Archive for August, 2013

The GTA Story: All Hail The Sandbox King – San Andreas

Posted in Revisited with tags , , , , , , on August 27, 2013 by Rabidgames

The year was 2004. The place was a PlayStation2. It was a good-sized step for Rockstar, yet it definitely was one hell of a giant leap for gaming: GTA San Andreas went from city to state, from action-adventures to RPG/sim/sneaking – all lite though, from the surface of a city to swimming and diving, flying huge planes and even something trivial like bicycles.

Back then, there were those incredible moments you cannot relive – leaving Los Santos for the first time, visiting the countryside and realising the massive size of San Andreas. Trying to San Fierro prematurely just to getting ambushed by fucking fighter jets out of nowhere who shot you down with a motherfucking rocket! The Hydra! The jetpack!

And then, there’s the San Andreas stuff that’s just always awesome! Cruising on a chopper in the desert listening to K-ROSE, flying planes underneath, using the hovercraft, winning one triathlon, getting laughed at because you were too fat or you couldn’t swim, or maybe trying to master the driving & flying schools of San Andreas once more (have YOU ever managed gold in the car driving school?) … who’ll ever forget this? Furthermore, the different climates, the red-smog Los Santos, the foggy San Fierro, the leisurely sunny Las Venturas, the barren forests and the dry deserts, from an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere to downtown L.S. – it was all there, and then, there was some more (the mysterious Area 69, the Resident Evil building in S.F., the weird wheelchair, the ghost cars, the U.F.O. bar and many more). San Andreas was full of sights, stuff and mysteries – and so far, no game has matched the size AND details.

Another milestone was San Andreas’ narrative: While Vice City was fun and tons of humourous nods to movies and TV shows, San Andreas was the story of the American Dream from a black man’s perspective in the early 90’s – racial tensions and riots, gang wars, corrupt cops, crooked government agents, drugs – name it, find it! It was both light-hearted and biting satire, cock jokes and playing with racist stereotypes, and even if you didn’t know or liked the Boyz n the Hood vibe or hip hop in general, it was still fun to get to know that culture (or at least the way it is perceived by many of us). Basically, San Andreas was the beginning of the Rockstar tradition of showcasing serious real-world issues in their games.

The rags to riches narrative easily spanned 50 hours, and of course, there were many betrayals and even more well-known faces: from Catalina and her new-found lover (Claude, the ever-silent GTA III protagonist), and our favourite lawyer Mr. Rosenberg. Will anybody ever forget Samule L. Jackson’s performance as the voice of Cpt. Tenpenny, the real antagonist in GTA San Andreas?

To this day, the epic scope, the diversity and the feeling of a complete game have been unmatched. In the first 20 hours in Los Santos, there’s Lowrider competitions, rescuing a damsel in distress from a burning building (you have to use a fire extinguisher) dancing, gang wars, working out and sneaking missions. Let’s add flying around aimlessly or simply diving near the shore, or maybe just eating until you puked … there’s always a way to kill some time in San Andreas

Of course, a game this size and full of content falls flat sometimes. Even San Andreas is not immune to it. Legendary are the tales of “that tree popping up after my jet exploded”, “there’s my car. Let me just turn around – oh, no it’s gone” and “where has my mission marker gone?” … It’s not all technical glitches, bugs or issues though; Los Santos takes too much place, while San Fierro feels like a rather late addition – imagine a wild car chase up and down the iconic hills of that city, and you realise something was/is missing in those areas.

And then, there was CJ … One good kid at heart, some wrong decisions, and always uptight (“I’m a bad motherfucker, I kill and maim and steal, but I don’t take no drugs, oh no, morality and shit!”). Compared to Tommi Vercetti, he feels weak, and the lacklustre family revenge/redemption storyline is pretty much your average soap opera level.

And then, there is that one fucking stupid Zero mission. The remote plane one. This one:

Worst! Mission Design! Ever!

But despite those shortcomings, San Andreas is still the unchallenged king of the sandbox. Just Cause 2 and Saints Row 2 came close, but the former lacked the size and everything-is-possible attitude and the latter one lacked details. And the best argument in favour of San Andreas is the following test: Pick a sandbox game of your choice, turn it up, it down in a vehicle and start driving around. Now, do the same with San Andreas. Rabidgames guarantees one thing: San Andreas will win.

If we talk about San Andreas, prudery forbid we don’t mention the Hot Coffee scandal! It was ludicrous. “The depiction of sex in a video game” Fox News and other intelligence-challenged conservative and demented outlets cried. “It’ll ruin our youth” … the very youth who was not allowed to play the game anyway, unless the parents so concerned about the f-bomb and sex but fine with the mindless murder of thousands of innocent pixels bought the game for their kids. But you know … it wasn’t even a feature in the actual game, because Rockstar had removed it. And if you didn’t know how to mod your PC version of San Andreas, you’d never seen the “sex”. By the way, that’s what the supersexy fuss was about … enjoy and wonder what the world had come to:

Rabidgames dreams: Nine years have passed, and San Andreas still occupies the sandbox throne. It seems rather ironic that GTA V, again starring (parts of) San Andreas, has the potential to finally dethrone the king.

The GTA Story – A fistful of 80’s Love – Vice City and Vice City Stories

Posted in Revisited with tags , , , , on August 21, 2013 by Rabidgames

GTA Vice City: Tommy The Motherfucking Man Vercetti

What’s the reason GTA Vice City is still praised by many as THE GTA, the perfect open world game, or as best game ever? Is it the 80’s feeling, including many references (from Miami Vice characters to the A-Team van to the obvious nods to Scarface)? Is it the ingenious assets gameplay element? Flying for the first time? The colourful and bustling Miami, pardon, Vice City?

It is all of the above, but Vice City’s main strength is the protagonist, Tommy Vercetti. As opposed to the good guy at heart CJ and the sad old veteran Niko Bellic, Tommy doesn’t give a shit about fucking ethics – why should he stay away from drugs, why should he pretend to care about anything? He’s in it for the money, for the fame, for the fucking violence! It felt refreshing just to play the ultimate badass, didn’t it?

True, Vice City takes shitloads of inspiration from Scarface: The big villa, the Malibu Club, Diaz aka Lopez – and of course a “from rags to riches” story were more than mere references, but thanks to the charismatic Lance Vance (for once, a character whose motivations were understandable, and it might be worth raising the question who betrayed whom), the best fictional band  ever, Love Fist, and good old friends such as Donald Love, GTA Vice City could free itself from the Scarface copycat stamp. Plus, Tommy talked less than Toni, becomes arguably less insane in the end, and his one-liners were usually spot-on. Yes, Mr. Vercetti was not designed to be loved or as a sympathetic character – but who cares? It’s GTA, and that means we want to unleash havoc and mayhem unto the city!

Besides Tommy, Vice City offered tons of stuff: We knew the open world missions, rampages and many diversions from GTA III, yes. But what about motor bikes, helicopters, one actual plane and changing clothes? All welcome, true. But one thing which will never be forgotten are the assets; from a certain point onwards, we could buy properties, do missions for them and then collect money in return. An ingenious system, and sadly pretty much absent in later GTA titles.

So, was Vice City perfect? Well, not really. It was a huge improvement compared to its predecessor, but falling into the water was still a nuisance, and that fucking mission “The Driver” is still a matter of dumb luck – and it ain’t the only one where it all boils down to luck in Vice City. Sometimes, you park a car in a mission somewhere, you turn around … and it’s gone. Pretty awful in a time-sensitive mission, eh?

GTA Vice City Stories: The Origins of the Vance Family

After Liberty City Stories, Rockstar decided to give us a second handheld GTA (later to be ported to the PS2 again). This time, we returned to Vice City, and this time, we got to explore the origin of Vance’s criminal empire. However, we weren’t allow to play as Lance Vance, but we had to settle with his unfortunately rather good-ish guy brother Vic. Which seems a rather unusual choice, since it is Lance’s brother who gets gunned down in the opening scene of Vice City

Vice City Stories aka VCS is a better and more polished game than LCS; also, Rockstar seems to make strange connections between black protagonists and the ability to swim – before GTA IV, only CJ and Vic were able to swim. Odd, isn’t it? While it manages to capture the spirit of Vice City (and there’s also a gang war style business control side to VCS), it cannot really compete with its bigger brother; the missions are significantly shorter, and Vic is simply not that interesting as a character, especially compared to Tommy!

Rabidgames pumps his fist: In terms of a dense atmosphere populated by over-the-top characters, Vice City is still in a class of its own. Nothing can compete with cruising through colourful Vice City listening to Slayer! Compared to that greatness, VCS is still a solid game … but it cannot really stand a chance against the behemoth Tommy Vercetti

Proof Saints Row IV IS The Better!

Posted in News with tags , , , on August 20, 2013 by Rabidgames

You know, there were people a bit disappointed with Saints Row The Third. You know, the sandbox felt empty, characters were rather dull and one-dimensional, customisation was two steps back … and there was not much to explore in Steelport. And you know, people were worried about Saints Row IV

But calm down, this video proves Saints Row is back – and it packs a punch! On release day (well, at least in NA), gamers have already found an easter egg – a rather tiny one, but hey, does size really matter:

Only time will tell what awaits us in virtual Steelport …

Rabidgames rejoices: It’s stuff like this why we used to love the Saints Row franchise. And even if it has become more outlandish and beyond-the-top, we can hope the fourth game goes back to the roots – at least some steps … But even if it all looks amazing and good, the shadow of GTA V is already looming … will Saints Row IV have the chance to withstand this giant?

GTA V Achievements … Most Of Them At Least

Posted in News with tags , , , , , on August 17, 2013 by Rabidgames

Our favourite achievement site xbox360achievements has just released some of GTA V’s achievements/trophies. The only missing ones are – surprise, surprise, the hidden ones, worth 200 points in total.

Here’s the whole damn list (minus the 11 hidden ones, obviously):

Solid Gold, Baby! (50 points) – Earn 70 Gold Medals on Missions and Strangers and Freaks.
Career Criminal (100 points) – Attain 100% Game Completion.
San Andreas Sightseer (30 points) – Explore all of Los Santos and Blaine County.
All’s Fare in Love and War (10 points) – Purchase Downtown Cab Co. and complete a private fare.
TP Industries Arms Race (10 points) – Purchase McKenzie Field Hangar and win the arms race.
Multi-Disciplined (30 points) – Attain a gold medal in all applicable hobbies and pastimes.
From Beyond the Stars (15 points) – Collect and return all spaceship parts.
A Mystery, Solved (15 points) – Solve the mystery of Leonora Johnson.
Waste Management (15 points) – Purchase the old dock and collect all nuclear waste.
Red Mist (20 points) – Complete all Rampages.
Show Off (30 points) – Complete all Stunt Jumps.
Kifflom! (30 points) – Complete your path to enlightenment… or not.
Three Man Army (20 points) – Survive 3 minutes on at least a 3 star Wanted Level with all three characters together off mission.
Out of Your Depth (5 points) – You’re gonna need a bigger boat…
Altruist Acolyte (5 points) – Deliver an unsuspecting victim to the Altruist Cult.
A Lot of Cheddar (20 points) – Spend a total of $200 million across all three characters.
Trading Pure Alpha (10 points) – Make a profit over your total investments in the stock market.
Pimp My Sidearm (10 points) – Fully mod a weapon.
Wanted: Alive Or Alive (10 points) – Deliver a bail bond target alive.
Los Santos Customs (10 points) – Fully mod a vehicle.
Close Shave (20 points) – Complete all Under the Bridge and Knife Flight challenges.
Off the Plane (5 points) – GTA Online: Complete the Introduction.
Three-Bit Gangster (10 points) – GTA Online: Reach Rank 25.
Making Moves (30 points) – GTA Online: Reach Rank 50.
Above the Law (80 points) – GTA Online: Reach Rank 100.
Numero Uno (20 points) – GTA Online: Obtain first place in all competitive game types.
The Midnight Club (20 points) – GTA Online: Use custom vehicles to win 5 races.
Unnatural Selection (20 points) – GTA Online: Complete all 10 waves of a Survival.
Backseat Driver (10 points) – GTA Online: Direct a driver to 1st place as co-driver in Rally Mode.
Run Like The Wind (20 points) – GTA Online: Survive for a day with a Bounty on your head.
Clean Sweep (10 points) – GTA Online: Finish a Gang Attack without dying and kill at least 10 enemies.
Decorated (50 points) – GTA Online: Earn 30 Platinum Awards.
Stick Up Kid (10 points) – GTA Online: Hold up all 20 Stores.
Enjoy Your Stay (20 points) – GTA Online: Participate in everything Los Santos has to offer.
Crew Cut (5 points) – GTA Online: Complete a Job as a member of a Crew.
Full Refund (10 points) – GTA Online: Kill the thief that mugged you.
Dialling Digits (5 points) – GTA Online: Call for gang backup for the first time.
American Dream (10 points) – GTA Online: Own an Apartment, Garage and an Insured Vehicle.

That’s a shitload of stuff to do in Grand Theft Auto V

Here are some of Rabidgames’ favourites:

TP Industries Arms Race (10 points) – Purchase McKenzie Field Hangar and win the arms race.
All’s Fare in Love and War (10 points) – Purchase Downtown Cab Co. and complete a private fare.
Waste Management (15 points) – Purchase the old dock and collect all nuclear waste.
Yes, businesses are back, and they better be back in Vice City style!

From Beyond the Stars (15 points) – Collect and return all spaceship parts.
Well, that sounds awesome, and fingers crossed we can pilot a flying fucking saucer!

A Mystery, Solved (15 points) – Solve the mystery of Leonora Johnson.
Johnson … that name rings a bell or two in San Andreas

Rabidgames wonders: Each news, each time the hype level rises. Yes, there are too many online achivements if you happen to care about achievements, and then again, San Andreas Sightseer puts another nail in our San Fierro/Las Venturas hopes coffin. But yeah, you have to try hard to nitpick in this case …

GTA Online Revealed To Be The Mother Of All Online Modes

Posted in News with tags , , , , , on August 16, 2013 by Rabidgames

GTA V looks amazing, and every piece of news makes the game more amazing. Today, Rockstar showed the world GTA Online. And fucking hell, if this video does not wet your pants, you must be dead!

To sum the most amazing shit in GTA Online up in a nutshell:

  • You can buy houses (although you can only have one at a time), ranging from small ones to huge mansions
  • Upgrades for your property include CCTV and entertainment systems
  • You can buy and customise cars, which can be tracked via GPS and they can even be insured!
  • Up to 16 players can mess around, rob gas stations or army bases and can perform big heists
  • There will be some form of voice recognition (hopefully not just Kinect)
  • hundreds of missions (not recycled from single player!)
  • You can create your own missions and races
  • San Andreas level system: You level up by doing certain things
  • money is only saved after delivering it to banks (similar to Scarface)
  • competitions in golf, tennis base jumping etc. possible
  • There will be “passive mode” – if you don’t shoot back, other players can’t kill you
  • Weazel News is back – showing players causing havoc live
  • GTA Online will start on 01/10/2013
  • Rockstar promises new and fresh content

Rabidgames swoons: Wow. It’s 2 games for the price of one, and GTA V looks massively aswesome. We might have the Game of the Decade here, folks … Throw away your lives, GTA is coming to reclaim the abandoned sandbox throne!

Saints Row IV – the infographic

Posted in The Latest on August 13, 2013 by Rabidgames

Well … Saints Row IV in a couple of words for you …

Game Chronicles HD

Here is a fun and huge infographic to celebrate the impending arrival of Saints Row IV and talk about all the awesome stuff that’s in it!

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Saints Row IV … In The ’50s

Posted in News with tags , , , on August 12, 2013 by Rabidgames

What’s the worst nightmare of the Saints boss? Being trapped in the conservative and clean 1950’s, encaged with trivial chatter and chores – and a boring wife, of course! And oh gosh, no swearing!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Yes, Volition released a video which shows this will happen in Saints Row IV!

One thing’s for sure – Saints Row IV knows neither shame nor boundaries.

Rabidgames shakes his head: There are no words to describe this … situation. No, there ain’t. Or maybe … the game looks like Matrix gone wild!

The GTA Story – Big Apples 1.0: GTA 3 And Liberty City Stories

Posted in Revisited with tags , , , , , on August 11, 2013 by Rabidgames

GTA 3: THE Revolution

Aaaaah, remember playing GTA 3 (or rather GTA III, but who cares anyway) for the first time? Remember testing the awesome physics for 4 hours? Remember sitting there with friends trying out all the crazy stuff which you couldn’t do in games before (at least not in 3D)?

Grand Theft Auto 3 was a revolution! It might not have been the first 3D free-roam game (DMA’s (later to become Rockstar) Body Harvest or the competition from Driver did that before), but GTA 3’s wild mix of freedom, satirical over-the-top humour and the choice of playing a crooked gangster were just the right ingredients to define a genre. Mind you, there were also the 9 radio stations full of music, hilarious ads and Chatterbox FM with wacky topics to be discussed in detail. You could just sit in a car and listen to the radio for hours. In this regard, the GTA series remains unbeaten even today.

The setting of GTA 3 was New York. Or well, Rockstar’s vision of New York. Liberty City was divided into 3 different islands, although the last one was part of the US mainland (of course, you couldn’t use the tunnel to leave Liberty City). Mostly, the city looked like any other random city in the US – there weren’t that many landmarks (well, besides Central Park, the “Liberty City Cathedral” really standing out, and some iconic skyscrapers), especially if compared to True Crime New York or Prototype … Unfortunately, Liberty City also feels a bit dull compared to the colourful Vice City, the smog-filled Los Santos, the foggy San Fierro or Las Venturas in the middle of the desert. 12 years and probably 24856342 games set in New York later, there should be a law forbidding any developer to use the setting of New York for at least 5 years!

Speaking of New York: 9/11 had an impact on GTA 3: The game got slightly delayed and there were some cuts and changes: Police cars were changed, the Dodo was clipped so we couldn’t fly properly anymore, and one mission giver named Darkel, who wanted to bring havoc and mayhem to Liberty City by giving you rampages – or one mission which became one of El Burro’s: Drive an ice cream truck, lure people to you, and then detonate it. Sounds like 9/11 now, doesn’t it? If you want to know what Darkel looked light, look here:

But what’s left if you play GTA 3 today? To be fair, let’s not concern ourselves with graphics. Anyway, first of all, you realise the wobbly controls, the terrible aiming and the cars that break down after hitting two obstacles. If you manage to get used to it, GTA 3 still doesn’t hold up to the standards the later games of the series have shown: Most characters are rather dull (or, as the protagonist himself, rather dumb), the missions are mostly pretty basic (and you’ll curse the game for the lack of checkpoints), and the story is basically a pretty simple revenge story. But still, as soon as you meet the finest characters, such as the estranged mob boss trophy wife Maria, the rather twisted billionaire Donald Trump or the psychopathic antagonist Catalina, the game hints at the things to come.

At the end of the day – and in hindsight – GTA 3 feels more like a tech demo. Missions, characters, story and the engine are not refined yet, and while it was fun back then, it’s a bit tedious today. There’s Vice City and San Andreas, and while they have different strengths, both outgame GTA 3 by miles.

GTA Liberty City Stories: The Mob Simulator

Rockstar decided it was time for some GTA PSP love, and that’s how GTA Liberty City Stories was born. Later on, it was also ported to the PS2. Actually, Rabidgames played both versions. Sadly, the control mechanisms on the PSP were not to his liking, so let’s talk about the PS2 version of GTA Liberty City Stories (to be called LCS from now on) instead.

Mind you, LCS was released after San Andreas. Yet still, the controls felt more like GTA 3 – especially the aiming feels horrible compared to San Andreas. The setting was pretty much the same as in GTA 3, taking place a couple of years before the events of the “main game”. The city was different in some aspects, but most were explained in a rather violent fashion.

Remember that fat fuck Tony Cipriani from GTA 3? Well, you play a slightly younger and way thinner Mr Cipriani in LCS. You rise ranks in the Leone family (as usual, similarities to any movies are pure coincidence in the GTA universe), and you’ll get to meet many well-known characters from various GTA games – some of them have rather shocking secrets (yes, we look at you, Donald Love)! Be careful though, this video contains spoilers.

There are lots of things to do in LCS, and while the characters are more fleshed out and the missions are varied, the clumsy controls and the lack of any checkpoints hold back the experience. There’s one mission in particular where you have to escape the cops … Good luck, mate. They just ram you head-on until your car explodes. Try running slow, you get hit. Try running fast, you’ll get hit. Missions like this one purely rely on dumb luck (if you’re getting hit in the first ten seconds, reload).

In many other terms, LCS was another step back: No more RPG lite aspects, just one city instead of three, no businesses, no assets, no proper gang wars. True, it was supposed to be the successor (timewise predecessor) to GTA 3, but even when it was released, something was missing. These days, this feeling has just become stronger. LCS might be one of the weakest GTA games, and that mostly because of the anachronistic features.

Rabidgames is wary: It’s hard to condemn GTA 3. After all, GTA 3, has defined gaming in the last 12 years more than any other game. But from today’s perspective, it simply has grown old, weary and tiresome. Even if it was a revolution back then, the world has kept spinning, and the formula has been refined. Or would anyone prefer International Superstar Soccer to Pro Evolution Soccer 6?

The GTA Story – 2D fun: GTA and GTA 2

Posted in Revisited with tags , , , on August 4, 2013 by Rabidgames

It’s not that long a wait until Grand Theft Auto V invites us back to San Andreas. But there’s still time to remember the humble beginnings of the GTA series back in 1997 (although 1977’s hilarious movie Grand Theft Auto deserves a honorary mention, too).

Grand Theft Auto – The birth

The original. The first GTA, presented in top-down 2D. Unfortunately, the game has aged rather badly … on PS1, the first two games are actually rather awful because of the wobbly and clunky controls. However, the free PC version (just google it; it’s available everywhere) allow for a better experience.

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the original GTA is … GOURANGA! If you have no clue what it means, just watch here:

In retrospect, GTA’s three city names are pretty prophetic: You start out in Liberty City (basically New York divided into 3 different districts), proceed to Vice City (Miami, of course) and end up in San Andreas (however, back then, it was only based on San Francisco). Sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it?

Sadly, there’s not that much to do in Grand Theft Auto – from today’s spoilt perspective: You can take on missions (you have to accumulate points to advance in the game), go on rampages or simply move freely in the world. Yes, Rockstar’s humour is in their, so you might want to enjoy that … but basically, the first GTA is an infant – you can sense the potential, but from today’s perspective, there’s not much to go back to.

There are also the add-ons London 1969 and London 1961. They’re basically more of the same – with driving on the left and some British thrown in there (but please do not expect sophisticated Oxfor English lessons).

In a nutshell: For today’s generation, the game might seem even duller. But for everybody who played GTA back then, it’s still a nice – albeit bumpy – ride down Nostalgia Lane.

Grand Theft Auto 2 – Respect is everything

Ah, the next exit from Nostalgia Lane is GTA 2, the improved successor to the first game.  Gameplay-wise, Grand Theft Auto 2 is an updated GTA 1 (better graphic, refined engine, day/night cycles, trains) – with a nice twist: There are rivalling gangs prowling throughout the nameless metropolis. Complete a mission for one gang, and they respect you. The catch however, is that most missions ask you to mow down rival gang members – and you’ll lose respect with them. Tough world, eh?

While the idea was revolutionary, and Rockstar never followed up on it, it was actually the Mercenaries series that refined this idea with disguises and complex reward systems … Anyway, GTA 2 is more fun than its predecessor, and thanks to the handy save feature (churches with a “Jesus saves” logo), it is possible to enjoy GTA 2 in smaller chunks or in multiplayer sessions! Yep, hunting each other in 2D is still fun.

Rabidgames sighs: Shame. The idea of re-experiencing GTA 1 has been more enjoyable than actually playing it. GTA 2 has more to offer, and it is pretty much fun to cruise through the city for a while. But then again, after the while, you’ll put GTA 2 down for another couple of years … Is the 2D sandbox genre dead? Probably not: newer 2D releases like GTA Chinatown or Retro City Rampage show it can still be fun.