Grand Theft Auto V review

Rated: 4/5*
* = with some caveats and warnings that must be brought up

So, first confession, I initially played this a few years ago on the PS3. At the time, I thought it was the best GTA game ever made. Granted, one could think that with any newly released GTA game, but I thought this was the definitive GTA game that does the title and theme justice. The first in the series to get it right, in my opinion, was GTA: San Andreas. Though I really hated how you had to button mash and do workouts and stuff to make your character stronger. GTA IV was, uh, not bad, the gameplay was solid enough, especially with the shootouts. But the storyline in that game was cliche and predictable. GTA V took the best elements of both games and removed all the shitty ones. The storyline and characters are fantastic, blending satire and legit emotion into it all, covering aspects of both gangster land, redneck country, and high class riches levels of society by having you play as one of three characters representing each. Thus you get to play as someone who represents a certain aspects of society, for better or worse. But since it’s a satire on society as a whole, not being afraid to show the cons of all three, and mostly reveling in the cons, that is what makes it so perfect. The crimes they will commit, all of which require hijacking vehicles as a bare minimum to get the job done. Not to mention it does away with all the BS workout minigames from San Andreas, improves on the storytelling aspects of GTA IV, and makes banging hookers fun again. But you still don’t get to see nudity when you’re doing that. The nudity is left strictly in the strip clubs, where you can be subject to private strip dances ala GTA IV, but no sex.

So, to rephrase that last part, there’s sex in the game, but no nudity while sex is going on. There’s nudity in the game, but not while having sex, and outside of strip clubs, the nudity is mostly relegated to man-ass. Rockstar is teasing us, aren’t they? Like how they showed the full monty with that one DLC story in GTA IV. Maybe in the next one they make we’ll be able to play as a female protagonist who isn’t shy about baring her assets. That would honestly be a bit refreshing, having a female lead in one of these games. She should be a biker. But if the sequel will turn out anything like this one, I’d expect there to be multiple characters to choose from. Well let’s see, they’ve done Russians, they’ve done black gangsters, they’ve done white gangsters, they’ve done rednecks (which deserve their own distinct classification)… Well I guess they could do a Mexican gangster, which up until now have pretty much been NPCs. They’ll also probably have some Middle Eastern guy or something, with some terrorism theme thrown in where some assholes yell “Alla Akubar!”, and one of the missions is just mowing down radical Islamic terrorists or something. But to counter-balance that, you also have a mission where you get to mow down a bunch of radical Christians, radical KKK members, radical neo-nazis, radical leftist liberals, radical right wingers, etc. Have them be done via those Rampage missions, like those ones done in this game with Trevor.

Oh yeah, the Rampage missions. Those are fun as hell. They’re mainly done via the redneck character Trevor, who has a very short temper, has some screws loose, and virtually anything can set him off. So at various points in the game some optional side missions can pop up where you can start killing off people who pissed Trevor off. For instance, he has a conversation with some rednecks at a bar, just out of the blue, he gets pissed at them and starts shooting them, and then you have to start shooting all these other rednecks which just start showing up trying to kill you. Rinse and repeat for black gangsters, Mexican gangsters, and the U.S. military. It’s a huge amount of politically incorrect fun.

So that’s Trevor’s unique character missions. As for the black gangster of the trio, Franklin, he has side missions that are all about assassinations. And about those assassination missions Franklin does. The first one that you get to do, the hotel assassination, I never was able to do the fucking thing. Both on the PS3, and PC version. There was some fucking bug in the game where the guy you are supposed to assassinate never goes outside the hotel, and you’re just waiting for-fucking-ever for it to happen. It pissed me off that I couldn’t do the mission, but thankfully the game seemed prepared for such a scenario and had countermeasures built in. If you fail a mission enough times, there is usually the option to skip it, which I did, because I didn’t have a choice. And by “skip”, I mean the game glosses over it and treats it as you you successfully pulled it off, without you actually having done anything. The game gives you the option to do that for all the side missions as far as I know. I’m positive the reason they implemented this is because they didn’t want gamers getting frustrated over a mission that is optional to do, but really this also serves as a way to bypass mission-breaking bugs in the game.

The 3 main characters are fantastic, and so are several of the side characters themselves. The dialogue is top-notch A+ class writing. I don’t think it could’ve been done any better. Trevor is one crazy psychotic sick sadistic motherfucker, whom the other characters are scared to meet, as they should be. On top of being less than rational, he has a very short temper. His special ability is all about ignoring damage for a limited time and shooting everything in slow-mo.

Michael seems to be the main central character, at least in my opinion, though the other two share as much screen time as him. But everything major tends to revolve around him. His actions usually keep the story progressing. A retired criminal who is having a hard time living the retired life and keeping away from the criminal life. Also doesn’t help that his family are spoiled rotten annoying pricks. I kept hoping he would leave them, but he doesn’t. Whatever. Special ability is shooting in slow-mo.

And then there’s Franklin, the true character living up to the GTA name, stealing cars for profit, and being a thug life gangster. But he desires more than where he’s at, and is thus willing to go along with Michael on more high-stakes heists. Special ability is driving in slow-mo for better vehicle maneuvers.

The story is all about satire of the United States and its occupants. How the main characters themselves are terrible people, the people around them are terrible, and the supposed “good guys”, from the police to the government to corporations to shop owners and such, are all terrible people. But in this fucked up little world, somehow someway, amidst all the muck, there still manages to be small slivers of goodness within everything. But they come at a point where characters have fallen so far when it comes to stealing and drugs and (mass) murder, that the only good comes from killing off guys who end up being worse than they are. Michael’s family hates him for being an uncaring asshole of a father (though he seemed reasonable to me), and for bringing danger to them through his criminal activities, yet they have a hard time living without him because they don’t know of any other way, and are too fucked up to live any other way. And even though the pacing slows at a couple points with the main missions, it never gets bogged down for too long. And there are alternate endings (like GTA IV), but any decent person knows which one to choose.

The story is better than GTA IV. The graphics and gameplay are better than GTA: San Andreas (even if this game does take place in that location). And all 3 of those are better than any GTA game prior. If you were to play any of them, this would be the one, regardless of any bugs it may contain. The only real downside to this game is the whole buying/selling of stocks. I mean, I seriously doubt many would be into that sort of thing if they’re playing a game like this. But hey, it’s there. Also gets a bit irritating how messages can clog up your in-game cell phone.

* But the other con to this game, and this is a big fucking con that everyone should know about before purchasing this game, is with the Rockstar servers themselves. I purchased this game on Steam, and when you first play it (after spending a long-ass time downloading all 66+ GB of it), you need to register with the Rockstar Games Social Club, which is required to log in each time you play the game. A sort of DRM thing, more or less. Now, theoretically, you can do offline play even with this, but it still has to detect the Rockstar servers before it allows you to play the game, which means you still need an Internet connection, even if just for a moment, before it will allow you to play the game. It’s mainly because of GTA Online, which I do not and never want to be a part of because of all the bullshit I heard goes on with it (plus they’ll ban you if you play GTA Online with a modded game). Now, this may not sound so bad, at first.

But there came a day where my PC couldn’t connect to the servers for some reason. I assumed it was a problem on my end for a while, until this problem continued for 2 days straight. At which point I did some research to find out this is not a rare occurrence. Sometimes this happens to gamers. And when it happens, there’s no way for you to get into the game to play it, not even single-player mode. And the only way to fix it is to uninstall the game, delete your folder than contains data on your Rockstar Social account, then reinstall the game, all 66+ GB of it, which takes a long-ass time. This was fucking bullshit.

So while I did eventually get it up and running again, this issue should be a disclaimer put in front of the game whenever anyone wants to buy it. I’m going to be very skeptical of any future purchases (if any) I make from Rockstar after this little stint.

Mods
Oh, right, this is a PC game, so naturally I want to see how mods can improve the experience. And they’re definitely out there. The main site to go to for mods for this game is GTA5-Mods.com. To get started, there are 2 main mods to download in preparation for everything else.

Required Mods (in order for actual mods to work that affect gameplay):
1.) Script Hook V, which comes with Native Trainer, which allows you to do some cheating in the game if you wish to fool around with it.

2.) Community Script Hook V .NET

After installing those two, then you’re usually safe for everything else, though you should always read the instructions and requirements to be sure. Anyway, here’s the mods I ended up using for my playthrough:

Recommended Mods:
1.) World of Variety. Basically gives greater variety in the people you see, the clothes they wear, and in the cars and boats that are driven around. Variety is a good thing to break up monotony. That being said, every now and again, there’s a minor glitch of a vehicle disappearing. Happened to me once immediately when I tried to get into it while the cops were chasing me. But that’s a minor bug that doesn’t happen very often.

2.) Fine-Tuned Felony & Response. Makes the cops act more intelligent and realistically.

3.) Bullet Impact. It just felt unfair how you would get shot and nothing much happened, but if you shoot someone else they could fall over or stumble for a moment. This mod fixes that, making your character react like anyone else if they get shot. It encourages more use of cover. I thought it was great, but it may make missions a little too difficult at times. It’s clear that the game wasn’t built for your character to take a pounding like this in certain places (the Rampage missions in particular). However, with a couple struggles here and there, I made it through the game with this mod. Just be warned of the increase in difficulty.

4.) Safe Cracker. Hey, now you can break open safes and get a bunch of cash rather than only stealing from cash registers. Works for me.

5.) Rob People. You aim a gun at someone, they will stand with their hands up for a moment, then drop their wallet, then run off. You pick up the wallet and get money. Brings more immersion, but it can also cause some missions to get a little buggy with this feature. But again, I was able to play the game the whole way through with this mod.

Now, those are the 5 main mods I used for my playthrough, but there are some others worth checking out after you complete all the missions in the game. That’s required because these other mods don’t work to well when playing through the game normally.

Optional Mods to use at end of the game:
1.) Open All Interiors. Opens up a lot more buildings that were previously closed off in the game. That being said, don’t mistake this for something that opens up “any and all” interiors in every single building. It doesn’t do that. It just opens up many more interiors that were previously closed off. Makes for more interesting shootouts with the cops.

And honestly, those are all the mods I’ve tried that I can recommend. There are plenty of others to choose from which I’m sure will improve the game the way you see fit. One other one I have tried which I can’t fully recommend is the Tanks Spawn at Five Stars, which means the military and their tanks and choppers come after you when you have a 5 star warrant rating. It was fun at first, but there’s 2 reasons why I don’t prefer it. 1.) It’s not realistic. 2.) The tanks are way too overpowered and way too accurate. You won’t last 10 seconds after reaching 5 stars when the tanks show up. That’s no fun.

* One other thing to mention. Last I checked, Rockstar still releases occasional updates for this game, mainly just for GTA Online. Whenever they release an update, and you have mods installed using Script Hook V, you need to either wait until Script Hook V gets an updated release which you must also download and install in order to play with the mods, or play the game for a while without the mods.

Anyway, despite the caveats, I do recommend this game. The game itself is fantastic, it’s just that Rockstar borderline fucks it up with their corporate DRM bullshit.

Mass Effect 1 PC Review

Rated: 2/5

Don’t worry, PC doesn’t stand for politically correct.

Went back and gave this game a play.  Would’ve been a little more boring if I just played the same exact game from several years ago, so I mixed it up in the best way possible, modding.  Didn’t mod it extensively, just an HD mod.

Anyway, upon revisit, there are some things I still like, and some things that are worse than I remember.  So if you feel like going back and revisiting the original trilogy before the new Andromeda game comes out, and want my thought on the first game in the trilogy (don’t worry, reviews for the other 2 will come later), here’s what I thought.

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Wing Commander review

Rated: 2/5

So this PC version is from GOG.com, and uses DosBox.  Well, this is a game that certainly shows its age from 1990, coming out 3 years before Doom, that had 360 degree movement.  So in some respects, Doom is actually a step back in terms of gameplay compared to this game, but on the other hand Doom also had cooler weapons, monsters, and puzzle solving (although the puzzle solving aspect frustrated the hell out of me in that game, but that’s another story).

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Obduction review

Rated: 4/5

I helped fund the kickstarter campaign, and I’m late to the party in reviewing it. I wanted to make a gameplay video first, showing my runthrough, but apparently it’s never that simple. I used the Nvidia Geforce Experience Shadowplay Recorder. It tends to split the clips up into 15-20 minute increments, which didn’t seem like much of a problem at first, until I realized that combining clips isn’t as easy as you would think from a memory standpoint. Plus the goddamn Shadowplay starts glitching out if you try recording for longer than 1 hour straight, which I found out after my initial record playthrough, where I played through the entire game in a little over 3 hours (only on your second playthrough will it likely be that short, your first playthrough will likely more than double that). More than 2/3rds of that first recording attempt was useless. So I lost the will to try it again for a few months until recently, where I tried again, with the knowledge in mind. Played it, beat it again, recorded it all, now I’m procrastinating with the gameplay footage upload onto youtube.

Anyway, Obduction is an exploration adventure game, created by those who made the famous point-and-click adventure game Myst. Now, while that game is arguably the most famous point-and-click adventure game ever made, it’s not the best. Some of the puzzles in that game are just fucking ridiculous, especially that part where you have to painfully drag yourself through the underground train area. Fuck me, even if you knew how to get through that part it takes forever to get it done.

It’s the sequel to Myst, Riven, that is the true masterpiece among all point and click adventure games, in my opinion. That game is absolutely fantastic, and the puzzles are much more meaningful and logical. There may have been one or two which were a bit too difficult, but it’s leaps and bounds better than Myst, and what I consider to be the highest standard of games in that genre.

So, over a decade later, the creators of those games went indie, kickstarted a campaign for Obduction which will be an exploration game like Myst and Riven, only without the static screens and the point and click element (unless you decide to use that version of the game as opposed to real time first person movement). I backed it, and received my copy upon its release.

So, how is it? Did it live up to expectations? Kind of.

It has some beautiful visuals with beautiful colors. But best of all, all the puzzles are logical and don’t require a stretch to figure out. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll be doing some thinking and exploration, but it’s definitely possible to beat this game without the use of a strategy guide, or looking up youtube videos to see how others who are smarter than you managed to beat the game. For the record, I’m one of those dumbasses who ended up looking at online help once or twice to get past an area. Twice because when I figured out that you needed to know how to write 222 in an alien language, I knew where to go to get the answer, but I wasn’t capable of getting there from my position in the game, which was fucking bullshit, so I looked up a video online so I didn’t have to start a new game just to get back to that point to figure out how to do it. Since then though, there’ve been some game updates which I believe solve that issue, giving you a path to the outside so you can get to that area if you didn’t figure it out at an earlier time. So some patches improve the game on more than just the graphics and glitches.

Oh, right, you may be wondering what the story is. A seed that shoots across the sky and blows blue sparkles out its ass comes to you and transports you into another world where you have to figure out what the hell just happened and what the hell is going on. Eventually you’ll find out that there are multiple worlds to explore which are all linked together somehow. That’s all I’m going to say. You want to know more? Play the game, or watch a video of someone else playing the game.

Huh, I guess I don’t have much else to say about it if I don’t go too much into the story. I will say that it is refreshing to have live action actors mixed in with the CG graphics. I miss that about some of the older games. Just because they have the tech to replicate real life people in great detail and put them into games doesn’t mean they shouldn’t ignore the method of actually putting the actors themselves into the game. I mean, seriously, wouldn’t that at least save on the budget to some extent? Am I the only one who actually likes the charm of games doing that?

Music is used sparingly, and it’s good for what it is, you just won’t be remembering any of the tunes in the game. The intro to Myst was more memorable music-wise than anything in this game. Come to think of it, I don’t remember if the music in Riven was all that memorable either (I guess that answers that).

And, uh, that’s all.

This wasn’t in the game.  False advertising alert!

Doom (2016) Review

Rating: 3/5

“It’s a glorified arena shooter.”

This is a review of the single player campaign only. This review does not cover the multiplayer aspect. I played through this on Ultra Violence difficulty until I beat the game (about 12 hours), and played a couple more hours on Nightmare mode.

What qualifies me to review this?  I beat the game on Hurt-Me-Plenty mode, played a bit on Nightmare difficulty, and have played and beaten Doom I and II (the old 90s games).  I’m familiar with the franchise, and have my expectations set accordingly.  So, how does this new FPS game stack up to FPS games in general, and to the older Doom games?

Well the enemies are certainly more aggressive. In the older Doom games (I’m referring to Doom I and II here) had enemies that didn’t move all that fast (you could outrun anything and everything in 90s Doom). Here, you can’t outrun everything without getting fancy with your maneuvers, and enemies can and will flank you. For instance, the Imp doesn’t just walk towards you anymore, now it runs and leaps, and sticks to the walls and shoots fireballs at you from there. The Pinkies are more fearsome than ever. They can and will outrun you, charge you like a Rhino, and gore you. Cacodemons, well, they honestly seem the same. Summoners are upgraded in a fantastic manner, though I still think they are more terrifying in Doom I and II with how they can do near-insta-kill damage to you if you stay in the open for too long. Here, it’s a matter of dodging their attacks, and filling them with lead and plasma when they appear. Barons of Hell are also great, seeing as how they can rush at you and leap at you, being able to close the distance much faster than they could in the old games, never mind that they can still absorb a lot of damage and shoot green shit at you. Oh, and most important of all, the enemies look good with their graphic update. These effects should stand the test of time more than Doom 3’s graphics.

Many would say the level design is as fantastic as ever in this edition. In fact, that’s the reason I believe the 90s Doom games hold up as well as they do, the level design. And Duke Nukem 3D. The level designs. Those are what give games that old their replay value. That and their pacing. The rate at which new enemies are introduced, the level design tricks they can pull to give the enemies a (fair) advantage over you. And the rate at which you are given new weapons, and the ammo to keep blasting with them. In this 2016 game, that rate is as good as ever, but I’m not so sure I would go that far for the overall pacing and level design. Don’t get me wrong, the levels are very well made for what they are, where hidden items are placed and how they can be accessed, the multiple paths to maneuver when dealing with enemies in each area.

But that’s the problem I have with the game. The level design is well made for what it is, but I have a problem with what it is. When it comes down to it, it’s a glorified arena shooter. It’s a well-designed arena fighter, but it’s still just an arena fighter. In this game, all you really do is move from one area to the next, until you move to an arena where enemies spawn either at your very presence, or they spawn after you fist a Gore Nest. Either way, some nice adrenaline pumping heavy metal music starts playing when the action gets going, and goes silent momentarily each time you do a melee kill, which makes it seem as if your actions fit right in with the music. The action is awesome and all, but I preferred the pacing of the older Doom games in this regard.

I’m not a big fan of arena-based games. In the 90s Doom games, and even in Doom 3, the entire level didn’t seem to be composed up multiple arena sections. The enemies are all already on the map, they don’t spawn at different intervals in different locations. You just have to go through it to wipe them all out. Natural progression. In Doom 2016, they’re not all on the map, which probably explains why the game is so efficient;y made from a coding standpoint and is capable of running smoothly across different tiers of PC systems. The action doesn’t get heavy until you’re in an arena, and by then they can focus all the action in a near-secluded zone where enemies spawn left and right out of thin air. I prefer my games where the enemies are already on the map, just waiting for you. In this 2016 one, they can spawn in any which area of the arena to surprise you, which means you will very rarely have the element of surprise.

It’s just not natural, and that is why I don’t share the same enthusiasm for this game as other reviewers seem to have. The pattern got monotonous after a while.

Walking around. Walking around. There’s some health, there’s some armor, there’s some ammo, where’s the secret? There it is! Walking around. This looks like an arena. It is. Run/jump around and kill everything that pops up for the next few minutes. They’re all dead. Rinse and repeat for the rest of the game.

While as in the 90s games, sometimes you open a door and it would be a couple monsters. Other times it would be a whole legion of them. Sometimes you didn’t know which monsters you were going to get, or how many. Sometimes you would think you’re safe, until you get a key or other weapon, and then some walls would come down and a bunch of other monsters would come out that you would have to deal with. It showcased the brilliance of the level design, and always kept the player on edge even when they were looking for secrets (secrets can come with a price if you’re not careful). 2016 version, every arena tends to spawn the same quantity and type of monsters, with the numbers getting progressively larger and more varied as the game went on. For instance, here’s how the 90s games tend to go, which allow for nifty player tricks like speed runs:

As opposed to:

But the glorified arena shooter aspect is the only thing I disliked about the game. It’s big for me, but for everyone else who likes that style and likes to test their reflexes, maneuvering, and knowledge of the environment to their advantage, this is the game for them. While the game does have health packs and no regenerating health, you can recover health in another way that is brilliant. When you get a gory kill (meleeing a monster to death), they drop a certain amount of health (the lower your current health, the more they drop), thus encouraging you to stay aggressive the entire game. This may not be the first game to utilize this idea, but I suspect it will inspire other FPS games to follow suite in the near future.

There is a plot here, but like in 90s Doom, you’re not really going to care. Hell, in Doom 3, there was more emphasis on the plot, and I still didn’t care, so they went in the right direction here. Nicely placed boss fights, especially the last one. Still plenty of gore and violence to appease any fan of the genre. And it ends on a cliffhanger, like Doom I, and like Doom 3 before its expansion was released. Seems like tradition for Doom games to come out in pairs in one fashion or another.

As for the difficulty, quite challenging on Ultra-Violence when it gets to the later stages, but your skills are really tested on Nightmare difficulty. That difficulty level is pretty damn hard.  Haven’t bothered with the easier difficulty levels.  In ultra violence, I never found the need to use “equipment” which composes of frag grenades and holograms.  In Nightmare mode, you need everything at your disposal, no screwing around, and no mistakes to be made.  Kill everything as quickly as you can, or you will be overwhelmed.  You need to kill enemies quickly in Ultra Violence too, but it’s easier since you can take a few hits, while in Nightmare a few hits can kill you.  Enemies do a lot more damage on Nightmare difficulty.  That seems to be the main thing that changes with each difficulty, the amount of damage dealt.  Everything else remains the same.

All in all, it’s a good game, but it could’ve been better if it was less of an arena-shooter.

PS: Personally, I like to think of Duke Nukem 3D being in the same universe as Doom. Duke fought a bunch of monsters and did a lot of shit on Earth, then decided to become a space marine, when hell broke loose on Mars, so he gears up to fight monsters all over again, only this time without hot babes to save, which is why he’s so pissed off and bloodthirsty this time around.