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.
Let's venture outside the box a little bit with this post. And by box, I'm not referring to the cardboard variety that mysteriously scoots across the floors of this franchise without any real detection or second thoughts by the guards. Because that's a totally normal occurrence in real life, right?
No, I'm talking about the box that is what I've been doing all week with the Metal Gear franchise, which is writing about all the games I've been playing as I'm trying to decipher the insanity that is the stories and plots of not only the games themselves, but the franchise and universe as a whole. This time, I want to write about the original release of the game, and how history is always bound to repeat itself.
First off, I don't know exactly I chose to play Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker this day, as opposed to Snake Eater, but for some reason it seemed like the thing to do. I'm pretty sure when the games were released or how they fit into the convoluted fictional timeline no longer matters at all to me, as it's more of a headache to try to follow it than it probably should be. But hey, that's Metal Gear, right?
Anyway, so this game was originally released on the PSP. Since then, it has been updated to HD and released in a couple different collections (although strangely not in the Vita collection), but it's insistent inclusion among the best Metal Gear games isn't indicative to it's overwhelming success, unfortunately. While the reviews of the game were outstanding, and it remains as the third best-reviewed game from the PSP on Metacritic, the rest of the world outside of Japan didn't seem to show how great the game is with their spending habits. To be blunt, the game sold poorly on the PSP, and while the sales numbers should be better if the PSN and collections were included, it is still considered to be an overwhelming failure in terms of sales.
And it is not the games fault at all.
Unfortunately, this great and beautiful game was released on the PSP, which was its death sentence before it was even released. As badly as Sony wanted the PSP to succeeded, and hoped it would with the release of fantastic games like Peace Walker, the portable system with unharnessed potential never found its legs. And the games that tried to get the system off the ground sunk unceremoniously with it.
Why is this a concern to me now, considering the HD version is fantastic looking and I can enjoy it for the first time, as I never was a PSP owner? Because I can't help but think and wonder about the lifespan of the PS Vita, and all the amazing games they are trying to push on it. So far there have been several quality titles to grace the Vita, but all of the sales numbers have been less than ideal. If I were a betting man, the best selling games for the Vita have probably been the cross-buy games, where buying a PS3 version of a game entitles you to the PS Vita version for free. While games like Uncharted and Gravity Rush have been great quality games, I fear that sales haven't reflected the quality at all. I also worry that the Vita has been used for more smaller, cheaper PSN titles, and while there have been a lot of superb titles to grace the screens of Vitas from the PSN, just those titles alone won't help keep the system viable in the long run.
Sony has promised that the Vita will be used in partnership with the upcoming PS4, and that ALL PS4 games will be able to stream and be played directly on the Vita itself, but until those promises are fulfilled, I have to worry. Plus, streaming PS4 games will not keep the system viable, and if sales of the Vita don't increase soon, it's hard to imagine big name studios continuing to support the handheld with games that may get fantastic reviews, but won't fly off of store shelves.
For more proof of the worrisome state of the Vita, all you need to do is look at the HD Collection of Metal Gear Solid that was released for the Vita, as the Peace Walker game was not included, because the developers didn't see the importance of porting a PSP game over to the Vita. That's a scary thought.
Hopefully lessons were learned with Peace Walker. Despite it being a great game, it ultimately sank with the demise of the PSP as a viable gaming system. Now if you excuse me, I have a cardboard box to go crawl back inside.
Today I played the fun game called "Moving." I moved out all of my belongings from my old house and moved into my new apartment with my cousin. Aside from just moving, however, I also had to go to Ikea and pick out, buy, haul around and assemble a bunch of new furniture. Despite having the day off and a three day weekend, everything I did wasn't exactly my idea of fun.
I didn't even get my game systems all set up for crying out loud. No Internet until Monday and no TV until next Friday. So what's a guy to do?
Play his portable gaming system, of course.
So tonight, in between building a nightstand and putting clothes and stuff away, I played a little Patapon on my Vita, which was actually an old PSP game that I got for free on my Vita thanks to the amazing PS+ membership.
It's a fun little game. It's a rhythm game, and one that requires sound to actually participate. This was hard because my cousin was watching Halloween 2 super loud. I made it work, however, because that's how I roll.
You have to push the buttons in rhythm to get your characters to march on into battle, escaping enemies and recruiting new soldiers along the way.
It's a fun little game, but not one that would hold my attention longer than a level or two. Maybe I'm just too tired, though.
I mean, really, that furniture wasn't going to build itself.
Violence. Blood. Gore. Brutality. Revenge. Rage. Lust. Sex.
Did I say violence?
All these words are often used to describe the God of War franchise, and rightfully so. The game holds every one of those words, along with just about anything else you can probably imagine, to high regards and the core fundamentals about the games. The developers don't shy away from this, don't try to mask it or cover it up. They are true to themselves and the franchise they have created.
Behind these pillars of instant M-rating attributes that they are so proud of, they do hide one aspect that isn't as bad as the others, maybe by accident, or maybe just because the others are out in the open while this stays back in the shadows.
Of course, I'm talking about the story. Yes, you read that right. I said the story. There actually is one in these games, despite what you might have heard. And in God of War: Ghost of Sparta, the story is the highlight of the whole experience, by far.
With this game being the 6th official God of War game in the series to be released, Sony Santa Monica pretty much just ran with the notion that everyone who was going to play this game probably had already played a God of War game at some point already. Sure, they give you the same tutorial through the first part of the game, telling you what buttons to push and giving you a quick rundown of what to do and how to play. But aside from adding to the combat a bit, they decided to stop trying to reinvent the wheel and focus on the rest of the vehicle. The old adage is true for this series, that if it isn't broke, don't fix it.
So instead of trying to revolutionize how players experience the game play, they went a different route and decided to change how players experienced the game. By far, they went above and beyond in creating this story to tell, which answers many previously unanswered questions about Kratos and his character. And as is true with any great psychological thriller in any form of media entertainment, nothing grabs people's attention more then someone going crazy and fighting with their inner demons. Granted, most stories like this don't actually have the character actually fighting their inner-self, but hey, since when does God of War play by the rules or conform to preconceived stereotypes?
It was clear from the first GoW game that Kratos had, shall we say, family issues. But in Ghost of Sparta, everything you thought you knew about his family issues are flushed out thoroughly, leaving no stone unturned. His mom, his father, and especially his brother, who aside from Kratos' crazy mind, steals the show as far as interesting and vengeful characters go. His death is a powerful one, and perfectly explains why Kratos would rather choose death than live with the demons that haunt in afterwards.
Oh crap, my bad. I totally swore I would never do that again. Hope it's not to late for...
Is that even necessary though? I mean, really? Is anyone actually going back and playing this game for the first time at this point ... other than me, of course? And if so, is it that big a spoiler when you are telling the back story that takes place between two other games?
With that being said, this is the first game where I genuinly appreciated and enjoyed the story part of the game more than the combat. That's not to say I didn't like the combat in this game, because I did (the run and tackle move is sweet!), and it's also not trying to state that I didn't like the story of the other games, because I enjoyed those to (Greek Mythology is definitely something I've always been interested in learning more about, not that this game is historically accurate at all or anything, but still). But as I play each game this week, I can't deny that some parts just feel really repetitive, but with an engaging and entertaining storyline, it's nice to have some new kind of experiences with this franchise this week.
Story. Remember that kids. Win them over with violence, but kill them with story. Or is it the other way around?
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Games played for project : 365