Grand Theft Art Imitating Life

This was one of those rare occasions where the universe wrote the comic, and I just had to draw it. I asked Josh to show me “GTA IV” so I could see what all the fuss was about. I hadn’t played a GTA game since Vice City, and even then I pretty much ignored the missions and just blew stuff up until the cops chased me into the ocean. We literally sat there for 30 minutes watching in game cartoons on Nico’s TV. Then when he finally started to play the game, there was this whole complicated courting process he had to go through with Michelle. He actually said, “The nicer the clothes I buy, the more likely she is to put out on the first date.” You have to manage the expectations of your in-game girlfriend? This is scary shit people. That is WAY too real for a game that’s supposed to be about stealing cars, and then using said cars to murder their previous owners. I know I wouldn’t be able to play through the actual missions of this game because the moment it asked me to buy clothes and get a haircut to impress the fluzey I just met on the street, I would be reaching for the nearest blunt implement, or machine gun, or chainsaw or machine gun that fires chainsaws…on fire to murder her with.

I know the game is excellent. You don’t have to convince me of that. I just wouldn’t ever get past the parts that were as boring as my real life in order to complete it properly. At no point during Sonic 2 or Street Fighter was I asked by the game to go to the store and pick up cat litter (or hedgehog litter).

This reminds me of when my friend Wes had overclocked his P3 to play the first “Deus Ex.” He opened the computer case and turned the AC (in the abandoned apartment he was squatting in) down as low as it would go. It was September and you could see your breath in there. Wrapped in blankets we watched him play this revolutionary game. My turn came and I chose to start over from the beginning. About 5 minutes in I was supposed to sneak into a medical complex and do something important. I walked in the front door, guns a blazing and killed every person in the lobby. Alarms sounded and troops were dispatched. I died and the game was over. The whole thing lasted under 6 minutes. I just remember breaking the icicles off my nose and saying, “This game sucks. I’m out of here.”

I guess that’s why I’m a Wii Tennis man. Pick it up, play for 10 min, put it down…whatever. Just keep it casual.


Apparently Yahtzee agrees with me:


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  1. God, GTA is a great idea. It brings out the most violent version of any person ever, you could give this game to your grandmother and within minutes she'd be beating a pedestrian to the ground with a baseball bat and then circling them slowly and kicking them in the guts/teeth/face as they make meager attempts to rise and get to the hospital…

  2. I was never a GTA fan. No, if I wanted wanton destruction, I popped in this little helicopter game for the Sega Genesis, where, after completing the missions in the first level (which is set in Washington, DC), I went around blowing government buildings and neighborhoods.

    There's also JFK Reloaded, where you can either (a) play the game through and try to pop off shots like Lee Harvey Oswald, or you can (b) try to cap the entire motorcade. It's a great game to laugh at and then feel really bad about.

  3. GTA is maybe the most boring game ever–aside from Myst. Seriously. Boring. The best two things I've seen in it, are 1.) A billboard for Jizzm soft-drink, "Taste What's Coming!" 2.) Somebody in the game saying, "You're like my asshole! -Always holding shit up!" Aside from those, snore-zilla.

  4. Boring? That's hard to believe, but I guess to each his own. I guess I never did finish one of those games. I was doing what Joel was talking about. Flying in my tank and finding buildings the cops couldn't reach me in, while I shot down helicopters.

  5. I have to agree with you about keeping it casual. That's one of the reasons I play WoW and enjoy the Wii so much. I can turn a game on, play a bit, and shut it off. Saving is either irrelevant or available often enough that I don't feel like I lost any progress when I come back to it. The Wii is actually the first console I've played any games on since the original NES.

  6. I'm intrigued by the vastness of "liberty city," but I have no interest in this kind of game. My wife has been playing the Godfather game, which I gather is pretty similar, and it's all, run here, run there, bribe this cop, run into this building, get a mission, drive to the other ruttin' end of the city, cap this guy, bribe this cop, steal another car, bribe this cop, drive back to the other end of the city, bribe this cop, go back to this building, bribe this cop on your way in, and be rewarded with a badly rendered recreation of a scene from The Godfather, with your character awkwardly Gumped in. Bribing a cop.

    Maybe someone should mod GTAIV so all you do is explore the city. Sounds more fun to me.

  7. I know what you mean about casual gaming. I can't even get into a good game like Zelda: Twilight Princess unless it has a save feature where I can play for 10 minutes, save, quit, and start again without losing ANY of my progress. I just don't have the time and energy to spit 3 hours into a game before finding the next save point. I've tossed aside many a great game for that reason alone…

    My current casual obsession is Dwarf Fortress =D

  8. I watched a buddy of mine play this game for a few hours last Friday. When it came time to drive home, I had to remind myself to obey traffic laws and look for oncoming vehicles.

    The game is good, but I'm sure we'll be seeing backlash pretty soon. The hype was just way too big.

    Edit: Speaking of backlash, see also: Yahtzee

  9. Motto. As a Wii owner, I get a lot of comments like "oh, it's just two Gamecubes duct-taped together" by fanboy "hardcore" gamers who look down on it because it's not HD. I've played a lot of Xbox 360, and yeah, it's pretty, but so frackin' many of the games are just boring.


    Excuse me, I need to go lie down for a bit.

  10. It's an incredibly over-rated game, more so than Halo 3. I think that the GTA series has been getting tired since S, the story in this is much better though, I mean, it's still fun. But we need a new revolutionary game mechanic…

  11. Apples and oranges, comparing those two. I can agree with you that innovation in mechanics is something all games need to stay relevant. These don't have to be revolutionary. Take simple things like Bookworm Adventures. The innovation lies in successfully mixing a word-search with puzzle mechanics and surprising challenge.

    Whatever. This ain't the Escapist forums where they ask questions like "what is a game". Some like the shiz they play, some don't and think it's all been done before. I don't feel like I played anything much different with Halo 3 compared to it's prequels. Same with GTA. But both stand as what they are and it still works.

  12. Eh, you can choose to neglect all of the lame friend missions and just get to the killin'. Sort of like how you can neglect friends in real life, just to neglect your friends in the game.

    S'what I do.

  13. Im liking gtaiv so far. I play the missions and when I get bored I fly around in a heli or play one of the minigames. There may be more micromanageing than the others, but I enjoy that realism

  14. If it wasn't for the story just amping up the action half way through the game (The bank robbing mission was EPIC!) then I can honestly say that I would have traded gta 4 back in. I guess Rockstar was looking to really make you connect with the characters the first 7 to 10 hours.

  15. No, I mean the 'sand-box' approch to gaming. it's been a fall-back for devs for way too long and now the only people who could do it well are wearing it out. We need something new…

  16. Yeah, "Three Leaf Clover" was truly awesome, that was the point where I started to enjoy the game as well. It took so long to gain momentum that I almost took it back…

  17. I've been playing the game off and on for the last two weeks. I basically stick to missions and do the side stuff only when it will give Niko help with missions. The side stuff is a fun diversion for me but it isn't the focus of the game when I play it. I will say though that I've had about as much fun with pool and darts as I did a lot of Wii Play.

  18. I've been playing the game off and on for the last two weeks. I basically stick to missions and do the side stuff only when it will give Niko help with missions. The side stuff is a fun diversion for me but it isn't the focus of the game when I play it. I will say though that I've had about as much fun with pool and darts as I did a lot of Wii Play.

  19. Not sure if you've ever tried it, but Crackdown had some fun open-ended mayhem. Think GTA but your a psuedo-cop with super powers. Sure you can beat hookers in GTA, but in Crackdown you can beat gang-bangers with cars, literally. Or for something different you can beat people with other people. If you're feeling really worn out on the beating things with other things motif there's also the old standby of insanely powerful guns up to and including rocket launchers. One of the achievements is juggling a car in the air using a rocket launcher for at least a minute (I think, don't remember but I've never been able to do it, it takes about 7 or 8 hits and I usually run out of air after the 5th or so).

  20. Ideally the game should reward you for doing it anyway. I mentioned Crackdown earlier, but I'd also like to toss out that your character powers up as you use abilities, so even if all you're doing is beating the crap out of random guys you're still "playing" the game and getting power-ups from it. Being able to do things out of order is a good thing, but no matter what you do it should still contribute towards your characters forward progress (either by advancing the plot or your character). As an example of a half-assed implementation look at Oblivion. You're given a set of quests that for the most part can be done in any order, and do advance the plot as well as net you some nice loot, but it's still a bit too easy to get lost. I realized the game was losing momentum the other day when I spent an hour grinding my pick-pocket skill by repeatedly pick-pocketing the same guy, and then spent 30 minutes harvesting materials to go brew some potions. The real failure I think is that the games difficulty curve is a bit off, because you really do need to spend a certain amount of time grinding your skills or you're going to have your ass used to mop the floor. If the skill grinding was entirely voluntary, then it would probably be a really good game.

  21. Who still watches MTV? Actually, does MTV actually play any music anymore, last I saw it had degenerated into a reality TV wasteland. They really should be forced to rename their station or go back to playing music.

  22. Yeah I know crackdown. Never played it, just seen it played. It looked kind of fun, but a bit too simplistic and shallow for my tastes. I really liked oblivion, though you're right, the assorted curves were pretty messed. I just enjoyed the complete freedom and realism in a fantasy period world. Also, if you haven't already, CONTINUE TO NOT PLAY MORROWIND. I loved it when it came out, but it has every problem Oblivion has and so many more.

  23. Joel, saw your Twitter. Gotta ask, this Eli spinoff, is it gonna be more than narcolepsy and mexican jokes? I post here cause I'm still not 100% sure how Twitter works, and I didn't think you'd be able to see a post to you if I used @hijinksensue

  24. I would agree with you; really the only reason I would by a ps3 or 360 is Armored Core 4, because I'm a huge fanboy of the series, but it's stupid in the first place to compare the Wii to either one. It was never intended to compete directly with them, it's just trying to be fun in its own right. It is NOT a next gen system, but it's a good one.

  25. Though I would argue that the control system is next-gen. At the very least this-and-a-half-gen. And the other companies seem to agree, as I know that Microsoft, at least, is looking into motion-based controls.

  26. Christ, I remember when they invaded Seattle. They had those annoying fucks working as interns at KNDD, which meant that when The Posies played their farewell concert the place was so full of radio and MTV crew that I couldn't get in.

    I was much more tolerant of MTV when I was closer to its target demo. But it was a different channel, when the Real World was a curious aberration, and there was no Sweet Skank 16 to make it seem almost quaint.

  27. Under normal circumstances I would NOT see your @reply, but I use a Twitter App called Twhirl which alerts me of all replies, so reply away.

    Its just an idea for one comic, so YES its all mexican jokes.

  28. I do. But that's cause I don't know any better.

    I think Veronica Belmont did a blog post a while back on Twitter apps. I might go check em out, if they are windows compatible and not just for mac users.

  29. They claim the 21st season in Brooklyn will be a return to form, I guess back when they had jobs and social consciences. Chicago was the last one I actually watched and cared about. After that was Vegas, when the show went to shit.

  30. Yeah I was thinking that; I just mean next gen in the sense of a powerhouse, sophisticated machine capable of spitting out photorealistic graphics like nothing. I think the Wii is the superior system of the three, and will hopefully be most representative of the future of gaming. In that sense, I think the system is very much next-gen.

  31. Despite the splendid fun that is Wii Sports, there are less than 5 decent games for the whole console. I know it's sold eleventy billion consoles but I predict ultimate failure due to crappy graphics and poor game selection.

  32. I meant Wii Sports. I got a lot of fun out of Wii Sports. The comparison was meant to compliment the normally boring and pointless mini games in open world games.

    Wii Play is a piss poor tech demo pack when you buy a WiiMote.

  33. Dude, I have alll the games in that helicopter series for the Genesis. I think the one you played is Urban Strike… or Desert Strike… oh those were the days.

  34. Deus Ex starts with you needing to get inside the Statue of Liberty. You can do either stealth or all guns blazing, and be perfectly fine. I tended to snipe the guys outside then charge in.

    Or it could be the tutorial you died in…

  35. "The nicer the clothes I buy, the more likely she is to put out on the first date.”

    Wow. As if a game about killing hookers wasn't misogynistic enough already…

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