It’s been a while…

Sorry about not updating for a while once again… I’ll just put it off to laziness, but you should be glad that I’ve took the time to write a new post for you all now. And since you are investing your valuable time in reading it, I will try to make it worth your while.

Update on my life:

I’m enrolled at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, and I’m about to enter the amazing world of college life for the first time. To be honest, it’s a bit scary, and to be more honest, I’m not really excited about it, but I thought I’d let you know. My room-mate is some kid named Josh from Connecticut, I talked to him on the phone, he seems pretty cool from what we talked about.

My girlfriend got a settlement check from a car accident that me and her were in. She injured her neck and I guess they don’t want her to decide to sue later on if she experiences more trouble with it. So she got a check for $2000. Which her parents immediately took $500 out of for “bills.” *rollseyes* Anyways, so we got hers a computer and she bought me an Xbox 360 and GTA IV. (Which made me feel like crap…I don’t deserve that, I mean, seriously…DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH THOSE THINGS COST???) Ahem… Well… I’m pretty grateful about that though, cause she didn’t really need to spend any money on me. But I won’t bore you with any more of this and I’ll get on to my impressions of GTA IV thus far.

Grand Theft Auto 4 – Early Review

From the moment you start up the game, it pretty much gives you high expectations. (Apart from the annoying little intro “movie” that plays everytime you start the game and that you cannot skip because it covers up the load-time.) The intro to the game itself it spectacular, well it’s not amazing, but definitely an improvement from the last game in the series, San Andreas’s, quite skippable intro scene. The production values on this game are immense, I mean, come on, the intro has floating 3D credit titles that move around and stuff.

The graphics are so good that you could easily wonder if the intro is just a pre-rendered video at some parts. (Perhaps this is just me though, I’ve been sitting in the ‘last gen’ for a bit too long.. : P ) Luckily, the in-game graphics are just as good as the cut-scenes. I have heard some criticize the game for it’s occasional graphic glitches (Sometimes a person, or even the whole world, dissappears for a single frame, and the shadows are a bit flickery) and slowdown, but I really don’t agree. (Again, this could be from sitting in the last generation for so long, so my standards are lower) I think the game is absolutely gorgeous, and if you don’t disagree with the washed-out art style, the game even gives you the option to up the saturation yourself.

The gameplay is a huge improvement from previous games in the series. The missions are generally of a similar nature, from what I’ve played, but the depth and life that exists in this Liberty City is enough to make any mission (even a replay of the same mission) quite entertaining. You may or may not remember how lifeless and drone bee like the pedestrians were in previous installations of the series, but this is definitely not the case with IV. These people are quite diverse and you can never be quite certain how a person will react to you. Not to say that it is impossible to point out flaws in the AI or some generic-ness to the NPCs, but they are certainly a cut above expectations. (especially considering the average life expectancy for these people could be pretty low depending on how good/bad of a driver you are, or if you just decide to go on a killing-spree.) The people are almost creepily life-like, to the point that I was somewhat disturbed on the thought of killing innocent people. The somewhat is important however, because I still enjoy venting my frustration on the hapless citizens of Liberty City. (In-fact this game is probably the best game I’ve found if you just want to vent your frustrations, although there is plenty of depth.)

The story is interesting and, perhaps for the first time in a GTA game, full of characters you actually give a crap about. Niko is a very interesting and like-able fellow, and a far-cry from the stereotypical black gangsta “CJ” from San Andreas. The characters are adorable in their own way, and amazingly funny at times. I can’t comment too much on the story as a whole, since I’m barely ankle-deep in it at this moment, but it looks to be the typical rags-to-riches fare for the series, but certainly not in a bad way.

I would like to bring up as a special note, that the story in this game is probably the most responsive that I’ve seen in any game. As an example, towards the start of the game, Niko’s cousin Roman gets held-up by some loan sharks and he calls you to ask for your help. At the same time, a girl calls you to ask you on a date. Most games would just let you pick whichever one you wanted to do and it be no big deal. So, of course, I picked the date because it sounded more interesting at the time. But in one of the biggest “Holy Sh*t” Moments for me, the game actually responded to my dickhead move to blow off my cousin in trouble for a chick. After the date, Roman called me back and asked me to pick him up from the hospital, and wouldn’t stop chastising me about “blowing him off for titties” all the way back to his house.

I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS GAME! 😀 <- Wow, I used an exclamation point.

I sincerely hope developers can take this game as an example and start adding more interactivity to their stories. Games, after all, are different from other mediums such as movies for this one reason, interactivity.

I would like to bring up one little nitpick though, although this itself is not exactly a problem with GTA IV itself, but more of a general thing that I’ve noticed about video games on the whole. The AI in this game is perhaps some of the most interesting that I’ve seen. It is extremely detailed, and even makes use of the Euphoria engine to add AI to the animations. However I realized while playing the previous games in the series, that many people on the roads would simply treat you as an obstacle, and would drive around your car if you moved too slowly, even driving on the sidewalk. And worse still, if you had an accident and hit one of the pedestrians vehicles, they would most often just wait until you were no longer blocking their way, and simply drive off. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I get in an accident, I get out of the car and see if everyone is okay, and then I call the cops. In GTA IV however, some people do just that, they get out of their car and say “Oh My God, are you okay?” and such. ( I don’t know if they call 911 or anything, I haven’t seen any do that) But many of the NPCs still just drive off after you crash into them, and some get out and try to beat you up. Anyways, the observation I was getting to was that when something happens in real life, like a guy driving around you on the curb because you’re going too slow, we think “God, what a dick!” but when it happens in a game, for some reason, my first instinct is not “What an ass…” but instead “Look at the stupid AI.” For some reason, the technology behind video games gives them a standpoint that if there is variation or human-ness added to the behavior of the intelligence, we don’t see it as a better simulation of a person, we just think ‘dumb AI.’ Perhaps the AI in GTA IV is so complex, that this diversity is built in, some NPCs are in such a hurry, they can’t stop just because they got bumped by some crazy dude in a smoking (I mean in the bad way) car. Perhaps the game contains such advanced NPCs that they actually get ‘fed up’ with waiting behind you and will try to pass you no matter what. But for some reason, this effort is actually recieved negatively by the end user. (i.e. me) We simply look at the AI being disoriented, angry, complex, and we just think ‘Geez, look at that dumb AI.’

I just wish there was some way around this reaction, but I think until video games can accurately simulate humans completely 100% Turing-complete, we won’t be able to.

Just a thought.

Oh, I almost forgot…

Grand Theft Auto 4 – preliminary score: 10/10

One of the greatest games I’ve ever played. And yes, it will change your life. 😛

p.s. Actually I can’t guarantee that.

p.p.s. Also wierd thing, Liberty City has no pigeons apart from the wierd collectible ones you have to blow up.

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