Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A brilliant way to have your plans jump straight off the tracks

I started out the Pile of Shame project with such good intentions. I wanted to play through games I already had, make good with my back-log, enjoy some good karma, discover some gems I haven't spent nearly enough time on...

Then something happened: I bought Grand Theft Auto IV.

Game, as we say, over.

I haven't finished Grand Theft Auto IV yet, but I've put more than 50 hours into this absolutely amazing game. As much as I hate to let a game off the hook so easily, I think it would be asinine to break apart GTA IV or complain about it's faults; sure, it has horrible pop-in in places, but few games allow you to drive for so far in such different areas without loading. The shooting is tricky, but with some learning and some p-a-t-i-e-n-c-e you can avoid death. Some of the minigames, including the dating and friendships, are kind of shallow, but what game has even ever tried this before?

Let's not forget the story, the scripting, the writing and acting. The story included in this game could easily be made into a couple season's worth of 30-minute TV dramas; the story arcs are incredibly well thought-out. The writing is amazing, the characters are all believable - okay, one flamboyantly gay character might be a bit over-the-top, but everyone else is very real. The player's anti-hero Niko Bellic is no saint, but he's trying; Niko's cousin Roman is a good man with bad gambling issues; other characters later in the game have such human writing that even picking them up to hang out is as enjoyable as the minigame of billiards or the quick comedy show.

Fuck. Yes.

I don't think you can blame me for losing track of the Pile of Shame given GTA IV. It's been quite the bombshell over the whole industry, taking over free time from everyone in sight (at least, everyone bar the Wii Fit demographic...).

That said, the Pile grows – just like a Katamari, it keeps rolling on and gaining steam. The two newest additions are courtesy of Nick: Burnout Paradise for the 360 and Psychonauts for the original Xbox (backwards compatible on the 360, luckily, unlike Beyond Good and Evil...) Burnout is just going to be played for fun, but I need to get through Psychonauts in order to keep hold of my Hardcore Gamer card, in all honesty.

On a small sports note: the Blazers are up to something tonight, apparently. I'm guessing it's the official announcement that Rudy Fernandez will join the team, but it could also be a trade or something just completely left-field and inconsequential. Also, I can't help but feel a touch smug about the Oregon State Beavers baseball team not making the NCAA Tournament this year. They're the first winner to not get invited back since 1991 - so there's a precedent! - plus they dropped the games they shouldn't have. Oregon's gotten screwed in years past (snubbed by the BCS and for the National Championship game in a couple of different one-loss seasons, the women's soccer team not getting an NCAA Tournament invite in 2006 after finishing second in the conference) so the Beavers getting screwed just seems so sweet.

The schadenfreude runs deep and smooth, yes it does.

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