Grizzly Bomb knows its audience: Fans want to know as much as humanly possible about upcoming titles without having the whole thing spoiled for them and plot details, twists, and an overload of content run rampant on the internet when a game like Grand Theft Auto V hits store shelves. Which is why we’ve put together this quick piece to give you our opinion on the early moments of the game, without getting too deep into the details.
Here are our SPOILER-FREE impressions from the first hour of GTA V:
1. A visual step up from GTA IV, but not quite next-gen graphics: GTA V is a gorgeous game, don’t even dare get me wrong, but you will notice some muddy details and texture hiccups in the opening sequences. There are some janky animations in the establishing shots of Los Santos that might be distracting, but rather than get bogged down by the blemishes, consider that this is a wide open sandbox world (A massive one, too) that looks just below the quality of Max Payne 3. Los Santos is far more beautiful than Liberty City, both in physical attributes and raw graphical power, and it’s far and away the best GTA has ever looked.
2. A story that embraces play: We haven’t seen much of Los Santos yet, and the majority of mission types, activities and emergent scenarios within the game haven’t even been introduced, but it’s already evident that GTA V has learned from fan feedback on GTA IV. Niko had plenty of mini activities to do in Liberty City, but many of them felt restrictive, hands-off, or just plain boring. The story and pacing pushed the player more toward the next mission than, say, stealing an ambulance and playing pedestrian shot-put. GTA V feels a lot more generous in letting you handle the play style. The characters in V aren’t as mopey and goal-focused as poor ol’ Niko, which makes hauling off and painting the sidewalks red feel less like a no-no.
3. Mechanics, mechanics, mechanics: Grand Theft Auto has always suffered from the Jack of All Trades issue, in that there are so many gameplay elements that few of them, if any, feel particularly honed. This time around the shooting and driving have been completely reworked and they feel a lot more responsive. Driving takes a while to get used to, as there’s much less a sense of hover-gliding over the asphalt, but that’s a change for the better, and those of us who have played Max Payne 3 will recognize the gun mechanics, which have essentially been cut and pasted into GTA V. Even the menus and the mini-map have been refined to make cycling through information that much more efficient.
4. That Rockstar shine: It just feels good to be playing a Rockstar game again. The satire seems a little more on the playful side than it did in GTA IV, with the first few digs at the California lifestyle made quite early. The character writing is exactly on par with the developer’s pedigree, introducing characters that you’ll immediately feel like you already know. Finally, the game is just fun. Where we left off, we’d just completed a mission that already felt like an exhilarating, Indiana Jones-style action sequence and our save state shows only 6% game completion. Whoa.
So it’s that time again, we have a new Call of Duty DLC coming out just in time to make sure you avoid the beach and stay pale playing indoors for the next few months. There’s actually some cool goodies in this pack which has the standard four new multiplayer maps as well as a new zombie map We also get to see a new weapon in the zombie map, which is cool because it’s an updated version of my favorite gun to take down the undead. But first, let’s let you watch the official trailer below, introduced by our favorite pitchmen: The Replacers.
It’s actually a heckuva lot shorter video than what we’re used to and provides very minimal use of the awesome Peter Stormare. Sucks because the previous Replacers trailers were awesome but no matter as we’re really interested about the gameplay itself. With Call of Duty: Vengeance, we have four new maps starting out with Cove, which for some odd reason reminds me of the Koopa Beach map on Mario Kart. Cove seems like a cool map as you’re surrounded by water on an island of rock and rainforest plus a downed plane. Just think of it like the cast of Lost got stranded with guns. With less confusion and smoke monsters too. It looks to be a sweet map though that breeds chaos and yelling at the television; my favorite combination in a Call of Duty map. Next up, we have Detour – a multilevel bridge map that keeps the action head to head and in front of the players. It looks to be a cool map that will have the short range players underneath and the long range players battling up top. Plus lots of exploding cars so more people will be angry when a stray grenade takes out the car and takes them out in the process as well.
Next map we have is Rush, which is probably going to become my favorite new map. It’s basically a paintball obstacle course. Indoor, outdoor, close quarters running around, it’s got the makings of a brilliant map. Should be almost as fast paced as Nuketown in my opinion with barely any cover and the need to press forward at all times. The last multiplayer map is Uplink, but everyone actually will recognize this map as Summit from the original Call of Duty: Black Ops game. This one will probably be a favorite of Kronner’s as Summit was his boy. The major difference is no snow and it’s during the nighttime but for the most part, it’s a nice call back for a classic map.
Of course, we have the zombie map called Buried and it’s basically an Old West town that’s underground. With zombies. Of course, there’s one major wildcard and it seems to be a giant, somewhat hick-ish type NPC that you can either confront and try to kill (if it’s like Romero in Call of the Dead, good luck) or use to your advantage to clear the path. Either way it looks to be exciting and even more so because I get a new ray guy out of it too. The ray gun has always been my boy and now they have upgraded it with the Ray Gun Mark II. Apparently it’s a lot more powerful and laser-like as it can cut through a whole row of zombies. So yeah, that definitely sounds like my boy right there.
Of course, this all comes out on July 2nd on Xbox Live first so Xbox 360 gamers will get the first experiences with this DLC. From the looks of things, it won’t disappoint at all. Below is a more in depth trailer about the maps so watch it, love it, and I’ll see you guys online. I’ll be the guy swearing and being berated by 12 year olds with no sense of morality or political correctness.
According to Kotaku via Gamespot, the Wii U launch date has been announced! Problem is, no one was supposed to know about it. Oops. During a meeting with GameStop Managers in Texas, accessory maker PDP was making their fall lineup pitch and at the end, concluded to the managers that the Wii U accessories will be out before the Wii U launch date of November 18th. It didn’t take long for that to go viral. According to a couple of anonymous people (people who don’t want to get fired naturally, like the PDP representative guy I’m sure), they have confirmed this statement that someone dropped this bomb. Naturally, as with anyone realizing that they just gave away confidential information, they quickly changed the subject once they crapped their pants (that’s my assumption). The Kotaku article has a great he said/she said deal going on but I won’t bore you with those details as we dissect the true intent of this article in the next paragraph. Does anyone really care? For a new system launching, and perhaps it’s my old and outdated self because I haven’t been hip to the buzz in the video game world as much as I used to be, but it seems that there is a lack of excitement for this console. Don’t get me wrong, I want it like how a fat kid wants cake, but it is almost just out of loyalty to Nintendo. In my mind, there is no real killer app. Yeah, I’m going to enjoy Lego Undercover, the New Super Mario Bros. U, and Rayman Legends games but none of this is revolutionary. In fact, the last revolutionary game Nintendo has had a launch was Super Mario 64. I think the problem is that there is such a clamor for new technology that Nintendo has gotten away from the real charm of it’s brand: the first party games and innovation. It has gotten way too gimmicky, and while I love the potential of the tablet screen, I have yet to find a game that tells me this is why you need to buy this system. Especially since most of the launch gamesare just ‘upgraded’ versions of PS3 or Xbox 360 games I’ve beaten a year ago.
Seriously, why the hell is this game NOT a launch title. Look how pretty…
Time will tell, I will still always have faith in Nintendo and what they do but I do believe this is a critical crossroads for them. I guess we’ll find out what they are made of on November 18th. Which also sucks because I’ll be in the Philippines during launch. You’ve no idea how disappointed I am to miss the opportunity to brag about the Wii U during the first week of launch only to never be mentioned again after the novelty wears off.
Summer is a quiet time for video gamers. With triple-A titles such as Call of Duty and Dishonored not being released until fall, there really isn’t a reason to get excited about summer if you’re a gamer. Of course we have Darksiders 2 which came out earlier this week, but that’s pretty much it.
Or is it?
Sleeping Dogs was also released on Tuesday for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. The game, once went by the name of True Crime: Hong Kong, was under United Front Games’ development before it was dropped by Activision. The publisher of the infamous Call of Duty franchise decided that doing something different and switching things up are not part of their repertoire, and thus gave up on the title after pooling in a couple of years’ worth of resources and time. Six months after the game’s cancellation, Square Enix purchased the publishing rights to the game. And a year later, the game was released.
So, does the game make you put your dogs to sleep? Wait, that’s a horrible attempt on a pun, like “I’m gonna perform seppuku to express my shame” level of horrible. It doesn’t even make sense. What’s wrong with me?
The game puts you in the shoes of Wei Shen, a detective working for San Francisco Police Department. He was seconded (or “lent”) to the Hong Kong police to help investigate a triad known as Sun On Yee. Wei was born and raised in Hong Kong for most of his childhood, and has some connections to triad members in the city. These factors make him a seemingly perfect candidate for undercover work in the gang. So, Wei is assigned a handler and his journey on the fine line between black and white begins.
Yea, we have all heard that story before.
Plot-wise, the game is fairly predictable. The characters range from the good-guy-who-turns-out-to-be-the-big-bad to the asshole-who-turns-out-to-be-cool-cat. You know, the usual stuff. Of course, there are also the dialogues practically made out of cheese:
Handler: I’m shutting the operation down because you can’t handle the stress Wei: You can’t do it now! They see me as one of them. We’re so close! Handler: That’s what I’m worried about – you’re one of them.
Obviously, we also have the melodramatic sequences in which the protagonist is not sure of his identity. You know, sound bites of characters from both sides of the law playing in the protagonist’s mind as he drives in the rain to confront a major antagonist and sad music about being lost or something like that playing in the background. It’s pretty much a basic requisite for any form of entertainment that involves police working undercover.
Despite of the story’s predictability and cringe-worthiness, I find it, strangely, enjoyable (though not by any means good). How the journey unfolds feels right, and most of the characters are fairly likable. Characters complement each other very well even though they’re molded straight from the cookie cutters of movies or TV shows dealing with Asian gangs. In this case, they picked the right cookie cutters and baked good cookies. They’re nothing mind-blowing, but they are very solid. The story flows well and is satisfying. Like a well-made sponge cake, it is nothing to be excited about, but you’ll eat it. It’s relatively bland compared to other cakes, but at the very least, it will meet your expectations since there aren’t too many things that could go wrong in a sponge cake. In non-food-analogy terms, the game tells an average story. Since the story is pretty easy to execute, and the writers delivered a solid performance, there aren’t too many flaws to be found in the end product. Your low expectations are easily met.
I still don’t understand the title though. Just thinking about it is wrinkling my brain.
(Note: Per TV Tropes. the title is based on the proverb “Let sleeping dogs lie”. It should be interpreted as “leave something alone as it may cause trouble”. I still don’t get it though. Does that mean the protagonist should have left his past alone? Whatever. I’m done with this.)
7 grizzly paws out of 10.
Throughout the game, you will be completing around 30+ story missions. There aren’t too many varieties among missions. Most of them feature the player getting from point A to point B in a car, kick some asses, chase someone down on foot, and maybe pick up a gun and shoot some people. They’re fun, but not revolutionary. Early story missions introduced side quests. More on that later.
As far gameplay mechanics go, they are pretty well-done. The cars feel grippy, and are fun to drive. The devs did a great job in creating the sense of speed. Driving down the highway has never been more satisfying. Cars have different handlings. You can tell the difference between driving a van and a coupe. I did not like the motorcycles though. Their handling is not agile enough for me to pick them over cars. You can hop from one car to another as you drive, performing a mid-air high jack of sorts. Personally, I didn’t care for this feature. The cars you purchase from merchants are much faster than civilian cars anyways.
The shooting mechanics are so-so. They’re just there because open world games set in modern times need guns. You have a reticle and you shoot people. There are pistols, submachine guns, assault rifles, shotguns and grenade launchers. That’s pretty much it. They don’t feel all that different. You can get into slow motion if you hit X (on the PS3 controller) as you vault over cover. That’s generally how I eliminate the baddies. Bullet time is somewhat over-powering if you ask me. A skilled player can take out quite a number of hostiles in one use.
The fighting mechanics, however, are other-worldly. Picture Batman: Arkham Asylum’s system on steroids. Unlike Arkham Asylum, you can grapple your enemies in this game, and you need to hit a different button to counter enemy attacks. You can’t chain up insane combos in this game like you can in Batman, but I would take the melee combat system in this title over the other. Why? The combat in Sleeping Dogs is very fluid and much more brutal. You have the usual melee weapons as well. Most importantly, you can use the environment to your advantage. Grappling your enemy and hauling his ass into the spinning blades of a fan cannot be more satisfying. Or drop a car engine on him if you feel like it. Hell, you can throw him off a building if given a chance. It has the hands down most awesome hand-to-hand combat in open world games.
The parkour style on-foot chases are decent. Basically, you hold down the X button to run, and when the screen prompts you to vault or climb, hit the X button. It’s not Assassin’s creed though, since you can only climb low walls. It’s not like you can get to the top of a 10-storey building by just climbing up the side of said-building. The pursuits are fun due to the diversity in environments. Running through the crowded night market of Hong Kong chasing after a gangster is pretty mesmerizing.
When it comes to side quests, the game offers a decent amount of those. Obviously, there are the usual street races, which are fun because they’re short and the driving mechanics are great. There are also the random encounters, which are diverse in objectives, though most of them follow a similar structure – the usual get to a certain point, do some stuff, and get paid. You may also pursue a romance if you so desire. Romantic interests appear as contacts on your phone after certain missions. You can invite them out for a date. Afterwards, you’ll receive some sort of reward. Most of them reveal the locations of hidden items on the map. These relationships are incredibly shallow since you won’t be able to contact them anymore after that one date (and in some cases, not see them ever again throughout the story). I have no idea why the devs were bothered enough to include this feature.
Speaking of hidden items, there are different types of those. There are health shrines, which boost 10% of your health for every five you find. You can also look for lock boxes, which grant you a generous sum of cash, or clothing items, or even a firearm. You are also asked to keep an eye out for security cameras. These cameras are located all across town and you’re asked to hack them on location. Hacking them will lead to potential drug busts. There are also statues which you can keep an eye out for during missions. These statues, when brought back to the wushu academy, can give you new fighting abilities. The rewards are immediate and adequate enough for you to actively seek out for them.
The critics are in love with the leveling up. To me, it just seems like a no-brainer. You have the cop XP and the thug XP. The former requires you to drive carefully throughout missions and not harm innocent civilians. The latter asks for you to be brutal towards your foes. (Perform an environment attack for example.) They do not contradict each other. There is the face meter as well, which keeps track of your progress on side missions. The more side missions you complete, the more you progress on your face meter. For each level of face you gain, you will unlock perks such as reduced prices of clothes and cars.
Customization options are limited to clothes. Wearing different sets grant you different perks as well. Some increase your XP and some reduce the price of cars. You can also purchase cars from merchants. They are generally faster than the generic civilian transport. Either case, there is nothing too special about them.
Powerups are available in food stalls. Different types of food grant you different temporary abilities. Consuming a can of energy drink will enhance your melee damage whereas eating a bowl of curry fishballs will increase your rate of health regeneration. They are readily available at all times, even during missions.
In conclusion, the gameplay is fine. It will last you somewhere over 20 hours. There is nothing innovative, but there are also little wrongdoings. The game is just fun to play. The complaint will be the devs were playing it a little too safe.
7.5 grizzly paws out of 10.
Presentation is where this title shines. Having spent the first 16 years of my life in Hong Kong (which is a shit hole if you ask me), I am glad to report that Sleeping Dogs is a fairly accurate portrayal of Hong Kong. The game covered only one of three major areas of Hong Kong and only four of eighteen districts. Despite of these shortcomings, you can clearly tell the devs did their research. There is a balanced mix of eastern and western architectures across the city. Each district has a distinct feel to it and is a good representation of its real life counterpart. The narrow roads on the slopes of Central and the neon lights in North Point brought me a sense of nostalgia. Certainly, street vendors selling food do not happen anymore and the back alleys are much cleaner in reality, but there is no complaint from me. As a matter of fact, their inclusion gives the city an early-90’s feel, when nasty alleys and food carts were everywhere.
Complementing the city’s sights are the sounds. There are many interesting dialogues going on between pedestrians and they are surprisingly good reflections of the current Hong Kong culture. Some of the swear words / phrases are surprisingly explicit (which is a plus in my book). Well, I’m sure most of you don’t understand Cantonese, so this may not be a point of interest to you. Either case, I must applaud the devs for putting in all that hard work in making the city feel authentic.
I must also compliment the voice acting in Sleeping Dogs. The devs somehow managed to involve big time Hollywood actors in the project. Names such as James Hong, Will Yun Lee, Lucy Liu, Tom Wilkinson, Kelly Hu, and even our beloved Emma Stone appear on the credits. They did a fantastic job in giving lives to the characters they were playing. Sadly, the devs have underused many of these talents. Most of them appeared in no more than a couple of missions only to be ditched and forgotten. For any Emma Stone fans out there, she appeared in only two missions and her character was never mentioned again. Anyways, I must also give credit to the rest of the cast – the ones voicing the nobodies on the streets. They were responsible for making the in-game city alive.
When it comes to soundtrack, the game covered a good number of genres. From Canto pop to Chinese oldies to American hip hop, they have it all. Don’t ask me if I like the Chinese tracks in the game. I listen to English music exclusively. Modern day Canto pop consists of incredibly one-dimensional love songs only. Anyways, the soundtrack doesn’t blow fishes out of water. It’s solid, but it’s also nothing special.
9 grizzly paws out of 10.
With that said…
The game is good. It is nicely executed but lacks in innovation. Without a doubt, it’s much better than its predecessor, True Crime: New York.
7.5 grizzly high fives out of 10
I don’t do round-ups.
Should you buy it?
Not now. As good as the game is, it is not on the level where Square Enix can command 60 bucks. Grand Theft Auto IV was perfection in presentation and Saints Row The Third was creativity at its finest. Certainly, the presentation of Sleeping Dogs is almost on a phenomenal level, but it is not enough to overcome the shortcomings in gameplay.
It’s a good, clean punch but not a knock out.
Rent the game or wait till a price drop (to somewhere under 40 bucks).
A while back, Microsoft decided to sue Motorola (owned by Google) over Motorola’s use of ActiveSync in their Android phones. ActiveSync, in a nutshell, updates calendar automatically. Most smart phone manufacturers have already settled with Microsoft by paying royalties.
Anyways, in retaliation, Motorola sued Microsoft over Microsoft’s violation of Motorola’s patents. They include Wi-fi tech, video decoding, and communication between console and accessories, all of which are present in Microsoft’s gaming console, the XBOX 360.
Last month, an International Trade Commission administrative law judge recommended an import ban on all devices in question. These include Windows and XBOX 360 on Microsoft’s end, and Android phones on Motorola’s.
Now, Motorola has offered a deal to Microsoft. The phone manufacturer will pay Microsoft 33 cents for each Android phone (which has ActiveSync implemented) sold. In return Microsoft will pay Motorola 2.25% for each XBOX 360 sold, and 50 cents for each copy of Windows. It is unknown whether if those 2.25% account for only the profits or revenues.
There is no doubt in my mind they will get things sorted out before the whole situation gets worse. Microsoft has already lost their battle in Germany. Unless the issue is settled, ITC can impose import bans. It’s all about the Benjamins baby, and they don’t want to lose money over something stupid like this. What I believe will happen is Microsoft will end up paying less than the current proposed terms to Motorola. Bottom-line, this case will be settled out of court. Everyone goes home happy.
UPDATE: As of this morning, the case has been dismissed by Judge Richard Posner “with prejudice” between the firms, meaning that neither can re-file the suit – but an appeal is possible. More on that from BBC News…
What’s double the number 360? That’s right, it’s 720. If you couldn’t get that, you should probably review your multiplication tables. Why is 720 so important here? Because that’s the newest version of Xbox that the Internet is buzzing about since last week’s E3.
Many online reputable sources, including IGN and PC Magazine, have reported that Microsoft has plans to release their Xbox 720 sometime in 2013. This discovery should not be surprising since Sony has announced a Playstation 4 and Nintendo Wii U; naturally, Microsoft would want to compete by releasing a new version of their beloved console.
These Xbox 720 plans stemmed from a leaked document on Scribd that is no longer available, since one of the legal companies advising Microsoft recommended the company remove it. If this document was indeed legitimate, we Xbox-ers can all rejoice and start toasting to this new platform and the slough of games that will entertain us for several more years.
Or should we?
Despite the obvious success of Xbox 360 since its release, I am cautious to immediately line up behind what I’m sure will be thousands of others to throw in a pre-order for the new console. Why? Here are the main reasons that are rolling around in my head:
As is the case with technology, sometimes the first version contains faulty hardware or software. We all remember the Red Ring of Death with many early (and sadly, I’m sure, even recent) models of the Xbox 360, and though I know Microsoft was very good about upholding their warranty, I for one would prefer to avoid having to send in my new 720 within the first year of owning it. I rely on my console to be the one thing that distracts me from the daily demands of life, and I’d prefer that it do that as I’m playing it rather than as I’m packing it up and shipping it off.
The price… ah, the price. Rumors say that Microsoft wants to sell the Xbox 720 in a bundle with the second generation Kinect for a total of $299 (plus tax, ‘cause that’s the way life goes). While that’s a very reasonable price considering my husband and I bought our Xbox 360 for $199 without a Kinect, that’s still a lot of money for someone like me who still has a crapload of student loans under her belt and is also working a part-time job. Now, this isn’t a deal-breaker, but it does mean I will have to save up to purchase the 720, and should my car break down again, might mean I don’t get the new console right on release day.
Will the 720 be backwards-compatible? The 360 worked with many original Xbox games, but not all of them. I can only hope the 720 will work with these original games as well, but there’s no guarantee. The developers would be frankly idiotic if the 720 was not backwards-compatible with the 360 games, but any games older than that console may have to consider retiring for good.
You may be thinking that I have a very cynical attitude towards the 720 when it hasn’t even been released yet. Don’t judge just yet; I am an Xbox addict through-and-through, so much so that I worked at GameStop in high school just so I could get free promotional items I’d otherwise have to purchase on eBay. So here is everything I’m stoked for when I read the reports about the 720’s rumored hardware and software capabilities:
Blu-ray: I never quite understood the phenomenon of this digital format until I went to my friends’ house and watched Planet Earth on Blu-ray through their Playstation 3. Then I went home and glared at my 360. If the 720 is actually going to have a Blu-ray player, I will start buying Blu-ray discs for the first time in my life. It will be like I have my own high-quality cinema in my home, except not really, because I don’t have surround sound or a screen bigger than 60 inches. Those are on my list of items to purchase, after the 720, of course.
Virtual-reality goggles: There’s not a lot of information out about these right now, except that they are currently being labeled as the Fortaleza project and could possibly receive cell radio and 4G and could be mini-hubs integrated with the 720. This is fascinating because I will FINALLY be able to look like a dork but not care at all because I’ll be wearing frakkin’ virtual reality glasses.
Kinect improvement: Despite loving the option of having voice and motion-activated games at my fingertips, I hesitated to buy the Kinect solely for the reason I mentioned in #1 above in “bad stuff the 720 could offer.” What I saw my friends doing on the Kinect looked fun and promising, but there were still a few glitches here and there with its sensor range and ability to correctly communicate your commands to the Xbox. With the release of the 720, Microsoft is looking to release a Kinect accessory called Kinect V2, which should improve voice recognition, add a four-player tracking system, a more in-depth 3D playing space, and more. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what I’d prefer to spend my money on.
There are of course lots of other aspects to take into consideration regarding the Xbox 720, such as the rumors that claim the 720 will not be able to play used games (don’t even get me started on this one; I may need to save this topic for another post). You also have your gamers who would for some reason prefer to purchase the upcoming Playstation 4 or Wii U, or even those really open-minded gamers who want to own all three. At this point you’d have to bring in a comparison chart for which console might be best for what reasons. For me, though, the thought of an Xbox 720 is enough to tide me over for quite a while. Especially those virtual reality goggles. ‘Cause that’s going to be awesome.
We’ll have more on the rumored PS4 for you later in the week!