Archive for September, 2013

GTA V or The King Reclaims The Throne

Posted in Hands On with tags , , , on September 18, 2013 by Rabidgames

7 hours into GTA V, one thing is clear to Rabidgames: THIS IS GTA!

Gone are the uncontrollable cars, realism and cousins … over-the-top action, hilarious ideas and endless fun is back. San Andreas surely seems to be  where the strengths of the GTA franchise come truly alive.

And we need a new definition of alive in video games: You can aid or stop random crimes, help strangers (and freaks), or you start a gang war and let the cops, the gang – and your dog – fight it out! Or you do some missions brimming with ideas: You’ll bring down houses, crash parties, hunt down people with the help of your dog and you’ll tow trucks, try to raid security trucks, race sports-obsessed women or fast cars – mind you, all of this happens within the first 5 hours!

And then, there’s GTA IV’s protagonist San Andreas: Los Santos alone is breathtaking, especially at night. Oh, and the sea: Swimming looks amazing, but diving is just beautiful. But there’s also the desert, mountains, so much more to explore …

Rabidgames drools: GTA V is everything we wanted – and more. It easily claimes the sandbox throne, and itf nothing goes wrong, the title best game ever is awarded to GTA V as of today. Okay, back to the game now …

GTA IV: The Good, The DLC and The 10 Things GTA V Should Do Better

Posted in Revisited with tags , , , , , on September 16, 2013 by Rabidgames

GTA IV was probably one of the most hyped games ever. Just look at metacritic to see the love it got (most of it deserved, make no mistake), and let’s face it, we all giggled like toddlers experiencing the new Euphoria engine for the first time. But the love for GTA IV proved to be a slowly fading one for Rabidgames … the game was nice to look at, but there was a lack of variety beneath the skin. But luckily for us, the younger sibling GTA V awaits.

THE GOOD

Simply put, GTA IV’s Liberty City was an amazing backdrop. You get the feeling of a nice vibrant city (more about that feeling later) that is full of life, opportunities, and of course tons of violence. The amount of detail put into the city is pretty much awesome. Niko Bellic is an interesting character with a troubled past, albeit not a perfect one (“I’m tired of killing, that’s why I keep killing” is all he is), and some other characters are pretty decent, too (although there are some mightily annoying ones, especially cousins).

GTA IV shines in one regards: satire. Be it the overall story arch of the American Dream, be it some hilarious missions (remember killing that lawyer?), the TV and comedy shows, radio stations and especially the in-game internet which made the most awesome fun of capitalism, consumerism, patriotism, and above all the war on terror … All this kind of stuff made GTA IV one of the best satirical observations of the contemporary USA, and it proved that gaming can pull off a Breaking Bad, too (you don’t have to like the protagonist in order to like watching or playing it).

The story of GTA IV itself was also pretty good; there were some emotional moments (most of them rather sad – sometimes, you have to kill harmless and nice guys), and the endgame picks up the pace perfectly. Plus, there are some memorable missions (bank robbery, anyone?). The important here is the internet again – you will be able to get the complete picture of the meta story of Liberty City’s criminal empires only if you read the news from the beginning and if you played all the DLCs. Nice touch, Rockstar.

THE DLC

The Lost and the Damned

Basically, GTA IV goes Sons of Anarchy. If you don’t mind death metal, dirty bikers and some nice middle finger anarchy, well, tough luck, brother. The missions are pretty team-oriented and pretty much fun. Of course, the horrible bike mechanics ruin the many, many group rides; what good are hardcore bikers if they are too dumb to stay in position? Yeah, morons with patches. Maybe the Angels of Death should have won …

The Ballad of Gay Tony

Finally, we leave gritty apartments and dirty motorbikes. Glamour is back! Even more, the missions are more varied and finally, we were able to blow shit up big time! However, the stupid fight club showed how incredibly abysmal melee combat was in GTA IV … If you look past that, The Ballad of Gay Tony felt like an old-time GTA where fun was written with a capital F!

THE 10 THINGS GTA V SHOULD DO BETTER (and the likelihood it’ll happen)

10. More than one damn city without anything else

GTA IV was just the city of Liberty, well, City. And New Alderney (industrial part, downtown, suburbs and the Leone’s old run-down mansion). Just a big city, no deserts, no forests, no proper waterways, mountains or even a proper beach … after the vast San Andreas, this felt like 3 steps back. Now the good thing is, GTA V will have all of this, and maybe more (don’t we all want to finally meet Bigfoot?).

Likelihood: 100%

9. No more collectible shit without any rewards

In San Andreas (and earlier games as well as the later Stories games), you had to find many different collectibles, and you got in-game rewards like free weapons and stuff. In GTA IV, you had to shoot dozens of fucking pigeons – to get a fucking stupid achievement for killing all of them (was it 666?), oh, and a helicopter … Let’s hope GTA V does a better job.

Likelihood: 50%

8. What about decent movement?

Oh, poor clumsy Niko! Remember when you wanted to climb some stairs or you wanted to walk though a door, but clumsy Niko decided to miss everything in sight? Even poor John Marshton in Red Dead Redemption suffered from some eye leg coordination hick-ups (albeit not as clumsy as Niko). And as mentioned before, melee combat was an atrocity!  Will we be able to walk like human beings in GTA V? We’ll see, we’ll see …

Likelihood: 20%

7. Remember San Andreas had RPG stats?

Okay, first: The getting fat or muscular thing went over-the-top. We don’t need that. But experience in driving, shooting, flying or maybe even fucking would be a good thing – and GTA IV delivered none of this. Zero, nada, nix. Thankfully, at least some basic RPG stats will be back in GTA V. Level up, boys!

Likelihood: 100%

6. Dynamic shoot-outs

So, a normal shoot-out in GTA IV was taking cover, waiting for enemies to leave cover, shooting them, rinse & repeat. In other words, boring as fuck if you weren’t a Gears of War fanatic. While GTA V will have the same cover mechanic, switching between the characters tactically should make the shoot-outs more fun.

Likelihood: 60%

5. We want planes

Yeah, we know Rockstar though the GTA IV map was too small to have fun with planes, and, oh, there was just one airport. First: Fuck that! We had plenty of fun with planes in Saints Row 2 in one city, didn’t we? Luckily, planes (and fighter jets) will be back in GTA V! Hooray!

Likelihood: 100%

4. No more scripted missions

Remember how the same vehicles crossed your path? Or even worse, how couldn’t kill that cunt on a motorbike you were chasing? Yeah, scripted missions were a big fucking pain in the ass in GTA IV! Dear Rockstar, we don’t want this shit!

Likelihood: 40%

3. Vehicles should not feel like dead weight on ice

Goddamn it, if there’s ever a GTA where the handling at top speed is shit, and braking in the dry feels like sliding on ice, well, play GTA IV. Driving was horrible and not fun at all. Let’s hope Rockstar learned from that dumb idea of “realism” …

Likelihood: 70%

2. Fuck realism, and fuck that cousin!

Realism in GTA IV meant the following: Horrible car mechanics (see above), cops pestering you after firing one shot, no cool vehicles like planes or tanks (yeah, Niko was not supposed to handle them, man, are we glad CJ could), no more outlandish missions (ah, that jetpack …), and then, those fucking friendship bullshit: “Cousin, let’s go bowling!”, “Niko, why haven’t you called me” or “Hey, let’s grab a bite!” For fuck’s sake, it’s GTA, not the bloody Sims! Dating to give a fuck in San Andreas was only worthwhile because of the extras, but in GTA IV, it was just annoying like hell, especially if you called a so-called friend and had to drive to the other end of the fucking map to meet that cunt! Let’s hope friendship in GTA V involves a shitload of killing!

Likelihood: 80%

1. Empty world with almost no exploration value or things to do

Remember the one cool easter egg in GTA IV? The heart? Good, then you know almost all of them. Exploring in GTA IV meant driving from one part of the city to the next one. That was it 99% of the time. And then, where were the interesting side missions, interesting activities, hidden stuff, the paramedic/cop/taxi/fire fighter missions? Nope. What about customisation? A dozen outfits, no hair, tattoos or car customisation! Safe houses, businesses or many cool guns? No, no, no. GTA IV was hellbent on denying us the very fabric that made San Andreas great. Fortunately, GTA V will include tons of stuff to do! Fuck yeah!

Likelihood: 100%

Rabidgames puts the rant into perspective: To be fair, this might feel a bit harsh. Yes, GTA IV was fun. But playing it a second time is not at times – you know the annoying missions, you hate the clumsy walking, the awful driving, you get bored easily when not on missions. Yes, GTA IV is one of hell of an awesome open world action game with a serious and strong satirical undercurrent. But it falls flat on its face as a sandbox game. And GTA and sandbox used to be synonyms – and who knows, they could be again …

GTA V and the Kung Fu Rainbow Lazer Force

Posted in News with tags , , , on September 7, 2013 by Rabidgames

We know Rockstar’s humour, and GTA V will offer shitloads.

Want any proof? One of GTA V’s TV shows will be called “Kung Fu Rainbow Lazer Force” … basically, it’s about born-again Power Rangers fighting equality and diversity:

Rabidgames laughs: The more you get to know about even tiny bits of GTA V, the more you yearn for the game to be released NOW! Damn it, Rockstar, bring on 17/09/13 already!!!

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified or Just Another Alien Shooter?

Posted in Hands On with tags , , , on September 6, 2013 by Rabidgames

After last year’s turn-based strategy gem XCOM: Enem Unknown, the clunkily sounding The Bureau: XCOM Declassified has been perceived as the wild and action-oriented younger sibling. In truth, XCOM DC (sounds catchy, doesn’t it?) is the older brother, although it took a long time until he was allowed to walk in public places …

After an atmospheric vintage intro, XCOM Declassified makes clear who its parents are: Tactical real-time battles with slow-mow effects, special abilities (one actually called “Lift” …) and a squad based approach are definite genetic trails of Shepard’s Mass Effect series. However, the learning curve is steeper and deaths can actually happen on normal if you choose the wrong tactic – add special enemies such as Mutons and Sectopods, and you’ll get more interesting and challenging battles than in Mass Effect.

XCOM Declassified basically consists of three sections: The balanced and fun combat, walking around the base talking to people, and then there’s the disappointingly rather basic squad management; you can equip and customise your squad. Oh, and in what seems like an abduction from Assassin’s Creed, you can send your people onto missions they do themselves; they’ll return with some new equipment afterwards. Unfortunately, that’s as deep as everything gets.

Two main and side missions respectively in, Rabidgames can already say that XCOM Declassified is an alright game; combat is satisfying and challenging, story and setting are okay, but small, linear levels, tedious and slow movement in the base and the simplicity of the squad management (and no options what to research whatsoever) show the game is not at top level. Well, it’s not that bad for a game which was probably close to being cancelled several times though …

Rabidgames admits: This game is the perfect example of a rather average game – it’s not really horrible, but nothing in it excels in any regard, too. It might be worth renting or buying cheap, but full price seems a bit steep – unless you’re a devoted XCOM supporter or you’re longing for some more Mass Effect inspired tactical combat, and you don’t mind the lack of research and global strategic decisions …

Saints Row IV or More Insanity, More Fun?

Posted in Hands On with tags , , , on September 2, 2013 by Rabidgames

From the newbie in a small-time gang to the president of the US of Asskickers … Saints Row seems to be the embodiment of the wildest American dreams … After the first hour of Saints Row IV, you’ll have kicked a dozen terrorist butts, witnessed an alien invasion, broke free of the matrix to be cast into another matrix, and you’ve obtained super powers.

Yes, Saints Row IV, is way more insane and over-the-top than Saints Row The Third, but because of the Matrix back story, it works way better. If you have a simulation instead of the real world, there’s no need to raise an eyebrow because of illogical situations (remember attacking the weapons depot, stealing tons of weapons via helicopter and then hiding all of that within a small flat without anybody realising?), which means everything is possible – and will be done! One of the things Saints Row IV does best is making gentle fun of everything – be it The Matrix (the setting, of course), Mass Effect 3 (you have “romance options”, loyalty missions and two ridiculously stupid coloured choices at one point), Men in Black (a nice little weapon), various stealth games … oh, and the Saints Row franchise itself.

Thanks to popular demand, Shaundi is back in Saints Row IV – you know, the fun-loving dreadlock Shaundi, not her fucking yuppie self (although she’s still there, too). Then there’s Keith David, who now stars as himself – and is well aware of the fact he also voiced that traitor Julius and Captain Anderson in Mass Effect. Oh, and there are rumours Johnny Gat might be back from the dead …

So, how about the gameplay fun? Well, after the amazing set of opening missions and arriving in Stilwater, you acquire your first super powers, and Steelport is your sandbox to wreak havoc and mayhem in. Oh, and super means super in Saints Row IV – if you have a night out with three of your homies with super powers (gained via loyalty missions), no one stands a chance against your powers, which can be combined and upgraded. Well, maybe bosses can. Sadly, boss battles are nothing but wars of attrition – you have to repeat the same action over and over again, especially against shielded enemies. Also, the new system is crap: Because a Warden (an alien boss monster) appears as soon as you reach the maximum level, all-out wars are a thing of the past. If you defeat it, everything gets set to zero. Sucks.

Thanks to your super powers, cars, and to lesser degree, flying things, are now a thing of the past. Why use them if you can jump or sprint quicker? That makes car customisation basically useless. Even piloting a flying saucer is not that much quicker anymore …

Main missions are fun and vary a great deal (recruiting your friends in unique ways – wait until you see Asha’s nod to Metal Gear Solid, Deus Ex & Co., while Pierce’s involves a massive load of Saints Flow …), while side missions are confined to loyalty missions and the combination of activities coupled with a nice extra as incentive. While the annoying activities such as Escort or Snatch are thankfully out, there are now way too many platforming acitvities in Saints Row IV – and if you happen to hate platforming, like Rabidgames does, you’re not too happy with it.

To sum it up, is full price for Saints Row IV justified? Well, it’s the same world, same engine, same cars (then again, look at FIFA, the WWE games or the decade-old Call of Duty engine). On the other hand, there are refined super powers, new weapons, nice ideas and two Shaundis! At the end of the day, it’s all about fun, and there’s plenty of that to be had in Zinyak’s Steelport.

Just one thing: Do not expect anything like GTA anymore. Saints Row IV is basically a Prototype/Crackdown/Matrix/Mass Effect (and then some) love child – but no one knows who the father was … In a nutshell, it’s the Naked Gun of video games.

Rabidgames relaxes: After Saints Row The Third’s shallow, lifeless world and at times dull story, Saints Row IV strikes back with a narrative that allows illogical events and outlandish ideas. And it works perfectly fine. The characters seem to be more than the templates in the predecessor, and even the world feels more alive, mostly thanks to the added verticality.