Thursday, May 22, 2008

Game mini-reviews: GTA4, Penny Arcade Adventures

I'd been meaning to post some thoughts on GTA4, but have been busy and have only played a couple hours into it. Since "anonymous" seemed to think my pointer to a flickr set of game screens was an endorsment, I guess I'd better do a short review/commentary now.

While I'm at it, I spent an hour or so playing the Penny Arcade Game, so let's throw that into the mix, shall we?


Pros: It's like GTA3, but bigger, badder and better. The world is huge, the content is racy, they've added a ton of stuff to the proven formula.

Cons: It's like GTA3, but bigger, badder and better. The game, like many, is TOO BIG. Multiple hours before you even get to the moderately interesting stuff. Racy content is ok, but its gratuitous and they missed out on many opportunities to treat it more as gameplay rather than fluff. 'Better' as a con in that it's largely many incremental improvements over the proven formula of GTA3, but nothing revolutionary, and certainly not deserving of the over the top review scores.

Other thoughts:

  • As many have noted, the metacritic scores are *out* *of* *control*. It's a good game, but it is not the perfect game by any means. There's a whole other post to write about the group think and pre-launch hype and resultant salivation that helps drive this behavior.
  • As 'anon' commented, the game appears to push the DVD drive pretty hard, and some xbox's are having problems, something to do with dusty lenses? I saw the issue once, but then swapped Xbox360's (one of my had RROD'd and it came back from the fix-it shop) and haven't seen the issue since.
  • The 'score with your girlfriend' potential achievement (ahem) is such a lost opportunity. Could have made a fantastic mini-game that you interact with through the game. Should you attempt to kiss her, take her upstairs, etc, with her reacting based on how long you've dated, what she thinks you'll think of her in the morning, how passive or aggressive you are being, how the current date was going, etc. Instead it's a little bit of gratuitous content and that's about it. Shame.
  • The GPS and in-game phone are ok, but sometimes I think that games go too far to mask the HUD. I mean, really, are we all really fooling ourselves?
  • I havent played multiplayer yet, but the multiplayer modes look like a riot. Waiting until I finish single player game.

Penny Arcade Adventures

I've only played an hour or so this evening, but I was privvy to a little of the background while I worked at MS. There was a lot of heated discussion about whether the more-family-friendly XBLA channel was a good place for a game with a character that copulates with produce, but I guess we can see how that worked out, and I'm glad that it did.

The game is best described as comic-book-point-n-click-adventure-meets-turn-based-RPG. Some thoughts on it:

  • I fucking hate turn-based RPG's, and yet I like this game, so I guess that says something. I'm not even that much of a Penny Arcade fan (I like the comic, but am much more of an XKCD guy, and confess that I have a guilty pleasure in reading Questionable Content.)
  • It's the closest I've seen to the reincarnation of Lucasarts point-n-click glory days. If you liked those games (I did), you'll be willing to put up with the turn-based-combat crap.
  • As a comic put in motion, it's brilliant. Scott McCloud would be proud, I think. I love the treatment of fixed camera views as "panels", breaking the fourth wall. The toon rendering is well done, as is the panel treatment. Best comic-in-motion since Ubi's 'XIII'.

Go try the demo, decide if it's for you, and buy it if it is. Its definitely worth downloading the demo.


Nelson said...

I'm glad people can post honest opinions about GTA IV - it's decent, but not worthy of 10/10.

I wrote my own (technical - catering more towards developers) complaint list on the game:

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