Wednesday, 12 March 2008

The Year of Playing Dangerously

As I’m sure most people are quite aware, the fourth addition in the Grand Theft Auto series is due to hit stores worldwide by April 29 after its most out of character delay several months ago. The series has become undoubtedly the main event of the second half of my gamer years, and so this is a pretty damn important event for me. I’m imagining that a lot of people reading this, who I suspect (hope) are from the more intelligent side of the gaming crowd, have proberbly got a few bad words to say of my beloved franchise, and you know what? I proberbly agree with them all. But no matter how “shallow” or “scrappy” or “dumb” past games may have been, I have to admit that some of my most intimate and emotionally immersive experiences I’ve ever come across have occurred within the realms of GTA. In fact, I fail to be able to think of a real life place that brings back as much nostalgia and good memories as happy old Vice City. I was barely alive in the 80’s, yet through that game I now have a very personal connection with everything that decade stood for.

But enough of the past. The latest GTA aims to fix everything that past games did wrong. The “quantity over quality” attitude has been reversed, and the gameplay and details are predicted to be as refined as they come, and all wrapped up in a damn fine looking engine. As per normal in the build up to a GTA, I tend to “prepare” myself for the countless hours I’ll be in company with the game world by doing a little background research and leaching off every info leak I can get my hands on. Seeing as this title seems to focus on the Eastern European crime scene, I’ve already done some reading into the Russian Mafia and aim to get hold of a few of Sam Houser’s named influences, including last years Eastern Promises. I’ll be memorising the names of the characters and streets revealed so far, as well as the names of the cars and guns that’ll be helping me along in Niko’s pursuit of the American dream. Expect the Xbox 360 to be sealed off a week in advance to avoid any cursed Red Ring of Death moments (my last console died on me two weeks before Halo 3), and the PS2 to get a quick encore while I familiarise myself with the series history.

I love these times in gaming. I’ve looked forwards to a lot of films and music over the years, but nothing can quite have the hands shaking in anticipation like a good old sequel to an aggressively marketed videogame franchise. To think that in a couple of month’s time I’ll have an entire map of a virtual city permanently indented into my memory banks, and all from the comfort of my own chair. Yet again, I seriously cannot wait.

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