Monday, May 26, 2008


As the credits rolled on GTA IV I started to wonder how much the game cost to make, so after some searching... $100 million. After some additional searching you figure out that GTA IV is the first game to eclipse Shenmue in this category. All roads take you back to Shenmue. Shenmue cost a reported 70 million.

In a handful of ways, the comparisons are there. Come to think about it there may not be a GTA IV without Shenmue. Besides the gameplay; the story is similar. Our main protagonists are hell bent on revenge. Ryo is hunting down the person who murdered his father, Niko is looking for a person who betrayed him and both characters have doomed relationships and find only emptiness in revenge.

Shenmue can't really be considered a 'sandbox' game like GTA titles can. Shenmue has a clock that haunts your dreams and keeps things moving forward. Ryo needs his sleep, man! GTA IV uses that gameplay element a bit more now then previous installments. I felt more rushed in GTA IV but a big motivator there was story whereas in Shenmue the story sometimes left you looking for sailors, dropping yen into a Hang-On cabinet and working a regular job moving boxes around, which only made it seem like a sandbox.

The thing Shenmue had going for it was intimacy. I really felt like I was part of the world. GTA IV has that as well, but it just can't compare. Even if I could have, I would never even have thought of jumping to my death from 50 stories while firing off rounds from my carbine all the while hoping to land on a vehicle just to see what happens to Ryo. The story in GTA got to me, but not enough to prevent me from trying those types of things. Money comes easily to Nikko, not so easily for Ryo, playing Lucky Hit could only earn him so much.

Now that I've finished up the GTA IV story I can't help but think of how refreshing it would be to have a game with the same elements, but without the witty advertising, cursing, vulgar talk radio stations, ethnic stereotypes, etc... not that I don't like it, it's just that sometimes it took me out of the game. That said, there is definitely a self awareness about it at Rockstar throughout the game though. At one point even, Niko switches off the radio station, stating that he couldn't stand it anymore. I was impressed. It also made me wonder if there is another game that Rockstar wants to make but cannot because it wouldn't sell. Maybe a game closer akin to Shenmue.

Think about the buzz around a Shenmue game made by Take-Two's Rockstar.

Think about it.

Monday, May 12, 2008


Wow. It's rare that something comes along with a lot of anticipation then surpasses your expectations. Rockstar has outdone themselves. The game is incredible. When reading the reviews about the game you might feel bad for the folks that review for a living. They play games as a job, not for the fun of it or for (gasp) the experience of it. GTA 4 is a rare treat for someone like me. First impressions after firing it up are jarring. I expected it to look and feel much like San Andreas. Nothing could be farther from that statement. Meaning, it is clear that it is by the same folks, but the boyish story in the previous installment is gone. The story, which is what I figured would fall flat, it much more gripping.

Like and dislike, feelings.

One of the biggest changes perhaps is, well, me. Maybe I'm wiser, gone though a bit, been around long enough to have made bad decisions... but this game makes you, forces you, to take deep breathes. Dare I say; it has a bit of Shenmue to it. For example: you work on many relationships at once. The game allows you to invest time in certain characters, work for their friendship or love. Because I am the way I am, I tried to take one as far as the game would allow, when all the sudden it turned on me. I honestly felt sort of betrayed. I felt like taking a walk and watching the time go by, literally. So I did. Almost like adding my own cut to the story.

Marching On.

Rockstar didn't mess around. This game is worth every penny. The city looks and feels ridiculously good. I've never lived in NYC but I have visited on occasion, probably more then I should have. I vividly remember the colors of the city the day after New Years, the emptiness. I also remember taking a train from Islip on a Spring day in the middle of the week. Both contrasting images and feelings are in the game. My experiences are limited, so I can only imagine what someone who spent a lot of time there thinks. Regardless, the game sucks you in. Forces you to take in the character that is the city along with the human characters to run into along the way.

Some say this is the greatest video game experience of all time... They may be right, perhaps wrong. Either way, I'll be playing this game all the way through. Why not.