Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Garden Spot of the World
Yesterday I took a little vacation at one of my favorite spots. I'm talking Liberty City baby with it's roach infested apartments, it's garbage strewn streets and overcrowded sidewalks and roadways.
Liberty City is the fictional setting for this years mega-blockbuster slice of video game heaven Grand Theft Auto IV. I need to preface with the fact that the GTA franchise is second in my heart only to the Resident Evil franchise, if there was a way to combine the technical and story telling prowess of GTA with the tension and mechanics (and zombies) of RE, well my head would probably s-plode, (poof, there goes my head) but until then I'll have to enjoy them separately.
I've only gotten a short way in, but what I've seen so far is nothing short of awesome. Liberty City is based on my home town of New York City and the resemblance is remarkable. If you've ever been to Coney Island then your first apartment in Hove Beach Broker (Brooklyn) will feel incredibly familiar. Likewise if you've ever run around in the South Bronx or South Bohan in the game. One of my favorite moments in the game was coming across the Worlds Fair globe in Dukes (Queens) and for a moment feeling like I could walk over to my grandmothers place a mile away. (I didn't)
You start the game as Niko Bellic a European immigrant lured to America by his cousin Roman a big talker with a gambling problem. Niko is quickly sucked into doing small jobs for European mob types to keep the heat off his cousin, and in true GTA fashion those jobs quickly escalate from intimidation to murder.
All GTA games follow a similar premise, but like the saying goes, if it 'aint broke... Of course Rockstar North didn't create the gangster rags to riches tale, but I'm amazed at how deep the storylines get, and how fresh they seem from game to game. They really do have a way of inserting the player into the story and making you care about what happens to your onscreen avatar.
Something new that surprised me early on is the ability to make a moral choice within the story, to decide whether you would kill an intended target. I let him live, and I'm looking forward to how that will pay off later in the story.
Another new mechanic is the cell phone. Nikos cell phone is your interface to the world, and it makes sense. Contacts are added to your phone book and will call you for jobs or just to hang out. You also have the freedom to call a contact and bolster your friendship by meeting for a game of pool or some drinks, or maybe a night at the strip club. By the way, driving drunk is a riot, heck walking drunk is a riot and I face planted more than I care to admit.
The cell phone is also used to enter a multiplayer game, something I've yet to do. You can also use it to get song information and to buy those songs from the Amazon marketplace, directly downloaded to your console.
The internet is another source of contact with the world of GTA IV. At the brilliantly named internet cafes TW@, Niko can log on, check his email for jobs, or just tool around the web. Of course the usual GTA humor is present everywhere, so expect websites just as ludicrous as the radio ads in previous installments.
Speaking of the radio, the usual GTA attention to music is present. For a full list check here.
I was particularly happy about Liberty City Hardcore featuring an old friend from my past Jimmy Gestapo of Murphy's Law doing DJ duty.
I've only had one day with this game and I'm already obsessed. Everything about this game has intrigued me so far, and for once the hype machine gets it right. While I can probably go on much longer, I'm heading home to play.
Bottom line is GTA IV is a must own. I'm playing the PS3 version (no freezing) and it looks and sounds great. Pick this one up, and maybe I'll see you on the streets of Liberty City.