Ya know, it wasn’t until tonight that I realized that I never finished GTA:VC (Vice City). I know I forgot about it for almost eight months at one point (the saved game had a time stamp) after I discovered Halo and I sorta left the game on a shelf… In spite of that, it’s because of GTA3 that I got a PlayStation2 (just like Halo was why I got an Xbox), so it should come as no surprise that I was out at Fred Meyer at 7am today, asking about GTA:SA… first impression is “Um, why do people have a ten on their hats?”
Sorry. Early 90’s humor, in reference to the era of Malcolm X hats (and it’s a comment I actually heard from a friend of mine, who was in the wilds of western New York for a few months!) which is right around when GTA:SA takes place. The new arena is huge. San Andreas is a state and not a city. Within the state of San Andreas are three different cities, which I believe to be analogous to Las Vegas, LA, and possibly San Francisco – hard to tell at first glance.
Now a days, GTA is hardly about stealing cars. In GTA3 you were a criminal that stole cars. In GTA:VC you were a mafia-type mobster that carried out particular crime missions in a Miami Vice-esque setting… a bit less about the cars. In GTA:SA you’re in Boyz in the Hood, cerca 1993. Your first two or three missions are bike based. As in bicycle. It’s truly a crime simulation now, and this is not necessarily a bad thing, either! From what I’ve seen so far it will be a long story based run, with lots of playable scenes.
However, I have had a pang of misgiving… I’m afraid that GTA:SA may have fallen into a classic trap of any successful gaming series: they’ve done too much to improve the game. Historical example: Heretic was a class act when it came out: first person shooter with six weapons and a bunch of maps. Hexen, which was the follow up to Heretic, sucked in a lot of ways. They added three different classes of characters, multi-part weapons, huge maps, and a lot of complicated steps for each level, which conceptually sounds great, but it ended up being a liability. By making it a bigger and “better” game, they took away from the play-able part of the game.
It’s too early to tell on this with GTA:SA, but they have added a lot of stuff. Your character in the game can have hair, clothing, and tattoo customization – actually mine sorta looks like Pedro at the moment – you can also train him up, feed him, and build his endurance. The classic problem with that is that most players end up spending hours just building up a character profile. This problem was actually found in GTA3: I spent at least 48 hours just collecting health, so that I could start each saved session at full strength (they fixed it for GTA:VC and GTA:SA). That’s simply not fun. So far the strength building, the barber shop trip, and other shopping hasn’t been too bad. It’s a break in the action at random times, so I didn’t mind doing it. If I have to keep reporting back to a gym or drive thru, just to keep playing, I will be annoyed by it – it’s a bit too much like real life.
And that’s a classic blunder, this more-like-real-life bit. I think it’s great that your character can get really strong and fat or bony and fast. However, if it takes extra time or more work to get to that condition, I think it will suck. Also, as a matter of concern, you now have to use the analog joystick to move – the “d-pad” is used for communicating with characters, which is a major difference from 3 and VC. Just an FYI.
It’s still early into the game though. I’m still in the LA-type city, and that only after two hours. I think things will continue to get interesting as casinos and other types of things are set up – it’s just too soon to know.
The question I have is, how much of this game will I get to before November 9th?