It’s not me; it’s you – Grand Thief Auto IV & Mario Kart Wii

Almost..

I had a good memorial week, playing and eating well, but now it’s back to work for me. And I start by unleashing my newest segment on two games that are popular right now: Grand Thief Auto IV and Mario Kart Wii respectively. Now I could accurately review these two games easily; however at this point I would be only saying the same things that have been already said earlier this month. So instead I decided to post what ‘kept’ these two games from achieving my perfect rating: Triple Platinum. Both games are good granted but unlike every Jon, Dick and Game Reviewer I hold my rating systems in the highest regard. That means if a game is excellent all-round but contains flaws (big or small) it will not receive a perfect from me, guaranteed. To date, no game (even my personal favorites) has ever earned my ultimate rating – such is my devotion to the game (metaphorically speaking). I had high hopes for these games, GTA IV in particularly, but they unfortunately fell short. Don’t think so do you? Well continue on and we’ll see if all that glitters in GTA IV is really gold.

GTA IV: This latest entry into the series doesn’t disappoint (at first); excellent characters, well-designed locations and ton of vehicles to steal, race and destroy this game will keep you busy. It also gets credit for creating a parody of our own reality; complete with T.V. shows, internet, pool, bowing, darts, dating and of course radio shows. Those alone make this game a classic, but it was the story that won many over. So deep and clever you would think you were watching the latest summer blockbuster. This game would get a Platinum rating if I were to officially review, and not just summarized it. However, that said, GTA IV could have been so much better if only they fixed obvious problems, and fine tuned some features. Such as…

Hold ‘X’ to run – Yeah, hello Rockstar, 1992 called, they said they want their running function back. Do you know why we have (and use) thumb sticks instead of D-pad these days in modern games? Because the players can chose how fast their character can move by them and them alone without wasting time on an extra button function for increased speed. Because of this downgrade it makes getting around the nooks and crannies of Liberty City much more a chore than it as to be, and in combat it’s a liability. The finally nail in the coffin though is that holding that down the button won’t give the fastest run available. If you want to get away from a bunch thugs armed with assault rifles you need to press ‘X’ repeatedly – brilliant… Now I need to blister my favorite gaming digit to get any serious speed, just brilliant Rockstar.

Combat – What is so hard about this, Rockstar? 88% of all games involving guns at least have a good system of aiming and firing. The GTA is part of that 22% which has a system of combat sucking. My favorite GTA game, San Andreas, had my hopes for IV since it had the most improved combat in the series (different melee fighting styles, exercise to increases stamina and strength, and upgradeable firearms skills), but (unwisely might I add) they dropped everyone of those beautiful features. What was left was a ‘new’ cover system which is as broken as the GTA combat system itself (Heh “Auto-aim is an awesome feature that is often misunderstood.” my ass!), and a ‘new’ free aim ability that let’s choose where to shoot instead of just locking-on (This ability is pressure sensitive, not your friend in tight situations). IV also gives players the ability to arms and legs, but it’s not very practical in the game, and near impossible in multiplayer. Headshots are king; don’t waste your time with any other part of the body except for the body itself of course. But speaking of Multiplayer (segue please).

GTA multiplayer – I haven’t been this disappointed in a multiplayer setup since Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (Although that one was way more fun). You’re given a butt-ugly avatar to dress up like a hobo doll and then (depending on the mode type) need to overcome the initial weakness of the two problems I listed above to obtain victory in the match. And what do you get for all your hard work, why the great almighty dollar. How much money you get will influence your rank in the multiplayer mode (if you’ve horded enough that is), that and unlock new clothes for your avatar. This is sad, because Rockstar could have so much more with this ‘cash’ system. Such as buying weapons, armors, and even cars giving the game some much needed strategy. Instead of what we have now which is people scattering like morons looking for a rocket launcher (or some useable weapon/armor) and a half way drivable car that won’t blow up when the enemy spits on it. If you’re lucky enough to find you all those things you’ll still be brought down by some punk who auto locks you to submission with a SMG (while in your car traveling 50mph, no less).

I’ll be fair though – In multiplayer the run button allows you to run at full speed just by holding down and not by pressing it repeating (unlike the story mode), the room creator does have the option to turn off the Auto-aim in their matchers; and they do offer some creative match types like “Mafia work”. But all this doesn’t improve this mode or me, in the long run luck plays too much of a factor here. Luck in your shots, luck in the positioning of yourself, your objectives, vehicles and weapons you spawn next to, and finally the luck of getting paired up with competent players in team mode. If any one of those is not in your favor, then you’re in for one rough game.

Nikolei “Niko” Bellic – The final ‘T’ I need to cross is with the main character himself. Now I hate to beat a dead house here, but there’s some wrong with a guy like this (professional solider at one time) who doesn’t have the same (or better) combative skills as a gang banger (Carl “CJ” Johnson). Even without the ability of free aim or cover CJ would decimate wakes enemies with out trouble (which was good for ‘Gang wars’ land grabs). I liked how he was able to fit emotionally to every situation he’s put in, whether he’s out to kill or out on the date. Still, for video game of this caliber, a good personality ain’t going to cut on its own. A main character can speak softly, but he must also carry a big stick after all. All my boy Niko has is average abilities, average weapons usage, a cell phone, and the unrelenting need to keep friends happy so they can (maybe) help you, so long as its daylight out. Hell, don’t get me started with avatar customizing difference between CJ and Niko. Rockstar, next time make your main character upgradeable (and cool like C.J.) but deep and emotional (like the very ‘real’ Niko Bellic) and I guarantee you’re like the result from friends and harsh critics like me.

Mario Kart Wii: Mario Kart is a legacy series of games that has been entertaining Nintendo gamers since SNES. With a cast of the Mushroom kingdom favorites (plus DK and crew), a crazy assortment of courses and cartoonish weaponry; Mario Kart always kept players entertained yet challenged and they only got better with age, like a fine wine. Which made it a big surprise to find this game, Mario Kart Wii, a step back in the series’ pedigree? Don’t get me wrong it’s still fun, the controls works, online up the wazoo and they even added bikes and your ‘Mii’s’ into the fix, but (as impressive as that is) it still a far cry to how good their last home console game was. I could only muster up a Gold rating for this game, sadly. Get you pens and pencils ready people, here’s what Nintendo did wrong:

Useless wheel: Now I’m all for making everyone, everywhere a gamer (and to make the transition as easy as possible), but I am also against accessories that are stupid, and this thing is stupid. Unless Nintendo starts to crank out kart/racing games every few weeks, this ‘wheel’ will only find permanence in a junk draw or trash bin. Trust me; using the nunchuk is a much better way to go.

“Rubber banding”: I am not sure who came up with the term but Rubber banding means the better the player is doing in a race the more often the CPU characters uses devastating items to bring them down. This applies to real players as well. It never fails; I work hard to get to first place in an online race, only to have it taken away by an unavoidable attack (Blue shells, lightning, etc). Very annoying… Meanwhile when I get to first place (yet again), the only items I can get is bananas, green shells (the suckee’er brand of shell), and on rare moments, a mushroom. Racing without combat is NASCAR, and NASCAR bores me, but this Rubber banding (which has been persistence in Mario Kart since the beginning) abuses the whole racing element by any racer in 7th place or below. Nintendo, if your reading, you must find the balance between skills on the wheel and well-timed (and well earned) items. I’m not saying that the dust eaters should be entirely cut off, but throw a bone to the truly skilled sometimes, or maybe create a defensive item like a 15-sec shield. Put Rubber banding out to pasture next game, I’m begging you.

Minus Double Dash: I loved Mario Kart: Double Dash, the use of a team kart game play, varied karts themselves, all new (or at least updated) courses, signature weapons/items, the whole nine was beautiful. However like GTA IV, Mario Kart Wii has lost a massive step from its predecessors. All that was good in the former is no where in the latter. Now we only have ½ the new racing courses to enjoy while the rest are blasts from races past. I like seeing the old courses again, but don’t rob players (vets and rookies) of quirky new ones. Also they scraped D.D.’s co-op play (two players, one kart, millions of laugh) which is just wrong and that begat the loss of signature items (Mario’s fireballs, Bowser’s super shell, etc.), also wrong. The karts in this latest installment also pale, they lack personally, but importantly no matter the weight class (light, medium, heavy) or the vehicle type (kart or bike) they will perform roughly the same way. Sure, a heavy rider will always bump a light rider a little harder, but other than that there are no other advantages / disadvantages from using Mario from any other racer – making this game just a little blander.

Well I think that covers all my grievances with these two games here, but this is only the beginning. I plan on keeping up with this segment for games that I expect better of, but totally missed the mark, so keep your eyes open for them – you might be surprised on what I write about. Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve been writing way too long I have still too many games to catch up on.

Shigeru Miyamoto is #1 on ‘TIME 100’ poll – The people have spoken

Mr.Miyamoto-to-you

You know I’ve been playing GTA VI (review coming) pretty hard lately so I haven’t had the time to watch TV. However yesterday I was watching the iconic master of American punditry, Steven Colbert. On his show he told the viewers that he came in 3rd on Time’s most influential people’s poll (Better luck next year Stevie). However the person who came in 1st was the daddy of games himself, Shigeru Miyamoto. Mr. Miyamoto is someone I truly respect, because he’s the guy to saved gaming for us all with his games ‘Donkey Kong’ and ‘Super Mario Bros.’ respectably. Even today his titles keep reinventing gaming structure giving endless possibilities to future games; and all without resorting to bloody murders or X-rated orgies. So I offer my congras Mr. M for this high accomplishment in not only your skills as an entertainer, but your brilliant imagination.