GTA IV first impressions

First off, while being an admirer of the series, and having played every game except for the PSP versions, I have yet to finish any of them. I tend to lose interest around the 20 hour mark, blaming it on the games being too open-worldly. I struggled early on the decision for buying this latest incarnation, knowing I might get bored again. But the growing hype surrounding it's impending release, the fact that it's going to look much better on the next-gen/current-gen systems (the graphics being a big problem for me in the earlier versions, they could never convince me I was in a realistic setting), the fact that the main character is going to be an older Eastern European war veteran, and that Liberty City is being modeled after New York, seemed much too intriguing to pass up.

So with that said, I'm only about an hour and a half into it. The only thing I've done is drive around town, go on a date, and beat up some dudes.

So far so good.

The gameplay remains practically unchanged from the previous iterations of the series, as you control Nico- fresh off the boat, through Liberty City, US of A. As Nico, you must familiarize yourself with the streets, neighborhoods and the wacky Americans who live in them. Luckily, he is somewhat thrown into being a taxi driver for his cousin early in the game, earning him money as well. The driving controls haven't changed much, if my memory serves me right. LT and RT are used to break/reverse and accelerate, respectively. Since I'm so early in the game still, I feel like I should obey all the traffic lights and try to avoid smashing into things as much as possible, prolonging my suspension of disbelief. It also helps to not frighten away Nico's prospective dates, as at least one of them has chastised my driving skills and walked away. Being chased by cops though, that's a different story.

Your fellow drivers on the other hand, do not always follow those rules. They will hit other cars and pedestrians, and squeeze their way into other lanes, making it look like my time on the roads of Manila, Philippines.

The controls, from what I remember from the other GTAs, is the same. Using the right stick to look around was a bit too touchy for me, so I had to adjust it lower in the control menu. Running is used by tapping the A button, once for a steady jog, twice for a sprint, which is still awkward for me. I wish they opted to map the right trigger as the run button, mimicking the driving controls. I noticed Nico tends to lean into corners when he's running, something that plagued the other heroes of the series, and something I still find kinda funny looking.

The cut scenes are well acted, and especially well voiced. RockStar has always been known to make their characters act, talk, and move convincingly, and since switching to the PS3 and Xbox 360, the whole game has benefited greatly with the graphical upgrade. The city looks great, sporting a slight hazy brown filter that still leaves a lot of color left to enjoy. The citizens look great too, and I haven't noticed too many repeated clothing textures on them either.

That's it for now. Gotta catch a flight back to Liberty City and finish this game for a change.

Bits of things

Playoffs: What the hells is wrong with the Phoenix Suns? Down 0-3! Yikes! They better win today.
Better news: Lakers up 3-0! Woohoo!

Dark Sector: Gears of War ripoff. Guns and a glaive (think Krull). But I thought it was still fun. Definitely a rental, can't see myself ever playing it again.

Cloverfield: Didn't see it at the theaters, and glad I didn't. I was getting a little woozy with the whole shaky cam first person perspective thing.

Some thoughts:
JJ Abrams said he wanted to create a monster movie for the US that would complement the Godzilla flicks in Japan. It was a fun movie to watch, but the monster lacks the kind of charisma that Godzilla has. Gojira is a giant green dino with several of those car air-freshener trees growing out of his back, that glowed when he wanted to fry Tokyo into crispies. Clover is a anorexic four-armed, pale-white monstrosity that lumbers through NY dropping dog-sized little "parasites" that hunt humans. And then I find out through the DVD's extras that Clover is actually supposed to be a baby that was just born, and is looking for it's mommy, while crying out in pain as the US army bombard it with all manners of artillery! Tragic.

Aside from the obvious comparisons with each monsters physical appearance, I think Abrams wanted to mimic the cultural representation of the monster's role in the film. Much like Godzilla is said to be a metaphor for Japan's darkest moment, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, one could argue Clover is supposed to be our (or more precisely Abrams) metaphor for our own fears and anxieties of Americans impact on the environment. I also think it could be about American's own view of ourselves, anthropomorphizing us as a young baby-like country, outgrowing it's comfort zone and crying out for mommy, while acting out of instinct rather than maturity.

Or it could be about a big-ass monster thrashing around New York cuz it's fun to watch.



The first weekend of the the NBA playoffs are over and what a great one at that.

The Lakers (predictably) took game one from the Nuggets, the Celtics destroyed the Hawks, and the 76er's upset the Pistons. Oh and don't forget that epic Suns and Spurs double OT game. I haven't been this psyched for a NBA playoffs in a loooong time.

The Pistons will be on the revenge tip come game 2 and will not have that happen ever again, but a big congrats to the 76ers, just shows you how to not underestimate any team in the playoffs.

Poor, poor, Rockets, I don't want to pity them, but is McGrady not the unluckiest superstar like evar? No Yao, and no Rafer Alston until game 3. Plenty of Hall of Famers have never won a championship, but are there any that have never past the first round? I can't think of any.

And what a debut for Chris Paul. He racked up 35 points and 10 assists to embarrass his point guard rival Jason Kidd, but what did anyone expect from that matchup? It's not like Kidd is a great defensive player, and being like 10 years older than CP3 doesn't help the cause. Maybe if the Mavs decided to bring in some weak-side help every once in while...oh wait, I forgot Paul is one the better passers in the NBA right now. Darn. I know I picked the Mavs to win the series, and I won't change that right now, they just have to clog the paint and force the Hornets into a jump shooting team. For the whole game. Ouch. Also, Jason Terry and Josh Howard have to find their shot, Howard looked hesitant in the second half, passing up shots he should have taken.

One other thing, Why didn't ESPN or ABC pick up the Raptors and Magic for their first game? They just stuck in some highlights while waiting for the Lakers game to begin. I'm sure the teams respective cities got the game, but no national coverage? That kinda sucks. Sure, the Raptors aren't exactly household names, but passing up on Dwight Howard? Come on, that's just not cool. As far as I can tell, this is the only series being featured 3 times on NBA TV. Who watches that? I don't. If I was any of those teams, I would feel cheated.

Anywhoo, 2 games tonight: Cavs vs Wiz, and Griz vs Rocks. Fun!

NBA Playoffs!

This Saturday the playoffs begin, and as you might have noticed with my banner up top, who my pick is to take it all.

I am so stoked for the Lakers this year, as everybody written them off earlier, but with a gift from Memphis, Pau Gasol changed it all, and freed up Lamar Odom and Kobe to wreak havoc among the Western Conference. Now they are numero uno, and plan on bringing Larry Obrien back home.

The only real worry I have for any team in the west is who they have to play in the Finals. It's most likely going to be the Celtics, but don't count out the Pistons, they're still good enough without Big Ben, but the Celtics have dominated the west in the regular season, 25-5! Ouch.

As for the west, my picks for the first round are:

Lakers over Denver in a sweep! 4-0 (thanks to the Warriors for making this an easy 1st round!)

Utah over Houston 4-2. I feel for sorry T-Mac, but it's another 1st rounder goodbye for ya buddy.

Phoenix tromps San Antonio in a sweep! OK, most likely not, but I just want the Spurs outta there, I dislike them much. They're boring! I know that's childish, but I don't care! I don't care if they play "fundamental basketball", or play the game "right", it's puts me to sleep just thinking about them.

New Orleans against Dallas. Hmmm, this is a tough one. Kinda. Dallas has more experience, plus Kidd has something to prove, so I pick the Mavs. Sorry CP3, but you ain't gonna get the MVP nor past the first round this year. Mavs in 5.

OK, for the east now.

Boston. Over everybody. The end.

Don't get me wrong, I like the Cavs and the Magic and I wish them the best of luck, but come on, anybody in the east besides Detroit have a chance against the Celts in a best of 7 series?


Whatevs. I'll post more with the actual, real life results, (and how far off I was in my predictions) when it all starts this weekend.

Now I'm going to play more NBA 2k8.

*Decided to throw this in, my picks for the whole playoffs from
I had a hard time deciding between the Suns and Mavs matchup in the conference semis, but ended up picking the Suns in 7. Those teams have a lot of history between each other, so it's going to be a great series.

I'm actually leaning toward the Mavs right now, so I might change my pick later.

Jus' a feelin' I gotz.


Just wanted to drop by and update this thing. Not much going on around here. Been job hunting lately, photo editing gig didn't work out. Job Hunting's a bitch.

As for the "late to the party" title, I've recently picked up NBA 2k8. With the NCAA tournament and the NBA playoffs looming, I've caught the b-ball bug, and have been playing it non stop. I had wanted to pick this up when it came out at the start the the NBA season, but was a bit hesitant since I didn't play 2k7 much, as it didn't exactly thrill me.

This year's version is much more solid in gameplay. It feels like I'm in a real game, as the atmosphere has been ramped up. The crowds now walk between the aisles into or out of their seats, and the mascot and cheerleaders take to the floor during timeouts. The player models are adequate, although some players, like Farmar Jordan of the Lakers (my favorite team btw) looks kinda like a pygmy marmoset at certain angles. Fortunately, the bigger stars in the league look much better, but overall, the models still have very angular/polygonal shape to them.

Nonetheless, the gameplay is all that really matters. The player animations are really nice, each action seems to flow into another quite nicely, like posting up, then a spin to the basket, a quick pump, then an up-and-under for the score, all blend in really well. Even how the players reacts to each other is great, as your teammates will high-five you after a successful free throw, or keep you away from the officials when a questionable foul is called. I still find myself having a little problem with the passing, as I tend to throw a cross court pass instead of the player right in front of me at times. The passing icon, a faint gray circle around the intended players feet, seems a bit loose, as it switches from player to player a bit too fast. Maybe I just need to slow down and pay more attention, I guess.

This brings me to how the game plays as a whole. This is by no means an arcade b-ball game. At first I wanted to just run around and dunk the ball at every opportunity, but instead found myself getting pick-pocketed, getting charged for offensive fouls and generally looking like a meek little sapling among giant redwoods. I had to slow down and convince myself to think like a NBA basketball player, read the defense, recognize mismatches, and pass the rock when the shot isn't there. It's a basketball sim, and should be appreciated as such.

Right now I am 9-6 with the Lakers in season mode in All-Star difficulty. With help from some message board posters sharing gameplay settings, I have found as closest to a pro-ball experience as I have found. I like playing the full twelve minute quarters, with the game speed set a teensy bit higher, so now a full game duration runs at about an hour or so, with the scores averaging at 100 points, give or take.

The extras include some street ball type modes, a 3 point challenge, and the Sprite Dunk Contest, which is really an event unto itself, as Bobbitto, of the Rock-Steady Crew, emcee's the event. It's all really cool and fun. The music in the game is great too, which is really a collection of the StonesThrow Records crew, like of hip-hop artists , Madlib and J-Dilla, and Percy P lending their sounds, as well as groups like Devo, Stone Roses, and Breakestra rounding it out.

I forgot to mention the other reason I decided to buy this year's game. With EA trying to get their greasy, ugly paws on Take Two, the publisher of the 2k games, this might be the last year for the 2k sports franchise. Not being a big fan of EA's NBA Live, this might be the last b-ball game I'll buy in awhile.