Video Game Review: Grand Theft Auto Online

Details: I’m not sure how many hours I’ve played of the Online part, but total time spent including with the single player is about one hundred and fifty hours. At least fifty of those hours were spent in the Online part. Played on the PC. I purchased Grand Theft Auto V a while ago for $35.00. Grand Theft Auto Online came with it. A lot of additional content has been released since the game came out. It’s unclear if more content updates will be released.

I wrote a review for the single player portion of this game a while ago and I’ve finally played enough of the online component to give an opinion.

Grand Theft Auto Online is an online multiplayer game where players can inhabit and play in Los Santos (the fictional city from the single player) with others over the internet. It comes with Grand Theft Auto V.

Grand Theft Auto Online is essentially a free to play game. It is largely funded by micro transactions. They sell in-game, virtual hats and clothes and cars and boats for in-game money. You can buy in game money with real money from their website or your local video game retailer in the form of Shark Cards.

The good part about this is that after the release of the game, Grand Theft Auto Online has released pretty consistent content updates since and they are all free for everyone who owns a copy of Grand Theft Auto V. Usually, subsequent content updates are marketed as downloadable content and given a price. That’s not the case here. The downside is that all the really cool items that you’d really like to own (e.g. a fast car or a new property) cost a fortune. The game is situated to be fun enough to keep playing, but annoying enough to tempt players into spending real money on in-game currency. This gives the game that lousy, Candy Crush-esque feel. It’s a long, time-consuming grind to achieve any kind of progress in the game. An additional negative is the rampant hacking/cheating present which further impedes enjoyment of the game.

There are a lot of things to do in Grand Theft Auto Online, but most of it is derivative of everything in the single player and short-lived (after playing most things once, you’ll never want to play it again). The only things that I think are worth mentioning are the races, the heists, and the free roaming.

Racing in a Grand Theft Auto game is almost common sense and being able to race other players is fun. With the addition of stunts and a battle mode with rockets and other power ups, the game feels a lot more like Mario Kart than a traditional Grand Theft Auto game.

I loved the Heists in this game, but it was disappointing that there are only five and that it looks unlikely more will ever be added. Each heists generally consists of a few setup missions and then the heist itself, which is a big, multi-part mission where each player will be required to cooperate and perform a distinct function in order to complete. The best and worst part of these missions is that cooperation is essential, which is very difficult to find when you’re playing with some random players over the internet who don’t care about each other.

The best part of this game is that it realizes a dream that Grand Theft Auto fans have had for a long time: we get to inhabit the same city with other players. We can help each other, hurt each other (usually hurt), drive, shoot, or just screw around, all within a persistent virtual world. It’s just fun to be in a virtual world that allows you to do whatever you want while others play in that world with you.

Overall, GTA Online is a fun little distraction that can be fun for hours if you let it. The biggest flaw and best feature of GTA Online is that many of the most fun aspects of the game require a preexisting group of friends who own a copy of the game and will play with you. Otherwise, GTA Online is kind of short-lived and will get boring fast. As a standalone game, GTA Online isn’t great. As an online game bundled together with the Grant Theft Auto V single player, the game is great. I don’t recommend buying Grand Theft Auto V for the Online component alone. I do recommend the purchase if you want to enjoy the single player and already have a group of friends who own Grand Theft Auto V and want to play GTA Online with you.

Score: 6.8/10

Mass Effect 2 Is Free On EA Origin

Public service announcement: Mass Effect 2 is free on Origin, Electronic Arts’ video game platform for the PC. If you haven’t played it before, I would strongly suggest you do. It’s one of my favorite games of all time. I wrote something about it prior, but I don’t recommend you read it if you haven’t played because of spoilers.

Here’s the link:

Here’s the trailer:

Video Game Review: Splinter Cell: Blacklist (2013)

Details: Played on PC. Because Uplay stupidly has no way to measure time played on a game, I have no idea how long I played it. Felt like around fifteen hours.

Splinter Cell: Blacklist is the latest in the Splinter Cell video game franchise and was released about two years ago. I received a copy when I upgraded my video card and I am so glad I did.

As the name suggests, the game plays out like a political thriller written by Tom Clancy: terrorists called the “Engineers” seek to commit a number of terrorist attacks and it’s up to Sam Fisher and his crew to stop them. Sam Fish and his crew are part of a splinter cell of American operatives who answer only to the president and can exercise the “Fifth Freedom,” which is to do whatever it takes (legal or not) to protect the country. The story is a lot of fun and really has that Tom Clancy feel. It rivals that of his other works in the political-thriller genre.

Voice acting is top notch and the performances of the actors really come through. I am a little upset they replaced the voice actors for Grim and Sam Fisher, but I can see why they did. The performances require a lot more physicality due to motion capture and hiring actors who can do the voices and act out the scenes really add to the atmosphere of the game.

In regards to gameplay, the game is the best iteration of the Splinter Cell formula yet. There are three ways to get through a level: assault (going in guns blazing, no stealth), panther (remaining stealthy but taking out all the enemies), and ghost (avoiding enemies and stealthing through an entire level without fighting). Personally, I prefer panther style, but I would occasionally engage in some ghost and assault style as well. Enemies generally walk on a predetermined route and your job is to either avoid or take them out as you proceed to the end of the level. It’s a fun formula that gives the player substantial discretion over how to approach a situation.

Of note is the games computer controlled enemies. While not clever in all situations, they can still be impressive. For instance, if you open a door in a hallway along an enemy guard’s patrol route and they come around and see it open, they will notice the door and begin to search the area/room associated with that door.

On the other hand, the enemy guards are completely oblivious to the disappearance of their colleagues as I was assassinating them one by one. This however, is a wise gameplay choice in my opinion because a substantial part of my enjoyment of the game was going around and stealthily taking out the guards at my leisure, without the worry that one of them would fail to radio in and incur the wrath of reinforcements. You still get screwed if the bodies are found, but I found hiding the bodies in creative places (e.g. on a toilet, in a jacuzzi) a hilarious and fun part of the game.

The game also has a kind of level progression in the form of purchasing weapons and armor through in-game currency. You earn money by finishing missions and fulfilling certain parameters during missions (like finding a laptop or capturing a high value target). Armor and weapons have stats which can then be upgraded through further purchases. It’s not an in depth leveling system, but I appreciate the inclusion of it. Furthermore, acquiring money to purchase things isn’t really that difficult and I purchased all of my favorite things around halfway through the game.

In regards to multiplayer, Blacklist provides a fun, if not troll-heavy form of entertainment. One mode is “spies versus mercenaries,” where one group of players play as patrolling guards while another group tries to take them out through stealth.

The game also provides coop missions which can be played with a friend. These are really fun and often provide all sorts of hilarity as you try (and often fail) to accomplish missions with teamwork. I really appreciate that Ubisoft kept this feature from prior games as this is one of the best parts of the Splinter Cell games.

Additionally, the graphics for this game are fantastic. I played this game on my computer on maximum graphical settings. It can easily compete with the games coming out today despite being released around two years ago.

Score: 8/10 Loved this game. I’m not sure it is worth $60, but seeing that it was released a while ago, you could probably get it at a discount. In fact, as I type this, it is currently on sale on Steam for $7.49. For that price, it is well worth the purchase.

Video Game Review: Tomb Raider (2013)

Details: Played on PC for about sixteen hours. Mature rated action adventure game.

What a brutal game.

I must have watched Lara Croft die around a hundred times, each time more horrific than the last. Below is a video of some of those painful moments.

It was awful. But it was also the main motivator of doing well in the game. The fear of having to watch Lara go through anymore of this horrific nonsense was terrifying. I felt the uncontrollable urge to protect her. Which I failed at. Excessively.

In regards to gameplay, the game was surprisingly fun. I went into the game not knowing what to expect, but was surprisingly entertained. There’s stealth portions, platforming, lots of shooting, puzzles, and lots of collecting for the obsessive compulsive of us.

I should also take note of Lara’s appearance. Historically, Lara was really a tomb raiding stripper. She had breasts that defied the laws of physics. In this game however, the design of Lara Croft is refreshingly practical. There can be some elements of sexiness if you want to read that into the character, but the story and design of her character set her up more as a survivor and a fighter. It’s a nice change from the Lara Croft of yesteryear who was essentially a porn star with guns.

Score: 7/10 Fun game. Lara Croft’s deaths made this game more horror than action adventure.