Category Archives: grand theft auto

An Ayn Rand Nightmare

I have talked about the concept of games before as simple entertainments. I wanted to play things like Grand Theft Auto and/or The Incredible Hulk because I wanted to blow off some steam and smash stuff. The game should be a simple fun getaway from everyday life. Fantasy.

Sometimes, some of these games take fantasy a bit too far, and a bit too seriously. In books, comics, television, and film, there are such things, so why not in videogames too? BioShock is one of those games. You will become immersed in a completely new world of wonder and horror that honestly I’m not sure why you would want to go there. It’s frightening, it’s disturbing, and worse than that, it lectures you.

The story of this game is that you are a plane crash survivor trapped in the underwater city of Rapture in an alternate 1960s world and you’re hunted by mutants and steampunk robots. Yeah, absorb all that. Turn out the lights and add even more horror to the mix, along with lots of questions and morality issues, and you’ve got BioShock, the love child of Ayn Rand and Clive Barker.

BioShock is a first person shooter, where inexplicably you don’t even start with anything to shoot with. You begin in the water, probably having just survived the plane crash, and you are surrounded by fire. It’s very pretty. Amazing special effect, but good luck moving on from there unless you know what you’re doing. .

Now I know there’s more to this game, as I’ve seen Crystal play it, but I can’t get past the fire myself. It’s dark and it’s scary, and so full of moral ambiguity as you explore this city built on the principles of the Objectivist movement. Oh yeah, and there’s enough child endangerment to make Batman look like a good father.

I wish I understood how to play, and that said, I wish I understood why people want to play. Low marks from me, at least so far, for BioShock.

Totally in the Dark

I’m a comics guy, not a gaming guy, but this one completely eludes me. The Darkness, and The Darkness II were both hard games to get into. It’s based on a comic book by Top Cow, so you’d think I’d be into it, but the fact is I don’t know all that much about The Darkness. And that’s the comic, not the band. I like the band.

Here’s what I know about the Darkness: published by Top Cow, he wears a mask over the lower part of his face, and the guy who created him – his favorite band is Journey. That last bit stuck with me from a nearly all forgotten Wizard Magazine article about the creator. I can’t remember his name but I remember that little tidbit because The Bride is such a big Journey fan. That’s it.

Apparently he’s a mob guy who is possessed by evil dark stuff or beings. Not much else of it makes sense. For the real scoop, I consulted Wikipedia for this entry. Does that make any sense? Here’s what I got from that. Jackie Estacado is a mob hitman who is cursed on his twenty-first birthday to carry the curse of The Darkness, an entity that can access the otherworldly dimension of the Darklings. Thus he is granted a gamut of super powers, not the least of which is darkness manipulation, yet somehow, especially in the videogame, he depends mostly on guns. Got it?

The opening to The Darkness is disturbing and creepy, like 1990s Nine Inch Nails music video disturbing. By the way, if I haven’t mentioned it yet, this game (nor its sequel) is not for the kids. From all appearances it is a first person shooter crossed with Japanese tentacle porn. So, best of both worlds, I guess. There’s a sweet voice cast involved, including Mike Patton from Faith No More, and Lauren Ambrose from “Six Feet Under” and “Torchwood: Miracle Day.” Beyond that, and a lot of shooting, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense. At least not to me.

First there’s a crazy race through a tunnel, crashing and being shot at, then a shootout in an abandoned building. Once the controllers are gotten used to, and what they do memorized, it could be fun. The thing is, every single button, every single one, is used. I should have a diagram in front of me to play. This could be fun, maybe.

Darkness II still has a creepy opening, the protagonist, played in first person shooter style by you, is being crucified, and the makers of the game, Starbreeze Studios, take full advantage of the shaking rattling controller. It is unnerving. The actual game is kinda realistic with a Grand Theft Auto vibe. You enter an Italian, obviously mob-related, restaurant, sit down and somebody tries to whack you. You’re hurt and must make your way out, someone carrying you as you shoot anyone following, again with full on shaking controller. This was actually kinda fun.

So I vote maybe on the first one, and a hesitant yes on the second. All things considered, I think I will pass on the comic, and the video games… even if the creator (apparently Marc Silvestri, among others) does like Journey.

Don’t Call Dr. Beat, or Anyone Else

At this point, I have about five dozen games downloaded for free from the PlayStation Store. I wish I knew about this option before I ever went to the real bricks and mortar store to buy games, or had friends lend me games. As it stands, I haven’t touched any of the purchases or lenders in months – I’m just playing free downloads. Burnout CRASH! is just one of them.

Burnout CRASH! is a racing game that is apparently part of Criterion Games’ Burnout videogame series. I liked it immediately because it had old music (“Crash” by the Primitives circa 1988) for this old man, and that’s a plus. The tunage was powered by Autolog, some kind of online gaming thing. They wanted me to buy into it, but I passed – I’m spoiled by all this free downloaded games.

At first glance, Burnout CRASH! appears to be what I like most about Smash Cars and the GTA games (and what I really wanted to like about Incredible Hulk) – smashing stuff. There is however a whole lotta introduction and directions. With so many rules, all the fun was being sucked out of this game more and more. Now I know I’ve complained about lack of directions before, but for a game where the point is to break stuff, it just seemed like far too much. Most infuriating of all was the voice of the stereotype west coast radio DJ constantly asking, “What are you waiting for?” That pissed me off.

The game itself is simple despite multiple unending instructions. You crash into an intersection with your car, and then blow up repeatedly, trying to cause as much collateral damage as possible. Sounds simple, right? Maybe I’m just not playing it right.

Just when I was convinced I couldn’t be annoyed much more, I hear the song “Dr. Beat” by the Miami Sound Machine from the dark disco days before they let Gloria Estefan take more control. It’s one of those songs that made folks hate disco. It made me hate disco. The tune plays whenever an ambulance comes onto the screen – which is a lot.

Take that, couple it with five to ten minutes of introduction, along with five to ten minutes of tallying my score, and I’m just angry. Why can’t the game just let me break stuff in peace? And you know what even makes me more angry? I can play this game. I can operate the controller on this one. Too bad I’m not playing it any more. As of now, it becomes one of The Rejected. It made me too mad.

Smash ’em Crash ’em Racing

When I was a kid, way back in the Dark Ages known as the 1970s, these cars called SSP Racers were all the rage. These wonderful toys with the one big wheel and the T-stick to rev them up and race across the concrete or the floor filled many days and nights of my childhood. There were dozens of models to collect and then they came out with the next evolution – the SSP Smash-Up Derby. Not only could you race them, now you could run these cars at each other and parts would fly off, just like in the demolition derby.

When I first started college, in that null zone between the Atari 2600 and the first Nintendo system, I had a first date with a girl who invited me babysitting. The home where she was babysitting had an Atari system, so I borrowed some games to play while we, ahem, babysat. Before we moved on to other activities, we played several racing games on the Atari like Night Driver, Pole Position, Enduro and Spy Hunter (I think, it might have been too early for that last one), but because we had other things on our minds, we played them badly, and crashed into stuff constantly. In hindsight it was kind of fun. The crashing part, I meant.

Now among the demo downloads from the PlayStation Store I have found a game that kinda puts together those two memories into a fun beach atmosphere. It’s called Smash Cars, and I like it a lot, and even my feeble gamer novice mind can grasp how it works.

You’re controlling a little remote control sand buggy and racing around a preset course on the beach. Oh sure, it’s a race, and you’re supposed to win and get the best time, but I had the best time by crashing into stuff. You can drive through boxes, drive off the pier, and the most fun, crash into the people in the beach. I absolutely love hitting the jump button as I approach this one guy, and nailing him right in the beanbag if you know what I mean.

I love this game. A lot. When I was looking for mindless destruction games, I should have been looking for this one, not The Incredible Hulk or Grand Theft Auto. Highly recommended.

Hulk Smash, Sorta

Infuriated by not being able to figure out Portal, let alone any of the games on The Orange Box, I wanted something simple. I wanted to shoot something, or smash something. Smash something… hmmm… the lightbulb over my head went off as I knew I had Sega’s The Incredible Hulk in that stack of videogames Ray had lent me. That’s simple, that’s all about smashing. Yeah, baby, Hulk smash!

From viewing the intro, the game is very much based on the 2008 film of the same name. There’s Tim Roth as the Abomination, and other lookalike actors in their roles. It’s all in place, but at its roots, it is still a Hulk smash game. Or at least it should be.

I got to playing and started smashing and smashing and smashing. But it seemed to be the same old army guys I was smashing and ditto with the walls and vehicles and other various smashables. I soon found that I, as the Hulk, was essentially trapped inside one building. There was some smarts involved in getting out. After a while of trying to jump out, jumping being the Hulk’s default flying power, I started getting frustrated.

I mean, this is the Hulk we’re talking about, right? Come on, Sega, the Hulk, like Winnie the Pooh, is a monster of very little brain. He should not be forced to puzzle his way out of situations, especially in videogames. His battle cry is “Hulk Smash!” not “Hulk put on thinking cap and figure this thing out.”

I was kinda disappointed in Sega’s The Incredible Hulk. I may go back to it, but not for a while. In the meantime I will quench my thirst for destruction with Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars and turn the PS3 off for now.

Grand Theft Auto in Miniature

As I mentioned before, in the infamous pile o’ games that my friend Ray lent me was one of the Grand Theft Auto games, I think it’s GTA IV. I sucked at it when I tried it the first time. I even let the game sit for a bit until it became daytime in the game world so I could see better. I’m still not any better at the PS3 game but, I discovered something I like a lot more searching the App Store on iTunes – Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars Lite.

Now this is the free version of Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars and is designed for the iPhone. Much like The Bride with Portal, I became, and remain, obsessed. I eventually moved up to the full version for $9.99, which I have to say, is totally worth it. I love playing this almost mindless game. All that said, I still have no idea what the hell I’m doing.

After the frustration of trying to work that ever-annoying PS3 controller in the GTA IV game, I was relieved to have so much more control in the touch screen format of the iPhone. As a matter of fact, I got so skilled on the Lite version that’s why I moved up. It was worth the money when I was able to actually do things.

Another reason I like this game is that it sort of has a story. Heck, it might have more of a story if I were to get farther in the game, but at the moment, I am happy where I am – causing chaos, stealing police cars and eating hot dogs. It has an obviously Chinese theme to it whereas GTA IV involved the Russian mob, not that the ethnicity of the characters or the world really matter.

You can just drive around smashing cars, running over people, and my favorite – blowing up hot dog carts, or you can go on missions like retrieving ancient family swords, shooting rival gang members, picking up taxi fares, or even delivering Chinese food. I love it. Hours of mindless and/or purposeful fun, this is the best videogame I’ve played so far for the PS3, um, I mean the iPhone…

Russian to Dawn: Grand Theft Auto IV

The reputed granddaddy of this new generation of videogames could be said to be the Grand Theft Auto series of games. These offered not only an entire world (or if you like, Liberty City and its surroundings) to explore, and technically, no plan or mission, if you really don’t want one. It’s similar to Little BIG Planet in that way I suppose.

I popped the disc in, after asking The Bride several times how to turn the PS3 on, and watching intently as she did it to make sure I had it down. Trust me the new technology does not like me. The story plays out through the introduction and the sweeping credits sequence. Two Russian ne’er-do-wells, Nico and Roman, the cousins Bellic, come to the States in search of the American dream, and in Liberty City, that means a career in the mob it seems.

The instruction booklet is another big one, but it is not without its charm. It is set up like a tour guide, and even has advertisements and places you have to see in the city. Niiice. My only complaint, much the same as with most PS3 games, is that it seems I have to read and study for an hour before I can even play the game. Don’t mind me, I’m just a grumpy old man.

The controller for the PS3 still confounds me. I try to drive but fail miserably. Those who know me personally know that I failed my driver’s test several times because I was terrible at parallel parking. I am worse at driving in this game. The game begins at night, and after a while of trying, I merely waited for dawn before attempting to drive again. The daylight really helped, especially when I hit stuff – the headlights are the first to go.

While waiting in the car, I had the chance to just listen to the radio, albeit Russian dance music, but it was intriguing how much music was available for a videogame where the player sits still for many minutes. When I figured out that I could actually change the channel on the car radio, my mind was really blown, and opened up to how much music there really was. And it’s not just the music, the conversation between Nico and Roman is entertaining as well.

After much much practice (see, I been playing so long I even start to sound like Cousins Bellic) I was finally able to get the car to go a little ways, and then finding interesting, most of them against my will, ways to crash the car. I suppose more practice in order. I go practice more now…