Monday, May 5, 2008

Blown Away by GTA IV...and I Haven't Even Played it!

If I was to be considered a "gamer" at all, I would be lumped into the category that likes "fun" and family-friendly games, like Mario Kart, Bust-A-Move, and, of course, Bejeweled. Not exactly your traditional Xbox 360 or Sony PS3 customer. But having observed my partner play Grand Theft Auto IV for a few hours (and asked question upon question as he moved along) I'm amazed at the detail. Even if you're not into gaming, it's worth it to watch someone play this game for a few hours just to truly understand how complex and involved something that was once considered kid's play has now become.

First, there's the story line. It's like a movie, with a character that you actually begin to relate to (in some ways, not all!) You're the protagonist, deciding when to eat, when you go home to sleep, which car you steal, and who you kill. You "date" and make "friends", and at some point, these relationships might not turn out to be what they seemed (I'll refrain from getting into detail so as not to ruin the experience for anyone!)

Then there's the incredible detail. Everything from street signs to cars, to the contours of character's faces. Each car's exterior is accurately designed, while bumps and hits are shown to spec as soon as you run into a pole, or another car, or perhaps even a person on foot (who might yell at you for hitting them, or just go flying into the air!). The Liberty City radio and TV stations are even chocked-full of funny dialogue, from jokes about the social networking site "MyRoom" to a TV show that spoofs Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous (or another like show). If your character pops into the bar for a couple of drinks (maybe to play some darts or arcade games as well) don't think you'll get off easy: he will leave inebriated. This means that your entire screen bobs up and down, and no matter how hard you try with the controller, he simply won't walk a straight line. All you can do is wait until he (i.e. you) sober up.

Every witty detail has been thought out, right down to Web pages accessed via a computer (you log on via one of many Internet cafes throughout the city). There's a spoof site for IKEA, as well as one for Starbucks, along with a few dating sites. Craigslist is also spoofed, with some hilarious listings, and an even more hilarious "About Us" page. And when you check your e-mail, don't think that you're free of spam: you get that in the game, too!

You probably wonder what all of this has to do with a game about stealing cars, fighting gangs, selling drugs, and making money. The answer is nothing. But it does have to do with building a virtual city and story line that's believable enough to make players really, truly get into the spirit of the game. And that's what it's all about, right?

With that said, this game is definitely not for kids. The way I see it, if you let them watch TV shows like The Sopranos or gangster movies like The Departed, then let them play the game. The content is pretty much the same, except with the game, he makes the moves rather than sitting back and watching actors make them. And if you can look past the gang references, bad language, and drug paraphernalia, you'll find a wonderfully immersive experience that was able to wow even a non-gamer like me.

[Note: Click Here to see some video footage from GTA IV, along with footage from the midnight Best Buy launch event of the game last week.]

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you enjoyed GTA IV, because this game truly is one of the best if not THE best video game out there today.