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Malik (4/28/08)

I am so damned tired today. Let's just say that plans, puppies, and sleep don't always become the best of friends. So, sacrificing one of those, sleep was the one to suffer. I probably made the right decision.

Yesterday, I caught Harold and Kumar 2. I have to say this movie was everything I hoped for and so much more. If you enjoyed the first movie, then this one is required viewing. It's worth a matinee, followed by a regular priced showing...probably with buying the DVD upon it's release following in many months.

Without spoiling anything, there are two important scenes I have to just hint at on how awesome they were. The first deals with how Kumar was introduced to pot with a quick cameo of an emo Harold.

The second, and without a doubt one of the best scenes from a movie in any comedy I've seen is what follows after the scene from one of the trailers. It's the point after Neil Patrick Harris tells Harold and Kumar to hide under a blanket in the back seat of his car. It's also the infamous unicorn scene. The pure comedy of this moment is beyond description. If I was watching the movie on DVR or DVD, I would have had to rewind and watch this one a second time.

In fact, any scene with NPH, just like in the first movie, is amazing beyond words. I'm glad to see that there's an actor out there who is willing to put themselves into a role that is such a twisted spoof on their own real persona. The only thing that comes close is James Woods on Family Guy, and even that is horribly lame in comparison to NPH in Harold and Kumar 2.

Also, just throwing out one more thing about the movie...when my friends and I saw the credits rolling, we didn't know if we should stay or if the movie was done. Well, the theater emptied and we remained. It was worth it. There is a quick scene that only lasts a few seconds afterwards, but it answers one of the most important questions that lingers during the movie; what happened to a certain character. Stay those extra minutes of the credits. It's worth it.

To shift need to familiarize yourself with the clutch and the stick in the center of your vehicle. At first you must take it slowly, and depress the clutch. Upon full depressions, you can shift gears, release the clutch, and apply the gas.

Sleepiness makes me into a useful and helpful person. You are now ready to familiarize yourself with a manual transmissions. Next time we will cover double clutch mechanics in larger trucks and older automobiles.

Anyway, at midnight many retailers are having GTA4 launches. I'll be skipping this. On one hand, I am so damned tired that I randomly decided to explain shifting gears in a manual transmission. On the other hand, by the time I got home from the Gamestop I pre-ordered at (near my work, since it's three blocks from my work), it would be around 1 or later. I would, therefore, just go straight to sleep...and not be able to play until around 3PM tomorrow. On the other hand, if I picked up GTA4 at work tomorrow and played upon returning home, I'd be playing at 3PM, but I'd also be playing without sleep deprivation. I think the means and the ends of these outcomes both point to sleeping tonight.

However, you can expect two things in the coming days. For one, I will not be abandoning Rock Band, so I'll have my thoughts and/or experiences to tell about on Zero and the two Mother Hips songs.

Secondly, I'll be talking about GTA4 almost every post. This game is beyond amazing. If you need further proof, check out the video review at IGN (which I am too tired to find a link for), which was posted late last week. This game looks like it's so much more than what I ever expected. Even the reviewer in the video review said something that seems to sound about right; it's more than worth $'s probably well worth paying $300 for the game. This is possibly one of the first games that may be worth buying a console just for one single game. I cannot even begin to fathom that idea since I would never buy a console for a single game...

...ok, I did buy a Sega CD just for Lunar. However, that was during my youth when money was something spent on fun and not spent on mortgages, utilities, gas, and all of that adult stuff. Plus, Lunar was worth a (at the time) $125 dollar add-on for my Genesis. Especially when I found Lunar for $5 used at the local video store (before Blockbuster was the only game in town, so you could find some cheap used rentals that weren't just Pluto Nash and Water World).

To end my ramblings for today, one more piece of advice; if you get a smart and agile dog, prepare for boredom to set in if it's left alone. In other words, if you play video games or have other cables lying around, anti-bite sprays are says my, as of 24 hours ago, wireless PS2 Guitar Hero guitar. At least that wasn't a powered cable, and now everything is coated with a nasty tasting mist. Also, as bonus advice, spray on the stuff from far away from your face...or else the mist will get in your mouth and death will seem like a favorable thing in comparison.


Malik (4/29/08)

Today I should have GTA4 by the time I post this online. For now, I'm at work and it's a few hours before I will pick up GTA4, and that's a few hours before I post. If I lived in a different time (read: if GTA4 came out before I changed employers) I would have taken the day and maybe the week off from work to become completely entrapped by this game. However, living in a day when I don't have a bank of vacation and/or sick days, it just means I have to deal with my day job before I can get to my desired activities. Viva the grown up life!

My only fear at this point is that I don't get my copy of GTA4. Sadly, the more I've anticipated a game that I pre-ordered, the more likely it is for Gamestop to give away my pre-order. It happened with a few games (Tales of Symphonia for the GCN stands out particularly in my mind), and it always comes back to haunt me.

Anyway, today is also the day that Zero comes to Rock Band for DLC. On top of that, this is the week that also brought us Mario Kart for the Wii. It's just too much at once. I guess it's good to have so much now instead of only getting all the best titles and DLC in the fall. Still, it's a bit overwhelming to put up with it all with so little time and money to go around. At least the money part is offset at this time of year due to the wonders of tax returns (hint: owning a house really makes tax returns into something special...thousands of dollars special).

Speaking of the other end of the year, the first batch of DLC for GTA4 on the 360 is being expected now around the fall. While I like the thought of DLC to bring about more life from a game, I really don't care for DLC not coming until half a year after the game launches.

By the time most DLC comes along for a game I care about, I simply no longer care. There's only so long that most games can hold my attention span. The sole exception being Rock Band, but that only seems to be true because of it receiving DLC every single week to keep the game fresh.

Anyway, I have important things to do right now instead of post. That simply translates to the fact that if I don't get my work done for the day, then I'll be at work late and stuck from my precious GTA4. So, instead of rambling any more, I'll just part with one last thing to say...expect a lot of thoughts about GTA4 tomorrow.


Malik (4/30/08)

First of all, the rock band songs for yesterday...

I have to say that I was less than enthralled by the Mother Hips songs.  The note charts looked like they were probably pretty fun, but the sounds of the two songs were just a little too folksy for my tastes.  While I do enjoy a good note chart, I still need it to be found with a song that I find fun to listen to.  So, with that in mind, those songs just weren't for me.  If it's your thing, then more power to you.  However, I'd give the songs a listening (listen to a clip in the Rock Band store) before buying.  If you like the sound you hear, then download and guitar will make you happy.

As for Zero...awesome song and fun note chart.  Yes, the guitar is a little repetitive, but it's still a blast to play and the song is one of the best choices for the Pumpkins on Rock Band.  I call it well worth the price ($2) of admission.  Plus, it might be a Pumpkin's song that's easy enough for all parts to rock out at without any instrument being put through an unnecessary gauntlet.

Now to heart of the matter for today; GTA4!!!!

Holy shit, this game is awesome.  However, before going on about how great it is, I have a complaint I must address.  Why address this issue right away?  Because it is one issue you may encounter right away (before starting a game).  The game is one of the few I know that doesn't let you play with any controller when the game starts.  What does that mean?  It means that if you're like me, with four controllers always plugged in (two guitars, drums, and a regular controller), you may be asked to sign in despite having your regular controller plugged in.  I had this happen.  I wondered what was up and saw that only my drums would allow me to make any selection (log in or don't save progress).  I unplugged the drums, and then I fired up a back up controller (now on slot 1).  This still wouldn't work, so I quit to the dashboard and restarted GTA4.  After a long load screen, I then was told to log in again.  Neither controller worked, and the game required one of my guitars to log in.  In the end, the solution is simple, but defeats the wireless controllers of the 360 (being able to fire up a game from the couch or a chair) have to unplug all other non-standard controllers prior to starting the game and then one of them will be able to play the game.  This is not something I'd expect in a time when other games will allow any controller, regardless of slot its active on, to be the player's controller.

Ok.  After I fixed that issue, I started the game.  Like with any GTA game, the first few minutes is like treading water in a vat of Jell-O.  That is to say that it's different enough from past GTA games that you will be sloppy at the game when you start.  While the main (on foot) controls are quick enough to pick up (at least enough to play), driving is a lot different than previous GTA entries.  That cars are a lot more realistic (no more turning on a dime with the hand brake), and more difficult to control.  Maybe I'll pick up their controls better with time, but for now it's just a bit weird feeling.  There is something that will help you out on this front, but it comes later in my post.

As for the main single player game, it's all like you'd expect.  Which is to say you have a giant ass city (and this city is freaking huge) with a lot to do (see a show, go bowling, darts, video games, watch TV, explore, build friendships, build relationships, have "warm coffee" with girls) and a lot of cool place to see.  I mean you have a far more accurate feel of New York City this time around with the Statue of Liberty, Time Square, Central Park, more islands, and a lot more detail in each place.  You also can explore more areas with better swimming controls, the ability to climb ladders, and better ability to climb over fences and obstacles.  You also have your usual assortment of missions to chose from, with driving, shooting, extorting money by throwing bricks through windows (and you can pick up and throw some objects like bricks), fighting, and escaping from police.

That brings up the change in police.  If you're wanted, you get a small search radius around you, which grows as your wanted level grows.  At one star, it's small, and at four it will be hard to get out of.  As long as you're being followed by cops, the circle is with you.  To lose the cops, you need to get out of the circle and avoid any police until the heat dies down.  Supposedly you can help yourself with back allies and other less traveled areas.  You can also hit a Pay-N-Spray...but only if a cop doesn't follow you in there.  If you're seen going in, they won't just give up anymore.  You have to think these things through now.

Another thing that changed is that drivers will run your sorry ass down if you run across a busy street.  They don't care if you are the them, you're just road kill waiting to happen.  People will act more realistically also when you attack a random citizen.  You will find similar people (same ethnicities, etc.) will back up their potential friends.  You can even take advantage of the more realistic AI by calling the cops when you're in a shootout.  Stop shooting when the police show up and let them take the trash out for you.

The part of the game, however, that claimed most of my time last night was multiplayer.  I was almost planning to cancel my Live Gold since I don't play online.  That has changed.  A yearly price of Gold status was worth it just for last night.  Three of my friends (at first it was two friends) and I played a few games and it was a blast.  There was free mode, which is just what it sounds like.  You do have weapon spawn points that show up on the map (as wells as icons for your friends), and you can just go crazy.  The most fun was when one friend flew us in, on a military style helicopter, to Central Park while his machine guns were blazing.  My other friend and I jumped off and took the city by storm.

We also played a few other modes after spending way too long on free mode.  The GTA Race is a race through checkpoints (or from start to finish)...but you get weapon drops to use to kill your friends.  Slain people respawn, but it will slow them down.  Race is like that, but no weapons.  However, creativity can work for you in killing a friend.  For example, I was on a crotch rocket (whatever the latest super motorcycle is called), as well as my friend who was behind me in second place.  I hit a wall, flew and died.  I grabbed a car when I came back, went to my motorcycle (still waiting for me), and was going to jump out of the car to get my bike.  I knew my friend was coming through, so I stopped my car in the dead middle of the road and watched him fliy through the air with the greatest of deaths.

By the way, these online races is how you can learn the vehicle controls in a hurry.  Nothing like high stakes to get the controls down quickly.  Speaking of quick, add an Infernus or Cheetah to this picture and you will learn quickly and also...I think I might have time traveled.  High speed (like maximum in the Infernus on the freeway) is incredible in GTA4!

We tried one more mode that I don't know the name of.  In it, you have to go to a place, with your team, kill a bunch of guys while collecting cash, then kill some fleeing witnesses.  We failed on the fleeing part, but this mode was some of the most fun to play since it's real team work.  Just make sure all players have headsets or the game might become sloppy in a hurry for this one.  We failed because we tried to hard to kill the fleeing people in squads.

Anyway, I do have to agree with the majority of reviews.  This game is damned near perfect.  The only flaw so far is with that controller issue I mentioned at the top of this post.  Ignoring that, I have not enjoyed a game this much for a long time (not counting Rock Band...which is pure awesome still).  This game is worth standing in line for, paying more than full price, and whatever other hurdles come your way.  If you liked any GTA games to any extent, then this game is worth buying a 360 for.  If you don't get anymore games for that 360, as long as you have a Gold Live subscription, then you'll never need another game anyway.

By the way, it wouldn't be right to end without mentioning this...find a dude to kill, or even yourself, on a high building and find a way to send the body down where it would hit as many objects as possible on the way's fan-f#@$ing-tastic!  Also, get a helicopter at some point and look at the city below you, especially at night.  Yes, the visuals in this game are good enough to justify flying around for hours on end doing nothing else.


Malik (5/1/08)

After spending the day at home yesterday, I have a lot more thoughts on GTA4...and no, I didn't stay home to play. It was just a happy thing to come from being home miserable with a side effect to a vaccination I received last week.

First off, I do have another issue with the game. It would be the mini-map and plotting a course/goal on the map. While it usually works quite well, there are times when the map will freak out. I've usually had it happen in unimportant times (when I'm just trying to find a location for shits and giggles.

It did get bad at one time yesterday. I was in a race with some friends online and the map had the green line tracing backwards on itself. I was instructed to, according to my map, get off the freeway, immediately pull a U-turn, then get back on the freeway, flip another bitch, get off the freeway on the other side, then go under the freeway and get back on the way I was originally heading. There was nothing in the road design to call for this and I really don't know what the map wanted from me. All I could tell is that I had to pause after a while to look at my map, while my friends kept rolling. A second or third place finish was soon turned into a third place ending without me finishing the race. I guess this would be a good reason to learn the streets of Liberty City so I can go without the map to confuse me. Afterall, this all took place on Cannon Island (or whatever the tiny island near the middle of the map) when the finish was at the east end of the northern most island (the one with the strip club).

However, the worst part of this is that Saint's Row did the whole mark a place to go thing on the map a couple years ago and that one never gave me these issues. I suppose it's a small price to pay for the rest of the game being so damned good.

I am now far enough to have the achievement Low Point. That is to say that I'm at the second safe house in the game. This has allowed me to surf the fake internet, watch some fake TV, and do a lot of missions while also doing some fake drinking.

Without spoilers, I will say that the three missions leading to the second safe house are awesome on a level unlike anything any previous GTA could deliver. Especially the one that deals with you having a warehouse shootout. That mission is insane in every possible way. You have to use cover, you have an intelligent AI partner, you have to plan out how to survive, and then you have to plan out how to escape without raining shit on yourself...the last part I had trouble with as I needed to lose a three star wanted level (due to me being a bit trigger happy) while keeping my partner alive. In short, this mission was beyond awesome, and was one of the best adrenaline rushes of all time.

Speaking of awesome, try going to a bar with an AI friend in the game. The visual effects and the movement of your friend and yourself as you stumble around is great. It's especially fun just trying to get to a taxi (haven't tried drunk driving since I was surrounded by police when I exited the bar) without being ran over. In the end, I had to sober up before I could continue since Niko could not stop falling face first into the gutter.

Anyway, the more I play this game the more I see one simple thing; Rockstar had fun making this game. You can tell that the developers had to have fun or else we wouldn't have nearly as many fun things taking place in this game. The proof is in the details.

The one thing I would have liked to had seen would be for there to be more diversions in the city. There's only one clothing store in the first part of the game, only one strip club in the city (why not have a sleazy low class one with some bad humor involved), only a few bars, not many restaurants, and only one arcade game (that I've seen so far, at least). Still, there is enough to keep you interested, but it's best when seen on multiplayer modes since single player doesn't have people being insane to keep things quite as interesting.

On a final, and very random, note for today; poop can be humorous, it serves an important purpose, but it should never be a weapon of revenge.  Be it for monkeys, people, or puppies.  Think about it.


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