|Review by PJ Hruschak|
The longer I play, the clearer it’s becoming that Rockstar’s promise of 100 hours of gameplay may be close to the mark.
After fifteen hours the game progress counter is just above 15%. Sure, I usually take the slow and roundabout routes but I suspect a lot of GTA fans are doing the same. After all, a lot of the fun takes place off the main roads. Which is why I partook in a lot more wandering than usual.
I also met Trevor, the game’s third main character, and begin to see exactly why he’s called psychotic.
I began this five hour round with Franklin in a strip club. When you leave the game for a while or swap between characters, they’ll often wander around town so you’ll find them in interesting situations. I had already checked out the strip club as Michael so I did not hang around for very long.
The short time I was there did confirm that different dancers work during different times of the day. So I guess you need to head back there a few times to meet all the employees.
In looking at the map – which, by this time, has become the most useful tool in the game for me – I noticed that all of the areas are not shown. The map is drawn in as you traverse it and there was a major chunk that was not used in the first ten hours. So I took matters – and cartography – in my own hands, stole a fast car and took the long road north.
In my six-mile drive, I also noticed another bit of the game’s accuracy: Mileage. It took me about six minutes to travel to the peak of the island, approximately six miles from the heart of the city. That side of the island really is a world of its own complete with rusty shacks, dirt roads, a rock quarry and wild animals that will cross the street willy nilly. In fact it’s all a bit, well, hillbilly.
I also discovered that you cannot simply swap characters when you have a Cop Star as I had hoped.
And that the cops are very, very persistent. In fact, cops are often crazily persistent, jumping out of cars and running after you even when you hid in dark alleys or a roof top. It actually takes away a bit of the game’s fun, especially when the game continually suggests you look for side roads and other ways to avoid the cops.
I took a lift to the top of the mountain in the game and admired the view. It is a well realized game with nice scenery. I also learned that you can fall really, really far and get really, really banged up. I do not suggest simply walking down a mountain without finding some sort of path. Ouch, ouch and more ouch.
To draw in parts of the map, I also hijacked a boat and started cruising around. After tooling around the outside of the island, I got a bit bored and started launching off other boats for fun. Turns out you can get decent air with the right boat. Then I decided to see how far upstream I can get. Apparently, pretty dern far. In fact, I was hopping rocky rapids with a boat far too large for any narrow stream. I’m glad they kept that pretty unrealistic because it was good times.
I did do a few more missions but one with Franklin ended with the first major bug I’ve experienced in the game so far. (I have seen a few small glitches, most often one involving the woman who is often walking around Michael’s block. Sometimes she blip in and out of view and sometimes she’s only half there.) In the mission, Franklin drives his friends to meet someone and things go wrong. The result is, of course a lot of shooting followed by fast driving (and evading the cops). When he finally gets home in a surprisingly banged up vehicle, I pulled into the driveway and was unable to exit the car. I was also unable to drive anywhere. I was literally stuck.
In terms of menu items, I could view the map but the only actual option I had was to re-load the game. And do the lengthy mission all over again. I suspect the car was actually too damaged to survive a normal trip around town and, when the game tried to back into free roam mode, it did not know how to resolve the damage. Either that or there was simply a glitch with that trigger spot.
I also found a side mission that introduced the Triathalon which you can use any time to help train a character. There you run, swim and bike to build stamina but be careful as exerting too much effort can actually decrease your health.
Since it automatically swaps you into a race outfit for the event, you essentially acquire an outfit you can wear for a while. It was fun to see Franklin in Spandex while helping Michael during a mission. They partake in a job that alerts the media – shooting a helicopter down is involved – and also alerts Michael’s crazy former partner now knows he’s not really dead.
WELCOME TO CRAZYTOWN
Close to the fourteen-hour mark, I finally unlock Trevor, the game’s psychopath. And early on it’s easy to see why. The opening scene involves some awkward kitchen sex with a grungy lady which soon becomes a rather bloody altercation with her husband and his friends.
As it turns out, he also lives in that very distant northern part of the map (so I could have simply waited to reveal it with the game’s story). We then soon learn that he’s dealing meth and one of his friends – or reluctant co-workers – and a Chinese investor is interested in his business. But not so interested in him or his crazy killer ways. And maybe the fact that he’s always yelling.
This is where I first get to use Trevor’s ability. He can briefly slow down time so to easily take aim and gun down a lot of people with less effort. And, yes, you are required to actually shoot everyone. This becomes a bit of a negative issue later in the game (but more on that later).
As the time came to an end, I also started to understand why some people are complaining about the amount of unavoidable violence in the game. Much more on that later as well.
I also spent a decent amount of time with the iFruit app.
You can sync the game to your PSN and Xbox Live accounts so that it can interact with the game as well. You can use it to get a quick view of your progress including stats for each character (top speed, trips to the pen and so on). You can get similar stats in the game but the app makes it much easier to read and, really, this quick view is more helpful.
I did buy some stock from within the game as Michael, which can be checked using the app.
Unfortunately, either I did something wrong or the game did not properly sync the data.
There is a game for Chop (the dog) which is really a lite pet sim.
There you play with fetch with Chop, give him food and water, pick up his droppings and play three minigames. All three have basically the same overhead view and draw-a-path mechanic. In one you had Chop run around a beach and yank the bikini bottoms of women as they walk by. In another you chase off guys who want to bash a (Franklin’s?) car. In the third you try to impress a bitch – as in a female dog – for some sweet doggie style lovin’ by chasing off other male dogs. While they are all pretty simplistic, you do need to use a bit of strategy to earn medals and grab pickups that extend time.
Earning a Gold Medal in each will also unlock the high-end dog collar, which also makes Chop a bit happier.
The benefit of the dog training is that Chop will do tricks for you both in the app and in the game. In the game he’ll even listen better and help you discover hidden items. I have yet to truly use this feature but, hey, it’s in there.
During the next five hours, I’ll spend a lot more time with crazy ol’ Trevor which, despite being introduced to a new segment of vehicles, is not necessarily a good thing.