Sunday, May 25, 2014

Saints Row the Third

I've finally made my way to Steelport, but sadly I'm more underwhelmed than I thought I would be. The city is beautiful, the atmosphere is alive, but the the city of Steelport just doesn't have as much character and diversity as Stilwater, either version. Stilwater drew me in and made me want to visit, drive around and just generally spend time within it's city limits, as where Steelport feels too much like the places I've already been to and avoid in my real life.

Saints Row the Third doesn't stray too far away from the feel of the previous two installments, but it does give the player an almost completely new experience, overall. My personal feelings are a bit of a mixed bag, in terms of how I feel playing the three games I've played so far. My absolute favorite change, however, is how the ranking system now feelings more like an RPG leveling system and you're not left out of missions simply because you don't have enough respect, forcing you to do some of the side missions to advance through the main story.

But then comes a short list of things that I didn't quite like about Saints Row the Third, such as, but not limited to: latency between when I push the button and the car horn actually sounds, often changing frame rate, the engine sounds for the Hammerhead and a few other vehicles are almost non-existent, most of my favorite cars were removed and replaces by cars I couldn't care less about (sick to death of seeing the fucking Sovereign EVERYWHERE), car upgrades aren't as good or interesting as they were in the previous two games, Angel's Gym garage is completely broken and worthless (Did anyone test this!?) and finally I do not like being asked to access crib the whole time I'm inside the crib!

Saints Row the Third also offers a few things that felt unfinished, but would have been great, had they taken the time to fully flesh them out. When you set down a way point on the GPS, there will sometimes be a working turn signal on the vehicle you're driving. The sad part is that it never seems to work for too long, maybe once or twice during the whole trip. Another half-assed idea was the drift button, which is good, and sometimes quite useful, but I'm more familiar with a handbrake that helps me come to a complete stop, not one that allows me to defy the laws of physics.

The activities are very well managed in Saints Row the Third, the story is very well done and I liked how a lot of activities were placed into story missions to get you acclimated on how to work them all. I found the activities to be less challenging, yet more fun; even if I failed, I felt like I had learned what I did wrong so I could correct it the next time around. Also, there are quite a few less activities to be done, although more variety, which is absolutely a great part of this game.

Something I'm indifferent to was the system of unlocking and then paying for upgrades. I didn't find this to be a hassle nor a great addition to the game, I just felt it is what it is and it worked, simple as that. Money is fairly easy to come by, once you start to acquire parts of the city and earning an income, so once you've gained enough respect and level up, it's fairly easy to purchase the upgrades you've unlocked, which at the end of the game become very useful.

Compared to the first two, Saints Row the Third felt bland and unfinished. Instead of finding myself losing track of hours at a time, I found myself shutting down my Xbox and occupying my time with something else as it just didn't draw me in as much as the first two did. I don't fully know what the disconnect was, but I have a feeling it's due, in large part, to the lack of interesting vehicles and the sub-par car modification system. But even through all the ups and even more downs I've felt with Saints Row the Third, I enjoyed it, just not nearly as much as I did the first two, which I feel I've made the point abundantly obvious.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

My History with the GTA series. Part 1: The Playstation Years

When Grand Theft Auto hit the Playstation, I was about 14. At that time I had a Playstation, but I didn't have enough money, or the ability, to purchase many games for the console. At that age the rumors of such a game were hanging heavily in the air around school, and just in general.

I believe my first introduction to the game was at a friend's house, where I would often spend weekends at a time going on benders of soda fueled video game bingeing. I remember walking through the door and hearing "Hey, check THIS out!". When I looked at the screen I remember my first reactions were mixed as to how lame the 2D graphics were, as I was more familiar with the full-on 3D things the Playstation seemed to be geared more toward doing, at the time. But after sitting down and watching someone play the game for about 30 minutes I realized this game wasn't your average video game; this video game was going to push a lot of buttons and become a classic.

It wasn't until the Playstation was actually dying out, and I was 18, that I acquired my own copy of Grand Theft Auto and Grand Theft Auto 2. Playstation games were becoming so cheap that I decided it was finally time for me to buy whatever games I had always wanted but never purchased. Sure, they're the Greatest Hits versions, but they're the exact same thing! I never really cared much about the whole Greatest Hits versus original black label anyway, like I said, the games are the exact same.

Countless hours, days, and possibly weeks were spent driving around and testing out all the different cars in all the different cities, selling them for more money, obtaining more weapons, using cheat codes to obtain the tank and just generally causing as much mayhem as I possibly could. To this day I've never actually taken the time to play through all of the missions, but I have played through quite a few missions. The strange thing being that when I finally decided to play GTA 2, I purposely tried to play it as a game, instead of playing it as a free-for-all mayhem simulator.

It wasn't until even later that I bought a collector's edition of Grand Theft Auto, allowing me to finally play the London, 1969 expansion pack. I hate to say that by this time I had moved into the 3D games and had become less and less impressed with the original games, but it's true. I haven't played any of the original 2D GTA games in a handful of years, simply because I don't find them as appealing as I once did. The 3D worlds offer far more variety on how to create mayhem, rendering the original games to being merely shelf decorations.

Regardless of my lack of desire to play them today, they still hold a treasured place within my past. I still recall many nights whizzing pass as I sat in bed playing GTA. Hours of my life just draining away as I tossed molotovs in GTA 2. Hours, days and weeks I'll never get back, but I don't want back, simply because GTA made them so much fun to waste.