GTA5 speculation

I’ve been insanely busy this week and so I haven’t yet written up my thing about Batman: Arkham City (short version: it’s great), but I can’t NOT write about today’s announcement of next week’s reveal of Grand Theft Auto 5.

The reveal trailer comes out next week; in the meantime, we have this logo.

Speculating about the settings of future GTA games used to be a favorite pastime of mine, but GTA4 kinda destroyed that for me, insofar as that it was less about the setting and relevant cultural satire and more about Niko Bellic’s experience in Liberty City, which is something noone could’ve predicted.  I have learned to accept that the Brothers Houser are smarter and more culturally savvy than I will ever be, and I’d rather just be surprised than try to beat them to the punch.

THAT BEING SAID.  I can’t just sit here and not think about it.

The V/Five in the logo seems awfully significant, doesn’t it?  Clearly, that’s meant to evoke US currency.  There have been rumors (leaked casting notices, URL registrations) that this game will have something to do with the financial collapse, and so this logo would certainly bear that out.

Now, when you think of money, what do you think of?  3 places come to mind:

  • Wall Street
  • Hollywood
  • Washington, D.C.

Wall Street = NYC, and since GTA4 took place in Liberty City, it seems unlikely that Rockstar would revisit the same city so soon.  Hollywood is certainly a more plausible possibility, considering they’ve already been there in San Andreas.  It should be noted, however, that L.A. Noire covered the Hollywood locale pretty thoroughly (even if it was in the 40s, and even if Rockstar didn’t technically build it), and Rockstar’s already built a drivable LA in the latest Midnight Club game.  Which is why, if I had to guess, I’d guess this game would take place in Washington, D.C., right around now.  The GTA games have always been outspoken from a political point of view (even if things like Weasel News are less about commentary and more about parody).  The GTA games have been controversial and fodder for politicians for years (and it just so happens that today’s announcement is also the 3-year anniversary of Jack Thompson’s disbarment).  And considering that Max Payne 3, another Rockstar game, is slated for release in the Spring of 2012, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see GTA5 staying out of its way and arriving in or around Election Day.   (Indeed, I’ve been emailing back and forth all day today with a friend, who offered that if GTA5 was indeed set in DC, then GTA5’s version of GTA4’s pigeons would be to punch 100 senators in the face.)

As for the game?  Well, I have a far less nebulous list of demands:

  • Make the combat more like Red Dead
  • Make the penalty for death more forgiving (like Red Dead)
  • Let me save anywhere, instead of having to drive all the way back to a safe house (also like Red Dead)

Anyway, I’m most likely wrong about this, but it’s fun to guess.

EDIT:  Literally 5 minutes after posting this, I checked my RSS feed and saw that Kotaku is reporting that GTA5 will take place in Los Angeles.

Speaking of which.

Rage v. expectations

I finished Rage on Friday.  Taken as a whole, it’s a pretty fun game.   I finished it in around 12 hours or so, which seems a little longer than the average shooter, and I could’ve easily played more – I never really delved into the card game, which could’ve easily been a time sink just by itself, and I left a few missions on the job board untouched.  The graphics tech is truly phenomenal – if you’re a graphics whore, there’s no excuse.  The shooting is fun; the weapons are standard fare but satisfying, and having multiple ammo types certainly kept things interesting (though ultimately I didn’t use them all that much unless I had to).  Enemies are relentless – sometimes they’re a little bit bullet-spongey, but it never felt unfair.  They animate well, though, and they respond physically to where you shoot them.  (That said, when they’re dying but not dead, they tend to finish their animation loop even after you deliver the killshot, which is distracting.)  The driving was fun enough, although it didn’t really add anything special to the experience; Borderlands handled it a bit better.  All in all, a solid, fun experience.

The ending, though; that needs to be talked about.    Actually, the writing in general needs to be talked about.

Let’s be honest, though – has there ever been an id game with a solid narrative?  I have incredibly fond memories of playing the Quake 2 campaign back in the day, but that’s mostly because it looked amazing and ran silky smooth on my middle-of-the-road work laptop, and I should confess that I mostly played it with god mode turned on so I could explore every nook and cranny of every map.  I couldn’t tell you a goddamned thing about the story or why I was shooting all these monsters or even where I was, and it never mattered.  Same goes for Doom and Castle Wolfenstein – the appeal of those games, for me, was the exploration.  (It should be noted however that everyone else in the world would argue that the appeal of those games was the action and the multiplayer, and they’re probably right.)

Rage, being id’s first game 2004’s Doom 3 and first new IP since 1996’s Quake, is entering a much different market than those previous games.  Which is to say – you can’t really get away with not having a story anymore.  So, to its credit, Rage actually does have a story; an asteroid crashes into Earth in 2026, and you play as the sole survivor emerging 100 years later from an Ark.  Substitute nuclear war for asteroid and you’ve got Fallout 3, but whatever.

Here’s where things get a little stupid.  You emerge from the Ark and take about 15 steps before getting attacked by some mutants, and then you get rescued by a dude (voiced pleasantly but unnecessarily by John Goodman) who belongs to a group called… The ResistanceThe Resistance are devoted to dismantling the power of… The Authority.

Rage was first revealed to the public in a 2007 tech demo.  The game came out just a few weeks ago, in 2011.  You’re telling me that in 4 years you couldn’t come up with better names for your good/bad sides than the Resistance and the Authority?  Hell, the town on the 2nd disc is literally called Subway Town.  SUBWAY TOWN?  Are you fucking kidding me?  There’s no subway!  They live in an abandoned subway station that apparently hasn’t been cleaned since before the asteroid destroyed the earth!  No wonder the Authority has it so easy; these people have already given up.

If you were to ask me what was so bad about the Authority and why it made sense to join the Resistance, I couldn’t tell you.  Everyone in town speaks ill of the Authority, but you never actually see them doing anything bad, and they never did anything to me personally until I invaded their hideouts and killed them.  Of course they’d want to shoot me after I did stuff like that!

As for the ending; well, you’re told before the mission starts that, well, it’s the last mission.  Everything you’ve worked for during the last however many hours is about to come to fruition; the Resistance will finally strike back against the Authority (although they won’t actually be helping you, conveniently enough).  So it’s not like it’s a surprise; you know you’re at the last mission.  That being said, the actual, literal ending was absolutely shocking in its arrival.  There’s no final boss, or indeed any real tough enemies; just a slight gauntlet of crazy mutants running around while you’re flipping 3 switches, and they can be easily dispatched with 2 sentry bots while you clean up with a shotgun.  That’s it.  You flip the last switch and then the camera tightens, and then there’s a quick CG cutscene, and then the credits start rolling.

Underwhelming, to say the least.

Still, though, it seems inevitable that Rage 2 would be forthcoming, and I’d like to think that Bethesda could give id some narrative pointers during that game’s development – at least they could come up with some better names.

——–

Made some headway in Shadow of the Colossus – I think I’m up to the 9th Colossus.  I happened to flip through the game’s manual and learned that there are trees bearing fruit (which enhance health) and shiny lizards (which enhance stamina), and those are bits of information that I kinda wish I’d known from the beginning.  Still, it’s a pretty great game, and I genuinely feel bad every time I take one of those Colossi down.  (The sad music and slow-motion collapses don’t help, either.)

——–

Did some Forza 4, too.  It kinda feels like Forza 3.5, if we’re being honest; it’s got a nice graphical upgrade but it’s still the same cars and tracks that we’ve been playing since the very first game.  It’ll serve as a nice palate cleanser during the spring.

——–

I went against my better nature and rented Dark Souls, which is stupid.  It hasn’t arrived yet, and frankly I don’t know when I’m going to get to it, being that Batman arrives tomorrow and I’m already spazzing out about it.  I know I’m going to hate Dark Souls; nothing drives me more crazy than frustration, and that game’s got frustration and sadness written all over it.  Still, the people who love it love the shit out of it, and I kinda feel like I at least need to try it.  So be on the lookout for some poorly-typed vulgarity in the coming weeks.

Resistance 3, Ico, Rage

I just want to see this written down in one place.

October 4:  Rage.  (Dark Souls.)

October 11:  Forza 4.

October 18:  Batman: Arkham City.

October 25: Battlefield 3.

November 1:  Uncharted 3.

November 8-11:  Skyrim, Modern Warfare 3.  (MGS HD collection.)

November 15:  Assassin’s Creed Revelations, Saints Row the Third.  (Need for Speed: The Run, Halo Anniversary.)

Fuck.  Me.  Depending on your personal tastes, that’s at least 7 potential GOTY contenders coming out in the next 2 months.  I know that I’m never going to play Dark Souls, and I kinda don’t really give a shit about Modern Warfare 3, and my enjoyment of Battlefield 3 will be directly proportional to the number of close friends on my friends list who are also playing it with me, but still.  Fucking hell.

——————–

This post is long overdue; since my last post I’ve finished Resistance 3  and Ico, played an hour or so of Shadow of the Colossus, and spent about 10 hours with Rage.  Plus a whole bunch of iPhone stuff.

————————-

It’s been exactly 1 week since I finished the campaign and I’m already starting to forget what Resistance 3 was like.  Part of that is because, well, I’ve been super-busy and I’ve been playing a lot of stuff, and there’s only so much that the ol’ brain can hold at one time – but I suppose it’s also because the main thing that went through my mind throughout the entirety of R3’s campaign was that it was basically Half-Life 2 without the gravity gun.  Not just because there’s one level which is straight-up Ravenholm, by the way.  And I suppose, in a strange sort of way, it’s a sort of compliment – if you’re going to steal, steal from the best, and there really aren’t that many HL2 clones out there.  And to its credit, while R3 doesn’t have a gravity gun, it does feature one of the best weapon arsenals I’ve ever played with.   Every weapon is unique and powerful and levels up with repeated use, which is a fantastic incentive to not just stick with one thing (I’m looking at you, Gears 3 Lancer).

Resistance 3 also looks terrific; I’d have to see R3 and Killzone 3 side-by-side to do a proper face-off, but my gut says that R3 has a staggeringly good lighting engine, whereas Killzone 3 felt a bit crisper – I think I’d said at the time that K3 looked like a playable Final Fantasy cutscene.  You know, now that I’m looking at that K3 post, I can definitely say that R3’s campaign was infinitely less frustrating than K3’s was.  R3’s campaign is well-paced, well-designed, never overtly frustrating or unfair.  I suppose there were a few times where I felt like I never had enough ammo, but considering that I seem to feel that way in a lot of games these days (especially Gears 3 and Rage), maybe that’s more reflective of me being a wildly inaccurate shooter in general.

Certainly worth a rental, although if the release calendar above is any indication, I suspect everyone’s going to have their hands full over the next few months.

——————–

Ico probably deserves a post of its own.  If I had the time, I’d give it.  As it stands, though, it’s just gonna get sandwiched here in this mega-post and I’ll have to come back to it when I finish Shadow of the Colossus.

I finished it in a little over 5 hours – which I think is an appropriate length.  It’s a little strange for me to have been looking forward to playing it for 10 years and then end up finishing it in 2 sittings, but, well, I didn’t own a PS2, so what are you gonna do.

It’s an astonishing experience.  That’s a strong word for a game that feels more like a poem or a dream, but that’s really the only word that seems to apply.  The gameplay holds up – there’s nothing about this game that feels dated or outmoded except maybe the stationary camera (which, to its credit, never gets in the way) and the combat (only because it eventually can feel like an annoyance, like in the first Prince of Persia game, although I have more to say about that later).  It is so delicately atmospheric and textured and just warm and it inspires any number of feelings that most games never even think to touch on.  It’s been said for years that the way Ico runs with Yorda is the sort of thing that melts your heart – Ico is hard-charging, Yorda is taller but more delicate, and so you feel the push and pull in the controller’s feedback – but even the save mechanic is moving and evocative – the way Ico just collapses into the couch, and then Yorda sits next to him, hands almost touching.

The part that really gave me chills, though, was right towards the end.  SPOILERS BELOW.  It’s hard to talk about spoiler warnings for a 10-year-old game, but then again, this package was intended specifically for people like me who’d never played either Ico or Shadow, so if you’re like me, consider this your warning.

***HERE BE SPOILERS***

All throughout the game, Ico is protecting Yorda from these shadow creatures.  Who they are and what they want with Yorda is a mystery, but then, everything in the game is a mystery; you go with it.  Anyway, at the end of the game, Ico returns to re-rescue Yorda, and he finds himself in the very room where the game started – a room filled with these large hollow stones, stones which would appear to be similar to the one that Ico was imprisoned in at the beginning of the game (and then subsequently escaped from).

Anyway, so he gets back to the room, and then he fights a seemingly endless supply of shadow creatures.  It took me a little while to notice that with each creature I killed, one of the stones would light up.  And then I noticed that each of the creatures I was killing had horn-like features around their heads – very much like Ico himself.  AND THEN I STARTED GETTING CHILLS ALL OVER MY BODY, because it occurred to me that these shadow creatures were probably the ghosts of the other horned exiles who’d been imprisoned in this castle, and THEN I realized that it isn’t that the creatures were trying to kill Yorda before – it’s that they were in love with her, too, and wanted to bring her back to her world.

***HERE END SPOILERS***

I could be wrong about this theory, of course.  The game is intentionally vague about a great many things.  But I love that it let me come up with that idea, even if it’s wrong, because it changed the entire context about what I’d been doing.

Anyway.  I’ll have more to say about this when I get around to finishing Shadow.

——————-

As for Rage.  I’m about 10 hours in; I’m a few missions into the 2nd disc.  I’m enjoying it.  Firstly, the hyperbole surrounding the graphics cannot be overstated; it looks phenomenal.  It looks next-gen, frankly.  Yeah, the textures get a little blurry if you stand up close, but when the game’s in motion and you’re running around (or driving around, as the case may be), it looks stunning.  It feels like a more-linear Borderlands, and not just because of the similarities in setting.  The shooting is great, although as noted above I’m apparently a terrible shot, and I find myself running out of ammunition even if I’m well-stocked going into a mission.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the game, for me, is how downright pleasant and happy a lot of the game’s NPCs seem to be.  Granted, I just got to the 2nd city, which seems to be a bit darker and the boss-man is kind of a jerk, but even so – everyone’s real eager to help and explain what’s going on, and they’re all unusually supportive and friendly, and I guess that just seems odd.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but I guess I figured people would be a little edgier and suspicious?  Not that past id games have featured much in the way of NPCs before.

Anyway.  I’m hoping to wrap that up this week.  My rental copy of Forza 4 should be arriving soon, although I may just end up sending it back; the reviews all seem to say that it’s the best one in the franchise, but perhaps a little too similar to Forza 3, which I must admit I’m a little burned out on.  Next week is Batman and from there on out it’s non-stop madness.