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Malik (4/2/07)  

I am now officially moved. The last few weeks have been nothing but stress and chaos as I moved at work and moved at home. However, it has all passed and it is now all taking shape. I now have a bit of unpacking and organizing to do, but I can happily say that the important details are done.

I have my important game systems hooked up, my Internet is live and active (as you can tell by this being online), and my entertainment room is shaping up nicely. Many thanks to Meat Shield for pointing out some important steps to not only make my big screen more comfortable to view, but also to point out how to make it more Wii-accessible.

There are still many ways to improve and adapt to having so much more space, but I am now finally at the point in which I can breath easy and relax a little bit. I can take a little time to play some Puzzle Quest or Crackdown between projects. I can also make things comfortable and not just passable, if this makes sense.

On a different note, I have yet to see the trailer for GTA4, but it is active and out there. I have, however, seen some still shots of it, and I must say that I really need to see the live trailer. Supposedly, it was created with all in game shots of the actual game in action. I wish Rockstar would clarify as to if this was PS3 or 360 images, or both. However, the one thing I noticed right away is that people are looking better and the water looks freakin' nice.

I hope the game lives up to the standards that GTA3 through San Andreas created for the sandbox-crime genre. It'll be hard to say until late summer/early fall when the game finally hits store shelves. However, knowing Rockstar (and how they usually fail, unless it's GTA), GTA4 should be well worth the price of the very least.

I am also happy to see that the main character is breaking away from many of the old stereotypes. It's not an Italian Mafia type. It's not a black gang banger. It's not some sleazy Miami Vice stereotype. If the main character is indeed the Eastern European guy shown in the trailer, then it's nice to see that we're not dealing with the standard issue assortment. True, Eastern European crime lords have been done before, but not to the large extent that the previous ethnicities of GTA protagonists have been played out. Hopefully, this will be a fresh start for a new generation, and hopefully Rockstar will keep up the addictive quality title that they gave so much of last generation.


Malik (4/3/07)  

I finally was given the chance to see the GTA 4 trailer. I have to say I'm impressed. If Rockstar was telling the truth (that the trailer was made entirely with in game video), then this will be one hell of a smooth looking game. The characters look great. The vehicles look smooth and polished. Most of all, the backgrounds (including buildings and water) all look breathtaking. This is going to be, at the very least, one smooth and polished game when it finally hits in October.

I just hope that Rockstar takes the lead set by Saint's Row and Crackdown by revamping their combat controls. Saint's Row used a fully two analogue stick aiming technique that was far more enjoyable than the classic and broken GTA3-SA lock on button style. More than that, Crackdown gave the Saint's Row controls, but with a really fun lock on button that gave the ability to make precisely called shots. Also, the leveling up system of Crackdown would fit nicely with the skills that were introduced with San Andreas. If the entire Crackdown combat system could be converted to GTA4, then I see good things in the future for Rockstar.

Considering how Rockstar would usually be the innovator in sandbox games, it will be an unusual position for them to be in. They are now being forced to be the imitators in this new generation. However, if they can imitate, as well as innovate, for the new GTA generation, then I see some great times ahead for GTA addicts (like myself).

Also, seeing the actual trailer, I now can see that this could be one hell of a fun protagonist to control. The idea of playing Eastern European (definitely not Russian in my mind, despite what message boards seem to imply...maybe former Soviet country, but not quite pure Russian) will open a lot of new style for playing. You're no longer the traditional Italian American born into a comfortable life. You're also not some gang banger trying to unite the ghetto.

You can now be someone who truly has seen the worst of life, and not just the worst of American life. While I did enjoy playing as CJ in SA, it was an old story for my palette in entertainment. This mysterious protagonist for GTA4 will be able to bring about some unique takes on what may be mundane for a typical sandbox crime genre (anti-)hero.

Also, while GTA4 is obviously set in good old Liberty City (of GTA3), e it goes beyond. Afterall, while a good deal of it was wasted space, I liked the vast size of San Andreas. I hope they can go beyond and bring us some suburbs, extra cities, or maybe even give us what may be the most amazing possible idea; a game which allows us to travel, via jets, to each of the PS2 GTA settings (like how we returned to St. Mark's Bistro from Liberty City for a mission in GTA:SA). I would love to have that scope of size and that level of exploration to a game. Plus, with how nicely Liberty City has been touched up, I feel like I need to see Vice City and San Andreas in the new generation. At the very least, Vice City and Las Venturas and/or Los Santos (San Fierra was a bit empty for my taste the first time around).

On a different note, I think Harmonix is finally reading minds. Afterall, ever since Guitar Hero came along, I thought that they needed to tie in games like Karaoke Revolution and Donky Konga, in the sense of including drums and a mic to really bring about that whole feeling of being in a rock band with your friends. Well, that would be the basic gist of their next game; Rock Band.

The only part of Rock Band that has me concerned is that it's so far looking like a game more focused on the PS3 than being equally focused on 360 support (however, there are so many articles out there with unique information on this game that I may just not have read enough to see the whole picture...yet). Considering that four people could make the game work right, and three would not be too bad, the 360 should be entirely plausible to play a game like this on. I know that Microsoft is being a jerk in regards to making wireless accessories for the 360, but you could always use wired instruments (like with Guitar Hero 2 on the 360), and toss in the requirement of a USB hub to round out to four players. In fact, since the drum doesn't have to go anywhere, the drum could include a built in hub on the back.

Also, with the obvious benefit of the 360 Live Marketplace versus the half-assed PS3 online store, it would be an obvious advantage for the game to be 360 friendly and include the future ability to download new content packs (songs).

Most of all, with the much larger install base of 360 versus PS3 in the US, and how Rock Band will obviously be a game mainly targeted to the US, it would only make sense for Harmonix to go for the largest possible audience...ala the 360.

I know it's still early in the Rock Band development to get too many conclusions formed about the game. However, I hope to see more hints that the game is being made equally for both consoles and that the 360 is less of an after thought.

Considering the problem with scaling games from 720 to 1080 that the PS3 has, and the obvious price difference, I know I will not be joining a Rock Band this year unless Harmonix makes a cross-platform title. I still refuse to buy a PS3 until it can handle my awesome 1080i TV (that lacks 720 support). PS3 fanboys can say, to their heart's content, that I need a new TV...however, my TV rocks and I still feel that the PS3, on the other hand, needs a proper scaler before it will enter my home...and a realistic price point.


Malik (4/6/07)  

There were no posts the last two days for a couple of very good reasons. The most important being that my father and I were tearing up my new house to get everything in working order. Most of it was boring and un-geek. I'm talking about putting in a new kitchen faucet, fixing one of my fridges, adding a button to go with the two exposed wires that make up the doorbell, and other minor issues.

However, the most important part, for my geek side, was also handled. We placed the wall mounts for my surround sound system. This means, for the first time since I bought my surround sound system (in 2003 or 2004) that the speakers are all placed in uniform places within a rectangular room. In other words, I now can use real surround sound with a real quality place and not just stack speakers on whatever object approximated what I wanted. Toss in the fact that my sub-woofer can now be cranked up (living near the airport means all my neighbors have good enough insulation and windows to keep out my fun noises), and I am becoming one happy geek.

The other reason for my lack of posting was how I neglected my surround sound pumping systems in favor of the addiction I call Puzzle Quest. I am now about level 43 with my warrior, and I can easily see that the warrior is broken starting at level 30.

Level 30 sees a skill called Deathbringer appear in the warrior's spell list. This spell, assuming you've level fire mastery (which increases your max red MP and how quick you obtain red mana), sees you making one skull for every two red in your mana pool. This means, with high fire mastery, that out of the 64 pieces on the grid, you can make about 30 or so skulls. That equals a lot of damage and a great chance of getting four in a row, or better (which equals a free extra turn). If the enemy survives, and you have enough saved up, a quick dose of berserker rage (I think that's the name) killing off your foe as you turn all red mana pieces into skulls, along with the ability to make another free action. Put those two skills together and the enemy is hosed.

I don't know how close I am to finishing Puzzle Quest, but I need to keep playing. I don't mean I "want" to I NEED to. This is an addiction unlike any video game I have ever encountered. It's as addictive as Katamari, but since PQ is so much longer, you cannot stop for many more hours.

I should be posting more next week than I did this week. However, for now I will call it quits. I just don't have much to say, unless you want to hear more about which case, I suggest you get the game and become an addict yourself.


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