Grand Theft Auto IV Multiplayer Review

Niko Belic of Grand Theft Auto IV

Grand Theft Auto IV ScreenShot

Grand Theft Auto IV is Rockstar Games’ first attempt at pushing a game of the Grand Theft Auto series onto the mutiplayer scene. For a first attempt, it is a great start, however, there are many aspects that can be altered to provide an even more solid experience. Here is an over all review of the Grand Theft Auto IV multiplayer aspect, for those still in limbo on whether or not to get the game.

Grand Theft Auto IV allows the lobby owner to alter all of the options pertaining to the particular mode or match. A player can alter the time of day, whether or not there are pedestrians on the map, whether or not the police are on the map, the types of weapons that can be used, whether or not auto-aim is applicable and more. This variety of options up for alteration makes for a good game. It allows for players to be able to search for a specific type of game or mode that suits their play style. However, offering so much room for customization also has its downfalls.

The auto-aim feature is enough to make me want to leave a match. Offering the ability for auto-aim can be useful for some modes, like Mafia Work or Free-roam, but allowing players to offer auto-aim in deathmatch and team deathmatch is annoying and unnecessary, in my opinion. The fact that you can automatically lock on to an opponent takes all of the skill required in a game and throws it in the trash. You will find that people will be spawn killing you left and right, and deaths will be far more frequent than that of a legitimate game without auto-aim. If I were to request Rockstar of one thing, it would be to take the auto-aim feature out of any competitive Grand Theft Auto IV multiplayer mode. It only over simplifies things and takes out any room for actual improvement.

Grand Theft Auto 4

Grand Theft Auto IV

With that irritating little bit out of the way, the character customization and leveling up are cleverly done. Your character levels up, or increases in wanted level, as you get more money. You acquire money through the modes you play, such as killing people in Deathmatch. You can snatch some extra money by picking up the money your enemies drop as well. As you reach a certain amount of money, you will reach a higher level. As you increase your level, more options for customization arise, such as new hats, glasses or coats. It certainly is a grind to get the amount of money necessary for having the highest level, being 10. It is better that way, it gives players something to work towards.

The learning curve for competitive playing varies by what mode you are playing as well as what options you currently have enabled. If you are playing deathmatch and auto-aim is enabled, there will be literally no learning curve. It will be like you are playing single player, in terms of killing your enemies. It is as simple as locking on to your enemy and raising the target to the enemy’s head. Really no skill needed, which, as I said before, can be disappointing. You may find that many players actually choose to go with auto-aim, which can be troublesome when you are struggling to find a game.

Grand Theft Auto IV

Grand Theft Auto IV

There is a great learning curve when it comes to competitive playing with auto-aim disabled. Each gun has its advantages and disadvantages, as it does in real life. Automatic rifles are amazing at long-range combat, nearing the accuracy that one would desire from a sniper rifle. This appears to be the popular gun of choice for many of the players you will encounter while playing Grand Theft Auto IV multiplayer, most likely for its power and accuracy. However, the submachine gun is very effective from close to mid range, which can be effective for closed maps or when fighting in a house or building. The shotgun will be your bread and butter when it comes to closed quarter combat. This gun really fails from long-range, but if you use it smartly, you can be amazingly effective. The learning curve is steep, but it makes the game more fun and worth playing, since dominating people becomes easy after learning how to aim properly and choosing your gun of choice.

Grand Theft Auto IV multiplayer can be a strategists game, which is one of the reasons I really like playing this game. With auto-aim disabled, you literally have the whole map to yourself, being able to use it to your advantage, which can be done 100% of the time. In one event, I was near death and being chased by an oncoming enemy. I turned the corner, and hugged the wall to see when he was coming. In anticipation of his presence, I cooked a grenade, and ran for my life. Sure enough, once he turned the corner, he had a fiery explosion greeting him in the face. In another case, I let myself get shot up to a near death state, then ran into an alleyway. I went crouched so he could not see my position anymore and hid behind a dumpster, where I found a shotgun. Sure enough, tempted by the possibility of a kill, he came chasing, only to feel the shock of a shotgun bullet in his chest. You can use strategy to dispatch an enemy in all situations, which is what makes this game amazing. It can cater to anyone’s playing style, whether you like to rush into a place guns blazing, or you like to let your enemies walk into traps.

Another disappointing thing about Grand Theft Auto IV is not actually a fault of Rockstar, it has more to do with the Xbox 360 console and networking. The game is not as smooth as one would imagine it to be while playing online. When you run over a player, you will find that they may teleport to another location after flailing on the floor. It seems as if things become discordant when physics are involved. During a car chase, you may find issue with ramming other players, because their car may jerk awkwardly, teleport, or be momentarily invulnerable for whatever reason. This is a disappointing tidbit, but it will most likely be fixed by the time the next generation of consoles are released.

Grand Theft Auto IV’s multiplayer gameplay is definitely a love it or hate it type of thing. It caters to certain people, who like more freedom in their gameplay, but it may also scare off people who hate having to deal with a heavy learning curve. The population of Grand Theft Auto IV’s online user base is definitely lacking, at least on the Xbox 360. Most of my friends have traded or sold Grand Theft Auto IV due to disappointment with the learning curve and a lack of interest. This game is quite possibly my favorite product from Take-Two Interactive and one of the best games ever made.


Xbox Live Price Increase Due November 1st

Xbox Live

Xbox Live Logo

Xbox Live users may feel a pinch as Microsoft increases the price of a yearly subscription to the service by $10 in North America, starting November 1st.

According to a recent post by Major Nelson’s blog, Xbox Live will finally see a price increase after eight years’ of service at $50 a year. Starting November 1st, a yearly subscription to Xbox Live Gold will cost $59.99, opposed to the current price of $49.99. A one month subscription will increase from $7.99 to $9.99 and three month subscriptions will see a raise to $24.99 from $19.99.

North America will not be the only region that is affected. In the UK, the price of a one month subscription will increase from 4.99 GPB to 5.99 GPB. The price of a month in Canada raises a dollar to $9.99 and a year subscription in Mexico rises from 499 to 599 pesos.

However, to sort of lessen the negative feelings of many Xbox Live users whose subscription will be ending aruond that date, Microsoft has a special deal in effect for North American U.S. customers, allowing them to lock in a year at $39.99.

Jesse Divnich, with industry analyst EEDAR, claims that this new price is still an incredible value. When launched originally in 2002, an Xbox LIve gold subscription would run about the same as an AAA video game,, $49.99. Due to inflation and the additional services being made available to Gold subscribers (ESPN, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, and Video Kinect), a $10 price increase is still an impressive price for customers.

However, this is an analyst, oen who does not necessarily voice the opinions of the gaming public. Reading the comments across multiple websites, I have found that, almost unanimously, gamers are extremely upset at this price increase, with some feeling betrayed. However, the general public does not take into account inflation or the payment for these added services. Many do say that they would not choose to pay for these additional services if it were up to them, however, Microsoft does add a lot of incentives to the service. In example, how they are able to pay for timed exclusives, as they did with GTA IV.

All in all, the choice of whether or not you support the Xbox Live subscription price increase is up to you, what do you think about this announcement?

Nintendo DSi and DSi XL Price Drop

Nintendo DSi

Nintendo DSi

Nintendo has announced that the Nintendo DSi will have its price dropped to $150 and the price of the DSi XL will be taken down to $170. The DS Lite, however, will remain at its current price, being $130. These pricing changes will go in effect starting September 12th.

This price drop knocks $20 off of the current retail price of the two systems, down from $170 and $190 for the DSi and DSi XL respectively.

Nintendo of America’s executive vice president of Sales and Marketing , Cammie Dunaway, states that they understand that shoppers want the maximum value for every dollar they spend. So the new prices for these popular handhelds makes it easier for every consumer to become a part of the Nintendo fan base.

This price drop is probably in anticipation of the upcoming Nintendo 3DS that will be seeing a release in the upcoming months. Great news for all new and current Nintendo fans.

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Impressions

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Screenshot

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift is one of the best 2D fighting games available in the video game industry today, arguably the best. Seeing as how it has been released soon, and I have a fresh copy of the game at hand, I was surprised that it managed to leave such a good impression on me.

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift is a pseudo sequel to the original game, BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger , released on the XBox 360 and PlayStation 3 back in 2008. This series is headed by Arc System Works, the masterminds behind the Guilty Gear X series. This game really breathes life into the 2D fighting game genre because of how skill based and balanced the game is. In Street Fighter, you often have to worry about people sitting back and spamming hadouken or some other cheesy attack that everyone uses as their bread and butter. However, that is not the case in this game.

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift still hones the same impressive and smooth visual style, HD graphics and animation. The game really looks and plays beautifully, often looking like a screen grab from an actual anime, rather than a game. The moves are often flashy, which will serve as proper eye candy for those who enjoy a visual thrill in their games. The voice acting will most likely annoy many people, especially those whom are not prior fans of the series. The dialogue is laughable and the voice acting is even worse. I was urged to skip many cut scenes due to the dreadful voice acting I had to listen to, even though I was sort of interested in the story.  Luckily, BlazBlue is not a game that you buy for the story or voice acting.

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Arc System Works

The gameplay is where this game shines. There is a character that caters to the taste of any kind of gamer profile, and the game is impressively balanced so there will not be an abundance of one character that you will continually encounter. There are about 18 characters, with 7 new characters to the series.  Challenge mode has been added to the game in order to educate players on how to properly use their characters both strategically and aggressively. This mode was added because the original was extremely unforgiving to beginners and had a strong learning curve that many were not willing to undergo.

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift has an amazing combat system that will most likely attract or repel you based off of first impression. This game is anti-button mashing. Meaning, if you button mash, you will most likely get yourself no where and butcher most of the combos that you will attempt. This game requires you to play with a sane mind and a steady hand. You need to be able to input all the combo buttons while resisting the urge of mashing your buttons to get the job done quicker. To effectively complete your combo attacks, you will most likely need to focus more on timing and less on button mashing.

There is a plethora of moves to be enjoyed by players of all types. There are characters (Lambda and Mu) that excell in long to mid range combat, but are sub-par at close range combat. There are characters (Bang Shishigami, Ragna) that excel in long-range combat but are fairly vulnerable to projectiles. There are characters (Hakumen, Iron Tager) who have an immense amount of defense and HP, but are slow and resistant to projectiles. There are characters that fit most playing styles that one would encounter in a game. This is why BlazBlue: Continuum Shift is frequently hailed as the best fighting game available. It has options, it has the modes, and it has a style that rivals that of an anime.

All in all, for those of you in a rut and seeking a new fighting game to play, I strongly suggest BlazBlue: Continuum Shift. This game plays and looks stunning. This is a game where you can truly dominate a player after mastering the character of your choice, and dominate in a visually stunning manner, might I add. Be sure to give BlazBlue: Continuum Shift a try.

The Evolution Of Video Game Design

Niko Belic of Grand Theft Auto IV

Grand Theft Auto IV ScreenShot

Video Game design is taking a turn towards the unpredictable. In the past, limited technology often prevented developers from pursing the game they actually wanted, they had to create games that were dependent and defined by their technological limitations. Now, with all the new possibilities available in the video game industry, developers will need to drop linear story game development and start offering sand box gaming across all genres of gaming.

This may not strike many of you as surprising, but the fact that so many games still offer the player little room for creativity or freedom baffles me. Take a game like Final Fantasy 13 for example. I understand it is an RPG, and yes, it is fairly well made for those gamers who are into that sort of linear style of gameplay. However, if developers want to attract gamers from other genres and create games that will have years upon years of shelf life, they will need to offers the player some form of creativity and some element of freedom. When those two elements are combined with multiplayer capabilities, you have the equation for success.

An example of a game that does this well is Grand Theft Auto IV. This game received a lot of flak for whatever reason, with claims of a storyline that is not compelling enough or for the multiplayer portion not having enough game modes, but the free roam mode was done in a way that offered the elements I previously mentioned. For example, you can wreak havoc within Liberty City with your friends, getting a high wanted level and fighting to keep each other alive. This alone would make the game worth getting, especially if the online portion allowed for a greater amount of players. I remember the many times where my friends and I ( a group of 5 or so) hid in a strip club or hospital, stacked to the brim with a mass amount of weapons and ammunition, trying to prevent the police from raiding the building for as long as possible. It began to get especially dire when all of your friends die, their wanted level wiped clean, and you are alone in a building with ten or twenty officers who want you dead.

Red Dead Redemption

Red Dead Redemption Screenshot

Even in the previous example, this is probably what Rockstar Games intended with the free roam game mode. But things that my friends and I just came up on the spot with were little games like “hitman”. When we acquired the high wanted level and one of us died, we would help out the police, and work to track down and kill the remaining person who  had the highest wanted level. These chases would span all three portions of the world, land, air and sea and would last anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour. I remember my friend successfully left the hospital, stole a sports car in a dealership nearby, drove to a helicopter pad and stole a helicopter, flew to the highest building in liberty city and camped there until he ran out of bullets, then hopped off to end himself instead of giving us the pleasure.

Games like that offer people the creativity and freedom to come up with fun activities on their own instead of developers fretting on features that every other game of the genre has. With improvements in networking capabilities and processing power, games should all adopt this strategy and offer as much freedom and room for creativity as possible, this way, players will not only have the game modes alloted to them, but the ability to start activities of their own that might even catch popularity and spread through the fan base. In some games, developers are beginning to implement advanced physics in order to allow players to dispatch their enemies in creative ways. There is an online game that actually allows players to bait enemies towards them, so they can set off a mass of rolling boulders to tumble on and crush their enemies, or perhaps break a bridge that will lead to the enemies plummeting to their death.

The one downfall to games that are developed in this fashion is that it requires a mass amount of time and a mass amount of money. Grand Theft Auto IV had a production cost that surpassed many high-end movies, and I suspect the next Grand Theft Auto game will as well. However, the potential pay off for a successful online game free roam game is astronomical. If one could take video game design and philosophy to the next level and throw 20 players into one fairly large city, while offering a plethora of features, freedom and room for creativity, then they would have developed themselves a game worth treasuring.

I am sure that I am not the only one who has thought up this concept, seeing as how Rockstar Games already offers this more or less with Grand Theft Auto IV and even in Red Dead Redemption. However, when the next generation of video game consoles come around, you will most likely see a jump in games that offer a free roam feature, and this is when games will have reached their peak. The evolution of video game design is headed in a great direction, one that will allow for players and fans to explore their creativity and use strategies and freedom to have fun or solve problems.