Disclaimer: I have never played a GTA game in my life. Not once. The only thing I knew about this game before today was that it apparently involves capping cops and banging whores, if the popular media is to be believed. So what did I think as someone completely new to this franchise after an hour and a half of gameplay?
The CIO at our company was gracious enough to get an XBox 360 for the IT department a few months ago, and since then we’ve been pretty content with playing local multiplayer in Halo 3. It’s a ton of fun – we have some people on the team that are pretty darned good at FPS games, we have some that are OK but not great, and then there’s me – Mr. Poo. I stink at any game that doesn’t have “Mario” in the title, and even those I’m just passable at.
So today one of our co-workers brought in the copy of GTA4 that he picked up at midnight at a local Blockbuster, along with some cheat codes so we could mess with different weapons. Since GTA4 just doesn’t have local multiplayer at all, we just took turns cruising around the mean streets of Liberty City, generally trying to cause as much mayhem as possible and avoid dying for as long as we could.
The scope of the game is really just amazing – there’s so much to interact with, and it seems like almost everything in the environment is in some way interactive or at least “blow-uppable.” Tossing molotov cocktails onto the front steps of the police station and watching hobos run in flames was something of a guilty pleasure, but then we discovered the amazing physics engine in place while driving.
Getting the hang of driving was something of a challenge, especially for those of us who had never played the game. It was fun finding more and more interesting cars to “appropriate” and drive in – I even managed to carjack a trash truck at one point. But then we discovered what happens when you slam into an immovable object (like a police barricade) at a high rate of speed – the car stops, but YOU don’t! I hadn’t really seen a game realistically portray the physics of high-speed collisions before – and I probably still haven’t seen a “realistic” simulation of it – but it certainly was fun to watch the carnage unfold. At one point one of my co-workers was thrown through the windshield of what appeared to be a Camaro and literally wrapped his bouncing body around a light pole. Crikey!
We obviously didn’t get into the online multiplayer or anything, and we only played for an hour and a half over some d’Bronx pizza at lunch, but it was quite the enjoyable experience. I don’t think the game would cause me to go buy an XBox 360 quite yet, but it’s darn compelling. The only reason I probably wouldn’t is because of my little boy.
Now before you go thinking that I’m a prude, hear me out. There is a lot of pretty raw language in this game, and TJ is just coming up on 2 years old – meaning he can say almost anything he can hear. I don’t really want him going around spouting off the things said in the game, and while I am firmly in the camp that “games are fantasy,” I do think that a mature game like this should be played by mature kids. I hope that TJ grows up into the type of boy that can understand these types of things for what they are, but I want the chance to watch him interact with these games and understand what he does. I know for a fact that some friend of his will someday break out an M-rated game and he’ll certainly here just as bad if not worse in the hallways at school, but that doesn’t mean I can’t at least try to help him deal with those things in a healthy and mature manner. If TJ can develop the maturity to see these things for what they are and not become too attached or influenced by them, I’d be cool with him playing these type of games someday in a supervised environment. But until then it’s going to be Mario Kart and Smash Bros.