Grand Theft Auto V (2013)

I Gotta Go Meditate.  Or Masturbate.  Or Both.

Grand Theft Auto V (2013)The game I’m reviewing today is from a series I have liked.  LIKED!  But I’ve always had some level of irritation with the series because of everyone else’s reactions to the game.  Many people act like past entries in this series are some of the greatest video games of all times.  In fact, last I had heard one of these games overthrew one of the Zelda games to become the highest rated game of all time, a title I still staunchly oppose.  These games have all been typically fun, but I’ve never really found any value in the game beyond occasionally hopping back in to relieve stress by blowing up random things in a city.  But they’ve released another one, and it’s already saddened me by breaking world records and selling over $1 billion in the first three days.  …sigh…  Well, let’s see if it’s worth all this as I review Grand Theft Auto V, developed by Rockstar North, published by Rockstar Games, and including the voices of Shawn Fonteno, Ned Luke, Steven Ogg, Jay Klaitz, Gerald Johnson, Jonathan Walker, Vicki van Tassel, Michal Sinnott, Danny Tamberelli, Julian Gamble, Robert Bogue, David Mogentale, Matthew Maher, and Bryan Scott Johnson.

Nine years ago, a bank robbery went wrong, leaving Brad dead, Trevor Philips (Steven Ogg) on the run, and Michael Townley (Ned Luke) in witness protection.  Today, in Los Santos, San Andreas, Michael is living under the pseudonym of Michael De Santa with his wife Amanda and children Jimmy and Tracey.  Franklin Clinton (Shawn Fonteno) comes into the mix while working as a repo man for a car dealer that sells Jimmy a car as credit fraud and Michael goes down to straighten him out.  Franklin decides that he wants get out of small time crime and up his game a little bit, and he thinks mentoring under Michael is the best way to do that.  But Michael’s got problems of his own, including conflicts with a Mexican narcotics gang, working with the corrupt FIB (FBI), and the fact that Trevor is still alive and if he finds out that Michael’s still alive, some shit could go down.

I think the biggest problem I have with the GTA games is that I enjoy games that are some simple dumb fun, but I prefer games that help further video games as an art form by having a great story.  Some of those innovative and/or story driven games never get made because they will never be as successful as a GTA.  The reaction of other people also bothers me with these games, because I’ve never seen what the big deal is.  Everyone acts like the GTA games are the greatest games that have ever been released.  I don’t even think they’re the greatest games the Rockstar has made!  Give me a Red Dead Redemption any day.

That being said, we should go into the story of this game.  It’s unimpressive.  I’m sure anyone playing this game will have absolutely no problem with that either.  The overarching story of the game is just about some bank robbers that encounter some wacky things on their way to one big, last score.  Sounds like every bank robbery movie ever.  And a lot of times it seemed like the writers were trying to use this game to push their agendas.  Some of the most notable occasions of this were some pro-homosexual parts, some pro-legalization of marijuana parts, and pro-immigration parts.  I have nothing against those agendas, but this game doesn’t really seem like the place to make your political statements.  And then other side missions were just weird, even for a Grand Theft Auto game.  Like the section of the game that turns into Franklin’s ability to take on skydiving missions.  The game brings us to that section by having Franklin have a Lassie moment with a dog, where the dog is apparently talking to him and leading him to a skydiver caught in a tree.  If you’re going to do that, the least you could do is have Franklin get out of his car in a massive puff of marijuana smoke before he sees the dog talking to him.  But though it wasn’t a very creative story, there was a lot of creativity in the dialogue.  And there is hours upon hours of it to listen to.  That’s not a critique, as if to say that there’s too much of it.  I’m just saying I’m impressed by how much writing they would have had to do.  But perhaps do something a little bit more interesting with the story instead of spending so much time on that.

The characters weren’t entirely creative either, but you do get three of them.  Michael seemed like Al Bundy if he killed people instead of selling shoes.  Sex starved wife, slut daughter, and nerdy son.  And I knew they weren’t going to go this way, but I REALLY wanted his family to be taught a lesson by the end of this game.  I hated every one of them and I really would’ve preferred that they all ended up broke and out on the street by the end of the game.  Or at least that they would get off Michael’s case.  Not that I agreed with the things that Michael was doing, but I was playing as Michael, so they were getting on MY case.  Thusly, fuck those people.  Trevor was a pretty interesting character, but I never felt like I wanted to play as him.  I just don’t have much in common with a psychotic meth head that will fuck anything that walks past him.  I’ve always been more into cocaine than meth.  I preferred playing as Franklin, just because he was the nicest and most normal person I could use, but that also made him really boring.  Also, when he’s talking with Lamar those guys use the fuck out of the N-word.  It’s just about every other word.  Also, is this game trying to indicate that black people don’t know about convertibles?  When they get into them in the beginning, they seem completely shocked by them.  They even call them “robot roofs.”

The look of this game is so vastly improved from any other game Rockstar has made.  It’s hyper-realistic.  They captured the look and feel of Los Angeles extremely well.  Their map is also enormous, and varies the environment from rickety desert towns to industrial city to lush forests and even underwater expeditions.  It would be nice if that gigantic map would tell me which one of my three characters could purchase a property I was interested in though.  I don’t want to drive 15 minutes just to find out one of the other characters is the one allowed to purchase it.  And the environments also have a lot to do with the writing, like the funny company names and billboards, and the fact that someone put a Xenomorph in the ice in the Fargo-esque level you start in.  I was also a big fan of how they did switching between the characters.  The camera will zoom out overlooking the city and zoom down on the other character, like someone’s fucking around with Google maps.  And it’s made even better by the fact that the character you’re switching to isn’t just waiting around for you to jump back into him.  He’s living his life while you play as someone else.  Michael and Franklin weren’t usually doing anything interesting, but there was usually something fun to be witnessed by switching to Trevor.  He’s either waking up in the desert surrounded by dead bodies or waking up in bed with one of his male subordinates or stumbling drunk out of a strip club.  There were only two minor gripes I had with all of these things.  First: the size of the map made loading times to start playing a little ridiculous.  Why did I spend an hour installing this game just to spend 2 minutes waiting for it to start?  The second problem was with switching to characters.  Why the fuck do they have to change their clothes?  Why did I waste all that time getting them to look exactly the way I wanted them to look just so you could change it because I had to switch away for a little while?  That being said, $65 is still a great price for being able to make me grow a full beard in under a minute.

The gameplay in this was a little hit or miss for me.  A lot of it worked very well, and then there was the driving.  Most of the cars handled like shit.  I assume they were going for some super realistic thing.  I don’t have a basis for comparison because I don’t tend to drive like they do in this game, but I do know I don’t want to drive like this IN a game.  I’d rather be able to complete the races without hating life.  And I also don’t know how realistic I would consider it that I t-boned a car in a race and yet I was the one that spun out.  And the cars also take damage realistically, which is something that I also don’t want.  I don’t want my car rendered useless by the fact that I took a big jump and would’ve broken my axel in real life, or by pinning one of the wheels because I sideswiped a car a little too hard.  The planes were much more fun for me, but some of the flight school missions were just bullshit.  Mainly the one where they made me land on a bridge.  What kind of certified flight school would make their students practice an emergency landing on a bridge and not close the bridge off from traffic?  It’s not that much of a problem when the cars are small enough to drive under my wing, but when you let that semi-truck on so that it could tear the wing off of the plane, that’s just stupid.  Not just for making the mission more difficult, but I’m using YOUR plane.  And those missions that tell you that you must fly super low to the ground to avoid radar don’t make sense to me either.  You can say that flying super low keeps me off the radar all you want, but I think it’s slightly more suspicious that my landing gear are scraping rooftops.  A few people might call in about that.  You should really think this through more.  I also took a lot of issue with trying to lose the cops in this game.  Again, it’s probably more realistic, but it’s also very frustrating.  And shouldn’t diving underwater or being on the opposite side of a building make it impossible for them to see me?  And I liked the stuff underwater, and I agree that in real life there might be sharks down there, but if you’re going to put enemies underwater, might you be so kind as to make it possible to purchase a weapon that works underwater?  Spear guns DO exist in real life, y’know?

I also had a problem with the stupid iFruit app that I downloaded for my phone.  What part of the way most people play Grand Theft Auto made Rockstar think that the thing the fans wanted the most was an annoying Gigapet?  I already have pets that I am forced to feed every day.  I don’t need a new, fake one.

This game also has online content … or so I’m told.  All of my friends that play this game really want me to play it, but I just don’t feel that interested.  I played one race and left.  I’m sure the time will come for me to play the multiplayer on this game, and when I do perhaps I’ll review it separately if I have anything to say about it.  For now, we’ll just say, “I heard it was good.”

I also can’t arrive at any conclusions about the achievements.  I can say they’re terribly time-consuming to achieve, but I don’t think I’m interested enough in the game to dedicate that much time to getting them.

Grand Theft Auto 5 is definitely an achievement in gaming, and a record-setting success.  I’m not surprised as this series has always been extremely popular, but it’s never been that popular with me.  The story is lackluster, and I only enjoy playing it about half the time.  It seemed like the most recent Saint’s Row game and this game took exactly opposite stances on realism, and I didn’t care for either because of it.  I don’t want over-the-top, Matrix-like antics of Saint’s Row, and I don’t like annoyingly realistic Grand Theft Auto moments.  Grand Theft Auto IS a great game, but it won’t be making it into my good graces until it focuses a little more on story and has something more to contribute than mindless violence.  I do recommend this game, but I don’t need to.  I’m sure you’ve all already decided if you’re buying it or not.  Grand Theft Auto 5 gets “I’m rich, I’m miserable – I’m pretty average for this town” out of “You know, I’ve been in this game for a lot of years and I got out alive.  If you want my advice – give the shit up.”

WATCH REVIEWS HERE!  YouTube  OTHER JOKES HERE!  Twitter  BE A FAN HERE!  Facebook  If you like these reviews so much, spread the word.  Keep me motivated!  Also, if you like them so much, why don’t you marry them?!

Max Payne 3 (2012)

Put a Big Shit-Eating Grin on My Face While Watching These Bastards Take Turns Trying to Kill Me…

I remember being introduced to the game series that leads us to today’s game review shortly after it was released by a friend of mine who I now hate.  But my hatred for that particular person did not make me hate everything he brought into my life, and thus my love for the game continued.  I always found myself a little irritated with the typically depressing and morose story and atmosphere of the game, but it was the very first game to introduce gamers to the concept of “bullet time”, though movie goers had already experienced it a little in The Matrix.  But I wasn’t in control of Neo; I was in control of Max Payne.  And I always enjoyed the experience of diving backwards in slow motion, cleaning out the entire room of enemies as I slowly fell to the ground.  The sequel didn’t hurt my feelings at all, but the movie admittedly did (as best I can recall it).  When the game came out with yet another sequel, this time on current generation consoles, I was on board.  Now that we’re all up to date, let’s talk Max Payne 3, based on a character created by Sam Lake, written by Dan Houser, developed by Rockstar Vancouver, published by Rockstar Games, and including the voices of James McCaffrey, Julian Dean, Frank Rodriguez, Benedita Pereira, Robert Montano, Dillion Porter, Stephen Girasuolo, and Shirley Rumierk.

Nine years after the events of Max Payne 2, Max Payne (James McCaffrey) can typically found drinking away his body’s ability to feel things in a bar.  The son of a local mob boss comes in and starts trouble with Max, but he’s rescued by an old acquaintance from the academy named Raul Passos (Julian Dean).  But it’s only a brief respite as the son comes back, hits a female bar hopper in the face with his gun, and gets shot in the chest by Max.  Having just killed the son of a mob boss, Max is no longer safe in New Jersey, so he accompanies Passos to São Paulo to take a job protecting the wealthy Branco family, comprised of Rodrigo (Frank Rodriguez), his wife Fabiana (Benedita Pereira), Victor (Robert Montano), and Marcelo (Dillion Porter).  At a party, a street gang called the Comando Sombra breaks into the Branco’s house and attempt to kidnap Rodrigo, but Max (despite being cripplingly drunk) manages to save him.  Undeterred, the CS tries again at a nightclub Max and Passos are escorting Fabiana, Marcelo, and Fabiana’s sister Giovanna (Shirley Rumierk) to.  Giovanna and Marcelo get away, but Fabiana is abducted.  Max and Passos take it as their personal responsibility to retrieve her before it’s too late.

The story of the Max Payne games has always been one of my biggest issues, and there’s not a whole lot of change in this game.  The story itself is not bad here, but there’s something to the writing I got irritated with that I’ll get to in a bit.  The story itself is actually pretty good, including a good amount of twists and turns that keep it interesting for the bulk of the game.  I’d say an issue I started to take with the story was Max’s involvement in the first place.  We find out pretty quickly that Max was brought into the scenario to be a fall guy for the plot of the bad guys.  I understand why you’d want to pick a drunken gringo has-been with a history of violence to be your fall guy, but I think it’s time to start looking somewhere else when it turns out that one guy is a gundamned killing machine.  This plan is costing you way too much money on goons.  Alternatively, Max also made some shitty decisions that pissed me off.  There’s one point where he’s outside a room with about 4 people in it and an additional 3 he was trying to save, and he walks in there and yells freeze, then gets disarmed by someone behind the door he hadn’t seen.  This also gets someone killed.  And then it really pissed me off.  This dude is a fucking killing machine!  Was the writer aware of how many people I had slaughtered while jumping in slow motion through windows?  Why did he not do that here?  There are also a few more occasions where this killing machine gets disarmed and humiliated when he should have killed the shit out of the people.  The dialogue is the biggest issue I take with the game and the rest of the Max Payne games now that I mention it.  Max is such a fucking bummer!  Is he not aware of the fact that he’s a goddamned killing machine?  If I could jump through windows in slow motion and clear a room of 20 enemies, I would never be sad.  But Max is.  A LOT!  Every piece of dialogue in the movie is basically Max walking into a room of things that might generally make people happy and saying something to piss all over it with sadness.  He walks into a soccer arena and remarks, “A lot of trophies and game plans.  Been a long time since I had either.”  And you’re going to hear this kind of bummer-ism a lot.  Every time you pick something up or look at something, Max Payne will dump a pile of sadness on it.  He’ll do it sometimes to let you know where you’re supposed to go next, telling you which direction to go in the “center of the maze” even though there’s only one door in this “maze” that’s cracked open and obviously beckoning to you.  There was one time where I walked through an obvious door and Max said, “I opened the door to the next circle of this low rent Hell.”  Now you’re just narrating the things I just did and making them depressing!  How do you make walking through a door so damned sad?!

The biggest irritant I had with this game was in the look, but it’s again a specific thing in the look and not so much the look itself.  The game is third person and almost everything in the game looks fantastic.  The environments are often extravagant when you are in the early stages of the game, existing in the Branco’s company.  They all look great.  Then you go to a favela, where it also looks great, but captures the underprivileged look well.  The thing that annoyed me was – to show that Max was often having a hard time making it through things – the camera would constantly flash with different colors.  They made the great look of the game irritating!  Why would you do that?  I understand that the character we’re viewing these things through the eyes of is often inebriated, but I’m not.  Why should I be punished for someone else’s alcohol abuse problems?  This gimmick they had was well into my nerves by the end of the first level, but thankfully it lightens up by the end of the game as Max dries out.  I was also a little bit bummed out when Max’s look changed from his classic look in the game, but I understood the purpose in the story.  I figured it was no coincidence that Fabiana often looked like a big boobed version of Paris Hilton, but I was confused when her hair seemed to change color in the middle of the game.  She was a blonde, but she’s suddenly a brunette in parts of the game.  Was it dirty or something?  Had the game been going on so long that her natural hair color grew out?  I don’t know.

The gameplay is where this game really wins.  It’s a whole bucket full of awesome to be Max Payne, even though he’s trying to convince you that it’s not all the time.  It’s still a third-person shooter that relies heavily on slow motion to increase its awesomeness.  It remains largely unchanged from my dim recollection of the previous two games, adding only a new cover system that’s been made popular in games since Max Payne was around, and it works for the game very well.  For the bulk of the game, I didn’t find the bullet time as useful as I remembered it.  Max just wouldn’t stay airborne long enough for me to make short work of my enemies, and not always because I ended my bullet time jump – and lost serious style points – by jumping into a credenza or something, smashing into it and crumpling to the floor, humiliated.  But, when I got to thinking about it, I had played the original games on the PC, where it’s much easier to aim, so that may have been the perceived problem.  They also added a new thing that they called “Last Stand”, which gave you a second shot at life that worked very well … sometimes.  If you had been killed, time would slow down and give you the opportunity to kill the person who had put you down.  The irritation came when your gun was empty because you were, after all, just involved in a major shootout, and you could not reload during Last Stand.  Occasionally, the person that shot you was obscured by a wall, where he could apparently shoot you, but you could not shoot him.  So that was annoying.  The reloading problem was big for me because I was about two chapters from the end of the game before I even figured out that it was possible to reload in the game.  I confess that I downright refuse to read instruction manuals, and I often cannot be bothered to even check in the options for the controls.  That happened here, but I just figured I wasn’t able to reload because they didn’t mention it within the lengthy tutorials in the early stages of the game, just to make sure you know what to do.  You could’ve thrown that one in there.  I was also a fan of the checkpoint system they use in the game.  If you run into a big battle nearly dead and out of painkillers, you don’t need to worry about restarting the entire level.  If you die, you restart with full health.  If you keep dying, they restart you with full health and some painkillers.  And you just keep getting more as you die.  I appreciate that.

This is not a game to get for achievements, at least if you’re anything like me.  First, there’s a multiplayer component to this game that you will not find in this review because I probably will never play it.  I want Max Payne for its single player experience and I can’t be bothered with your tacked on multiplayer that people seem to think every game needs.  Some of the achievements require you to play that, and I won’t.  It also requires you to play the game on significant difficulties, and I had enough issues on Normal that I won’t bother with anything above Hard.  There’s also apparently a thing in the game called New York Minute that you would need to beat, and beat on Hard, if you want the two achievements for it.  New York Minute means you have a minute to get through each chapter, extending that by killing people, but if you die, you restart from the first chapter.  Fuck that.  You’re going to tell me I need to rush into battle to win, but then punish me for the inevitable outcome?  No thanks.  Besides those, it’s mostly just killing all the people in the room in one of the many locations that Max dives from something in slow motion.  I’m okay with those ones.

In the end, I thought Max Payne 3 was a fantastic game, but it was not without its annoyances.  The story was great, but Max himself did everything he could to bum me out all the way through.  The look was also great, but only when they allowed you to see it without randomly flashing the visuals in an irritating fashion every thirteen seconds.  But the gameplay I don’t have any big complaints about.  Every minor irritation is overridden when you become the slow motion embodiment of death and destruction.  This game is definitely worth playing, but I’d keep anything sharp out of your reach lest Max causes you to open up some wrists.  Max Payne 3 gets “You buy a product and you get what you pay for, and these chumps had paid for some angry gringo without the sensibilities to know right from wrong” out of “I’d killed more cops than cholesterol.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.