27 Jan 2016

GAMING: GRAND THEFT AUTO

As this game recently turned 18 years old I decided to give it a write up. I find it amusing (and at the same time horrifying) that Grand Theft Auto is old enough to go into a UK game shop and buy its self now.

So Christmas 1997 I was getting Playstation one games as gifts. I had heard everyone at high school say that this crazy violent driving game was out, which had tons of violence involved. When I picked up the game in store and looked at the back for screen shots, the graphics looked like Super Nintendo quality and I didn't like the idea of playing a top down video game in 1997 on a 32-bit console. I chose the Duke Nukem 3d (a game I already had and loved on PC) Playstation port instead. Duke Nukem sucked and was a terrible port and to this day one of my biggest shopping regrets ever. Not long after I rented Grand Theft Auto from Vidbiz in Collier Row and ended up doing so all the time throughout 1998.


So Grand Theft Auto is a video game where you take the role of a two bit criminal who makes his way up the criminal ladder by taking jobs given out by payphones. These jobs range from bank heists, bombings, drug deals, murders and many more dark deeds. Another way of completing Grand Theft Auto was by scoring points by raising as much hell as possible.  Due to this feature the game was one of the first ever sandbox type games where you could explore the world at your own leisure. It was this type of freedom that set apart this game from other adult titles where the games brutality and violence was really down to the players own aggression or mood.


The game was very large in terms of maps which had 3 giant cities for you to explore and cause as much havoc as possible. The game was full of lots of different cars and bikes which all handled differently and had different music tracks for radio stations. The game also had a good variety of weapons ranging from a standard pistol to a rocket launcher.


The game also featured secret missions and mini games including Kill Frenzy which once activated the player scored points by committing the most murders as possible in the allotted time. Another odd points bonus would occur if you managed to wipe out a straight line of Buddhist pedestrians with a vehicle.


Although the game had decent driving mechanics and giant maps with unlimited freedom, the game did suffer from terrible combat mechanics. Being a top down game made accurate shooting extremely difficult in combat situations. The player can only shoot in the direction he is facing and it takes a fraction of time to turn him in that direction. So blowing up cars and non aggressive NPCs is no problem but when facing an aggressive element such as police and other enemies, its very difficult and they are always very accurate when it comes to shooting you. Unless you have armor equipped you will die in one shot.


The police in the very first Grand Theft Auto are as cheap as hell and literally turn up the second you commit a crime and turn up in force. Their AI is very simple- to destroy you and keep re-spawning at any cost. The only way to shift them is by collecting stars strategically placed around the map or completing the current mission. Another thing which hasn't aged well at all is the mission structure. Once you are on a mission that's it! if you die or fail you will never be able to retry it unless you power off your console. There was a saving option bu this was only available after completing each map.


Another thing which has not aged well at all is the navigational system of the game. The game sports 3 giant maps of Liberty City, Vice City and San Andreas but without a map on the pause menu, all we had to go on was the giant printed map which came with the game manual (which most people lost) to navigate your way round. There was an arrow which pointed from your car to indicate which way to go but it wasn't much use if you were stuck on the wrong side of the map making a 20 minute mission into a 3 hour road trip.


Minus the above mentioned flaws of Grand Theft Auto its still a great game to play and something which can be mastered and learned by spending countless hours playing and learning. The freedom it gave us and the fact we could bring out the sociopath in all of us just by playing a top down driving simulator was what made it stand alone when it came to videos games from back then. This is also what made the game one of (if not THE) most controversial video game titles of all time. Like always liberal douche bags were using the title as a scapegoat to blame all of Americas social problems on at the time. Another game which got blamed for violence and crime among young people. My take has always been that if kids were playing at home on their Playstations then how could they be out stealing cars and stabbing nuns? .. Oh yeah.

One day if someone starts crucifying and stoning people to death in the streets after reading the bible.. will they ban that?

Grand Theft Auto had another 2 top down sequels (one of which a London expansion pack) and made the jump from 2d to 3d in 2001 with GTA III and now the franchise is the biggest selling game of all time.

Grand Theft Auto is up there with Super Mario when it comes to the most innovative and important video games, but unlike Mario.. this one has not aged well at all.

5 Jan 2016

MOVIES: CREED REVIEW

SPOILER FREE REVIEW BY K-ROD
HAPPY NEW YEAR

So tonight I got to see the movie Creed which is technically the 7th Rocky movie, but at the same its the first Creed movie.

Set in the same universe as the Rocky movies, this is the story of Apollo Creeds son Adonis, who was born out of an affair Apollo had shortly before meeting his demise in Rocky IV.

After being left in a boys home Apollo Creeds widow takes him in as her own son and brings him up in Hollywood. Adonis tries his luck as a fighter in LA and Mexico (under his mothers surname Johnson) before giving it all up to move to Philadelphia to train with and meet Rocky Balboa (his fathers greatest opponent and friend). At first Rocky is hesitant but before we know it Adonis is in the ring fighting in a high profile fight under Rocky's guidance.

After the fight word gets round via the media that Johnson is in fact the biological son of the greatest fighter that ever lived Apollo Creed. Just like in the original movie Adonis gets a title shot (which he doesn't really deserve) just because of his blood line. Adonis has one shot at the title and has the greatest guy in the corner for such an adventure.


The movie is another one of those reboot/sequel/remakes which is a very popular formula in cinema at the moment. Get an old movie franchise people went crazy about back in the day, create some new characters and mix them in with some old ones and retell the same story using better technology and effects! Its a trend which has been very evident most notably with the releases of Jurassic World, the new Star Wars and now Creed. These movies are breaking box office records and Star Wars is still raking in cash as we speak. Its smart business all round at the moment, as parents can get kids into film franchises they watched as kids and everyone's a winner.. until we get these types of movies rammed down our throats for a few years and people get wise to the recipe.  Creed does kinda fall out of that bracket a tiny bit by having a different title to the other movies in the franchise but that is about all it does to separate it from being another Rocky movie.

The movie takes the Rocky saga to a complete circle as now Rocky is taking the role of Mickey (the trainer) taking a young fighter under his wing to take a shot at a title he doesn't deserve. Its also key to point out that Rocky is now the same age Mickey was in the first movie which is crazy when you think about it.


Another weird thing for me was after seeing Rocky Balboa in the cinema 10 years ago, I had closure on the Rocky franchise so I found it a bit strange to revisit the setting and characters. The fact the movie wasn't directed by Stallone helps it be more of its own movie with its own kind of identity, rather than just a sequel or a spin off. At first Rocky is just a minor background character but that drastically changes midway through the film. The movie does has a love interest which is really boring and one of the movies not so high notes. The romance doesn't have a drop of the chemistry or power the Rocky and Adrian story had, and its almost like they said "we need Creed to have a girlfriend.. get him to bang the woman downstairs or something".


The fight scenes are shot and performed really well which is standard for a Rocky movie as each movie has always evolved with each attempt. Whether it be new camera angles, sound effects and choreography, these movies always learn from past mistakes and innovate with improvements. If you don't understand study the Rocky boxset and watch how the fights improve from the first Apollo Creed fight and evolve the last fight in Balboa. I was extremely impressed to see an entire round shot with one camera and no cuts in the second fight in this movie.



Another thing which really does hamper this movie and the last two Rocky installments, is the fact they stopped making up fictional boxers and just casted real fighters with different names. I genuinely believe that if the first Rocky movie had Joe Frazier in the main event called something else the movie would have bombed. A big reason the Rocky movies were so iconic was the fact Rocky fought against these larger than life opponents like Apollo Creed, Ivan Drago and Clubber Laing. Today the boxing world is not a very colorful one when it comes to personalities and charisma and I don't think it was a mistake to cast Tony Bellew or Anthony Tarver in a Rocky movie, but letting them be them selves on screen is no good for a Rocky movie. I mean, would it have been that hard to let Bellew fight in this movie without the Everton kit?

As a boxing fan and Rocky enthusiast my brain all kind of scrambled up seeing Bellew playing another boxer in a movie.. but looks and sounds like Tony Bellew to even the football kit. A wardrobe change could have solved a lot for me but he is a pretty good antagonist in the main event so I will let it slide.

My final verdict of the movie is a thumbs up. It was exactly what I thought it would be and exactly what I wanted to see! A modern day remake of Rocky with a black guy! If you like Rocky you will approve and dig some more nostalgia and if you haven't seen a Rocky movie, I think it will still be an enjoyable watch for you.