Rockstar Games are perhaps the most famous videogame developers of this generation. Aside from creating 3 of the most interesting IP’s in the past decade, they’ve also taken the concept of sandbox games and spun it in such a way that they’ve almost created a genre of their very own. All you need to do is look at a singular screenshot from a new Rockstar development and you can instantly tell it is their creation; quite a mean feat in an industry that frequently finds developers ‘borrowing’ from other, more successful franchises.
So now that everyone and his/her Mother has been impressed by LA Noire, it’s time to ask the inevitable question; is it their best work yet? Here’s a list of their ‘Greatest Hits’ to see which one holds the lofty title.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
· The huge, bustling map meant that simply traversing the city of San Andreas was a pleasure in and of itself; you could unwittingly spend hours of your life devoted to just exploring it without having actually done anything of note.
· The plot was typically engrossing and heavily embedded in 90’s hip-hop culture, featuring street gang warfare, drug rackets and a fantastic rap soundtrack that featured everyone from Public Enemy to 2Pac. However, if you weren’t a fan of rap music you could always switch to K-ROSE Country and listen to some Willie Nelson.
· There were around 200 vehicles in San Andreas, ranging from bicycles and pick-up trucks to airplanes and hovercraft. The ludicrousness of a lot of these vehicles helped towards the balls-to-the-wall fun vibe the game had going on, taking the undiluted fun of Vice City and magnifying it to the nth degree. Try doing a hit ‘n’ run in a go-kart without smiling. I dare you.
· While it was fun to force-feed CJ and watch him unwillingly succumb to obesity, the RPG elements of the game felt a little tacked on and could’ve done with some work. It was an interesting idea, but one that didn’t really work. Still, I’d love to see the same idea expanded upon in the next GTA.
· While the huge map was impressive and a lot of fun to navigate initially, as the game reaches its final third the hefty amounts of footwork and vast expanses of land that serve no real purpose become a chore to travel through. Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better.
Red Dead Redemption
· John Marston is a superb character who rivals any cinematic or literary creation. A vulnerable badass must’ve been a challenge to bring to life, but Rockstar do it with ease. The same cannot be said for son Jack Marston, however, who most gamers recognize as the Anakin Skywalker of the Red Dead universe.
· Again the storyline is a work of art and perfectly captures the tone of its Western setting, with characters ranging from Mexican bandits to perverted Gravediggers. RDR’s plot IS the definitive videogame narrative.
· The western setting is honestly beautiful, with YouTube videos solely consisting of the player watching the sunset. When you can get a gamer to sit still for even 3 minutes to just admire the beauty of your game, you know you’ve done something right.
· The sprawling expanse of the Old West is, as previously mentioned, bloody marvellous to look at, but there’s nothing much to actually do in it other than stare admiringly at it. There’s the odd random event where you’ll stumble across someone in need, but other than that you’re just strolling to and from the next destination occasionally bumping into a pissed off bear/cougar.
· The game’s moral code is, to put it lightly, fucked up. One minute you’re nobly refusing the services of a prostitute, the next you’re tying a nun to a train track to the sweet sound of 5 Achievement points.
· The facial animations. Need I say more?
· The plot, even though it trails off in its final third, is still engrossing enough to go toe-to-toe with Rockstar’s other big titles. Its inclusion of nods to period-specific cases such as the Black Dahlia will also get history buffs salivating, and such attention to detail is more than enough to warrant it its showing at the Tribeca Film Festival, the first video game to have achieved this.
· The unrivalled sense of style that comes with its 1940’s setting and the on-the-money lingo and colloquialisms employed by the superb voice actors makes LA Noire a truly cinematic experience.
· The ‘playable movie’ idea is intriguing and was employed to great effect in titles such as Heavy Rain, but a game as long as LA Noire (it’s 3 disks on the Xbox 360) should offer a bit more diversity in the gameplay rather than keeping the player simply sitting through cut-scenes in its 20+ hours runtime.
· ‘Investigating a crime scene’ is in actuality ‘walking across every square inch of the crime scene until your controller vibrates’.
· Even though Rockstar’s name is plastered all over the bloody thing, it was Team Bondi who did most of the work. Rockstar funded it, yes, and it was created ‘in conjunction’ with them, but it is primarily the brainchild and creation of Bondi. This doesn’t detract from it as a game at all, but it’s a fact that very few people seem to recognize. Still, we doubt Bondi aren’t really concerned by this. They’re presumably too busy wiping their arses with 100 dollar bills.
Grand Theft Auto IV
· The story. Again. Are Rockstar capable of releasing a game that has a poor narrative? What’s that? State of Emergency? Ah.
· Niko Bellic rivals John Marston as Rockstar’s most interesting character, and the difficult decisions the player must make for him in the final stages of the game truly showcase how much of a sympathetic character he is. The obstacles he must overcome in order to achieve the oft-discussed ‘American dream’ means that the player really gets behind his back-story and wants him to take down his adversaries.
· Returning to Liberty City is a treat, and while it feels a lot smaller since being treated to the vastness of San Andreas, it’s still great to explore and offers a lot of things to see and do.
· *RINGRING* “Cousin! Let’s go bowling!” “I’m busy Roman, maybe another time.” “Okay, another time!” *RINGRING* “Cousin! Let’s go bowling!” “I’m busy Roman, maybe another time.” “Okay, another time!” *RINGRING*
· Compared to the silliness of its predecessors, GTA IV just feels less fun. While it’s understandable that Rockstar wanted to give the game a more realistic edge than the hovercraft driving, head exploding madness of earlier titles, it feels like a lot more content was taken out rather than put it, making it feel less ‘complete’ than the other GTA’s.
· An underappreciated classic in Rockstar’s back catalogue, The Warriors took an equally underappreciated 80s cult classic and turned it into a campy, violent brawl ‘em up that clearly admired its source material and was one of the best film-to-game adaptations yet seen on a console.
· The fighting mechanic was surprisingly deep and intuitive, and every encounter throughout the game was a joy to play through.
· Aside from the great Story mode, the multiplayer was also bags of fun and a huge time-killer when played with friends. There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get when throwing your buddy in the direction of an oncoming train.
· The next-generation Streets of Rage-esque gameplay meant that it could get a bit repetitive, with side tasks such as stealing car radios and spray painting in particular proving to be tiresome.
The source material was undisputedly ridiculous, and Rockstar’s devotion to it must be commended, but unfortunately this also means that it suffers when compared with epics such as Red Dead Redemption.