Thursday, July 03, 2008

Postpartum Depression in Liberty City

Niko, I wish I knew how to quit you.

In my previous blog post about Grand Theft Auto IV, I'd mentioned that I'd beaten the single player story mode, but wouldn't go back to get 100% completion because "I doubt I'll ever get THAT bored." Well, I did it. 50 Unique Stunt Jumps? Check. All random pedestrian missions? Check. 30 Most Wanted Missions? Check. Shot all 200 Pigeons? Check.

So why did I do it? I have other games to play. In fact, I have too many. I still plan on beating Bully, Rainbow Six Vegas 2, and The Bourne Conspiracy. I recently picked up The Incredible Hulk, Quake Wars, and Guitar Hero Aerosmith, but haven't even taken the shrink wrap off of those yet. I received CSI in the mail from GameFly that I need to at least give an hour to. And on top of all that, I'm still in the second act of Metal Gear Solid 4 on the PS3, which has been great so far, and apparently gets even better. So why did I spend countless hours last week shooting at a bunch of birds? I hadn't even beaten a GTA game since part 3 on the PS2, and I can't remember the last time I'd worked so foolishly to get 100% completion in ANYTHING. Was I really THAT bored?

I think the answer is simple: I missed Liberty City. The more I played the game, the more real the city felt. I'd gotten to the point to where I knew it like the back of my hand. I rarely used checkpoints anymore. I started listening to stations I hadn't listened to yet, and I found myself enjoying more of them than I thought I would (Classics FTW!). I'd broken into the sports car shop in Algonquin so often, they practically held the door open for me. And yet, I never felt like I was whoring for achievements. I found that I really wanted to spend more time in this town. I'd reach to put in some other game, but then the song 'Back in the New York Groove' would get in my head again. It was a fitting song to play over the credits, and it stuck with me. Next thing I know, I'm calling Brucie to set up another race, because I liked the way he says, 'Punish those bitches!' Or I'd go drinking again with Packie, just hoping he'd slur his way through 'Danny Boy' in the cab once more. You know, for old time's sake.

Right before I saved for the last time, I did something that bothers me even now, as I think about it. I called Little Jacob and loaded up on body armor and Molotovs. Why? Why would I do that? It's OVER. Nothing more to see here folks, move along. And yet, in an open world game, is it really ever over?

Rockstar, my hat's off to you. You've created the closest thing to a virtual city I've ever seen. You somehow made me feel nostalgic for it, even after spending more than 70 hours there. It's still not a perfect game. The cover system is flawed, the friendly AI is suspect at times, and the vehicle physics are too slippery. But at the end of the day, Grand Theft Auto IV will still go down as one of the best gaming experiences of this generation.

P.S. My Xbox 360 finally got the Red Ring of Death. It happened yesterday afternoon, when I had two pigeons left to find. Maybe after my jokes to all of my other X360 friends about their hardware troubles, it was karma showing up to strike mine down? Or maybe it was trying to weep over Bill Gates' retirement? In the end, it doesn't matter. The coffin is on its way. I'd thought about buying a used one at a game store, and then returning it after mine came back, but fortunately, I didn't have to. A friend of mine (who's even more impatient than I am) did the same thing when he got the RRoD last year, but never returned the used one, so he's letting me borrow that one until mine comes back from the dead. Microsoft, I wish I knew how to quit you too.

No comments: