Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Grand Theft Auto: China Town Wars DS

Well, well, well. The months have past and it’s been an absolute age since I wrote anything about gaming. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been playing games, good lord no! In fact, I’ve been gaming at every opportunity, which is part of the reason I rarely venture into the blogosphere these days. Whereas in the past, blogging about games was my passion, now actually playing them is more appealing.

So what has been keeping this old man amused recently? Well my birthday, way back in May netted me Condemned 2, Dead Space and Outrun 2 for the Xbox. Dead Space remains untouched, Condemned 2 has been abandoned due to it’s turgid pacing (I just lost interest in ‘Serial Killer X’ and the whole plot.) Outrun 2 (downloadable from XBLA is a sheer delight, the epitome of arcade racing – although somewhat ‘buggy’ and quick to crash.)

However, the franchise that has been keeping me busy throughout these turbulent times is the wonderful Grand Theft Auto universe, Rockstar’s fabulous gift to the gaming world. And the game that kick-started my current obsession? Why perhaps the least obviously appealing outing of the franchise so far, GTA China Town Wars for the DS.
Rockstar have already had a good degree of success in it’s transference of the GTA world onto handheld consoles (ignoring the GTA GBA fiasco) with Vice City and Liberty City stories for PSP (and indeed I will come to these games later…)

With the money I accrued for my 42nd birthday, I decided to invest in a DS Lite and GTA CTW. The whole package cost me £80-ish and at last I had a fully functional DS with a responsive touch screen again! (My old ‘original’ DS had been sketchy for ages…)

And so I dipped into the world of Huang Lee, ‘Uncle Kenny’, triads, mafia and ancient stolen katanas. But can the tiny cartridge of the DS really encompass the vast world of Liberty City and do it justice? The short and emphatic answer to that question is “YES!” All but one of the boroughs of Liberty City found in GTA IV are recreated in the world of GTA CTW. You can actually recognise areas and neighbourhoods, despite the top-down “birds eye” view, and when you do, it’s quite a thrill! It’s also a testament to what Rockstar Leeds have managed to cram into a cartridge no bigger than a postage stamp!

Yes, there have been compromises in order to get a fully fledged GTA experience onto the DS. The ‘radio stations’ have been replaced by a variety of set soundtracks of different musical genres (although even these have been lovingly created by current artists such as Deadmaus, mentioned on these hallowed pages just a few weeks ago!)

Cut-scenes are limited to still pictures and captions (think Phoenix Wright) and of course we have the 2.5D top down view, but once you begin to play the game sucks you straight in and you very quickly forget the differences between this incarnation and those brought out on full-size consoles. It’s pure, unbridled GTA fun. All the elements are there, driving, drive-by shootings, securing safe-houses and encountering a wealth of colourful and intriguing characters (like the cross-dressing Mafioso), all served up with a tinge of irony and a good dash of humour.

Did I mention the drugs? Drug dealing is the backbone of Huang’s existence in Liberty City. It’s how he earns money to buy weapons and builds his empire. You’ve got to know your smack from your crack and your weed from your speed if you’re gonna progress in the game!

The game is just SO much better than either of the PSP titles, which have me struggling and a tad bored. GTA CTW was a joy to play and complete, encouraging me to pick up GTA IV again and finish it, quickly downloading ‘Lost and Damned’ as soon as Niko’s adventures had come to an end. I’ve also downloaded GTA San Andreas, so I should be good to go over the summer!

Oh and I’ve got my six weeks holidays starting on Friday, but I’m not promising an increase in blogging output… there’s every chance I’ll be gaming instead!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Sway Tribute To MJ

Sway is one of the best UK MCs around. Signed by Akon, his lyrics are often quick witted and self depreciatory - making me think of Eminem at times. This was a quickly penned tribute to the King Of Pop, which featured in Radio One's farewell to the man last Saturday.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Refund News

I received an email from Viagogo (the company we purchased MJ tickets from)and this is what it said:

"Dear Simon,

At this time of mourning for Michael Jackson, we are together in our sadness at the loss of one of the greatest entertainers ever.
As announced on June 30th by AEG Live, Michael Jackson's concert promoters, a full refund is available to you for the ticket(s) you purchased through viagogo for Michael Jackson's 'This Is It' concerts which were to take place at The O2 Arena in London. This refund will include all ticket service charges and shipping fees.

Also as announced, you have the option to be sent the actual tickets you would have received to attend the show. If you choose to be sent your ticket, you will receive a refund of your original transaction less the original face value price of that ticket (and the transaction fee and relevant shipping charge for that face value only). Please note that the original face value of the ticket and any deductions will be clearly shown before you select this option.

The tickets printed with the special lenticular or 3D process, were inspired and designed by Michael Jackson for the fans attending his shows. (See above)

The special offer to receive your actual tickets will remain valid to 23:59 BST, August 14, 2009.

In order to request a refund or to be sent your ticket, please click here and follow the instructions.

Thank you for using viagogo!"

Well, whilst the tickets look good, and will undoubtedly make a great souvenir, I don't have the finances to go for this option, so I've asked for a full cash refund. I'm thinking of using the ticket money to book a couple of flights to New York for a long weekend or week... Or maybe to visit family in Toronto? I'm not sure what I'll do, but this tragedy needs to have a happy ending, so rest assured the money will be blown on something excellent to cheer me and Mrs. K up!

As a souvenir of the concert that never was, I've purchased a T-Shirt which I will wear proudly until it drops to pieces. Right, it's time I kicked myself up the arse and stopped moping around.
Expect a new gaming post this weekend!!!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Final Rehearsal - They Don't Really Care About Us

Michael looks like he is as tight and fresh as ever, as he practises for the O2 performance. Ah, what could have been...