Fifteen Hours In...

...I've finally decided to write some more coherent thoughts on "Game of the Year" Grand Theft Auto IV.  Please, don't spoil anything I don't already know.

  • "Why am I driving this idiot around again?"
    The first two hours of this game felt like Crazy Taxi: Little Russia.  I realize the point of this, like most early missions, is to teach you a new mechanic (in this case, driving in a way that doesn't cause thousands of dollars in property damage, amusing as that is) and to familiarize you with the city, but it wasn't terribly interesting.
  • Little Jacob.  Oh, Little Jacob.  He immediately comes along and spices up your life by giving you a gun and telling you to whack some fools who are encroaching on his little op.  Fun stuff.  I really do need to spend more time with him, doing shit.  He's awesome.
  • On the other hand, I could've stood to have had a tutorial in fistfights a little sooner than the Albanian loan shark mission.  At one point, I tried to jack someone, got counterjacked (?), and challenged to a fight.  Not really knowing what to do (and the manual being useless), I actually got hospitalized.  Dammit.
  • The relationship with Michelle has filtered the game through the lens of the least shady person in the mix, at least so far as I've seen.  You know Niko's gotta lie through his teeth about being mixed up with Jamaican dope dealers and low-level Russian mobsters, and you know it can't last forever, because he's going to dig his ass deeper and deeper.  I loved his denial of knowing anything about Vlad after whacking him hours earlier (more on that in a sec), but it was going to get unbelievable if Michelle didn't start to smell bullshit soon, and sure enough, she did.  Now that I'm in with Elisabeta and Playboy X and Dwayne and them, she's not even hiding her concern.  This isn't going to last much longer, I can feel it.  Probably just as well; she made fun of all the nice shit I bought downtown.  If she knew how much that plaid shirt and stonewashed jeans cost...
  • So, Vlad.  God, what a dick.  When I met him, I had no idea that I was going to be able to off him so damned soon, so I just gritted my teeth and played along with his bullshit.  But when he set up poor Ivan, I decided enough was enough, Vlad has to go.  I let Ivan live, because both Vlad and Ivan said that he'd been set up, which is generally a sign that someone's getting screwed.  Now, I was ready to off Vlad for that, but apparently it took Vlad sleeping with Mallorie for Niko to reach that point, which struck me as really weird.  I dunno if that's tied to something specific in his character, or what, but either way, Vlad was dead, I got 5 G, and everyone went home happy.  Well, except maybe Vlad.  I don't think he was too pleased with the outcome of that, but fuck it.
  • Faustin and Dmitri.  I got the impression as their story went on that one of them would have to go, just seeing how their dynamic fell apart.  I can see why Faustin was the obvious choice, both for the writers and Niko, but I can see where he comes from, in a way.  He became a hard man because he had to in order to survive, and Dmitri would probably have died without him long ago.  By the same token, though, he was a prick to his wife and daughter, and getting more and more unstable, to the point of making you drive a friggin' bomb all the way to South Bohan just to make a point.  What happened next, though, I had no idea about, and I'd definitely like to see where this particular story thread goes.  Is Mr. Bulgarin "that special someone" who stabbed Niko in the back?  Stay tuned, I guess.
  • The Lost.  For a gang that's going to wind up being part of an expansion pack, so far they don't seem too relevant.  I'm sure there'll be at least something more from them than one random (annoying) bike chase and shootout, but after reading the "news" report on the "Internet," I suspect it may be more of a late-game, Alderny thing.
  • I want to like Brucie, I really do.  But his first mission, where I have to chase this Lyle Rivas dickhead halfway to Vice City really got on my nerves, to the point where I quit playing for about a week.  I think I'm a better driver now, so we'll give it another go at some point (and see if I can steal him some more cars), just as soon as I'm done making nice with all the butthurt whiners in my address book.
  • That reminds me, I had a lot of patience with the relationship system initially, but as more people start bitching that I'm spending more time on story quests than rep grinding, it's starting to bug the piss out of me.  It doesn't help that the minigames are all kind of assy.
  • Other stuff I don't like: missions with no checkpoints.  Not even a checkpoint mid-chase or anything like that; just a checkpoint at each cutscene.  I'd really rather not avoid the cops after jacking their ride for the umpteenth time just so I can "find" this Rivas motherfucker yet again.
  • I already know about the Dwayne vs. Playboy X choice, and that kind of sucks, but I'm very interested in seeing where their stories lead.  I may surprise myself, I dunno.  Playboy X pays well, and shooting a whole ton of dudes in the face is an attractive prospect.
  • The train is soooooo sloooooow.  That is all.

What do you sell an original Xbox for?

A friend of mine recently expressed interest in taking my old Xbox off my hands, since I'm probably never going to use it again, despite my own strenuous objections to the contrary.  (His most recent console is a GameCube.)  So I figure I might as well find out what a fair deal is (then proceed to sell it at half that anyway, because I'm just like that).  So here's what I've got:

So the console, controller, remote, saves, and 15 games, most of them quality.  My first thought was $100 for the lot of it.

7000 Points?

Okay, what the hell am I going to do with 7000 MSP?  With my recent acquisition of Rock Band 2, obviously importing Rock Band 1 songs and buying a bunch of DLC is up there on the list, but I've also got some Arcade games to consider.  I'd get Uno simply because I really do play that by myself (what?), and Braid because I'm pretty sure it's going to be awesome, but...what else?  Geometry Wars 2?  Penny Arcade Episodes 1 & 2?  What else am I missing here?

For the record, songs under consideration below:

  • George Thoroughgood - Bad to the Bone
  • The Cult - She Sells Sanctuary
  • Deep Purple - Space Truckin' (The drums would be killer on this, I'd think.)
  • James Gang - Funk #49
  • Rush - Closer to the Heart
  • Rush - Working Man
  • Rush - Moving Pictures [album] (Yes, I'm Canadian.)
  • Boston Pack 01
  • Metallica Pack 01
  • Police Pack 01 (Though I'm not huge on "Can't Stand Losing You" - Sting writes creepy shit, yo.)
  • Classic Rock Pack 01 (I'm torn - I'm only really big on "Message in a Bottle" but I don't mind the others, particularly)
  • Jonathon Coulton - Skullcrusher Mountain
  • Best of the Who (I really need to familiarize myself better with some of those songs.  Off to get Live From Leeds, I guess...)
  • blink-182 - All the Small Things (Oh, high school...)
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd - Gimme Three Steps
  • Wolfmother - Joker and the Thief

And albums I really need to listen to before I make a decision on:
  • Judas Priest - Screaming for Vengeance
  • The Cars - The Cars
  • Megadeth - Peace Sells...But Who's Buying?
  • Mötley Crüe - Dr. Feelgood

Merry Christmas, GB.

So apparently I was a very good boy this year, because I got Rock Band 2 for Christmas.


There were some other games, which you can see if you expand the image,  Hope everyone had as good a day as I did.  Merry Christmas, everyone.

What's Your Line?

"Those aren't even boobs. They're melons. With real boobs, you'd be able to see the nipples with that top."
My friend Ender was a big fan of the original Soul Calibur for the DreamCast, and also bought the second game for (I think) PS2.  On Tuesday, he bought the latest installment in the series to enjoy it on his new BFTV9000; two days later, he traded it in for The Orange Box and Assassin's Creed.  While part of the reason was the complete lack of a single-player story mode -- interestingly, this was also done to the original game for its XBLA release; what gives, Namco? -- part of his reason for returning it was the fact that it was flat-out embarrassing to play.  Ivy (right; caption by Mrs. Ender) looks like some sort of space hooker, for Christ's sake, and apparently, the other women aren't much better.  For $60, he reasons, there's got to be more to it than HD hooker-tits and a character creator, especially with no story mode.

It got me wondering, what is the line between being "mature" and gross objectification?  I mean, the Dead or Alive series has done more for the development of boob physics than any other, but it always seemed cartoony and silly, and therefore harmless, to me.  I don't have a problem with full-bore nudity, either: we're mostly adults, here, even if it seems like there's a disproportionate number of 13-year-old boys on Live and NeoGAF.  M-rated games are R-rated movies, in my mind.  There's something about this, though, that really bothers me, and I can't quite articulate it.  It just feels disrespectful and misogynistic, in a way that Grand Theft Auto IV never was.  I'm sure everyone's line is different, and it's probably difficult to define -- it's one of those "I know it when I see it" subjects -- but I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one whose line stops short of this, and I'd consider myself pretty liberal on the subject of sexuality, as a general rule.

So what about everyone else?  Is this okay, or are Ender and I right?  What's your line?

When Photoshop, Video Games, and Bored Hockey Fans Collide...

Big Georges needs some Gatorade after taking out the entire Illidari Council on the same shift.
We get this, which includes NHL commissioner Gary Bettman as Mario, Mega Man, Snake, Cloud, Illidan, and...I think that's Johnny Napalm?  It's something like ten weeks until the start of hockey season, and as you call tell, we're all getting a bit antsy.  Then again, how cool would a pre-game intro with Illidan guarding the Stanley Cup, howling, "You are not prepared!" actually be?  I think we can all agree this would fucking rock, especially compared to the half-comical, half-awesome intro the Predators use right now.  And especially since Georges Laraque would totally bring his punk ass to the ground in about eight seconds flat.

In other news, how awesome is that vintage Pens sweater Big Georges is wearing?  EA has been all over themselves for finally including a proper slate of vintage sweaters (though this is rumoured to be their active third jersey for next season as well), and my question is, what the hell took so long?  The 2K series has had them in varying numbers since the beginning, according to my DreamCast acolyte friend, and I know I've seen probably 40 or 50 of them in various 2K games since my first in 2004.  I mean, it's great that we can now play as the 1970s Minnesota North Stars in NHL 09, but act like you've been there before, EA.  2K has.  Also, since at least 2K has included the Heritage Classic in the past, I wonder if the Winter Classic will appear in one or both games, especially since it looks to be an annual tradition at this point.  I mean, 2K already has Wrigley Field in its database, no?  They're the MLB rightsholders.  Left hand should be able to talk to right hand and get that sorted out, I would think.  Ralph Wilson might be a bit tougher, since the NFL 2K franchise died several years ago, but I'd definitely like to see that in there, too.

Blizzard Finally Dates "Мир Варкрафта"

Bobby Kotick after a hard day's work
From Kotaku, Blizzard is only now, four years after the original WoW launch, releasing a Russian-language version, next week, in fact.  I'm kind of surprised it's taken this long.  I mean, they've had version(s) for East Asia all along, no?  How did they do Japanese/Chinese/Korean?  Romaji?  Pinyin?  Or did they actually support the character set?  Will this version actually support Cyrillic, or will it be transliterated?  Will I finally be able to type in Cyrillic in the English-language game engine?  (Will Cyrillic even work on Giant Bomb?  Stay tuned.)

Okay, so that last question comes two months after I quit the bloody thing, but I always found it so damned frustrating that I wanted to say something in Russian to someone else (I've taken three years of it, though I've already forgotten most of it), and it all came out as accented vowels and shit.  It just didn't work, and it annoyed me.  So now Russian gold far--er, fans, have their own version they can work with, and Actiblizz gets even more dough to swim around in, Scrooge McDuck-style.  Win-win.

(P.S. Don't mind me with the silly number of tags, etc.  I'm still just playing with this stuff, mostly.)