I never played any Grand Theft Auto. Imagine my surprise then when GTA 3 released. I searched and found the first two games were top down racers. Then it made sense why I never played them. But, I played the heck out of 3 and then Vice City. I stopped playing during the San Andreas days. I actually forgot about Rockstar Games until the first Red Dead Redemption. Then, over Christmas break, I remembered that I owned Red Dead Redemption II.
I know the game doesn’t technically fit into the New Year, New Games theme of the month. Liam watched me play briefly and said, “This game looks really good. Makes me even madder that Pokemon is so buggy.” I replied, “Yeah, and it’s a four year old game.” But, I only recently discovered and started playing it. Plus, I needed another digital playground article for the month. And, so, Red Dead Redemption II gets included. Besides, it’s my page. I can do what I want.
I thought I might not even get a chance to write this article. As I played through the tutorial and introduction, I got increasingly irritated and more bored. Then, during the chase quest, after I failed, I restarted the entire quest. Christine remarked when I said how much I liked the game, “Oh yeah, it sounded like it as you swore at it this morning.” But, once I figured out how to start the specific quest and not the whole chain, it got better.
I only finished a few more quests. I got to the part where the snow finally starts to melt before Aiden took the XBox back upstairs. As a result, I probably won’t play much more Red Dead Redemption II until Febrary break. Quinn and Aiden both have commitments (soccer for Aiden and swim and scouts for Quinn), so we won’t travel during that break. We planned on going to Niagara Falls for April, but nothing in February. I can come back then to update on my progress.
Initially, I joked that Red Dead Redemption was just GTA with horses. After playing it, I enjoyed it so much more than I ever liked GTA. Other than GTA 3, I never beat any of those games. I played the original RDR until I beat it and then I played after to finish up some other Easter eggs in the game. I probably bought RDR II shortly after that. But, with the XBox in Aiden’s room most of the time, I never played it until this past Christmas. I plan to bring the XBox back downstairs during February break and you better believe that I’m going to play cowboy during that week off.
Always on the cusp of several years ago when it comes to just about anything, I finally purchased an XBox One. “Why,” you might ask, “after all of this time, did you finally buy an XBox One?” If you are asking about the choice of console, there’s really only one answer and it is the answer that regular readers of the page will recognize. The XBox one version of Minecraft is the first one to be cross platform with the Windows 10 and mobile version. As Minecraft is still a huge deal in our house, that sealed the deal on the XBox as the next console in the house.
If you are more wondering why I finally dropped the cash to get one, my wife was wondering the same thing. It came in the mail on a day that they were all home due to snow, so I took it into the living room to show Aiden because I knew that he was excited about it and waiting for it to arrive. “What’s that?” She asked. Aiden replied, “An XBox One.” “Why did you buy an XBox One?” She inquired. This time I replied. “Because I’ve been working my balls off for 2 months and I finally have the money.” Aiden, our child who is most enamored with “bad words” giggled at my response and then asked me to set up the console so that he could play some Minecraft.
Over the next two days, I got texts from both Chris and Kevin asking me how I was enjoying the new console. To be fair, I had texted them both that I finally ordered the thing and when it arrived. However, I hadn’t even been able to play it yet when they both asked me, so I had to sheepishly reply that the boys were enjoying it, but I hadn’t had a chance. I did try to play Grand Theft Auto V (Five), but as soon as I put the disk in, it started to install something that looked like it was going to take at least an hour and I thought I had to be up at 6 the next morning. Plus, I just didn’t have the patience for that. Back in my day, you put the game in and you played it!
Well, I’m here to report that I finally got to play GTAV (Five) for about an hour last night. That’s the only game that I’ve gotten to play so far, so this article will just be about my first impressions of the game. I hope to do something on cross platform Minecraft next week and maybe in a few weeks, I can do a deeper dive on GTA and maybe even Destiny 2 (the other free game that I got with the console) after that.
Bear in mind that I have only made it through (maybe) half of the tutorial of the game. I had a beer last night, the second mission is a driving one, and I am proof that you should not drink and drive, not even in a video game. I couldn’t, for the life of me, finish that mission. So, I was only able to see the opening shootout, the cut scenes with the psychologist and introduction of the two repo men, and some of the driving mission before I failed it. Not once, but twice.
Nevertheless, what I saw of the story was good. It isn’t that much different from what I remember in previous games. For reference, I played GTA3 to the end and then used the tank code to beat it so that I could see the ending, played a ridiculous amount of “try to jump the canal on your motorcycle” in Vice City, and just couldn’t get into San Andreas because it felt a little to real for me. I had a similar reaction to movies like Boyz N The Hood.
Even with the familiar feel, I was still invested in the characters that I met. Rockstar does a good job with their storytelling in their games and that is something that I appreciate. In fact, the story for Red Dead Redemption was not terribly original, but it was very well executed. The same can be said for this story. I can’t wait to finish that second mission to see what kinds of crazy trouble I can get into and what weirdos I meet.
The story might be good, but I already wrote that it is, to put it mildly, familiar. I also mentioned Red Dead Redemption earlier. By the time that game came out, I had played enough GTA that I knew the formula. As a result, it took a while for me to actually play that game. I often derisively referred to the game as Grand Theft Auto: Horse. Consequently, when I finally got around to playing Red Dead Redemption, I got a good lesson in not judging a game by its cover because it remains one of my favorite games I’ve ever played.
I mean, can you blame me? Grand Theft Auto 3 was pretty revolutionary at the time. They took a top scrolling racing game and developed it into a fully realized 3 dimensional sandbox game that was almost on par with Super Mario 64. I already told you that I played that one so much that I got to the end. Granted, it was with a cheat at the very end, but hopefully over the last 3 years of this web page I’ve successfully painted the picture that I am a casual and lazy gamer that has only gotten more lazy due to the time commitment of adulthood.
So, what do you do when you have a successful formula in movies, games, or anything else really? You abuse that formula to within an inch of its life. Humans are more creatures of habit than anything, so you can exploit that fact and just release the same thing over and over and people will still buy it. As a result, Vice City was just GTA with motorcycles! San Andreas was GTA with bikes. I never played 4 because I soon tired of the formula, but I assume that’s when they introduced airplanes and helicopters. If not, then this is that game.
I am invested in the game, so I will continue to play it. I don’t expect to be blown away by any new technological advances. Unlike another game that I started to play that is very much like the original, The Sims, I suspect that I might get bored of this one earlier. Who knows, maybe the story and nostalgia will be enough to keep me engaged right to the end.
I may be an old man. And I probably can remove the may from that previous sentence. And I definitely can remove the probably from that previous sentence. I am an old man. I’m not ancient, but I am (statistically speaking) on the other side of the proverbial hill. So, what I’m about to say won’t come as much of a shock.
Granted, I haven’t made it too far into the game, but so far the violence level is high, but it’s not off the charts. So far, it is just spatters of blood. Certainly nothing like the disemboweling that happens in the Mortal Kombat series. I expect that to change, so something might come along to shock me into reconsidering my time with this game.
The other mature themes have yet to show up, too, so I can’t speak on them. But, the language. I’ve only played through maybe 5 minutes of actual game and they’ve used the “F” word more than a full length movie. I mean, I haven’t been counting, but when the phrase “F” this “F”ing “F” is used, that seems a bit excessive. Bear in mind that I’ve used that phrase more than once in my life.
So, I’m no stranger to swearing and I don’t even consider swearing that bad. It’s just that when anything is excessive, over the top, or it feels like it’s being used to cover up weak storytelling or dialogue, I get a little nervous. Also, I’ve listened to a podcast series recently that has changed my mind a little bit about the extraneous effects of certain pop culture phenomenon. I’m not going to jump into the GTA is contributing to the downfall of American life (except I kind of am skirting the issue), but we can’t possibly know all of the repercussions of any single event. Now that I’m older and the kids will eventually have to take over for me and the other old farts, I worry what legacy we’ve created for them.
This has become my calling card. Like the Tick with “Spoon!”, I have “It’s *fill in the blank*.” There’s a reason for that and I wrote about it earlier. When you find something that works, you repeat that formula until it doesn’t work anymore because, well, why would you? Why take the resources to develop something new that will take time when you can just slap a new wrapping on the old thing and nobody will question you?
Well, that’s where we are with GTA. Good or bad, it’s GTA at this point. They might give it updated graphics. They might be able to convince some Hollywood hotshots to lend their voices to the series. They might let you drive helicopters or boats. They’ll put in an online mode. But, in the end, it’s just GTA. For now, I can forgive that because the story and my memories of the old games have me engaged, but I can’t promise that will last. After all, I bought GTA 4 on the recommendation of a friend and never opened the game.
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