Grand Theft Auto V

  • Posted on: 22 September 2013
  • By: Keiya

I am about a quarter of the way through Grand Theft Auto V so far. In all honesty, the only Grand Theft auto game that I have ever played the main storyline through completion was Vice City. I will usually play the storyline most of the way through, at least up until the point at which all areas and weapons are unlocked, and then screw around until I burnout on the game. I thoroughly enjoyed San Andreas, but it too a large extent felt like one giant mini-game. GTA IV was more focused on the main storyline, which was part of the problem: Once the novelty wears off, the core missions for the most part are repetitive (Drive to point A, shoot someone/pick something up, go to point B) in addition to Liberty City lacking interesting things to do that aren’t bowling with Niko’s cousin.

The core missions in GTA V are structured quite different because of the new featured gameplay element: Character switching. Each character has a distinct personality and social situation (to say the least) and each character also has his own strengths and weaknesses thanks to the new stat system. Michael for example, is a skilled marksman, Franklin is a superb driver, and Trevor, an expert pilot, is pretty decent all around. Each character also has a special ability that can be activated while in combat (Franklin for example, can slow down time bullet-time style while driving). Stats can also be improved by engaging in relevant activities: Driving more will increase your driving skill, running will increase your stamina and so forth. I have a feeling that the stats were designed to be leveled up naturally as you play through the missions given that it is fairly trivial to max out most of them by spending a minimal amount of time at the gun range, flight school, etcetera. In all honestly, I don’t think I’ve really noticed that much of a difference in gameplay in regards to each character’s skill. So whatever effect skills have seems to be minimal at best.

Back to character switching: Dividing the storyline 3-ways mitigates some of the repetition. Tired of Franklin’s storyline? Switch over to Michael or Trevor. I do worry that having 3 main characters will make it easy to dilute the storyline or make it easy to lose track of characters by favoriting another. But so far, that hasn’t really been an issue in fact, I’d say that being able to switch characters does make the game more engaging, so in that sense, it is a success. If I do have any criticism though, it would be that so far, being able to switch characters within the same mission has been grossly underutilized and I do worry that this gameplay element will not live up to its full potential. But as mentioned before, I’m only about 25% into the game. I do wish that the game made it more clear as to who can do what missions. I know the game color codes them, but it’s a little hard to see without zooming in. It would also be nice to know exactly where each character is at any point by looking at the map, but I suppose part of the joy in switching characters is not knowing exactly where they are and what they will be in the middle of (such as spooning another man in pink pajamas…) when you switch over.

Also new to the game are heist missions (I love a good old fashioned heist). So far these missions seem to be broken up into 4 stages: Observation (stakeouts, recon), planning (choosing what approach and who to bring), preparation (gathering necessary supplies), and execution (heisting). You can choose what type of approach and who you want to bring. Team members vary in skill level; highly skilled members will obviously ask for quite a bit bigger cut than low skilled members, so that’s the trade-off. For example in my case, I chose a stealthier approach to breaking into a jewelry store. I had a fair number of hackers that I could choose from, but I took a risk on a guy that I had met earlier in the game during a mission. He wasn’t as skilled as the other guys, but Michael had a good feeling about him and he was only asking for 4%. Ultimately, that decision may have been a poor one but hey. We got away with the cash, everyone learned something. All around successful heist.

I am very impressed with GTA V’s graphics quality and level of detail, especially considering the PS3’s age and especially especially in comparison to its predecessor GTA IV. It’s clearly pushing the upper limits of what the system can do. Anti-aliasing is pretty lacking to say the least, but I haven’t really had any issues with pop-in (I have the physical copy, heard that there are quite a few technical problems with the digital copies) or framerate drops, with an exception for situations where say, about 20 cars are exploding within 10 meters of each other. What an astounding level of detail. It really does feel like LA down to the specific neighborhoods and minor landmarks, food chains, buildings, etc.

Overall: Looks good, fun missions, controls feel tight, love the customization and the weird social media aspects when Rockstar’s servers aren’t on their knees. Oh and no more bowling.


Odds and Ends: September 17th 2013

  • Posted on: 17 September 2013
  • By: Keiya

I am so conflicted. I have a virgin copy of GTA V ready and waiting for my undivided attention, but we are almost caught up on Breaking Bad. We have one more episode to watch and before we can enjoy being up to date with the rest of the world (for once) for the last two episodes of the series. I suppose we can spare 40 or so odd minutes to watch one episode. It seems that there are a lot of strong contenders for most shocking scene in a television show for this year. Anyway, a short update on things that I have been watching and playing:

  1. We have been religiously watching Attack on Titan as I imagine virtually every anime fan is given that it is the new hotness anime blockbuster. I've heard that between the anime and the manga, the anime is better paced and easier to follow. I really want to binge read the manga, but I really enjoy anticipating watching the anime each week
  2. MOBAs are the last bastion of genres that I have never really played for one reason or another (the only other games that I don't really play are sports games if I recall correctly). My goal is to at minimum make it through the DOTA 2 tutorial and play 3 games at some point. 
  3. Still flirting with the idea of picking up FFXIV to play on-and-off casually, but since it is out of the time and money budget, I will just press my nose against the window and keep a watchful eye on it. Pretty sure that PvP was slated to be released at some point. So if the game is still alive at that point, I will probably consider picking it up at that time.
  4. Why would you review a game as "very good but imperfect" then give it a perfect score? 
  5. The lies of Locke Lamora digital copy is on sale via both Barnes and Noble as well as Amazon for 99 cents. It comes highly recommended as a fun fantasy read. Conveniently enough, it was next up on my list of books to read.
  6. I...I may need to buy this when it comes out.

On the D3 Auction House Removal

  • Posted on: 17 September 2013
  • By: Keiya

From Blizzard's recent announcement:

When we initially designed and implemented the auction houses, the driving goal was to provide a convenient and secure system for trades. But as we've mentioned on different occasions, it became increasingly clear that despite the benefits of the AH system and the fact that many players around the world use it, it ultimately undermines Diablo's core game play: kill monsters to get cool loot. With that in mind, we want to let everyone know that we've decided to remove the gold and real-money auction house system from Diablo III.

Better late than never I guess? Killing monsters and getting cool loot to use, what a novel concept. I think, the feeling that the entire game (loot system especially) revolved around forcing you to use the AH in order to be viable in the higher difficulties killed Diablo 3 for me. Very interested in seeing how Blizzard plans on remedying the drop system in Loot 2.0, in which I assume will be a pre-patch for the expansion. 

Steam Family Sharing

  • Posted on: 11 September 2013
  • By: Keiya

There is a beta sign up for Steam Family Sharing. Starting mid September it seems that a few lucky folks will be able to share their libraries with up to 10 people. I am assuming that this feature was designed to address Steam account user and password sharing as a method of not having to pay for multiple copies of a game. The big limitation to this system of course, being the fact that only one user can access your library at any given time (lender has priority). So I guess it's kind of like lending out your steam account or computer minus the security risk and plus the ability to use your own saves/achievements. 

It is kind of a bummer that only one user is able to use the library at a time instead of say, being able to simultaneously use an account but being limited to one user per game. It is however, probably the fairest legit game sharing system that we are going to get. Also kind of a bummer that libraries have to be shared in their entirety. It's not a feature that I personally care about but I can picture parents for example wanting some ability to limit certain games. But, that is a nitpick at best.

This feature is perfect for people like us who really don't need or ever want to purchase multiple copies of a single player game, given that we sit 3 feet from each other. It's also perfect for playing games on the HTPC without having to log off or exit out of Steam on my computer. Very cool idea and probably long overdue, truth be told. Not taking your own digital security and privacy seriously is a dangerous mistake to make in this day and age.

Fall 2013 Game Releases

  • Posted on: 10 September 2013
  • By: Keiya

Fall approaches and with it comes the annual dump of triple-A game titles. Sadly as I grow older, my 'list' seems to grow smaller (possibly due to the airsoft and non-play grownup things budget growing larger :/), but oh well. The four games that I am interested in are:

  • Grand Theft Auto V
  • Pokemon X & Y
  • Assassins Creed IV
  • Watch Dogs

Of these games, the only two that I am absolutely itching to play are GTA V and Watch Dogs. I may end up passing on AssCreed IV until it goes on sale. As far as Pokemon, I think I have determined that I have just enough free time to spend one one time sink game this upcoming Fall season. Since I have ruled out any and all MMOs (passing on FFXIV), it's a choice between GTA V and Pokemon. I really want to play GTA V, but I really wanted a PC release, in which I am assuming will eventually be announced/come out in like, 6 or so odd months. In theory I should wait for it to go on sale or wait until I have more free time, but that is just in theory. In practice, I'm unsure if my willpower will allow me to not purchase it this upcoming Tuesday.