Wednesday, April 30, 2008

GTA IV Initial Impressions (PS3)

My first thought after putting GTA IV in my PS3: Man, I hope this install doesn't take too long.

As it turns out, it took around 10 minutes, just long enough for me to wolf down my burger that I had gotten on my way home from work after picking up the game at GameCrazy (I no longer patronize EBGameStopWare Etc.). After reading some bad stuff on the net about freezing issues, I hoped that the intro cinematic wouldn't break. Luckily, it didn't, and Niko Bellic was in Liberty City soon enough, driving his cousin to his "mansion."

Without going into too much detail (I'd rather save that for a full review), the game is amazing. It looks fantastic, it plays pretty much like you'd expect it to, and the voice acting and sound effects are top notch.

In about 7 hours of play, I haven't done much of the storyline. I've done enough to meet some people, get a list of contacts in my cell phone (which is pretty much the hub for everything: missions, jobs, meet-ups, dates, etc), and see most of the sights on the starting two islands. The storyline is interesting, don't get me wrong, but I'm having just as much fun taking in the city. I haven't stolen many cars (except when I really needed to), because it's just as easy to grab a cab. That's right, you can hail a cab from any street corner (Liberty City is modeled after New York, after all), hop in the back, and be driven wherever you'd like to go.

That's assuming you'd rather go somewhere in an automobile instead of on foot. For the first time in any GTA game, I'm finding myself avoiding cars as much as possible. There is so much detail in the city that driving past it at 90 mph seems wasteful. Pedestrians all look different and they speak a multitude of languages. You can buy hot dogs from street vendors. You can get special missions from random people on the street. You can go out to eat, play darts, shoot pool, roll a few frames at the bowling alley, catch a cabaret show, patronize the local strip club, or get plastered at the bar down the street, and you can do any of these activities alone, with friends, or with a date. Niko is currently dating a lovely woman named Michelle. I suspect Michelle might be in some sort of witness protection, as all the things in her apartment are brand new, and she always changes the subject when her past is brought up.

Let me turn to what the media focuses on: the violence and criminal activity. Yes, you can steal cars, but I really don't feel the need to, as I already mentioned with the cabs and the walking around the city seeing the sights. Yes, you can solicit prostitutes, receive service, and then waste them to get a "refund." I don't know that anyone would make a habit of that, however, as the GTA games have always handed out money like candy, and if you're that hard up for digital porn, you would get much better results surfing the net. Yes, you can shoot anyone and everyone. But I've only shot bad people so far. Once, I pulled out a shotgun as I was standing on the curb, whipped around, and blew some poor bastard away. I don't why I did it, it's just something that I've done in past GTA games for kicks. The deafening boom of the shotgun was like a slap in the face, and as I watched the man fly backwards and smack sickeningly into the wall before crumpling to the ground, I was shocked. Shocked at the brutality of it, and shocked at myself for engaging in such wanton violence. I went to the pause menu and loaded my game since I had just saved 30 seconds prior, and I haven't shot anyone "just 'cause" since.

This has already gotten way too long, so I'll end it here. To summarize, after 7 hours of play, GTA IV is everything I thought it would be and much, much more.

Monday, April 28, 2008

GTA IV Tomorrow

GTA IV hits tomorrow. Actually, it hits at midnight tonight, but since I have to work in the morning, I can't get it until after 5 tomorrow. I say can't, not because I'm somehow unable to get it tonight, it's just that I know if I do, I'll stay up until like 4 in the morning playing it, and then not want to go to work, and that's just all bad. I have no self control when it comes to GTA.

So, the work day tomorrow is officially going to be the longest 8 and a half hours of my life. Wish me luck. I'll try and get impressions up tomorrow night (if I can tear myself away from playing after oh, about 6 hours straight, I'm guessing) but probably not until Wednesday or later. GTA IV, bitches!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


I don't talk about work, except when I do. Shit, I think I've used that line before. Oh well, fuck it, I'm too tired right now to care.

So I'm a Health Plan Service Specialist. When I first got the job, it meant I helped out the reps who had questions about whatever. That was awesome, because I didn't have to talk to the public (except for rare occasions), and I got to put my knowledge to good use (explaining things to the general public is not a good use of knowledge. It's wasted on them). But then, that changed, and I didn't get to take those calls anymore. Those calls went to the seasoned reps, and I got escalated calls.

You know what escalated calls are? It's the kind of call that starts with "I want to talk to your supervisor." The kind of calls that really shouldn't exist, because they only occur when a rep isn't doing their job properly or a customer is being unreasonable. Either way, they suck, because I was right back talking to the public again. And this time, every single call was a nightmare.

I contemplated quitting. I thought about stepping down and being a rep again. I thought about doing anything but having to take those damn calls ever again. Recently, I switched to a different specialty escalated queue, and it's better, but it still has the potential to be nightmarish.

However, now there's going to be some changes. Now, escalated calls are only going to take up half my day. The other half will be spent working with reps again, to help them get better. It will be spent working with managers to get things done. It will be spent actually doing management duties for the first time ever, even though I became "management" over a year ago. Plus, we're going to be negotiating for more money, which is always good.

Is it going to be perfect? No. Of course not. But I have the sneaking suspicion that I'm going to like my job again. I'm excited.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Weekend's Over

My weekend is, anyway. I've had the last four days off work, which was fan-fucking-tastic. I got to sleep in, play a shitload of video games (specifically, I finished off GTA: Vice City Stories on the PS2, and got absolutely hooked on Locoroco and Patapon for the PSP), hang out with my friends, and watch TV (Weeds is a great show. I Netflixed the first season on Blu-Ray, and after watching it bumped the second season to the top of my queue).

It was also my birthday on Saturday, and I got some great wishes from my friends, so I'd like to thank you all again for those. In celebration, we're going to go see Forgetting Sarah Marshall next weekend (mmm, Kristen Bell), so that should be awesome.

Finally, the Playstation Store should be updated by this time tomorrow. It would be a perfect opportunity to unveil the public beta for Home, I think. Because dammit, I want to see Sony's SecondLife/virtual MySpace. I'm not sure exactly why, but it intrigues me.

Saturday, April 05, 2008


I got my refund for my printer, which wasn't really a surprise since I was dealing with Newegg and they kick ass. I also got my refund for those fucked up controllers, which was a bit of a surprise. I think it was my threat of filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau for false advertising that got them to break.

I ended up getting two Wavebirds off eBay for about a hundred bucks combined. That's more than I wanted to pay, but they're Wavebirds and they're great, so it's all good. The DVD binders arrived in perfect condition, so no problems there. And the new printer/scanner/copier I chose is fantastic. It's a Canon (the other one was a Lexmark), which I should have gone with in the first place because Canon makes rock-solid printers.

I finished Kane and Lynch, by actually completing the story line. Turns out all that was required to complete the "stealth" mission was to pop the sentry in the head with a silenced pistol so he couldn't run and fire a warning flare, and then proceed to open fire on full auto on the rest of the guys. Apparently only the sentry was smart enough to work the flare gun. :rolleyes: Other than that, though, the game was entertaining. Not worth playing through again (except the last mission to get the second of two endings, which was actually pretty good), but a solid game.

Finally, Still Alive will be downloadable for Rock Band once Sony finishes updating their store. For free. FTW.