Monday, December 29, 2014

My History with the GTA series. Part 4: From Grove Street to Easy Street in San Andreas.

The scene is the early 1990s, the place is a vastly expansive (fictional) state way out on the west coast of the United States called San Andreas. San Andreas encompasses three major cities: Los Santos (based on real life Los Angeles) San Fierro (based on San Francisco), and Las Venturas ( based on Las Vegas). The gang culture has taken hold, whether the youth wanted to be a part of it or not, many couldn't escape it.

San Andreas was the third installment of the Grand Theft Auto series and blew the two previous installments out of the water. Literally, as in this one you could finally swim! Not only could you swim, you could actually dive and stay submerged for a period of time, which in and of itself was an amazing feat.

Along side the ability to swim came an RPG feeling element of gaining heath and getting better at skills like driving, shooting, fighting, etc. We now had the ability to go to a gym and bulk up, or to Burger Shot and pig out. We also had an exceedingly massive landscape to explore, with woodlands, deserts, small towns and big towns, and just about anything you could imagine in between.

With a larger environment came a larger selection of modes of transportation including: various planes, boats, helicopters and you could even hijack a train and chug along the tracks from one end of the state to the other. What GTA would be complete without a copious amount of cars, trucks and motorcycles to drive around aimlessly? Not only did they give us that, but they gave it to us in large quantities, including the ability to feel as if we're really living the west coast life and giving the player the ability to customize almost every vehicle in the state of San Andreas.

To coincide with the west coast lifestyle of custom cars and movie stars, San Andreas also gave us the ability to buy new clothes and change the style of our main protagonist. We could live the champagne wishes and caviar dreams in a house in the hills, or live in a small hick town just outside of Los Santos, with plenty of other homes and assets to choose from! And last but not least, we had the small, but real, ability to interact with the fellow public. A very simplistic system, but it was fun to react a certain way to a comment directed toward our protagonist and see how that person would respond.

San Andreas blew my mind, to the point that it ruined my ability to go back to GTA 3 or Vice City. San Andreas was so massive and had so much to do that I found it impossible to go back to the previous games for more than 10 minutes without being overwhelmed with boredom and making the switch back over. From the huge list of missions, side missions, collectibles and other things you could acquire, customize or just waste countless hours doing, San Andreas was packed with fun.

For years, literally, I found myself popping San Andreas into my Xbox and sitting down for whole night sessions of finding certain cars and finding most of the ways I could customize them. Even just little personal challenges were fun! How long will it take me to get from Grove Street to San Fierro on a bicycle? The fun was endless.

With as much as I've played, I'm sure there are still places in San Andreas I haven't seen yet. Although the call to return to San Andreas isn't as strong as it once was, it's still there, and I do from time to time. I think I'll go hijack a tractor and hitch it up to the front of a random pedestrian's car and drag them around for a few hours!

My Interesting Relationship with the PS2

The very first video game console that I bought myself brand new was the original Sony Playstation, and I loved that console with a passion. I wasn't against owning the PS2, when it originally came out, but I couldn't afford one and I honestly didn't see any reason for owning one. I spent a lot of time over at a friend's house playing all the various games we had rented for their PS2, so I knew what it was capable of, but still I wasn't convinced that I needed one.

By that point purchasing a brand new console was out of the question, so I spent most of my time playing NES, Dreamcast and Playstation. This was also a prime time for Playstation as there were copious amounts of titles being clearanced off store shelves to make way for PS2 games. So many good titles at such low prices, I was swimming in a sea of Playstation games and really didn't care to venture outward to anything newer.

It wasn't until 2005 that I entered the sixth generation of video gaming consoles when a friend gave me his old Xbox to repair. By this time there was already an ever increasing number of Xbox games that were getting clearanced off, so I felt right at home while also staying current. The vast difference between what I was familiar with (PS, NES and Dreamcast) and the Xbox was astonishing.

Titles such as Grand Theft Auto 3, GTA Vice City and many of the GTA clones were quickly added to my collection. With a perfectly working Xbox, why would I need a PS2? Most of the titles for the PS2, that I was actively seeking to play, were already on the Xbox, where most reviews said the Xbox versions were slightly better in most ways. This really put a damper on me wanting a PS2, which was already slim to begin with.

A few years later my friend told me his PS2 wasn't working and asked me if I wanted to take a crack at fixing it. Now that I finally had a PS2, what benefits did it hold over my Xbox? The Playstation 2 did have a good amount of exclusive titles as well as a huge library of RPGs, so needless to say this made me feel better about owning a PS2 and allowing myself the option to play these games.

Throughout it's lifetime, the only reason I really wanted a PS2 was to play Liberty City and Vice City stories, which were PSP and PS2 exclusives. Later on I was introduced to the game Bully, which was, at that point, also a PS2 exclusive. Slowly but surely the titles I had clearly overlooked were coming out of the cracks and onto my radar.

After a while I've actually collected a few PS2 consoles, as I find them unreliable. The list of games I own in my PS2 collection has grown beyond what I ever thought I would own, but that's not a bad thing. Right now PS2 games are fairly cheap and fairly common, so I think I got into the PS2 just about the right time. Sadly not in time to collect many of the exclusive RPGs I'd love to collect, which are now hard to find and "worth" more than I'm willing to pay.