Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"Grand Theft 4" a hit -- but only for adults


“Grand Theft Auto IV” hits stores today and industry analysts predict it could be the most lucrative launch in entertainment history - nine million copies strong.

Microsoft and Bungee Studios' epic “Halo 3” did a record-breaking $300 million in first week sales late last year. Most analysts think “GTA IV” will hit somewhere just short of $400 million in week one.

The game is rated M for Mature and includes blood, violence, partial nudity, offensive language, strong sexual content and drug use.

It’s about a European named Niko Bellic who comes to Liberty City (a near-perfect stand-in for New York) to live with his cousin, Roman. Roman has gotten his cousin to move here with the promise of riches - only Roman lives in a dilapated apartment and has a crummy job at a car service.

The two chase the American Dream but quickly fall into debt - and into the underworld. Niko finds himself driving to do “odd jobs” for a crime boss.

Rockstar Games, which publishes “GTA,” has been careful to not release too much information about the game or to even trumpet its arrival, the way Microsoft did with merchandise tie-ins and a massive ad campaign for “Halo.”

“Rockstar wants to control the message all the time,” says Sam Kennedy, editorial director for the gaming site 1UP.com. “They want this to be seen and perceived exactly the way they want. That’s why - outside of the official trailers they released - people haven’t seen a lot of gameplay footage in advance of ‘GTA IV’ shipping. They want to build that hype.”

The game (4 stars out of 4) has been delayed two years and took nearly 1,000 people to produce. Rating it purely as a video game, it’s one of the best in the past five years. The playing field is an entire city, nearly produced to scale. You can interact with virtually everything you see.

I played the PS3 version for a few hours and then the Xbox 360 version for a few more. I enjoyed the PS3 because of the support for the motion controller, but the Xbox colors were a little better, particularly when playing on an HDTV capable of 1080p resolution.

The game is violent. You play from the perspective of a criminal. You steal cars. You run over people. You shoot people. You drive drunk. You can also buy a hamburger or a beer. You can fly a helicopter. You can play pool. You can date. There’s even a stand-up comedy routine stuck in there.

And there is plenty of simulated sex - in cars and in strip clubs. I had seen some videos of that portion of the gameplay over the weekend that prompted me to think that this game should be rated Adults Only. I haven’t changed that opinion after playing.

I think Rockstar has every right to publish this game and consenting adults, those 21 and over, have every right to play and enjoy. The game is made for adults.

There’s lots to enjoy. Store owners just have to be sure to check IDs. I’m not so sure this game should be displayed on the shelves alongside "Mario Kart," though. It probably should be the kind of thing you have to ask for.

But it is awfully good.

As you drive from mission to mission, hopefully using your GPS, you interact with city dwellers who talk and interact with you like you might expect in real life. Players must be mindful of how much damage your car sustains as you move along. That affects how it drives.

I marveled at how detailed the streetscapes were. The people on the streets have plenty to say, too. (In my experience, I didn’t hear the same reaction twice.)

I enjoyed the interaction a little more than the combat. Shooting was easy. Fighting was not so easy. But there are plenty of bonus games to keep your attention, plus some multiplayer modes.

This is the best game of the year, and it’ll sell like it, too.

“The addressable market at launch is about 24 million consoles,” says Michael Pachter, video game analyst at Wedbush Morgan. “So how many will sell in the first week or month or few months? Nine million. That’s the number. That’s about a 35 percent attach rate. By year’s end, it’ll be somewhere between 11 and 13 million because more consoles will be sold before the holidays.”

The Associated Press contributed.
Langston Wertz Jr.: 704-358-5133; lwertz@charlotteobserver.com

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

well well well...it looks like the douchebag has come to his senses. adults have the right to play mature themed games. amazing insight after all.

Anonymous said...

What an idiot, this is why blogs should not be associated with any news source that wishes to be seen as legitimate.

Platinum said...

Glad to hear that you enjoyed the game.

Anonymous said...

I thought his review was pretty fair and good. He stuck to his point about the rating, which a lot of us disagre e with. Overall, can't disagree. I hate the hand to hand combat, too

Anonymous said...

Man, folks were killing you yesterday. I thought what you said yesterday was pretty fair. Reveiw was solid. I disagree with some of your points. That's your opinion. I have mine. This game is rated mature and that's all it needs to be. -- Paul

Anonymous said...

I still say that author's mom is rated E for everyon...

Anonymous said...

This moron thinks you should be 21 to play a video game but 18 year olds can go to Iraq.

Anonymous said...

Good review. I was one of those who was on him yesterday. I guess re-reading it I get his point. He said game should only be sold to those 21 up. I've played it now and I don't my younger cousins playing either.

I still don't think he's the greatest journalist in the world. I have earned more respect 4 him now tho.

Anonymous said...

Its just a game.

Anonymous said...

"21 and over"? That's drinking. Porn is 18+, right?

Anonymous said...

Join the army, but for the love of god don't kill people in a video game.

18 is porn, 21 is drinking. You mixed them up (I hope)

Anonymous said...

You sir, are a moron. The only part you got right is that this game is a 5 star out of 4. So porn is 18+, ACTUAL WAR is 18+, but drinking and video games should be 21+?
Think about it.

Mugato said...

This has already been said but 18 year olds have seen things that will mess them up for life. We used to FORCE 18 year olds to be exposed to this. And David Alan Grier thinks non-photorealistic pixels should be for 21 year olds only?

If this guy isn't a shill for a competing software company or if this isn't a really bad satire then he is a moron.

Anonymous said...

hey-- why dont you talk to jack thompson for us so he can shut up too.

Anonymous said...

Gotta be honest guys. We bombed him yesterday. this was pretty good.

Teddy said...

I think I'm just having problems, like many others here, understanding why 21 is a more valid "adult" age than 18.

My government believes that, at 18, I was "adult" enough to buy cigarettes, kill people on distant shores, and -of course- purchase and view pornography.

So why are the drugs, porn, and violence that I'm allowed to actually experience at age 18 deemed inappropriate to view/play? Many, myself included, see this schism as a symptom of the culture divide that separates people of my age (22) and those a generation or more older.

Does this double standard exist because you see games as something truly different? Specifically as a somehow invalid or undeserving form of entertainment that demands its own set of rules and values?

I'll hear about the next gruesome murder/rape on the news at age 10, enjoy watching porn and seeing Rambo tear out a man's jugular at age 18, and then play an adult game at age 21?

Please explain yourself.

Chief said...

Adults have the right to enjoy video games too... if you don't like the game's content don't play it. The author of this blog has good intentions I guess, but his logic is seriously flawed. GTA4 is as graphic as a typical Hollywood action movie (with LESS nudity, and LESS graphic violence).

FARK.com linked me to this blog. This blog sucks though and is not FARKworthy. Byebye

Justin said...

So playing a game that can easily be played for 25+ hours (but if you explore the world 40+) and then review it, you are a moron. If you have been reviewing games for 10 years and you say Madden is your favorite, you are are moron. That franchise has not changed in 10 years. At least GTA is doing something creative and new with an open world. Maybe you should play the game to the end before posting a review. Just a thought...