Malik (10/25/04)  

This weekend I went to see The Grudge, since Velveeta is such a big fan of Ju-On (the original Japanese films/TV movies).  Nothing like seeing, yet another, good foreign movie remade into another bastardized American version.  It's not that I'm saying The Grudge is bad, it's just crap in comparison to the original.  With the same director, story, blah, blah, I don't understand why they needed to get Buffy the Vampire Slayer into the movie instead of just releasing the original with subtitles in American theaters.  It's bad enough that it's the same movie, but without the flair, but when you see it set in the same location (in Japan) with a mostly American cast, it makes you wonder who they are trying to fool.  Yes, there are Americans in Japan, but not this many in comparison to the number of Japanese who are in the film.  Also, the effects (especially the audio effects) are way over the top and in your face, while the original is so subtle.  In fact, that is where the horror comes from in the Japanese...the subtle horror.  It's like making Blair Witch (which I actually enjoyed) into a movie with Arnold and a camouflaged alien.  Blah.

Also, tonight is finally the night that I get my fix.  I was told that my GTA:SA will be available at 7PM tonight.  I just hope EB doesn't mess up, again, with one of my pre-orders.  Anyway, I'll post like mad this week about GTA:SA.

However, for now, I'm going to leave my post pretty empty.  It's not that I have nothing to talk about, but it's rather that I'm about to doze.  Some jackass pulled a fire alarm in my building at 2:45 this morning.  After getting on all of my clothes and running down 12 flights of stairs (and then back up those 12 stories about 15 minutes later), I was no longer tired and spent the whole morning wide awake.  Well, vacation day-1 is starting with a crap-tacular twist.  Blah.  Ok, I sleep now, so I can be ready for GTA:SA in only 3.75 more hours.


Malik (10/26/04)  

Last night I went down to EB and picked up GTA:SA.  However, instead of playing right away, I decided to spend a little time with my video capture solution (I'll get to GTA in a second, don't worry).  Well, I finally got a long enough RCA cable yesterday from my brother to hook up my PC to my entertainment center.  So, after plugging everything in, I fired up the TV Tuner software and saw...a load of crap.  At first I thought my card was completely messed up, so I made some inquiries.  No matter what, I could not find a solution to this problem.  So, I tried using some different software; the Microsoft Windows Movie Maker program (which is one hell of a nice freebie with Windows XP).  I still got the same crap, so I went into the capture options and tried to fiddle with the settings, when I saw that my capture device was set on PAL.  This stumped me since I had configured my card to USA for country, and as all tech geeks know, the US is solely NTSC.  So, I tried playing around some more when I found that...this pisses me off to no end...the option for forcing NTSC or PAL on my card is not available in XP (it can be done in other Windows versions).  So, I'm once again back at square one with my concept of getting some videos on this site (not to mention getting some simply screen captures of games).  So, I'm thinking of investing in a new capture device, but until my money supply is strengthened, I'm stuck with crap.

Ok, on to what we have all been dying for this week; GTA:SA.  When I first popped in the game, the first thing that hit me was how great the visuals are for a PS2 game.  This is definitely pushing the technological limits of the PS2.  The second thing to hit me was how cool it is to play a game in which Samuel L. Jackson is a voice actor...in other words, no crappy voice acting here (at least so far)...but then Rockstar usually is the only company that wont disappoint in this area.

However, things went a little sour after the initial cinematics had ended.  I'm sorry to say that the controls, once again, need some refinement.  I am trying to love this game (and it is great), but the controls are a little loose feeling.  When you drive, the car will fly all over the road, when you aim, Carl Johnson (your avatar) will take a half-assed attempt at aiming...it's just really sloppy feeling.  However, I think, like with the other GTA PS2 titles, one can become accustomed to these problems, with practice.

Speaking of practice, this game uses a training system somewhat like True Crime: Streets of LA...which is pretty cool.  As you play, you can improve your driving, biking, fighting, running, etc, skills.  As you improve your abilities, you will see some visual changes on CJ (like buffer muscles and less fat).  Also, as you improve your skills, you will see some changes in your characters abilities (like making better bunny-hops on a bike).  Unfortunately, this is also making a huge amount of time go away that should be spent on missions.

At least the missions are pretty fun (except for the higher difficulty from the sloppy controls), with a nice variety of team work and solo work.  When you work as a team with one of your fellow gang members, you can see the improvement to the AI over what the previous GTA games had for NPCs.  You now even have a "come here" button if you notice your team mate running head-first into a beating.  This is all most noticeable when you have a mission involving a team and some driving.  Your team will hang out of windows, etc, to shoot at nearby rival gang members.  It's a definite step up from, for example, the Mafia mission on GTA3 in which you and three Mafia pals have to take down a bunch of Triads and your pals get killed in the first 25 seconds.  Also, the missions are a lot better tied into a plot than they were in the previous GTA games.  You work with characters that have personalities that go beyond just what gang they work for.  You can even see some of this show in how the NPCs act in a mission.  Plus, even as you do a drive by or even just drive around town with some pals, the dialogue will keep coming the whole time (like after you pick up some drive through and the food loving Big Smokes wont help in the shooting because he's too busy stealing everyone's food).

Unfortunately, for me at least, the story may be more refined, but it just isn't the same thing that I got into with the previous two GTA games.  I can't help it, but I like the Mafia action far more than the gang-banging plot.  I think, however, with time, this is another feature that can grow on me...but it will take time.

As for the dreaded new features, like the massive number of mini-games and the lame as hell eating option; they aren't nearly as important or bad as they were originally described.  Don't get me wrong...they are pointless wastes of time, but they don't cut into the game too much.  You can play for about 2 or more hours without ever having to worry about food.  Plus, you don't need to worry about buying new clothes...it's about the same effect as buying clothes in Fable or changing clothes in The Sims...it changes how you look.  The one thing, however, that does cut into the game, for me, is how the health meter plays out.  On the plus side, food restores health, so it's easy to get your energy back after a sloppy mission.  However, the meter is now a meter, and not a number, so it's not nearly as easy to gauge how well you can take a hit or how much abuse you can take before you die.  However, once again, this will probably grow on me...with time.

Anyway, I need to get more research on how this game plays...ok, I'm hooked already and need my fix.  Also, I'll look into a video capture solution sometime, I'm guessing, this week...I'm not giving up without a futile fight (well a more futile one than I've been in for the last couple of weeks).


Malik (10/27/04)  

Since my last posting, I've done a bit more (quite a bit more) with GTA:SA.  I have to say that the more I play, the more the controls start to grow on me.  I'm still not 100% happy, but with some time, they have become almost second nature (the use of either O or L1 serving as fire instead of the classic O only approach has gotten me into trouble a few times).  Anyway, I've done some rather fun things in the last 24 hours...

The most important was getting the ability to form my own gang.  There is nothing like grabbing 5 other Grove Street (your turf) boys, grabbing a car or even patrolling on foot into enemy territory.  That's cool on it's own, but then there's my new found ability to start gang wars.  If you enter an enemy zone and cause enough fatalities, an all out gang war will begin...well, not quite all out; it's you versus a shit-load of enemies.  The first time (part of an actual mission) that I did this, I had no idea what I was doing except running around, scared out of my senses.  Then, I started to get the feel for it...in fact, I should say my friend Meat Shield got the feel for it first.

I gave up the control for a bit and let him have a shot at GTA:SA.  Well, after he did some crazy shit with the crotch-rocket (the PCJ motorcycle), he went into Ballers (rival gang) turf and started to go crazy.  At first I had some doubts, until he decided the real action was in the AK47.  Once he showed me the glory of that weapon, I started to clear one zone after another of Ballers without even stopping off for a save (and I save like a madman on GTA games).  The best part is how the Ballers will be pretty frequent with AK drops.  Once you start the ball rolling, you find your skill with the AK is at a crazy level (I now shoot one shot and get an auto decapitation with auto-aim) and you are all but invincible.

Also, winning over new zones will be your real source of income...and it serves as a good secondary source at the same time.  Like with GTA:VC, you can have auto-money delivered to your home (like it was done to businesses in VC) that is an amount that corresponds to the size of your territory.  Plus, as you give thugs to win the gang wars, the money left by the dead thugs will help to give your wallet some additional padding.  So, while the beginning of the game finds you struggling to find enough money to get a hair-cut, the money train rolls in with the ability to do turf wars.

I also finally got CJ a woman on SA last night.  With the girlfriend missions, you have to occasionally visit her (she will call you on your cell if you get to lax) and take her on a date...a date which includes, usually, finding the right neighborhood to drive her around, a possible drive-by (with her not only wanting to do the killing, but she's the one who does the shooting), and then you top it off with dinner at a fast food place, a lounge, or a fancy restaurant.  The question you must solve as you play is which areas, which food styles, etc, that your girlfriend wants to keep her happy.

Anyway, I'm still playing a lot of SA today, but I figured I'd take a break to keep you all up-to-date.  Speaking of which, I plan to get things more up-to-date on the Geek-Asylum site by getting a video capture solution working quite soon...as in, instead of buying or getting a friend's or brother's throw away device, I'm going to actually buy one and make sure I just get this crap taken care of.  I expect to get this bought sometime either this afternoon or tomorrow after I post.  This way I'll not only have some nice images, but I think I'll get some game play clips online (maybe even make some hint/walkthrough things).  This may take a few days, after buying the device, to implement, since my time is being controlled by CJ and GTA:SA, but I think things should be good by next week, at the latest.

Also, speaking of hints and that sort of thing, I've started a new thread on the forums for GTA:SA.  I haven't played enough to be a guru or anything, but if you know some hints or want some help, you can try to ask and we'll see how it works.  Also, for those who are wondering about the "1-2 Players" on the back of the GTA:SA box, check the forum for info on 2-player mode from (almost) the start.


Malik (10/28/04)  

Well, instead of giving you all some more wacky stories of GTA:SA, I'll just cut to the chase today.  First off, I did buy a video capture card, and it seems hella cool.  However, as I tried to install it yesterday, my PC slipped, fell, and with a giant 1.5 foot drop onto soft carpet, my sturdy and high-tech master hard drive went to shit.  So, if you can't guess, I spent the majority of today and yesterday afternoon doing something far more fun than playing as CJ...yup, buying a new HD, watching as Windows bitched me repeatedly, and then, after 5 (yes, FIVE) installs, I got the PC running again.  I still need to install the video capture card, but I'm putting that on hold while I try to see what files I can salvage from my former master HD.  So, I did get some GTA:SA in while waiting for the installs to complete (a total of about 2.5 hours with many breaks to hit "Yes, I agree" and to type my name, my PC name, and my damned key code for Win XP, over, and over, and over...).  So, today, I'm completely sick of looking at my PC, so I'm cutting it short...all I'll throw in about GTA:SA is the following;

Charlie Murphy and Samuel L. Jackson voice act like true pros (which they are).

Stealing a tanker truck is a bitch.

Taking out a courier (they appear after a certain point) is not worth it (you lose more ammo than you get money to replace it).

Pimpin' ain't easy (but the Pimpmobile you get from Charlie Murphy's character is hella sweet).

Also, the GTA3 guy is a dick.

Ok, I'm now sick of looking at the PC.  Peace.


Malik (10/29/04)  

My PC is about back to the working level it was a few days ago.  I still need to get Photoshop installed, a few video players (like Real, QuickTime, Vivo Power) installed/downloaded, my new video capture card needs to be installed (that one will be great for the site, once it's functional...plus it's TiVo, so I can stop bitching about not having a working VCR), and then I need to face the beast...yup, I have a hard drive from last December, and this latest one, that have both been removed from my PC but have a lot of needed files.  So, the one from last December will be easy (my power supply failed on my PC, and it looked like a hard drive crash, so it's a good HD), and it's a small drive (only 20 GB) with only about 5 GB of needed files (resumes and the like...eventually I plan to move on up in the world).  However, the true challenge will be trying to reclaim the 72GB of data from the drive I called my C Drive until just a day ago.  It was an 80 GB drive that was completely full, and not counting Windows, that's about 72 GB...blah.  Since the drive is toast, I can't boot off of it anymore, but I'm just hoping that it will function as a slave drive so I can pull some stuff off of it.  Anyway, that's enough technical bitching about my PC...

So, I offer some bitching about two of the big three...Nintendo and Sony, in a new issue of Malik's Bitchings.  I just find the first topic a little too much on the silly side...Nintendo being sexual is one of the last things I'd ever expect to hear about Nintendo.  Anyway, click on the link and see.

So, today I'm wanting to get a bit extra GTA:SA time in.  I had to neglect this great game too much yesterday and the day before while doing PC shit.  This is possibly the ultimate effort from Rockstar.  GTA:SA is constantly evolving as you play, and while it starts in the unfamiliar territory of gangs in LA-ish areas, it soon becomes more like the GTA3 and VC we all know and love (in which you run some random jobs for the random factions, be it the Triads, the Pimps, for yourself, or whatever.  Then, you will soon have the ability to buy businesses, and the game finally becomes the full GTA experience we were waiting for, plus you still have the new stuff of the gang wars, the ability to swim, boats that actually respond to your controls, gang followers, full character customization, upgrading your fighting (and other) abilities (nothing like maxing out your AK47 skills and then getting a decapitation with almost every shot).  Anyway, for those who find the start of the game a bit unusual and a little too unfamiliar, you only need to play through about 15 missions and then the world doubles in size and the game becomes far more familiar and fun.

Also, as a word of warning, for those who like to explore a bit too much...don't go to an area that's restricted (with blocked bridges or whatever) using a boat or whatever unless you want a rather unpleasant surprise...involving you, and a lot of cops.  In fact, due to a bug that hit me when I played, I'd suggest you just leave boats alone, altogether, until the game forces you into them (I took a boat from San Feirro to Los Santos and suffered this surprise).

Anyway, I need to do more PC work, and I need to play my GTA:SA fix.  Peace.