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Malik (5/5/08)

I didn't have time to post on Friday (dentist appointments are too timely to give me posting time), so I didn't have a chance to bring up the new DLC for tomorrow.

I am skipping a link and all of that, but it's a pack of songs (for the usual pack price) or three individual songs for $2/160MP each. These songs are from Angels and Airwaves, Fallout Boy, and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. While they are definitely not my type of music, I will give them all a shot on youtube videos before deciding for sure to skip them.

While many people will try to be music elitists with this pack and call it modern crap, I can't do that. Yes, this is not my style of choice, but at the same time I will recognize two things. First of all, this is different music than we've seen for a month or so. We have been seeing metal, classic rock, old school 90's (Zero is awesome), and other genres (I'm not even going to try to classify Mother Hips since they seem to fit in a couple of sub-genres). So, to add some modern mislabeled "emo", I cannot complain. Yes, I would like something else for myself, but there are fans of this type of music, so it's not my place to say that Harmonix is wrong by adding anything...even if it's not the right songs for this Rock Band fanatic.

Also on the note of Rock Band DLC, the Wii and PS2 versions will see some extra love. On July 15, a track pack will be sold on a separate disk that can be used on these two consoles to give access to twenty new tracks with no artist being represented more than once on the disk. All tracks are masters, and it covers a pretty nice genre selection. The final price is about $30 for this disk.

The sad part is that there isn't much choice and you have to hit so many genres if you want this. It would be cool if Harmonix could just offer smaller packs of like songs (maybe a Boston disk for $15, etc.). Maybe even have a monthly disk assortment, like a digital magazine, that could be picked up from a store or ordered online? However, showing any love to this level is a good thing for the people who don't have any choice but to go with the bastardized versions of Rock Band.

My question is how will this be utilized. Will you have only access to these songs when the disk is in and not to the base game songs, or will it allow both sets of play lists but you'll still need to swap disks? How much is this going to feel like extra content instead of a different game? Will you have to reboot the console to hit up the songs on this disk versus those on the core game?

I just wish, for my gaming brethren, that Harmonix would also look at a way to include BWT on the PS2 and Wii. Yes, without a customized character, you have nothing to spend your earned cash on, but at the same time there's something special about just taking the world by storm on BWT. It gives something more tangible to play for (to close out all venues) than just playing a single song in your band and trying to beat them all.

On a different note, I'm still playing GTA4. I am loving almost every minute of it. The solo game is sweet, and the plot just keeps getting better with each new mission. Niko is, without a doubt, the first GTA protagonist I could find sympathy for. When something bad happens to family or friends because of his actions, you can see Niko feels for them...not just for himself. He's looking out for his cousin and his friends, even if it makes him have to show signs of regret and remorse. That is a great story telling element.

I'm also really finding a lot of love for the online part of the game. I have not used my XBox Live Gold for it's real purpose for well over a year...until GTA4 became a regular nightly online thing. The online alone is almost worth the price of the game.

My only new complaint is the damned cell phone. I like the concept and how it's supposed to be used, but I don't like how quickly Niko uses it to call a mission giver after the mission is finished. The follow up call is great, but couldn't Niko wait until any hostiles in the area are gone. For example, I did a mission last night, and it ended with the police having me at a two star rating. Instead of waiting to make a call, Niko stopped running, pulled out his cell, called his contact, and then dropped dead from a police officer's bullet taking him out. That is just not cool.

At least dying only takes some money and leaves you with all your guns, so it's not the game breaker than it was in earlier GTA games. Still, I'd rather not have Niko die just because he's a cell addict.

On a side note, the online dating is awesome. Not just for what it allows you to do in the game, but for what it opens. For example, one online date, when wooed enough, will take out any two star or lower problem for you instantly by pulling in a favor with the DA. That's pretty sweet. Add in a nurse who will help you heal over the phone, getting a 50% discount on clothes shopping for the rest of the day, and what other friends will do (free car rides, mobile weapon shop with discounted prices, etc.) and this is so much better than what they would do for you in GTA:SA.

Anyway, time is short, so I'll wrap things up for today right here.


Malik (5/6/08)

I think it's funny when Rockstar is on the other end of the law. This time they (as in their parent company, Take Two) are suing someone. While I'm not normally one for frivolous lawsuits, I think this has some merit to it.

Yes, it's minor. Yes, it's pretty stupid. However, considering the Chicago Transit Authority pulled GTA4 ads for a really pointless reason, I think it's only fair for the other shoe to drop. Afterall, these ads were not pulled because of what GTA4 is or what it will do, but rather because of what GTA:SA had (Hot Coffee, etc). That's like trying to block ads for the Halloween movie produced by Rob Zombie because of something done in the old Halloween movies. It's trying to take a proactive step against something that it under more scrutiny and under a different direction than the offender.'s like preventing a person from getting a bank job because their father or grandfather was once under investigation for bank robbery. It's a different entity and you cannot attack something just because of it's ancestors.

Under those same principals, Hillary Clinton should not be allowed to campaign because Bill was impeached. It's the same line of thinking; attack something new for what its past relationships had involved, rather than for its own actions or merits.

Anyway, I'm still taking my time with GTA4. I cannot find the mindset to rush through this game. I also can't find the time since I have too much on my plate right now. However, even with all the time in the world, I still would hate to rush this game in any way. In fact, that is the sole reason I can promise that I will never aim for all the particular, the one for beating the entire story in less than 30 hours. That's just not my idea of how to enjoy a game. It's also why I never gave in to the whole Gamer Score/Gamer Points thing on the 360. You are rewarded for not having fun more times than not.

While some games are only out to give achievements for beating the game, too many focus on repetition or rushing through a good game. For example, I didn't want to beat Tomb Raider Legends with all possible achievements since it would require replaying too many levels and that would have ruined my feeling of enjoyment I got from the game.

At the same time, certain achievements just don't sound like any fun to me. I don't give a shit about ranked online matches for a game that has always been primarily offline to me. I play GTA games for the single player experience, so getting ranks and killing Rockstar employees online is not my idea of a worthwhile investment. Instead, the achievements for progressing the plot are the only ones that really matter...those and for finishing fun side quests like collecting all ten custom orders Brucie gives you over email (damned fun).

Anyway, I still have one main island locked and this is fine with me. I'll probably be on GTA4 for the next few weeks, and then after the single player is done...maybe I'll have to play again for some different choices to be made (like deciding who lives and who dies). Then there is always the co-op and free play online modes to keep me going...all while waiting for The Cars to come to Rock Band. It really is a good time to be a gamer.


Malik (5/7/08)

First of all for today, I just wasn't impressed when I checked the expert guitar videos for the new DLC for Rock Band. These songs just didn't do anything for me. Yes, I think I could stomach the Fallout Boy DLC more than Dead on Arrival, and the other two songs are not necessarily bad. However, they just are not my type of all.

The only song of the three that has me intrigued is the Yeah Yeah Yeahs song. That's only because the note chart looks a little different. This includes a fast strum part like found in parts of Creep...but with three note chords. Very unusual, and looks like it could be a little fun to play.

I just hope The Cars album is next weeks DLC since it would give me an incentive to buy some more DLC in a hurry.

Now, some thoughts about GTA4...with spoilers about the mission Three Leaf Clover.

Spoilers are coming!

Last night, after clearing all other available missions before it, I started Packie's missions. These involve a series of crimes to make some quick money. The most noticeable of these is Three Leaf Clover, since it's the mission that is found in all GTA games since Vice City; the big time robbery. In Vice City, it was a bank, in San Andreas it was a casino, and it's a bank again in GTA4.

The mission itself can be a lot of fun. You do a bit of driving to get your friends (starting with three, but soon becomes two partners) to the bank. Once inside, you grab the money and then the real action begins. You will have a five start wanted level and an army of cops coming after you. To complicate matters, you need to escape with two partners and no car for the first part of the mission. This means you will have a nice blend of run and gun action with some standard strategized cover and shoot action.

Eventually, you do get a car and then you just need to escape from the hell you've created for yourself. Once you're at this point, you only have three stars (how did you lose two of those?) and a long drive with plenty of time to lose the heat, as long as you don't get stopped too badly by roadblocks on the bridges. In other words, once you're off the freeway, you're good to treat this like any other three star wanted level.

While this mission offers some awesome fun, a few things struck me as I played. First off, long missions, and this one is long, offer a lot of room for bullshit to strike you down. This can be from deviating from your course and then finding your mini-map going retarded (like how it wanted me to pull a non-stop series of U-turns on the freeway for one of my failures...), or from just inexplicable things (like being shot, stepping into your car, in slow motion, and dying at the wheel without another shot being fired at you...that just confused the shit out of me).

At least this is better than some past GTA games since your partners have pretty smart AI. Right? Wrong! While your partners can be pretty sharp in a major firefight, they will also become retarded when the action slows down.

My first failure on this mission came when Packie (maybe it was Derek) ran up to burning cop car. There was no reason for this since the car was out of the way of where we were going, and there were no cops left around it. However, Packie wanted to see what fire looked like...up close. Next thing I know, he's screaming. Luckily he doesn't die from this fire...unfortunately, while he's running around, I am trying to take out a cop in the path...and Packie runs into me, sharing his fiery goodness. Next thing I know, my shot is ruined as Niko is screaming in pain. I come out of the fire state with only enough health left to take one more pistol shot. That is what does me in about ten seconds later...a single pistol wound to my charred body.

In the end, this mission took me about five attempts. Was it hard? Not really. If you use some tactics (cover is good and well times grenades are awesome), come in with full weapons and armor (at least full rounds for a SMG and an assault'll want this help), and think out situations, you'll be fine. However, difficulty and stupidity are not always on the same page. When Packie is lighting you on fire, mini-maps go crazy, and magic bullets cause you to die three seconds later (luckily that was the only time I've seen this happen), you can easily lose your patience...and then you die from your own stupidity.

I think if the fire incident never happened, I would have knocked out this mission in one take. Then I would have been good to call this an awesome mission. Sadly, that fiery Packie only led to me feeling relief to lay this mission to rest.

At least I now have access to all islands, all girlfriends, and I now have a nice amount of cash (Three Leaf Clover gives a quarter million dollars!).


Malik (5/8/08)

One thing I'm starting to realize as I progress through GTA4 is that the plot starts to get thin in a hurry. For a large part of the game, you have a main objective of looking out for your cousin Roman. However, after you reach a certain point, I'm having trouble seeing why Niko is doing what he is doing.

For example, right now Niko is working for a few different people in my game. They are the only missions available, and none of them tie in to Roman or seeking revenge against a person in Niko's past (that whole "I'm looking for somebody" line in the commercials). Two of the people are part of a family of Irish Americans who I met due to working for people not tied in with the plot. The other is a man who I met through one of the other two's brother.

I'm for there being missions not tied in to the actual main plot, but I have trouble finding the plot compelling once I'm only able to work for people unrelated to my real goals. It's like trying to read a story that takes such a sudden twist that it's not even the same story anymore. It's almost like watching From Dusk Till Dawn. At first that movie was about a family being taken hostage by some criminals, but then it's a vampire flick in which the hostages and their criminal overlords are now buddies.

I'm still playing and trying to have fun, but when this was the first GTA I ever played with a truly compelling plot, it just lowers my whole level of esteem for the game and for Rockstar.


Malik (5/9/08)

Guitar Hero, the franchise, will be making "a significant leap forward in innovation" in the fourth quarter of 2008. Yup...sounds about right. Afterall, GH is now old technology in a world that has Rock Band (four players and instruments versus two with GH).

I foresee, in the fourth quarter, the big innovation will actually be the addition of more instruments. At which point, the name "Guitar" Hero will no longer seem completely appropriate. To balance this fact, the game will still primarily focus on guitar, but I see the addition of drums and vocal...and maybe a keyboard. However, the only real innovation is going to be borrowing off of Neversoft's ideas, like Activision is already doing with it's ownership of the GH name.

When the only real "innovation" from Neversoft has been the DS version of GH (On Tour) coming next month, they don't exactly show a large ability to innovate. In fact, as an expert guitar player on RB and on any sane GH (not GH3), I have serious reservations about only seeing four fret buttons on the DS version. Afterall, the big thing that separates hard and expert from the lower levels is that you have five buttons, and thus you need to slide you hand and stretch your fingers. I personally don't even see why a fifth button could not have been added to balance out this issue.

Speaking of rock in games, and I'll change the subject to good games now, the DLC for Rock Band this upcoming week is some more Clash (Train in Vain), Blondie (Hanging on the Telephone), and Sonic Youth (Kool Thing). All of these are master tracks that will be running the usual 160MP ($2) per song. It doesn't look like there will be a bargain pack price on this stuff, even though they could all fit into a very loosely defined group.

I'm glad to see that The Clash is getting more songs, since they are one of the few punk bands that can keep a very different sound with each song (like with Social where is my Mike Ness action at, Harmonix?). It's also nice to see more Blondie coming our way, even if we did just get some a few weeks ago (more variety or less from an artist in a small time frame would be good).

As for Sonic Youth...I guess some people like them. I know I sure as hell don't. Especially, I can't stand Kool Thing (does the "k" make it extra cool? Maybe it would have been "kewl" if it came out in today's 1337-speak world). I didn't like this song on GH3, and I actually have dreaded the idea of it coming to Rock Band. I guess that dreaded feeling is now here. Ok...enough of my personal preference. It's new music, it's a new artist to RB, and therefore I still give it my (reluctant) nod of approval.

This pack does make up, in terms of style differences, for last weeks "scene" pack. So, in my eyes, it's all good. Plus, since it's not a pack, I can skip Sonic Youth and not feel like I'm not getting the best price deal possible. Hopefully the following week will be The Cars...but I see that not happening for an additional week since Harmonix would probably not want to hit up two weeks of the 80's in a row. At least they have been doing a great job on getting variety between weeks in era and genre.

Rock on.


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