Friday, May 2, 2008

All Good Things (Pixelated and Otherwise...)...

By now I'm sure you've heard the hype surrounding the latest installment of what many video game aficianados consider the artful masterpiece that is Grand Theft Auto. This, the... Christ... like, sixth? game to come out since the franchises debut in 1998, seems to set the bar at it's highest, not just for the GTA games themselves but seemingly every other video game yet to be produced.

I'll spare you all the details in the story line, just know that your character, a humble-sounding Eastern European ex-military immigrant is wandering around the massive landscape that is a digitized Liberty City (a doppleganger to New York City.).

The game truely is a work of art, with the enviromental elements so stylized and crisp that at times driving around I have flashbacks to living in NYC. The game producers put such hard work into every nook and cranny of this sprawling urban topography that seldom, if ever, do you see the same pedestrian or building twice.

Those are the good things about this game, it has a rich, cinematic-like story line and is visually stunning. But in lie problems: Similar to other culturally significant media presentations (see also, HBO's The Wire), they become bigger and more spread out with each variation, losing sight of it's core elements.

I'll use The Wire as an example. When the first season of the critically acclaimed crime drama came out, all it was about was trying to set up and catch drug dealers, and all the drama and hard work that goes into that persuit. By the last season, season five I think, the story had blown so far out of proportion from the original idea that I had no fucking clue what was going on, who was doing what, etc. The original cast was barely even mentionable amongst all these other tangent story lines. I mean, what started out about drug dealers in the projects, ended with an expose on the slow death of the American Printed Media.

What the fuck?

GTA has somewhat become like this. At it's earliest roots, all the game was about was completing some shoot'em up-like missions, creating general havoc in a small birds-eye-view city, and jacking cars. Now, in this latest installment, you can go drunk driving, play billards, take helicopter tour rides, feed pigeons, burn down houses, whatever. Honestly, if you can think it, you can probably do it in this game.

I'm not saying this is a bad thing at all; I for one love the game and am a life-long fan of the franchise. But what I'm saying is that the game, as well as all substantially important aspects of our pop culture, should do it's damndest to stick as close to the original idea as possible. Hey, yeah it's cool that now in the latest GTA my character suffers from chronic Chrones Disease and after every five hours of continous play he's gotta spend a day shitting himself on a couch, but is it necessary?

I mean, really, you can watch television programs in this game. At one point, I was in my bedroom, watching this guy on my screen, watch tv in his bedroom. It's fucking surreal.

Improve on things, but remember to stick to the script.

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