Evolution. The key to growth and expansion, and what keeps anything from becoming bland, uninspired and complacent with the "norm." In the world of Grand Theft Auto, it would be easy for Rockstar to become complacent with their games being critically acclaimed and continue to roll them out, one after another, splicing in new new storylines to the same old gameplay mechanics. But that's not how they roll, not at all. They strive to evolve, thrive on the growth of their games, never content with the east route to success.
That's what makes them so great, and why their games continue to revolutionize the industry standards. Just when you think you've seen their best stuff, they come out and show you something you didn't even think of.
And just when people thought the 80's were dead and that Vice City was going to be a one-and-done game, they came out and released Grant Theft Auto: Vice City Stories.They put this game out on the PSP first as well, in the same vein as Liberty City Stories, which they later ported to the PS2 and eventually the PS3 via the PlayStation Network. Again, they went the prequel route for this game, further proving that their storylines they bring to their games are never just individual experiences, but rather fully evolved, before and after whichever games they are presented in.
In Rockstar's eyes, their universe spans infinitely, and their games only capture specific moments in time of the universe they have created. Their universe doesn't start and stop with each game. Their world continues as it would even without games to showcase it. That's how they present their philosophy in each experience they create, at least.
For being a prequel and a smaller game than the full console experiences, they still decided to evolve the game and gameplay mechanics. There is "empire-building" in the game now, where you can open and operate businesses out of confiscated properties. How deep you go into this mini-game within the game is entirely up to you, but it's nice to see them continuously adding new elements to the tried and true format. In addition to that, when you get arrested or killed, you can now bribe police officers or hospital staff to lower your wanted level and keep guns that normally would have been lost.
Despite initially being reported to be a direct port when they brought it over to the PS2 the following year, Rockstar actually improved graphics and other little performance details, as well as adding a few more side missions and rampages. Again, just when people thought Rockstar would be content with the basic concept of a port, they evolved the idea of what a port can and should be.
Just when the gaming industry thought they had all the answers, Rockstar changed the questions being asked.
When Grand Theft Auto III was released, it sent the nation into a frenzy, as I already wrote about. Not only did gamers go crazy for this groundbreaking game, but it was prominently featured in news headlines across the country for featuring all of the adult-themes it did. It turned into a scapegoat whenever there was violence in the country, and pundits activists pointed fingers at the game for corrupting the youth of society.
Aside from all the violence and illegal activities that people hated about GTA III (and really, every game in the series since), there was the sexual content in the game that ruffled as many feathers, if not more. The act of picking up prostitutes, enjoying conversations revolving around sex, and engaging in sexual activities scared people to death, it seemed. Never mind someone getting shot in the face with a shotgun. The mere mention of sex was enough to send people into a fit of rage.
Well, Rockstar didn't really care what people thought about their choice to include sex so prominently in their GTA games. They kept including it in the series, despite the public outcry. They games were rated appropriately to communicate what they included, so they never balked at the stigma that sex carries with it when designing the Grand Theft Auto games. So when San Andreas came out, it was no surprise (or shouldn't have been at least) that it was filled with sex as well.
Actually, it included more sex than people even realized at the time, which caused the gaming industry to face a major crisis.
You see, after the game was released, there was a software patch released by someone on the internet, which unlocked and added a sex scene in the game. The original version of the game depicted the sex scene from behind closed doors, but with the mod, it showed the sex in all its glory. This was the now infamous "Hot Coffee Mod," which took this game to all new levels. High ranking politicians made calls to action to bring this game to it's death, and that's essentially what happened. The game faced a recall and a re-release with that scene in the game being taken out and a "cold coffee patch" being put out to fix the problem.. Before the re-release, the game's rating was changed from "M" for mature to "AO" for adults only. Not many games have the distinction of having that label, if only because it essentially destroys any chances of it being a commercial success.
If any company was going to climb out of a hole like that, of course it would be Rockstar.
Going back and playing San Andreas was fun for me, as I never played it before. In fact, up until I started GTA V recently, I haven't played a single GTA game since Vice City. In San Andreas, they added a bunch of things that I could tell weren't in Vice City of GTA III, but thankfully, it still felt familiar and I knew what I was doing. But the whole time I was playing, I was thinking about how unique our society is sometimes. As a culture, we turn a blind eye on violence and illegal activities for the most part, and highlight them in movies and TV shows. But when it comes to sex, we are deathly afraid of the topic and in turn, make it taboo. No other society in the world shares are same belief. And unfortuatey, as long as we are naive and close-minded about sex as a culture, there will always be unnecessary uproar about topics an
So recently, there was a pretty big game that came out. "Big" is a description for the game in many different ways, from the amount of content within the game play experience, the size of the map that the game utilizes as it's world, the insane level of hype the game got before it's release (and even afterwards), or the sales numbers and bank account number that Rockstar Games is enjoying currently. Yes, Grand Theft Auto V is the biggest thing in the video game industry right now, knocking the new consoles off their throne for the time being. Trust me, any game that can make consumers and fans alike forget about the upcoming PS4 and Xbox One, even momentarily, is doing something right.
Because of this, I figured that the entire franchise of Grand Theft Auto was worthy of a little spotlight (as if they don't get enough already), which here on TheNoyse.com can only mean one thing: Another "My Week Of..." series! For September, I am going to attempt a week long GTA experience, aptly titled "My Week Long Grand Theft Auto Crime Spree," as you can see from the top banner. Remember, I'm not going to complete each game, as that's not what this blog is about, but rather just play the games and get something out of each one.
I have no real objective for this week, other than to pay homage to one of the most successful and controversial franchises of all time, focusing on the evolution of the series and maybe trying to figure out just how they got to this point, the top of the mountain.
I wanted to start at the first Grand Theft Auto, the game that started it all. Unfortunately, when I purchased that game (along with GTA 2) in a package deal on Steam, I didn't realize that these first two games weren't compatible with Windows 8, naturally. Apparently Steam and Rockstar are "looking into the issue," but of course, that doesn't help me at all for this week. I wasn't completely bummed out, thought, as the first two games are mere shells of the franchise as it stands today, and it wasn't until GTA III that the franchise took off in mainstream appeal, and created the look and feel of the games that we all know and love. Besides, this way I can fit in a couple of other games I originally wasn't going to have room for. Win-win for everyone, I hope.
So Grand Theft Auto III. The games that mom's love to hate, and one of a handful of games to be put in front of the pubic's eye and attention as both an overwhelming and critical success, but also as one of those games that politicians, activists and finger-pointers turned to as a scapegoat for all things wrong in society, especially when it came to the youth in America. It was mentioned in every news story that involved violence or mischief, especially when juveniles were involved, regardless if those involved even played the game. Despite the hate and backlash that it received, it was still well loved and cherished by gamers old and young.
I remember when I first played it, over at a friend's house. I was out of high school by then, and was close to my now infamous gaming hiatus. I didn't own a PS2 at the time, so the only chances I had to play it was over at his house. And after the first time playing it, I was hooked. Sure, the missions and stories were cool, but we (like most people I'm sure) spent more time than not just driving around, wrecking havoc on Liberty City and living vicariously through the digital thug we were controlling. And it was glorious.
Playing this game again brought back all those memories I had mostly forgotten. I forgot how awesome the Chatterbox radio station was. I forgot how we thought the graphics were amazing back then, but now, they look like a polygon disaster, yet somehow, still manages to look good, all things considered. I forgot how bad most of the mechanics were (driving, shooting, camera, etc.), yet somehow they were groundbreaking and we did't care.
Essentially, I forgot how fun GTA III was, and despite it's flaws and stigma surrounding it, we owe a lot of what we see in video games today to Rockstar and this generation-defining game.
Speaking of defining generations...
I'm on a boat! I'm on a boat! Everybody look at me because I'm sailing on a boat!
Sorry, but the whole beginning prologue to Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, I had that song stuck in my head. Why? Because you're on a boat, of course! Don't worry, I'm not going completely mad, as I had this same thought when I played Resident Evil: Revelations. Something about spending a lot of time on a big ship makes my my mind wander a bit, I guess.
So anyway, I started this game. I went in knowing NOTHING about this particular game, and boy, was I surprised. Shocked? Taken back? I think all those words accurately describe my thoughts as I continued in to this game. Talk about a curve ball! But more on that later.
So when I was talking about playing this series with my podcasting co-hosts (Platform Junkies, for those curious), they were shocked and amazed that I stopped after Metal Gear Solid back in the day, and never played or had interest in this game. They wondered why, and after thinking about it, I realized that I was a few years late to the party when it came to getting the PS2, and shortly (and I mean, shortly) afterwards, I ended up going on my video game sabbatical and thus, never had the chance to play Metal Gear Solid 2.
More interestingly enough, they were dumbfounded that I couldn't even remember seeing or being interested in "the awesome" trailer that they showed at E3 to hype it up. Apparently I was either oblivious to really awesome video game trailers at the time, or I just didn't care, because I didn't have anything to play it on anyway. Either way, I don't recall ever seeing it or being wowed by it. So with that, of course, I had to locate it on the internet, which I did, and I will embed here for you all, just in case you didn't see it either. I can't be the only one, right?
Regardless, it's a cool trailer, and I could understand and appreciate why it sent fans of the series into a frenzy. It was dramatic, edgy, explosive, packed full of plot content and looked pretty awesome for being a PS2 game. Apparently, I missed the boat on this one.
So playing it tonight was an absolute treat, especially considering I have the HD version of the game, which only enhances how great the original game looked. Playing it from the start, I immediately liked it. previous games made me remember why I tend to hate stealth games, but for some reason, this game made me really excited to be stealthy. The ability to distract guards, hide from them in lockers, use environmental things to distract them, and even interact with them without being aggressive all made me smile. And then I discovered the first person point of view for shooting, and boy oh boy, did my mind get blown. Finally, this felt like a stealth game I could not only enjoy, but thoroughly enjoy thanks in part to not completely sucking.
Here I am, playing this game, amazed by the awesome new game play mechanics, and I realize I think I am starting to understand the basic concepts of the story line. I am loosely understanding the differences between Solid Snake and Liquid Snake, I realize who Big Boss is and I am remembering some of the reoccurring characters by name. Then the curve ball gets thrown my way, much the same way it was tossed at everyone back when it first came out.
You play as Raiden for most of the game? Say what? They introduced a new protagonist to the mix, after putting in so much work to make Solid Snake a household name? Crazy talk, I tell ya!
Well, it worked. Despite the initial shock, it made the story much more intriguing and lot less stale, keeping it from the border of being a wash-rinse-and-repeat type of plot. They didn't completely abandon the characters they worked hard to establish, they just introduced a new perspective and an interesting story arch, all within the realm they had already created. Kudos to the development team for taking that plunge into the cold water. That took some guts, my friends.
Could you imagine if Nintendo did that with Zelda or Samus? The internet might literally melt.
Oh crap ... I did it again.
Sorry folks, but this is a 12 year old game, and by now, I'm pretty sure I'm the only gamer on the planet to have not played this game. So sue me if you haven't played it yet and were still planning to.
Anyway, in closing, I really liked what I got from this game, and I could totally see myself going back and finishing this game in my own spare time. Of course I say that now, however. Let's see how the rest of the games go this week.
Platforming games might be the crux of my gaming habits, and the bane of my existence in this digital world, yet the genre remains to be my absolute favorite, hands down. I've always had an affinity for platformers, as far back as I can remember. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that a good majority of games out when I was a kid were some sort of platform game.
Unlike many other gamers who grew up playing platformers who eventually grew out of the genre and moved on to more complicated of different genres, I didn't. I guess I just never grew up as a gamer.
And that's OK with me.
So tonight, I played Jak and Daxter, the first of a major series and exclusive franchise to the Sony platforms, originally released on the PS2. Tonight, however, I played it on my PS3, which I have had downloaded forever now and just haven't bother to play it. Until tonight, that is.
Mainly, I think I have been cautious about starting an awesome platformer like this game because of all the other games I need to get through. My whole life, I gave passed on several games for the sake of a platformer. They are more than just a gaming love of mine, but also a huge distraction as well.
Jak and Daxter holds up well, even if it is over 12 years old. Of course, the HD remake of it that I played makes it look a whole lot better than I'm sure the original one does after all these years, but that's neither here nor there. The point is it is still a really, really fun game. Am I biased towards it? Of course I am, and that's the joy of it all. Also, it has trophies. So what else could I possibly have to complain about?
I won't be dumping significant time into this game going forward, with all the other newer, more awesome games I need to play, but it's nice to know I have a good old fashion platformer to fall back on if that itch becomes impossible to scratch else wise.
Well, back to the console games of the God of War series, tonight. And in doing so, I realized something really cool and welcoming about the series. No matter how long it's been since you assumed the role of Kratos, or on what system it was on, each and every game is so inviting and easy to pick up and just play.
There isn't a learning curve to readjust yourself to learning the buttons. Because of the straight-forward game play style, it is hard to struggle in getting acclimated with the game, no matter what game it is. Even when going between the handheld games and the consoles games, the transition is smooth. Sure, the buttons are slightly different since the PSP didn't have as many buttons as the DualShock controllers, so certain buttons are mapped differently, but for the most part, it's all quite familiar. And that's a good thing.
I picked up in the middle of my game from the last time I played God of War II, which was October of last year. I had a hard time before loading it remembering where I was in the story, but as soon as it started up, it all came back like it was just yesterday. That was a cool feeling, because usually with my horrible gaming ADD and how often I bounce between games, I have hard time feeling comfortable right off the bat with games I haven't touched in a while. God of War, the entire series as far as I can tell, doesn't let that happen.
Sure, you could forget minor plot points or how far into the story you actually are, but for the most part, it's pretty seamless. Whether it is due to the simplistic style of the game or if it is done that way intentionally, it's fantastic to be able to pick up any game and any time and not be confused.
Another thing I realized while playing tonight was just how grand the overall game is, especially the scenery and locations. Sony Santa Monica held nothing back while developing this game, which is highly regarded as not only the swan song for the PS2, but also the best PS2 overall. Quite an accolade considering how successful that entire system was. But yeah, not only does this game look outstanding, all things considered, but the scale in which they built the universe is remarkable. There are several instances, where no matter how big, bad and powerful you feel while playing as Kratos, you are forced to feel small and insignificant in comparison to the world around you. One instant that stuck out for me was running across the chain from the giant horses over to the island. They could have easily zoomed in on Kratos as he made he way over the giant metal links, but instead, they draw back almost to the point of loosing sight of Kratos, just to show the magnitude of it all, and the beautiful scenery in the distance.
It's subtle, yet effective choices like those that developers all too often choose to take the easy route on instead of taking the risks, ultimately holding them back from rising to that next level of gaming experiences.
On a related note, I sent out tweet to Santa Monica Studios tonight, randomly, just to let them know about the God of War Week here on this blog, and much to my surprise, they responded with:
Sony Santa Monica: @SonySantaMonica
I'm not trying to toot my own horn or anything, but that's pretty cool right, considering it is coming from one the most successful game development studios? Glad to see they are well connected with their fan base (EA, I'm looking at you...).
So there we have it. Tomorrow night, back to the handhelds, which is OK with me as it means more trophies and no time wasted getting right in to it.
Day 70, Game 70 - God Of WarRead Now
Well, it's that time of the month once again. Not that time of the month, but this time of the month. Well, it's not really on a schedule, either, but it's a new month regardless, which means it's that time of this month.
Stop. Let me try that again.
Hey everybody, do you remember last month (February) where I played every game in the Halo series for an entire week and then blogged about it? Well, that was actually one of the coolest, most fun things I have done with this blog project in the few months of it's existence. I actually received a lot of feedback and praise for that one week, which was awesome to see that so many other people not necessarily had the same opinions as me, but rather had a deeper connection to the Halo series past the fact of them being video games, like I did. I feel like I really connected with you all during that week, like we were cave explorers spelunking in a previously undiscovered cave (this year of gaming project) and we took an offshoot path that looked like it had some sort of light at the end of the tunnel (my week of Halo). And in the end, in the mini sub-adventure we took, we found a huge, glorious cave within the cave, with stalagmites and stalactites and everything.
Following my drift? Man, I hope so, because my analogies are getting stranger, longer and more complicated by the day. So let's just put it this way: My Week of Halo was really awesome, fun for me and a good read for the readers, as far as I can tell. So, because of that, I decided to have a special week in every month, with each week featuring a new series of games.
And this month, on the eve of the release of the newest addition to the franchise, I have decided to have a God of War Week. All Kratos, all his games, all week long.
Now, let's clear up a few things first before I jump into the original God of War game breakdown.
First, I realize that God of War is not everyone's cup of tea. It doesn't hold a special place in as many gamers' hearts as Halo does, and that's fine. Despite it's commercial success as a franchise, it's still a niche game. For one, it's Sony exclusive, which until recently, meant that not that many people we able to keep up with the series as a Microsoft franchise, or especially a cross-platform franchise. Also, due to the violent nature, game play mechanics and style, and adult themes, the God of War series isn't intended to be for everyone's liking. It just is what it is. It's a bloody, violent, fast-paced, button-mashing, hack-and-slash, sexually aggressive adventure built on the human principals of love, hatred, jealously and revenge.
It never pretends to be something its not. Never, not once. And I have LOTS to say on this topic, as the week progresses. You have been warned.
Secondly, if you pull out your abacus and do some quick math, you will count a total of six God of War games, including the newest one tomorrow, to be commercial released, right? God of War 1,2,3, Chains of Olympus, Ghost of Sparta and now Ascension. Well, there was also a hidden, long-ago-forgotten-about gem in the series, but we will get to that one later on as the week progresses.
So yeah, there are seven days in the week, and seven God of War games in the series. It's like it was meant to be.
The God of War series, unlike a lot of fans of the series, doesn't go very far back for myself. Actually, I just played the first game for the first time last September, when I picked up the newly released God of War Saga that Sony put out to pay homage to one of their most successful franchises. It was part of the PlayStation Collections line of games they have released, including other popular franchises like Killzone, inFamous and Resistance. Unlike the other Collections, though, it featured five games for the low, low price of only $40! Five games in one bundle? Oh yeah!
You see, I didn't actually own a PlayStation 3 until last March, where I bought a Vita and the PS3 on the same day - because when I jump in to something, I go all in, head first, with no life jacket. I owned a PS2 for a brief moment in my life, but that went away with my gaming hiatus as well. So, I never had a chance to play any of the awesome Sony exclusives until recently, which sadly enough, is taking up a large portion of my backlog. God of War was always a game series that intrigued me, that I thought I would like, but due to circumstances, could never enjoy.
When Sony announced their God of War Saga, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to start from the beginning.
Playing this game tonight, I remembered what I thought about it several months ago when I played it for the first time. Yes, even with the HD updates, it's still a dated game, graphically speaking. The fire in the background of the menu screen is an instant headache, due to the lack of graphics to actually make it look like real fire. But then you get a pretty awesome looking cut-scene, with Kratos jumping off the cliff in a suicide attempt, setting up the story that would play out of the next 5 games as well: Kratos' rise to the throne as the God of war.
From there, you are pretty much thrown in to battle right off the bat, learning simple techniques as you go, instead of having the separate tutorial. Everything is going nice and kosher, and then BAM! You get your first glimpse at would eventually be one of many, many huge bosses to fight - The Hydra.
It's pretty clear from the first several moments of the game, what kind of game this will be. It will be a violent, bloody hack-and-slash game. It will feature some platforming and puzzling solving elements, as well. Also, the now infamous Quick Time Events will play a crucial role in big fights, and the bosses you will encounter along the way will be massive, intimidating and downright awesome.
I remember how fulfilling beating this game was a few months ago, because the story, while pretty simple and basic in it's truest form, is still quite engaging and fascinating, especially for fans of Greek mythology. Tonight, I didn't play through the whole game, obviously, but I did get a healthy start at a 5 hour or less play through that I need to complete for a gold trophy. Will I ever get it? Hopefully, thanks to the great head start on it I got tonight. But with so many games in the series to play this week, it won't be finished this week, that's for sure.
I can't wait to continue this, as I haven't even played most of the games yet, so yo will get a lot of first impressions and varied opinions from me, in this God of War week.
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Games played for project : 365