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February 19, 2018

Grand Theft Auto V (Part 2)

Part 1Part 2 – Part 3 – Part 4 – Part 5 – Part 6

What a beautiful day to become a criminal again.

Following an impulsive desire for revenge, Michael de Santa has torn down the deck of a house belonging to Martin Madrazo, the leader of the Mexican cartel in Los Santos, and now they owe him two millions and a half. Well there’s a reason to go out and commit crimes, huh?

Trapping phones doesn't sound like the type of
criminality that I'd be a part of. But hey, sometimes you
gotta do stuff you don't like.
In order to go back to a life of heist, as he desires, Michael contacts one of his old friends, Lester, a handicapped genius who can figure out plans on the spot. He’ll be happy to help… as soon as we complete a little task for him. There’s that new phone prototype about to be revealed by the company LifeInvader, this world’s version of Facebook. Michael dresses up “hip” and “trendy”, infiltrates the place, helps a guy with his virus-laden computer, then traps the prototype with a device created by Lester. Then we just go home and watch the prototype reveal on TV. When Jay Norris, the clear Mark Zuckerberg pastiche, presents the phone, Michael calls him and... BOOM! On live TV! Oh good, we just committed terrorism. Nice upgrade from bank heists! I don’t see this blowing up back in our faces anytime soon!

Well... that is certainly a novel way to kill someone, that's
for sure... By GTA standards,. anyway.

I mean, it's not a perfect representation of real-life
stock trading... mostly because we influence it way too much.
That’s okay, Norris was an asshole anyway. Like everyone in that world. Might as well nuke it all right away. The following conversation with Lester does reveal another element of interest in this game: Thanks to their Internet, you can actually follow stock information, invest in some companies before they get big, and then re-sell the stocks just before you participate in a story event that will make them plummet. Criminal? This game is all about criminality anyway!

LifeInvader, stock trading, a parody of Twitter… delving into this bonus material just shows the insane amount of detail put into this game by the developers. The in-game Internet can also lead to a LOT of foreshadowing for stuff you’ll be able to do later, involving people, organizations, and so much more.

I suppose it's good to check the merchandise before coming
back to... "take it".
Anyway, time for a heist. On the way to Lester’s holdout, we get called by the guy who let us into the LifeInvader offices, Rickie Lukens, who has caught on to us. He says he’s out of a job after the stunt we pulled. And he might actually be useful: See, for a heist you need a getaway driver, gunmen, and a hacker. You will often meet people who can be useful in your heist teams, and then it’s all about finding the most useful people or the ones who’ll take the smallest cut off any successful heist. In the end, your choices will make a big difference. Gunmen can die in these heists, after all.

February 16, 2018

Grand Theft Auto V (Part 1)

(Title card... whenever I can. Sorry about that, as I said before, stuff has been hectic.)

Part 1Part 2 – Part 3 – Part 4 – Part 5 – Part 6

Oh, BTW, I played all of GTA V in French. So be prepared
to read a lot of French on my screenshots.
(Disclaimer: Remember that this is only the second GTA game I’ve ever played, after GTA: Chinatown Wars on the Nintendo DS. As such, I can’t make comparisons between this GTA or any previous GTA, outside of maybe the other one I’ve played; I have no other frame of reference. If you’re a GTA fan and this is a problem to you, I apologize. Also note that due to the sheer size of this game and the amount of content it has, I WILL forget to mention some things. It’s inevitable. I don’t want this review to be 15 parts long, it’s still going to be a long one either way. Hell, if I went for an in-depth analysis, I could spend three parts speaking about the themes of this game alone.)

No UPlay review this time, I want to get rid of this one. Not that GTA V isn’t a good game, I’m sure it is; but it’s so freaking huge (what, 70 gigabytes?), it’s taking too much space on my computer, I just want to review it and be done with it.

Chinatown Wars was an impressive game. Then again, each
time Rockstar makes an astounding GTA game, and we ask
"How can they make something better?", they answer
"Hold my beer"... and MAKE AN EVEN BETTER GAME!
So… Grand Theft Auto… Quite the franchise, huh? There’s a lot I would say about it, if my sole past experience wasn’t “Chinatown Wars”, which represents the setting on a smaller scale. Hell, even as a Nintendo DS game, it was massive – dozens of plot threads, seven or eight different folks to receive missions from, and Huang Lee played for and against every group by helping his Uncle Kenny, the grand Triad Boss Hsin Jaoming, two cops, and I’m forgetting many. The plot was extremely convoluted, but as per GTA tradition, you didn’t even have to follow it all that much; it was more fun to just cause random acts of mayhem, murder and destruction, along with the easy money amassed through drug deals. The game itself was a technical marvel, fitting this giant map on the space of a DS cartridge, along with every little secret that could be found in it.

Random destruction! Fight the power young man!
Steal your plastic bags, no paying 5 cents for those!

So wait, does that mean people are aware when the
crosshair is pointed directly at them? 
However, GTA:CW was a top-down game because that made it save space on designs. Not so much for any large, full-3D GTA title, such as GTA V. This one has amazing 3D graphics as well as an even larger city to visit, and it probably has so many secrets and side-quests that I’m going to forget some. Whereas Chinatown Wars put a lot of emphasis on drug deals, this one focuses on bank heists. There’s an Online version of the game, a massive multiplayer experience with factions and whatnot – but as usual, I can hardly find any interest in that. Oh, I’ll certainly talk about it later, but for now I’d like to focus on the single-player campaign. I know, I know, not everyone plays GTA for the single-player aspect, or if they do, it’s not for the Story Mode proper. Well, let me remedy to that. I can actually see Rockstar Games putting some effort into their stories for the series, and it would be a shame to miss all of that!

Join me in Los Santos. There will be crimes, there will be heists, there will be backstabbing. And, because we aim for every crime, get ready for a lot of jaywalking. And gunfight murders. And loitering. And car-stealing. We are falling into a life of crime again!

And of course, be aware that I’m spoiling the Hell out of this entire game, from start to finish.

February 6, 2018

Update: GTA V review delayed a week

Okay, so... I'm sorry to say this, but for the first time in forever, I actually have to delay a review.

In my defense, it's GTA V, a game so humongous I need 6 parts to talk about it. A game so big, I kept getting side-tracked by the additional quests. It's all a testament to how good that game is, that even if my entire reason for reviewing it now is so I can delete it later, I actually don't want to delete it anymore.

So yeah, my opinion of it is going to be pretty positive in the end. Unfortunately, I did run into a few issues in writing.

First off, yes, playing that game took me a while. I spent at least the last four weeks playing this game as often as I could. It's dedication I've rarely had for a game - and remember, that also meant writing while playing, which obviously made it longer to beat the story mode.

Even now, as I have started writing Part 6, I am still discussing the various hbbies and activities that can be done in the game. And that's before my final thoughts!

I would usually have finished that review earlier on, but a lot of real-life factors happened, too. First is work; I had some pretty hectic work weeks lately, including one in which I worked six nights in a row. That week physically exhausted me, so much that I didn't play much GTA V at all that week, nor could I work on my review all that much. My exhaustion meant sleeping during the day to recover for the night of work (which is normal), but also a two-hour nap in the evening too, severely limiting my free time. The past week and the current one gave me much more free time, so I got a lot of progress done there. But not enough, because...

Then the flu happened. Freaking flu, man. I believed I had some luck for once and had narrowly escaped it. Nope! It caught me. And over the 4 free days I had, I spent as much time playing as I could, but my time was otherwise limited to sleeping to recover from the flu, painfully sneezing because of the flu, and taking whatever medication I could. Thankfully, I'm recovering now, but I still need some more rest (which I can't entirely get, because I gotta work in spite of my illness... yay.)

I normally try to have a review ready at least a week ahead of time (the comfortable period is 3-4 weeks ahead of time, since the final edit can take a full week, spell-checking the whole thing and adding images from footage I now record thanks to OBS). I don't even know if I can complete Part 6 by Friday, so...

Yeah, I'm taking an extra week to get things done. Sorry about that.

(Boy, I sure hope I won't have to resort to that when I write my review for the fifth anniversary...)

February 2, 2018

Top 12 Fourth Wall Breaks in Sonic Boom

For a while I’ve wanted to make something more special as a Top 12. It’s been six months since I last discussed Sonic Boom, and Season 2 has had a satisfying 2-part finale. I’ve wanted to make a list about the Sonic series, but I couldn’t find any ideas. I thought about a list of best secondary characters, but the definition of a “secondary character” is pretty elastic from a Sonic game to another – anyone aside from Sonic could count. So, I settled again on what I knew. And what do I know? Sonic Boom.

"I don't get it. We followed the instructions, we did everything required,
we even gave fans what they wanted. And Sonic Forces only got a 57
on Metacritic?"
"Maybe we should try the Mania route again."
"I told you that Infinite guy was a bad idea!"
"Of course it only got a 57. It didn't have enough chili dogs."

As I said time and time again, the Sonic Boom TV show is one of the more impressive tour de force achieved by the franchise. The games associated to the Boom sub-series weren’t too great, and even the current new Sonic games (aside from Sonic Mania) have received lukewarm reception at best. That’s a shame too, because I had high hopes for Sonic Forces. However, the current TV series goes on, undisturbed, with brilliant writing and tons of great ideas. Partway into the first season, the show started breaking the fourth wall more and more. By this point, they aren’t just breaking the fourth wall. They’re punching through it, blowing it up with dynamite, carrying all the remains into an empty field and dropping an A-bomb on it, just to be sure that it’s obliterated for good. And there’s Deadpool on the sidelines, looking at his Adventure Time watch and going “Come on guys, leave some for me!”

There are plenty of ways to break the fourth wall: Address directly the viewer, have the characters acknowledge that they’re in a work of fiction, reference the grander scale of the franchise (if any). The Sonic franchise can even go a step further since, as a long-running franchise that has been going on for over 25 years now, it has gathered a gigantic fanbase (of which the quality is… um… variable) and that fanbase has contributed with fan works and memes, which are all elements that a fourth wall-breaking joke can pick from.

Sonic Boom has broken the fourth wall so often, I could make two lists like this one. But I’ll do only one, because we really don't need more, no matter how many seasons this show ends up having. I could do a Top 12 Sonic Boom episodes, but I feel like I’d be cutting out tons of episodes that I also love. Sure, I could instead do a Top 24 list split over two articles… but that would still be a lot of work. Have the current list where I explore the many ways that a show can break the fourth wall, and many great examples from a single show (and, on a rare few occasions, the games).

Only one rule: Each episode must make the list only once, because many episodes feature multiple noteworthy instances of fourth wall breakage.

January 30, 2018

Favorite, Keep, Uninstall, Delete: Cleaning Out the Collection 1

So here’s something I knew I’d eventually have to do. As I’ve said multiple times before, I have a massive Steam collection, with games of all sizes, accumulated through Humble Bundle, Steam bundles, games that used to be in my wishlist, or stuff I just saw and decided I wanted.

The advantage is that I’ll never run out of stuff to play for years. The disadvantage is that I am running out of space on my computer. Choices have to be made. Stuff has to go. It’s unfortunate, as I’ve been deleting most games I disliked, and in spite of that I still need more space. On Steam, a game stays in your collection if you uninstall it, and you have to manually delete it from your collection through Steam’s Help section, if you really don’t want it anymore. Meanwhile, there are games that you wouldn’t get rid of, no matter how big they are.

I have four choices that can combine in various ways:
-Favorite: 25% of the current selection. These are the games I would never, ever delete, I love them too much.
-Keep: The games I don’t like enough to set as my Favorites, but that I don’t yet feel like deleting or uninstalling. Will make up approximately 50% of the selection.
-Uninstall: Games that, for a reason or another, I will decide to uninstall. Doesn’t mean I’ll delete them from my collection – I keep them around in case I suddenly decide I’d like to play them again someday. No limit for this one, but I should try to keep it below 50%. These can be found in every other category: Every deleted game will have obviously been uninstalled, while I may also uninstall games Favorited or Kept in order to free space, the idea being that I can access them again later.
-Delete: The games that I just don’t have enough of an interest in; stuff that will not only be uninstalled, but removed entirely from my collection. Many of these aren’t bad games per se, sometimes they’re just the games I would like to keep, but won’t because I really need space. Sometimes, these can just be games that I’ve played to and through, and don’t feel the need to keep as I have done everything that could be done in them – so those games aren’t bad, just finished. These should be about 25% of the selection.

You won’t see the process because it’s probably boring and repetitive, but in my reflection, I judged each game on four points: Its file size, how much time I spent playing it, my original opinion of the game and whether it has changed or not, and the odds of me replaying that game someday. The file size may be a good reason to uninstall a game that may still be too good to completely delete, as an example.