>Back in NYC

>It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, which is understandable as I was in London all of last week and, therefore, completely out of the game-playing loop. I came home to find a GameFlown copy of Condemned 2 waiting for me, which was nice, except I played it for about 30 minutes and had to turn it off.

The problem with Condemned 2 is simply that it’s relentlessly bleak and ugly and fucking horrifying, and that’s not necessarily a mood that I can just jump into after coming back from a vacation. I still do absolutely want to play it, but I need to be in the right mood, and as of yet I’ve just not been yearning to climb into an abyss of morbid death.

To be honest, I’ve not really been yearning to play much of anything these days; I do need to finish Lost Odyssey (and I really, really want to finish it), and now that it’s been patched I want to start up on Bully. But I’m not, like, making time for those games right now; I’ve not kicked my wife out of the living room because I’ve got to get my fix.

That being said, I think it’s fair to say that I am officially beyond-hyped up for GTA4, now that the info and screenshots are coming on a regular basis and we’re getting massive previews in magazines. I am indeed contemplating taking that week off from work. I’ve written more than a few times on my old GS blog about my infatuation for the franchise; it’s one of the only game franchises that I care about so deeply that I feel protective over it. I might even go as far to say that it’s why I enjoyed Saint’s Row as much as I did; SR was the most obvious clone there’s ever been and nobody was ready to hate it more than me, and yet it was also the most playable and genuinely enjoyable, and it actually raised my expectations for what GTA4 needed to do. If SR had any particular failing (aside from being unoriginal), it was that it was forgettable; I spent a great deal of time playing that game, but I find that I can’t really remember anything about the city, whereas I remember almost every inch of GTA3, Vice City and San Andreas, and for me, that’s really the make-or-break criteria for these sandbox games – the sandboxes themselves. There’s lots of games now where you can simply run around in a nonlinear fashion, exploring at random or just blowing shit up, but the GTA games absolutely excel at creating memorable, believable environments. SR was just a city; it had all the major elements a city needs to be plausible, but the city itself didn’t really have any style. GTA3’s version of Liberty City may be primitive by today’s technological standards, but that city made sense. Vice City was very clearly a place; you knew right off the bat where (and when) you were, and San Andreas took that concept and multiplied it by a billion.

So what gets me so incredibly excited about GTA4, then, is that they didn’t take my idea of expanding on the LA/SanFran/Vegas concept of San Andreas and blowing it up to be the entire country of England (although, let’s be honest, that would fucking rule – who wouldn’t want to blow up Stonehenge? and can you imagine that soundtrack?); instead, rather than painting in broad strokes, they decided to reinterpret Liberty City to be as real and as detailed as possible. Now, maybe it’s just because I’ve lived in and around New York City for all of my 32 years, but I absolutely cannot wait to run around and see what this new Liberty City is like. My favorite moments in playing GTA games have always come from simply exploring what there is to see. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; one of my all-time favorite moments in all my years of gaming was going to the cliff behind the mobster’s house in GTA3 and watching the sun rise, if only because that was the first time I’d ever been given the opportunity to do something that innocent. (I suppose I’ll have no choice, then, but to go down to the Liberty City equivalent of the South Street Seaport and watch the sun rise there, too, since that’s something I’ve actually done in real life.)

Work beckons. Anyway, this post was simply to say that I’m still alive and will (hopefully) be posting more frequently, even if nobody’s reading. I actually do have some other things I want to talk about – especially about my initial disappointment in what’s happening with GiantBomb.

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