around to writing about it. I try not to get hyped up about games years before they are released. However, Watch Dogs is out on November 19, 2013 and looks bloody amazing.

The plot of the game centers around information warfare and  the interconnectedness of data and technology. It boasts a sprawling alternate reality Chicago complete with espionage,  conspiracy,  hackers, a supercomputer and the requisite antihero of dubious morals. it raise questions of power, corruption and anonymity. In other words, this is Person of Interest: The Game.

I have to say I am excited about the game and it looks to be highly original. Ubisoft usually has strong stories attached to their games, and I hope that this is no exception. From the gameplay videos (above), you can see that there is a lot to do, such as stealing cars, odd missions and hacking. Having said that, I just hope it doesn’t boil down to cheap and tedious mechanics which betray a lack of imagination. For example, in one of the gameplay videos I watched, the hero (Aiden Pierce) has to infiltrate a local security grid before he can gain access to all the technology (phones, traffic signals) within that locale.  This is because it is all connected to the CtOS supercomputer. This is similar to the uninspiring gameplay of Far Cry 3 and Assassin’s Creed where you had to climb towers to “reveal” the area to the player. I really hated that and it drew me out of those games, so I hope this game is more than just that.

The game is out on November 19th in North America for all major platforms from all major games retailers. Pre-Order here.

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Batman: Arkham Origins Trailer


The Dark Knight Returns!

Batman: Arkham Origins features an expanded Gotham City and introduces an original prequel storyline occurring several years before the events of Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City. Taking place before the rise of Gotham City’s most dangerous villains and assassins, the game showcases a young, raw, unrefined Batman as he faces a defining moment in his early career as a crime fighter that sets his path to becoming the Dark Knight. As the story unfolds, witness identities being formed and key relationships being forged.”

The game will be out for all major platforms OCTOBER 25, 2013. Rest assured it will eventually find its way to the new spate of consoles coming our way in 2013. I will be playing this on my PC.

I thoroughly enjoyed the previous games in the series, but I wasn’t too fond of Arkham City’s world. While it was a fantastic Batman story, I didn’t feel invested in the world. It was, for lack of a better world, “dry” and I thought they went overboard with the amount of puzzles and Easter eggs. As a result, I felt disconnected from the greater story at times.

Still, I am very much looking forward to the new game. Hell, it has Slade Wilson fighting Bruce Wayne! I guess this means we can expect some more mano-a-mano boss battles. In particular, I’m looking forward to Roman Sionis (Black Mask) as the bad guy. I’ve always thought he was underplayed and would be an amazing adversary for The Batman. Btw, there is a little nod to Queen Industries on the bomb. Could this mean we might see Green Arrow?

What are your views on the game/trailer? Who/What/Where would you like to see in the game? Sound off in the comments!

More info on the game here!

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SimCity: I Don’t Care About the Controversy


I Like Having Control.

Unfortunately, SimCity, the new game from EA and Maxis, doesn’t care about that. There I was tending to my flourishing metropolis, until I realized I had surrendered almost 6 hours, against my will, to the game. Well played SimCity. It’s a good thing I don’t have many friends.

If you’re familiar with the series, then, in a general sense, you already know what the game is about. For the uninitiated, it is a simulation where you go about creating a city from scratch and look after your citizens (Sims). As the mayor of your nascent city, you are in charge of all decision-making (e.g. from utilities and industry to tourism and education). It’s beautifully complex and it’s treat to watch your creation grow from a lowly town to a digital urban concrete jungle. The fun lies in the constant management of every little detail. Everything action has a reaction, and things can get out of hand pretty quickly if you’re not careful. Without a doubt, you will fail. But this is a game that rewards trial and error. You feel frustrated at your ineptness and lack of planning, and so you try again and again until you finally get it right. It’s truly a game that keeps on rewarding you and refuses to get stale.

Much Ado About Nothing

Sadly, the game’s launch (March 5 2013)  has not been a fairytale. It has been marred by server side issues, which have left players unable to play. This is due to the insistence of EA and Maxis for the game to always be connected to the Internet. As expected, this has left a foul taste in the mouths of many consumers who have issued an Internet fatwa on EA and called for the game to have a singleplayer option free of the iniquitous DRM.

I can appreciate the uproar, but I can’t respect it. First of all, I believe that the game should be available to play offline (e.g. your connection fails or their servers go down). On the flipside, I have no issue with the game being connected all the time. Play any game on STEAM (without turning it to offline mode) and your game is constantly connected to the Internet. Surprisingly enough nobody demands Valve’s head on a platter. One reason is because Valve is an industry darling and gives the option to the player on whether they wish to play in a connected state. The other reason is that hating on EA is “cool”. I’m quite confident that most people bitching over the net about this are from the same highly intelligent sect that voted EA as the “Worst Company in America”. Seriously? None of the banks came to mind?

At the end of the day, EA is a company. Like any public company they make errors in judgment. I don’t think anyone would have had a shit fit if the launch was flawless. Fortunately, EA and Maxis have owned up and admitted their shortsightedness and they have apologised. Hell, they’ve even offered gamers a free game from EA’s vast catalogue. At least it’s not as bad as the Aliens: Colonial Marines debacle that went unanswered.

The Core Experience

What I’m trying to say is that maybe it’s time to move on. It’s been a week and things are starting to look up. People are getting into the game and enjoying themselves, and this is why I didn’t jump on the “Hate EA” bandwagon.

I was fortunate enough to get into the game on the first and start playing with no issues. I was absolutely blown away with the depth and detail in the game. The beauty of the layer maps is awe inspiring, especially as your city gets bigger. How deep you want to go is entirely up to you. There is an insane amount of statistics and calculations playing out on and off-screen. The cities you create don’t exist in a vacuum anymore and it feels like they are an important cog part in a bigger machine. Initially, I was a little disappointed with the division of regions into cities with limited areas. Playing the game I became more aware that “density” is the name of the game, and that  to succeed means being able to play the long game across multiple cities. It’s a more realistic and challenging approach which works really well and makes you think about the various placements and choices that the player makes.

The graphics are rich, the music is appropriately cute and the memories are everlasting. Possibly my favorite is just sitting back and watching my Sims go about their lives makes me feel like some kind of God (yes, I have a  complex). I imagine my Sims asking the same questions in their virtual world as we would about our existence in the real one…unless this world is also a simulation.

Of course, it isn’t flawless. There are a few glitches which I am sure will get ironed out as patches start to roll out. For instance, I had some issues with workers travelling between my two cities with no jobs being filled up. Also, striking the right balance between industry and residence zoning seems like an improbable task. There were also some issues with my cities not being able to purchase excess power from other cities. Finally, as I said before, the lack of an offline singleplayer option is a negative, but I can understand what Maxis was trying to achieve. I imagine that once the issues are rectified, the game will truly come into its own.

Let Go of The Hate

In closing, I would recommend not to give up on this game. You would only be doing yourself a disservice by denying yourself endless hours of fun. Furthermore, don’t rely on a vocal minority as your source of information for the game. Judge it for yourself. I guarantee you will not be disappointed. The connectivity issues will be ironed out by this week, and  the core gameplay will only continue to improve.  It’s a lot more fun and enriching than all the unfounded and immature prattle about hating on a company that has, in essence, not really done anything to violate your gaming freedom. How they want to sell/protect/create/run their product is their choice. Whether you want to be a part of is still your choice.