now playing: catch-up

GTAIV

When it came time to make my current generation console decision, my choice was made relatively easily – I went PS3 [1]. The Slim arrived at the right time, with the right price tag, on or around the same day as Batman: Arkham Asylum. T’was a good day that day, walking out with my new console in one JB bag, and the collector’s edition of Arkham in another.

I’ll quite happily admit that I will, on occasion, wince at the news of an Xbox exclusive title I’m missing out on. Shadow Complex and the upcoming re-release of Perfect Dark really get my inner Nintendo fan-boy going, if you get my meaning. But for me the list of PS3 exclusive titles always looked far more interesting than those of the 360 [2].

Being rather late to the PS3 party, I made a decision early on to work through some of the more important titles in the back catalogue of games I’d missed before jumping on the latest and greatest. I’ve knocked out Assassin’s Creed and Uncharted in prep for their sequels, and next on my list are Dead Space and maybe the first Bioshock. Before that though I’m working my way through one of the highest rated games of this generation.

Grand Theft Auto IV.

According to the rather comprehensive in game statistics, I’m about 36% into GTA IV, which is funny, cause it feels like I should be much further. I’m struggling to think of any more ethnic stereotypes I might have to run errands for. I’ve just met a rather nice Italian man, so I’m sure I’ll be picking up his dry cleaning soon.

Despite being many hours in, I’m still not entirely sure I’m having fun. There’s something that keeps bringing me back to Liberty City, but I can’t say it’s the gameplay. It’s a little disheartening seeing that 36% completion; I have to wonder how many more times I’m going to have to drive somewhere, kill someone or steal something, then escape the rival gang or cops (or both) without dying, before I’m to find out more about Nico Bellic’s dark past.

And I’m sure that 36% also takes into account all of the side missions I’m yet to dive into, but they seem far more like distractions to the main story than anything worthwhile. To add to this, the constant phone calls from people I’ve met along the way wanting me to go out and have a good time make me feel like I’m playing Grand Theft Sims. If going out drinking or blowing with people was something that interested me, I probably wouldn’t be home playing GTA.

Ultimately, I think it’s the polish that stops GTA IV from being a great game in my opinion. Liberty City itself is an amazing accomplishment, and there’s a lot to be said for jumping in a car and just driving around, checking out the sites. It’s the crushing reality of the story missions – a perpetual loop of doing other people’s dirty work, then hoping your car doesn’t explode, or you don’t get caught by a stray bullet on the way home, forcing you to have to start all over again – that makes me really question why I keep coming back for more. Maybe it’s the hope I might hear Goodbye Horses by Q Lazzarus the next time I jack a car?

Three accidental auto-related manslaugter charges out of five.

——-
[1] That is, I went PS3 to compliment my Wii.

[2] Plus I was never really a Halo or Gears of War fan, which somewhat shortened the 360 exclusive list.

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Author: Mark Ampersand

Budding writer, connoisseur of fine popular culture and Batman fan.

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