GTA Online: Executives and Other Criminals details

It’s no secret that me and Shaun love GTA its been nearly 3 years since its launch and we’re still playing it the frequent updates have kept us interested and engaged. Rockstar has not failed us but…. Continue reading

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Top 4 games we want to play in 2015: Shaun’s picks

 Grand Theft Auto V and Grand Theft Auto: Online

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Pretty much a year ago and a bit I was loading up Grand Theft Auto V onto my PS3 because that’s what you do when the latest and greatest game series is released… on the PS3 and Xbox 360 only. So basically I was downgrading controllability from my previous super-fun experience on PC with GTAIV and going to the archaic PS3 with it’s 10 year old hardware and… well it has a Blu-Ray player so that’s pretty good.

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Grand Theft Auto V: In Brief

I haven’t posted as usual, Friday around midday. The reason for that is GTA V the game I have been waxing lyrical for the last 2 months. The game that makes me write about other games to write about GTA. This is borderline obsession but how can you not be worked up about “the next GTA” on the demonising or praising sides of the fence? I, thankfully love the game, I always have enjoyed and immersed myself into the offerings from Rockstar with the GTA titles. GTA V has not disappointed me one bit due to the vast, vibrant setting and interesting characters to boot, you feel a part of the world they have sculpted so carefully with the technology pushed right to the limit, I cannot praise the level of detail and thought put into everything you can see and interact with.

What I am not going to do now is review the game because I am no super-gamer and I don’t finish games hyperfast and then go online to write up the awesome guides and tips. What I do is take the experience in reasonable sized pieces with gaming sessions around 4 hours long, even then I don’t get through that fast so for me it’s all about taking it in (as I write I am at around 47%). And because I am taking it in I hope I can give you some info on the different way things work for someone as “relaxed” as I am with the pace (No pictures this week, I don’t know how to snap photos on PS3):

Driving/Cars/Motorcycles
I love cars, everyone who knows me knows I don’t like cars, I love cars, just not in some sicko sexual way, I like to drive and think and talk about cars, my name is Shaun and am a petrolhead (Hi Shaun). GTA V is car lovers heaven, high end sports cars, off-road pickups, modern and classic US muscle cars, sleek convertibles and all others because most of it is cool… are represented here. For the first time the vehicular line up is extensive with multiple models from manufacturers (moreso than GTA IV) but also the detail and the diversity on the streets of Los Santos is astounding. I am nearly halfway through the game and I am seeing some cars for the first time in the game. The first foray you would have gotten/get is in the Obey 9F (an Audi R8 amalgam) did what GTA IV did when I first tried it out… it sucked. Why, well it was far too twitchy and turned unnaturally quickly, in the amount of control it had as a handler it was out of control and I disliked it. Since then I have had the chance to drive nearly everything else and I love it. The feeling is definitely like a Need For Speed or Burnout with easy handling and fun easy dodging, however making you work a little to get the drift happening right. So far the highlights of my offline garage is the Vapid Sandking XL (Ford Raptor on roids), Inverto Coquette (Red, carbon bits, looks like 2014 Corvette), Bravado Buffalo (2013 Dodge Charger, Franklin’s default car) and an Imponte Phoenix (70s Pontiac Firebird, Custom for Trevor).

I am rambling but you should know:
– Cars are modifiable, if you modify your default car (for Michael, Trevor or Franklin) the car will always be modified. Find a Los Santos garage and drive/ride in.
– Things you can modify on your car: Suspension (Lows), Armour, Braking, Performance (Turbo, Engine, Exhaust, ECU), Body (Bumpers/Splitters/Diffusers, Spoilers, Wheels, Tyre Smoke, Tint, Colour, Roof, Roll Cage)
– Playing the game I notice adding a turbo seems to negate the need for engine or transmission modifications as the turbo maxxes the acceleration stats (is there any benefit to adding other stuff?)
– Rockstar seems to be on the pulse of car culture, their choice of wheels, cars and modifications shows it. They included wheels that look like Volks and SSRs… WOOHOO!
– Bikes are modifiable too, I love my Bagger (Harley Road King) in matte black.
– You can lose your car if you park it at your character’s home garage. So far Trevor’s parking lot at the strip club (kinda spoiler) doesn’t have this problem. I have lost approx 3 cars and 1 bike this way over all three characters. Luckily I wasn’t too fussed about the cars but that could get annoying if you bought something for a fair bit of change and then lost it. The most secure way to retain cars is by putting them in the large storage facility type garage.

On Foot
Walking around is not such a bad way to get around these days, with the sprawl of the city or the waves on the beach I can’t take in everything fast enough. Shooting and evading baddies and cops has improved somewhat. Aiming with the auto aim function is well executed and when you get shots on target in quick succession you feel like a badass. I haven’t started a triathlon yet but I am assuming I will have fun with the biking, running and swimming events.

Flying
This is the one part that falls down slightly. I remember getting in a chopper in GTA IV and loving the idea of getting around quickly and deadly like in the annihilator. I was the king of the sky until I hit something like a power pole or skyscraper. In GTA V the same excitement was had when I approached the helicopter, then on take off everything was fine until the turbulence from all the strongest winds around the world decided to hit me at once and from every direction. I get that flying isn’t an easy thing to do but the hipster living in Silver Lake, LA can’t drive for peanuts but I bet he’s having fun driving in Los Santos. I am not sure why R* decided to make driving better but flying worse. The same goes for planes where flying is a constant correction and adjustment exercise with what feels like constant turbulence. Are they trying to stop us from flying too much?

Money
We all like money, tricking co-workers into thinking they won the lottery is a low thing to do, it also reveals everyone needs money. The game really makes a big deal of making money and lots of it, items are sufficiently priced to drive the need for lots of cash. Making money in the first half of the game is sparse except for the first heist. I was stupid with this heist so I didn’t make much (no spoilers just make sure when the crap gunman drops the loot, ride over it to pick it up as Franklin). There is a great glitch where you can find an underwater case of money and immediately switch to another character and then switch back to collect again and again until you have enough to buy that house/business/car. Apparently you make a load of cash around 50% (nearly there!) so fear not, you can get everything you want eventually.

Stock Trading
i thought this deserved a section on it’s own because it’s very much like gambling except you can influence the outcome. I don’t profess to be some super trader dude so I rely on the tips everyone else has. You can influence the ups and downs of stock by just being destructive or through the assassination missions where if you get the intel before you start the mission you can get all 3 guys bought into a particular stock with a guaranteed profit after the assassination mission is over. Generally you are killing company execs, developers or jurors so you can see where this is going. I highly recommend you leave these to after you do the big union depository job as you can bet big and make a load more than I did by playing them and putting in all I had at the time (~$800K per character)

The Law
One leap I am happy with is the Police. They are more accurate with the gun and fast with the driving. This is usually a bad thing for the aspiring criminal however what they have also done is make line of sight realistic.
What I mean by this is best explained by comparison with GTA IV:
– Running up wanted stars is easy in GTA IV and GTA V – I was t-boned by a cop car in V as I pulled out and then immediately got 2 stars. IV would have let that go. Walking near to people setup in locations i.e. a picnic or around a camp tends to make them want to call the cops for no reason. Makes me stay away.
– Hiding in a carpark in IV would spell trouble if you were still in the “dragnet”, no matter how well you were out of the public’s view, the cops would turn up and surround you, choppers were near impossible. In V as long as you were one turn ahead and then out of sight down an alley cops would convert to “point of view cones” on the map and as long as you kept out of their “view” you were safe and then you would lose your wanted level after long enough.
– Swapping cars in IV did nothing to stop the chase, in V it dropped the amount of stars as long as you were out of sight.
– Police AI in IV was quite simple, in V they have your number and will work hard to get you and your friends

San Andreas: The town the country and the vibe
I truly enjoy the sprawl and lights, I have always wanted to visit LA and this is the closest thing to that so far. You watch the movies, the tv shows about LA and there is a made up vision of the city and what is there. R* captured the gritty monumentalism of New York for Liberty City and almost in a complete opposite they got sunshine and urban sprawl as well as outback country of Blaine County just right this time around. Downtown and then the dusty plains and undulations feel like completely separate parts of America. Once again I don’t know what real life LA is like but my word, LS feels authentic, glitzy glamour and dilapidated projects have never looked or felt so right together. Buildings are not simply copy pasted round the place, every building feels individually constructed to be unique, if you want some tips on architectural design then walk around Franklin’s Vinewood home on the hills. Roads are textured and varied, it all looks sunburnt and a cool feature is they even got the ripple strips along the side of the highways to make that noise you get from driving over them. Draw distance has also changed somewhat with nearly all of the surrounding city completely visible and defined even at distance, this turns up the realism from GTA IV’s draw distance although I will say in my first foray there was one or two instances of a whole building popping in from what would have been less than 50 metres away from the character.

Online
Can’t wait to try this out, the game has had some issues with the online system dropping out for hours at a time (BAWSAQ, Social Club) probably as R* is ramping up the GTAO servers and such, if the response to the start of GTAV is anything to go by they will most likely be beefing up their servers to contain the overwhelming demand for game servers when everyone, no doubt would have finished the story and be vying for the 500 missions with their own custom character.

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Grid 2: Game Review (PC)

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These days anyone can be a expert. You can sit back on your armchair and tell it like it is. You’re informed so you can make informed decisions because of all the research and forums you visit. All this before you even handled a wrench or waved that brush. You madam/sir are an expert… but you aren’t that good because look at what is coming up.

These days kids are sharper from very early on, they have iPods and they play with mum’s iPhone enough to know that a quick Fruit Ninja swipe or the right turn angle in Real Racing means the difference between kicking arse or losing the race. They know what a good driving line is, when I was a kid I sure as heck didn’t. I knew you didn’t drive like they play drove on Play School (Australian children’s television show) because if you did you would be arrested for reckless endangerment swerving left to right like that. Kids these days are informed and they don’t even know it, this is the real – next evolution of humankind, it’s virtual experience.

I like cars, everyone knows that. So I write and talk about them nearly all the time. When I am not driving a car I am probably playing a game that involves cars because you can drive so much faster, safe in a virtual environment than reality. What is fast in real life (IRL) is just boring in games, I want to go faster and test my limits at the top end of the car’s spectrum… then I want something faster and push that all the way too. When you play as many car based games as I do you become somewhat an experienced  on the stuff, but what are we talking about here? Many different games all with different styles and content, no two games are alike so how do you draw a conclusion?

Like real cars it’s about how you feel in the seat of your pants, what may be faster may not feel it compared to something else, in this case it’s the feeling in the part of your brain that says “Fun”.

Grid 2 started as a loser in my books simply because it lacked in-car view. All the keenest players choose the in-car view because you can see the wheel and that is already very cool and the view out the window is limited and pretty much what it is like IRL (remember?). You get the warm fuzzy feeling that you are driving like you are supposed to, not as if you were tailing yourself in a large Mack truck or with your head out the front glass and right on the hood, or with your head in the front grille. So 0 to Codemasters and their new racing culture simulator before the game even hit the shelves.

When you start it up you immediately notice how odd they’ve made the menu system and how much it seems like you live at your mum’s place (why? well because race cars – yes you have 9 already, how do you pay for that?). The menu is a 3D garage (at your mum’s) and you have your  iMac amalgam down there from which all your dealings with new races get done in a chrome like browser window, they’re taking the social media thing along as well with “comments” from fans and rivals in a ticker at the bottom. The cars roll in and out of the garage as you switch between them and your neighbours all hangout outside on the street. You get fancier digs later as you progress but this is all secondary because it’s time to race.

Driving physics in Grid 2 seem simplified compared something like Shift 2 or Forza 4. The handling feel is responsive, the concept of over or understeer is quite simplified, no sudden breaks in traction, drifting is as easy as stabbing the brake while turning in and then flooring it to a perfect drift (albeit a bit dissatisfying on the difficulty part it’s flattering). Nearly every big release racing game save for the F1 and NASCAR series’ have modifications as their selling point. Here it’s just decals and wheels but huge brownie points go to the team for their selection of wheels, every cool and important wheel from the last four decades is here, especially the OG selection of today (3SDM 0.05? Yes please!). I watched a Chris Harris youtube video recently about his experience meeting Rob Dickinson and his very beautiful Singer Porsche and something he said rang so true, a great set of wheels makes a car, you can have any old lemon but if you put some great wheels on it, it becomes so much better. Of course you can’t make a car go much faster on wheels alone however you can look the business. In that sense Grid 2 aims to please with good stance and great looking wheels to help make the transfer from humdrum to “yes please”.

Speaking of cars the selection seems to touch all the right bases and even though it isn’t as extensive as Forza 4 it’s enough to satisfy, I like that the KTM X-Bow R is in there. What is a bit odd is that you are no longer purchasing cars. In the same way they have taken the management of performance modification (Subaru BRZ that can outpace a BMW 1M is just like IRL right?) they have also made the acquisition of cars a linear and sort of unimportant affair by offering you a choice of two rides when you get into different series, the thing that kind of takes away from earning your seat time is that you can just do a vehicle challenge just after you level and get that other car you decided not to take just as you levelled so who really cares what car you choose. I guess money isn’t really an object nor is kudos, it’s about fans and you now gain aficionados rather than bucks for covering the sponsor objectives. This experience sort of makes it feel kind of like you were a real race driver in some sense because all you need to do is drive for the team, not earn cash or plan your car lineup, it’s all easy come and you don’t lose anything. Consequences are thin on the ground then, maybe a popup message saying you need to cover an objective. If you have coordination you can easily handle this.

7/10

– Fun, sounds great and looks good
– Lacking in the features I would call necessary like in-car view, scaleable/changeable handling difficulty, consequences.
– You can drift all day long if you like and it’s not hard to master the physics engine.
– Play to rise above the NFS BlackBox offerings, you are so much better than that… you expert you, who’s the funny wunny little expert, you are, you little expert.