• Gamer's Gazette Issue VII (Originally published September 2nd, 2013)

    Happy Total War: Rome 2 release day! Well, almost. In celebration of the next installment of the Total War series, the Gamer's Gazette is proud to...oh wait, we're not allowed to talk about Total War. Some other publication already called dibs. Hmm. No worries, I always come prepared. You see, this issue also marks the one year anniversary of the first Gamer's Gazette! So in true GG style, we're going to celebrate this two-for-one the only way we know how; with amazing articles and videos!

    We start off with our bread and butter, the next part of Leonidas the Lion's Mass Effect playthrough. Up next is a new edition to the Gamer's Gazette; the Community Spotlight, which will be highlighting modders both known and unknown who tinker and toy with non-Total War games. This issue we have ChewieMuse, who dabbles in Skyrim modding but has a knack for screenshots. Following this, Diamat the Pigeon Lord (Note: not his actual nickname) gives us a review of the board/card game Battle Line, because the Rome 2 Collector's Edition comes with a card game. Hurray for tangential relations! Nobody said we had to stick to non-Total War video games. We love to push the boundaries here at the Gamer's Gazette. Speaking of which, up next is a video review of Reus, a god game. Confederate Jeb's Inspection will never be the same...until I read the comments, start crying, and go back to writing. Everyone's a critic. After that is a review of Shadowrun Returns, a tactical RPG and recent Kickstarter release, by Manco. Gen. Chris finished us off with a review of the entire Grand Tjheft Auto series to date in preperation for GTA V's upcoming release. How does he review so much at once? With a whole lot of pictures, that's how.

    And there you have it.The Gamer's Gazette has been release content for a solid year now, and I'd like to personally thank both the staff and you, the readers, for being with us during the whole trip. We obviously wouldn't be here without either of you. So give yourselves a big round of applause, enjoy the seventh edition of the GG, and prepare yourselves for Rome 2!

    Gamer's Gazette Editor
    Confederate Jeb


    Mass Effect Marathon Episode 4
    Mass Effect Marathon Episode 4
    Mass Effect Marathon Episode 4

    Community Spotlight: ChewieMuse
    Community Spotlight: ChewieMuse
    Community Spotlight: ChewieMuse

    Total War Center has a proud history of modding Total War games, whether it be shinier armor, new settings, or just because there was a blank spot on the map and gosh darn it someone needed to put a province there. It's a wonderful thing...unless you are Confederate Jeb, director of the Gamer's Gazette, and you aren't allowed to talk about Total War games because we already have a publication for that. But I have searched every abandoned thread, every long-forgotten subforum, and my search is not in vain. TWC, in all it's awesomeness, has non-TW modders. Quite a numbr of them actually. They may not be too big here (this is a Total War fansite), but they need loving all the same. And who else better to give them love than Chloe Omnipotent-Q Gabe Newell Confederate Jeb! Fourth option is better than nothing I suppose, though I'll admit a lot of my questions are standard issue.

    Our first interview in what is to be a recurring segment of the Gamer's Gazette is ChewieMuse, Skyrim modder and screenshot extrodinaire. His work is impressive, but what really caught my eye (and fits perfectly with our Rome 2 celebration) were his Roman legionnaire pictures. But why listen to me bumble along, when you can get the low down straight from him?

    Confederate Jeb: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What made you join TWC?

    ChewieMuse: I'm 22 years old, I am currently enlisted as an E-3 (A1C) in the United States air force, I live in California at the moment, northern, mostly my job has to do with networking and radios, as well as computers, I'm pretty easy going I like to play guitar from tie to time but I love gaming so mostly stick to that, I'm going to be going to college soon for a computer science degree so that should be fun! What made me join TWC first off was the community, the people on the forums are the friendliest I've ever seen in any forum besides tom's hardware. I first joined when I was around 17 I believe, I can even remember my first few posts, about hating the Timurids (those bastards) and posting a screenshots of the post battle, I was a lurker before hand and TWC is really the only forum I've ever been actively involved in and the only one I really like.

    That not how you block dragon fire.
    CJ: You've done some mod work for Skyrim. What are your mods? What do they improve on? What inspired you to work on them?

    Yes, the two mods I've created for Skyrim would be Chewiemuse's Dense Grass (On the nexus known as dense 100 density), and the "Beauty of Skyrim" ENB (beta form, was eventually abandoned with an unknown renewal date, still works though). The dense grass mod I made to improve the way Skryim feels, it's surprising the kind of experience and immersion just more grass adds. If you walk through Skyrim and you don't have any mods, it just looks bland, blegh. What I wanted to do was make the player feel more like he/she was in a wild area, somewhere that seemed exotic from his/her desk. I also added in some new meshes that are also seen in Floris and Lush grass, they were put out as public modder resources so I wanted to take advantage of that . As I was saying before, the basic vanilla Skyrim seemed so bland, you would walk into a forest, and go "Hey, where the hell is all the grass!? Do they trim it? Why is there not more foliage!!" and it just irked me so much I wanted to do something about it. But the thing was, I tried Lush grass and Floris's mod; they both did their job but not to my liking, so I read up on how to mod files and use the Skyrim SDK and I figured out how to code an extremely dense field for every part of Skyrim, changed out the meshes using the modding tools that most people use, Autodesk, Niftools.. etc. Eventually I had an extremely stable build that was actually pretty well optimize;, I only saw a 5-10 percent drop with 95% more grass. The ENB is a different story. I love all the ENB's out there, and I really suck at making them! I wanted to give it a try and make a really fantasy looking ENB, give people that Morrowind/Oblivion feel back. So I borrowed some material from other ENB's and started to code my own files and adjust them properly. I want to give a shoutout to Sharpshooters because his files contributed to the baseline of the ENB, though eventually I had changed it so much it became my own type of ENB. Really the only reason I made it was because I wanted to give it a try. What the ENB does that's out is pretty much adds in a specific DOF (depth of field) and color palettes, kinda like what they use in Shogun and are going to be using in Rome 2 for example, and it adds in SSAO for people who don't have Nvidia. Well, it adds in more than just SSAO; I have a half finished guide included in the mod which explains almost every aspect of what an ENB does, but pretty much it changes all the shading and lighting parameters to different styles and adds certain features that were not included with the original Skyrim Shading engine.

    CJ: Screenshots are your thing. The most eye catching are your Skyrim: Total War pictures with Roman legionnaires. What's the story behind these? What made you want to focus on these?

    Chewie: Well the whole idea was a long shot. I was so pumped after the reveal of Total War: Rome 2 and I was just in the mood for Romans! I was still playing Shogun and taking screens for Skyrim, and then it popped into my head, "If I can pose my character and have other characters pose, why cant I make a Total War style scene?", which I found out the hard way that I can. Pretty much what I did was I looked all over the nexus* for Roman mods and ended up finding a mod that added in the Phalanx shields that I needed, as well as a dynamic set of decent looking Roman armor (I'm not a big fan of the cloaks though). So I did my first "shoot" down near Riftin, in the birch forest. The problem with this whole idea was, sure I have a pretty powerful computer, but that doesn't add in the capabilities of the Skyrim engine. I could have probably rendered a thousand soldiers in Skyrim no big deal if the engine wasn't so finicky after about the hundredth spawn. So I started to spawn in troops, I'd use my console commands to take over and freeze them into a position where they were holding their shields, and I ended up just building on that pretty much. This took me about 6 hours to do, all night work, before I got the right setting with the Stormcloaks acting as Gauls and the Imperials obviously being the Romans. The next day I got a lot of hype for them so I decided to make more. I did the scene with the marching Romans and that was actually pretty easy to do. The most painstaking and annoying but rewarding shot was the Testudo formation on top of Throat of the world. Funny story, I had actually planned to do the shoot inside of Windhelm, at the gates with the Romans facing towards the inner part of the city in a Testudo against the Gate doors, but sadly after 4 attempts and about 8 hours all together of work, and maybe 20 crashes I gave up on that idea and almost gave up on continuing any screens. but then I had an epiphany; do the shoot where almost nothing is rendered! Hence the Throat of the World! So I got up there and just got to work, it was amazing. The turn out was a huge success and I was able to place them in the Testudo and finished my dreams of doing something unique and awesome! The main reason I wanted to do this was because first, obviously, Rome 2; secondly, I really wanted to see what Skyrim was capable of and what I could do in it. I love pushing games to the limits to take screens, kind of using them as a playground for a virtual camera, and being able to set up the men in the Testudo was my ultimate goal.

    * Chewie: It's kinda like Reddit, it has a bunch of subs for different games, there's Skyrim, Fallout, Mount and Blade, the Witcher...etc. It's pretty much a mod hosting site as well as a mod manager program.

    Testudo formation
    CJ: What about the Testudo formation appeals to you?

    Chewie: Well when it comes to the Romans, I was awed by this strategy, seeing it in movies, reading about it, watching it in motion it was just so cool to me, it's one of my favorite formations. It also was going to be one of the most challenging positions along with the most noticeable. This would mean I could do almost anything in Skyrim if I got this pose right, and it was something no one had done! Lastly it was Rome 2 which really put the idea in my head, and was the spark which ignited the Flaming Pigs.

    Run us through what goes into setting up a screenshot.

    So pretty much what I will do is just trek around Skyrim looking for a good spot, like any normal photographer would. I have a few mods I use at my disposal, the main ones being the Puppeteer mod and Directors tools which can both be found on the Nexus; the rest is all console work. I will run you through a scenerio. I end up finding a spot, find out what I want to do; say, make a legionere platoon marching. First I pick my NPC selector for Puppeteer mod, and then I spawn in a few imperials and freeze them by opening up console, pick them with the mouse, and type "TAI"; for some reason this freezes them completely. Then I'll take over each individual troop one at at time by typing "TC," move them where I want them to be (the command pretty much gives you movement control over the AI), and use the spell which comes with the mod, and opening up the action menu I can make them make faces and such if I want to. For marching I just have them walk, then open up console (they should still be selected) and then type in "TAI" again; this freezes them into place. It's pretty basic but the advanced stuff is using puppeteer to set up a proper scene like the Testudo. I had to time a certain execution move and freeze them in the excact right position and then move on to the next troop.

    CJ: It's clear that you put a lot of time and effort into your pieces, and your game. What mods do you recommend, for both general play and taking screenshots?

    Chewie: There are a few. For general gameplay I would recommend any of the Immersive Weapons/Armor mods, amd Midorian Armor Mods. Most of the mods I use are just for Cosmetic Detail, so really anything with 4k Textures would be where you would start for screenshots, and K_ENB is one of the best ENB's out there right now. True Groundcover adds in a lot of little bushes and moss and stuff. Puppeteer and Directors tools are a must have for screen taking. I have a mod list here, but its over 230 mods and it's a little out dated, but it will give you some good mod ideas. Oh, and for you I have a Youtube link to a tutorial video I've done, to take screenshots.

    That grass. All screenshots are in-game content, no cosmetics required.
    CJ: Do any other games lend themselves to screenshots like Skyrim does? If so, which ones? If not, why not?

    Chewie:Most any game. My favorite games to do screens though so far have been, Shogun 2, Napoleon, Battlefield 3, Tomb Raider, and Planet Side 2. I'm working on the Witcher 2 right now and thinking about doing more Skyrim as well as Red Orchestra 2. Red orchestra 2 is one of my most favorites. I've also been considering Mount and Blade Warband.

    CJ: Have there been any games for which the screenshots just weren't working?

    Chewie: Not really, Dead space 3 maybe, most of the games I can make it work though.

    CJ: What was different about Dead Space 3?

    Chewie: No free cam lol.

    CJ: What can we expect from you next, in terms of modding and screenshots?

    Chewie: Well I'm planning on jumping into Total War modding, I'm working with a few mod groups to do artwork for loading screens, signatures, titles, etc. But I don't plan to do anything more for Skyrim, maybe screenshots, but with Total War: Rome 2 coming out in around a month, I don't see Skyrim happening any time soon.

    Thanks for your time Chewiemuse! It was great to get more insight on the modding scene of other games and an in-depth look at the art of screenshots. We can't wait to see what awesome content you produce next.

    Battle Line Review
    Battle Line Review
    Battle Line Review
    Diamat's Review of Battle Line

    Since Rome 2 is coming out this week, and because the Collector’s Edition will come with a special card game, I thought you guys might enjoy a review of one of my favorite board/card games, Battle Line. This is a very straightforward and easy to learn two-player game while nevertheless providing a challenge to the experienced player. Simulating an ancient line of battle, the object of the game is to defeat your opponent’s army through a superior combination of cards. Strategic placement of your unit cards, hence, is key to winning the game.

    How It Works
    Each player draws a certain number of unit cards. Each turn, you are allowed to play and draw one card. This can either be a unit card or a tactics card. Unit cards are the core of the game, since only a strong combination of units can win you the battle. Your goal is to either capture 3 consecutive flags or 5 flags total. Underneath each flag, in order to capture it, you must place three units. Your opponent may do the same, but the one with the superior three-unit-combo wins that flag. Combos are ranked similar to poker. For example, 3 Skirmishers, which is designated by the number “1,” beat 3 units of the same color (such as an elephant “10”, a heavy cavalry “8”, and a hoplite “4”) unless those same-colored units are in order (e.g., heavy cavalry “8”, chariots “9”, and elephants “10”). As hinted earlier, you may also play combat tricks through the use of tactics cards. These can give you various advantages, such as winning a flag your opponent was sure he would win. In the picture below, I played the tactics card “Fog,” which causes the following effect: “This card disables all formations, and the flag is merely decided by the total value of the cards on each side.”
    Hence I win this flag even though my opponent’s formation is superior to mine.
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Value, Value, Value
    So how much is the game and what is its replay value? The game is only $18 and comes in a simple, small box. There is no game board or other bulky materials. The cards are nothing special either and resemble regular playing cards. In short, this game is easy to set up and put away. In terms of replayability, the game never ceases to be interesting, especially on a rainy day. For less than twenty Dollars, you get a game that will last you for decades.

    For Strategy Nerds
    Some of you may be wondering how much a challenge this game will provide for you. If you are like me, you prefer difficult games that are intellectually demanding, require thinking, and are not won simply by luck. When it comes to this, Battle Line is a mixed bag of potatoes. On the one hand, you can win or lose a game based on strategic decisions. But sometimes, if your opponent draws the perfect cards, there is not much you can do. This is no game of chess but a half-strategy, half-luck card game. Despite this, I find the game stimulating enough to enjoy, especially when playing with someone who isn’t as much into strategy games as I. This is yet another good thing about this game, since it is so accessible even to people who usually do not enjoy strategic games.

    Score: 9/10
    +Easy to learn yet still poses a challenge even to the experienced player
    +Good value
    +Small packaging and quick setup
    -Sometimes too much luck involved

    Reus Review
    Reus Review
    Reus Review

    Shadowrun Returns Review
    Shadowrun Returns Review
    Shadowrun Returns Review

    To most of you this won't exactly come as a surprise, but we've been experiencing a fairly interesting period in PC gaming lately. The traditional relationship between publisher and developer has been evolving rather drastically; first with the advent of online retail platforms like Steam and even the much vaunted Origin, and then the huge success of crowd-sourcing that has shown to be even capable of financing what once would have been called triple A titles.

    Shadowrun Returns (now called SR because I'm a lazy typist) might not actually be intended to cross the line into triple A territory, but it's still a somewhat larger project than most of the Kickstarter-fueled games that preceded it. It's a milestone in more than one way for the crowd-sourcing model of business. Not only was it one of the first Kickstarters of that scale, it's also harkening back to a certain nostalgic idea of what a game and more specifically an RPG should be. A sentiment that paved the way for a whole host of retro-inspired games, the new Torment and Wasteland 2 being the best known examples. Now that its finally released we'll see just how widespread this appeal will be, or whether the original backers were essentially a niche demographic after all.

    Magic came back, and it brought a shotgun
    I like that building, it's the only one I like
    The Shadowrun universe is a pretty interesting place. Superficially the world until quite recently resembled ours a lot, that is until the Mayan calendar ran out and magic came back to the world in the company of dragons and various other critters that came out of the woodworks. After the initial chaos large portions of humanity apparently weren't what they used to be either and openly now professed themselves to be the standard fantasy races of elves, dwarves, orcs and trolls. What sets Shadowrun apart from most fantasy settings however is that these classic fantasy creatures interact with a rather dystopian, cyberpunk setting set just a few decades in the future where major corporations took control in the aftermath of chaos. Where once the Big Bad was an arcane necromancer or a corrupt executive, he's now both. And he's probably the CEO to a dragon-owned corporation or some other-dimensional deity, who you really don't want to meet, let alone fight.

    At the core of the original tabletop game were the eponymous Shadowrunners, individuals of the major raceswho specialized in what's basically their world's version of corporate espionage. Because of the presence of magic, world-ending cults and plots, god-like artifacts, state-of-the-art technology and corporations which have no one to be held accountable to but their stockholders and CEO's; corporate espionage has however become somewhat different, more occult, more like a heist and a lot more bloody as well. In SR you're put into the shoes of a veteran Shadowrunner who's between jobs and a bit down on his luck,when you receive a message from a fellow named Sam, an old colleague/friend/drinking buddy/whatever your poison. The message turns out to be a so-called Dead Man's Switch, a request sent out automatically after his untimely demise. In it, Sam asks you to find whoever's done him in and promises a hefty reward for your troubles.As usual in these types of plots, things never turn out to be all that simple and what was once a simple revenge tale spirals out into an impending magical apocalypse.

    Depthless in Seattle I can't say the plot is bad, however it left me with a very distinct B-film feeling and not in the good way.I tend to like me some pulp and corniness now and then, but a professionally written plot should be of a higher level than your garden variety quest-line thought up by your local Dungeon Master. A murder mystery that devolves into a race against the clock to prevent an apocalypse isn't very creative. Sometimes that lack of creativity is offset by the quality of the world – think for example of the original The Witcher – or by the intrinsic quality of the actual writing, turning something superficially bland into something more –Baldur's Gate for example and its character interactions. Harebrained Schemes have however made afew rather serious errors in this regard. Firstly there is hardly any character interaction. Sure you have your main character, a few extended cameo's from fairly famous lore characters, and a sort of hub area where you get to chat with some of the locals. But it's all so sparse. Your character is pretty much a blank slate, and different attitudes in the dialogue trees are generally inconsequential. It doesn't help that most of the interesting dialogue tidbits are hidden behind skill checks. Nothing against skill-checks in se, but I don'tl ike it when the story of my character's being hampered because of fairly gamey, not necessarily intuitive reasons. Even with those skill-checks however, you'll essentially be playing the exact same plot regardless of build and dialogue options picked. Secondly the world feels superficial as well. From fairly minor stuff – like weapons and armor being tiered rather than a more natural, horizontal variation – to something as simple but important as the world not feeling alive or reactive. This is a world that plays host to dragons, magic, a Tron-like virtual reality and inter-dimensional spirit guides,... yet I'm busy shooting generic cops, thugs and bugs because of a freaky deaky cult that's a generic parody of Scientology. Where's the intrigue? The political and personal drama? The corporations' scheming and plotting? The rhythm is off as well. The game starts fairly slow, giving you time to explore and dick around a bit. Though the sequential nature of the maps and missions always constricts that feeling of freedom. But at the end you're slugging it out in a series of long-winded dungeons on a basic monster hunt, and when your gaming feels like a chore, it's a waste of time.
    Depthless in Seattle
    High-level plotting and scheming, or afternoon tea?

    Harebrained Schemes has gone so radically for a digital version of the pen and paper game, they've forgotten that in a P&P game, the players make the story with the DM simply providing a framework while in a singleplayer cRPG the gamer has to experience a given and rounded story. It's a different way of storytelling, a way that's certainly compatible with theback ground lore as I read several examples of it pre-release. Essentially this all turns SR into not the RPG it purports to be, but a TBS dungeon crawler with a bit morestory than usual.

    Visually the engine serves its purpose.The creators tried to harken back to the old-timey isometric RPG'sand they mostly nailed it. Really great-looking locales are fairly rare, the majority is obviously construed with the included tile-sets. Of course this has the advantage of world-building being easier and more accessible but it does have a negative effect on the actual atmosphere. Ultimately the only locations I truly liked were the two outdoor city ones, but considering the budget and price it more than delivers. A bit more attention to the actual characters and their animations would have been nice, but establishing a new graphical benchmark wasn't the goal nor in the scope of this game's development. I can't say the music or sound really blew me away, but it didn't grate on my nerves either. All in all, the presentation is pretty serviceable.

    Guns and fireballs This year we've been fairly spoiled when it comes to TBS. While many old-school fans of the genre might have found it a bit too simplified, the new XCOM did reinvigorate interest in the genre. SR follows a roughly similar approach.
    Guns and fireballs
    Orcs with fauxhawks, really?

    Once combat starts each character gets a number of moves based on skill advancement which they can either use to move, shoot or use for special actions and skills which tend to cost more moves than regular actions. And just like in XCOM positioning and taking cover is pretty important. It's not the most flashy system,especially not with the fairly demure depiction of all the skills and spells, but it does the job. Some issues should really have been solved though, movement can be finicky, shooting around corners doesn't seem to work and not all characters are balanced.

    Speaking of characters, the game allows you to choose between various archetypes, from the gun-ho street samurai over the technologically gifted deckers to the magic-infused shamans. Or if you're familiar enough with the settings rules, you can opt to create your own hybrid using the provided karma(essentially SR's version of skill-points). To supplement your own character you have the chance to hire a select few fellow shadowrunners when going on a mission, while a few of these are connected to the game's plot, by and large they are noble unknowns,simply there on a job. Which makes it hard for me to care about them when sending them out into the fray. As I said, balance is not perfect.Unless you want to miss out on loads of cash and gameplay, a decker –the class specialized in entering the Matrix – is pretty much amust-have companion. The rest of the team could be anythingyou want, but anyone specializing in guns will be a lot more efficient than most mages, shamans and anyone bringing a knife to a gunfight. Melee simply wastes health points and medkits while the magic classes feel either underpowered or are most useful by summoning a bullet sponge.

    Conclusion Rereading this, I come off as pretty negative. And had this been a full-priced game, things like thelinear maps, corny plot and the complete absence of a save function would have me recommending people to avoid it.
    But it's not a full-priced game, it's only half as much again as a film ticket these days, and for its actual price you're really getting a fairly decent game, though one that comes off as a lightweight, both in its storytelling as well as its combat mechanics. However, not everything has been said with that, one of the game's major selling points has been the inclusion of all the tools the creators themselves used to build the game. Some of the downsides I mentioned are a direct result of this, for example the dungeons feeling somewhat uninspired is due to them being based on a tile-set rather than being handcrafted. And Harebrained Schemes doesn't shy away from this either, even within the game's menu, the official campaign is treated as no more than a module you load up,same as any fan-made campaign.

    Once a few gifted people get their hands on these tools, the official campaign could easily devolve into no more than an appetizer for the real deal. Even now, people are recreating the older games and dozens of campaigns are popping up on Steam. Look out for the forthcoming Berlin campaign as well, it should arrive in January and promises to alleviate quite a few of my concerns.

    Gameplay: Not as refined or in-depth as its higher profile peers, it still delivers a solid dose of TBS fun
    Atmosphere/plot: Somewhat disappointing, I don't like it when I expect the community to deliver something more engaging than a professional team.
    Sounds and visuals: Fairly spartan, a few glimpses of splendor are mired by rather drab and generic scenes
    Replayability: by itself, pretty low. Add the dev-tools and the community? Potentially hundreds of hours.

    Grand Theft Auto Franchise Review
    GTA Franchise Review
    Grand Theft Auto and Grand Theft Auto 2
    Grand Theft Auto and Grand Theft Auto 2

    Grand Theft Auto (1997)

    Grand Theft Auto 2

    In 1997, DMA Design published the very first game in a long-running series. Full of controversy and complexity, the series would become a critical success over the years, turning into one of the most profitable game series on the market. DMA Design, now Rockstar North, credits it all to this very first game, simply called Grand Theft Auto. This game would soon spawn two expansions (London 1961 and London 1969) and a direct sequel, Grand Theft Auto 2, in 1999.

    The very first Grand Theft Auto was very simplistic in its approach. You take on the role of a common criminal who simply wants to make a name for himself in the world. Taking place in a fictionalized world based on our own, the game takes place in three primary cities, Liberty City (New York), Vice City (Miami) and San Andreas (a mixture of California and Nevada cities). All three suffer from rampant crime and exploitation, with constant feuding between the local criminal organizations, gang violence, and unethical city officials and police officers.

    For Grand Theft Auto 2, the game takes place in a generic city simply called “Anywhere City”, and takes place in the future (compared to its release date). Like its predecessor, the game has three levels, making up the different districts of the city. Each district has various problems associated with it, but all three have three gangs as in them. The Zaibatsu organization is the game’s main gang, and is in each district, with the other two gangs in each district being unique.
    Gameplay is rather simple and easy to understand in these games as well. Both games take place in 2D, and feature a top-down view of the game. The player must complete various missions scattered around each city offered by different organizations and individuals to give you points/money. These missions are started by answering ringing payphones, where you receive your mission objectives. They can range from simple murder to heists or robberies, and all offer points for the player when completed. In Grand Theft Auto 2, the majority of the missions come from the seven gangs scattered in each district of the city, and they affect your relationship with the gangs. Once enough points have been claimed through the missions/side missions, the player is allowed to move on to the next level.

    In both games, the player can utilize a variety of vehicles and weapons at their disposal to complete their objective. Due to the 2D nature of these games, both driving and shooting weapons are rather simple. You cannot see very far in terms of distance, so you have to rely on reflexes and good aim when driving or shooting when the action gets heavy and vehicles, objects, or people (when in combat) suddenly appear on screen. Vehicles can become damaged by weapons or collision, and too much damage will result in explosions. Luckily, as the name of the game implies, you are not meant to only live with one vehicle, and it is rather simple to acquire another one. The vehicles vary from large, lumbering ones to fast sports cars, and everything in between.

    One aspect that was introduced with the coming of the second game was a system of respect in regards to the gangs. With seven gangs in one city, there are bound to be disputes and conflicts, and the player has the chance to play off these tensions in regards to the missions or even outside of them. When a mission with one gang is completed, the player is reward with money as well respect for that gang. If that mission negatively affected another gang, the player will lose respect with that gang. Each gang has a rival gang that they typically ask the player to target, so it is impossible to be on good terms with all the gangs. Another way to gain or lose respect is to kill gang members, with the rival gang growing to like you more while the victim gang will grow considerably less fond of you. As you gain more respect you will gain access to more missions with that gang, but you will lose possibilities with others, and if you lose too much respect with one gang, they will grow incredibly hostile to you. The path is yours to make, however, and it adds considerable replayability to Grand Theft Auto 2 as there are multiple mission chains.

    However, all the murdering and thieving is bound to attract the attention of the local authorities, right? Doing certain things in either of the games will eventually bring various levels of law enforcement down on the player, from simple cops on patrol giving chase (level 1) to eventually getting the Army to chase after the player. Wanted Levels can be lessened or lost by either acquiring cop bribes (scattered as collectibles around the levels) or by visiting the local Pay and Spray shops, which will repaint your vehicle and allow you to lose the attention of the authorities. If arrested or killed, you lose your weapons and armor and some cash and respawn.

    That really is pretty much it. There is not much in the way of a story with the two games, just good old fashioned advancing through levels. There are no skills or anything to learn, though you will grow considerably more able with driving and shooting (the shooting does take a bit of time to get used to) with play time. The games do try to make as much of the limited scope as possible, with sounds and soundtracks (getting in and out of cars yield appropriate sounds, radio stations, etc) adding a bit of realism to the games. The side missions and activities can be fun, such as selling vehicles for cash to scrappers/vehicle exporters, or going on bloody kill frenzies to rack up points by killing or destroying property. Overall, both games are pretty fun, and did well in establishing a fan base for the large upgrade to the franchise that was to come with the millennium.

    Grand Theft Auto III - San Andreas

    Note Much of the in-game mechanics remain the same between all three games, so I will not discuss them much in each review unless something major changed.

    Grand Theft Auto III

    Grand Theft Auto III (2001)

    In Grand Theft Auto III, the player assumes the role of a character named Claude, a criminal who was betrayed by his girlfriend in the middle of a bank robbery and left for dead. Surviving the wounds, Claude is arrested and blamed completely for the robbery. While being transported across the Callahan Bridge to Portland Island, the police convoy is attacked by members of the Colombian Cartel. Surviving along with another prisoner named 8-Ball, Claude is able to escape along with his new friend and hole up in an apartment on Portland. Wanting revenge and in need of work, Claude is introduced to the Leone family, a branch of the Italian mafia in the city. Claude sets out to make a new name for himself in Liberty City, as well as track down the woman he used to love.

    Grand Theft Auto III is the first of a new “era” in the Grand Theft Auto franchise. Known as the 3D Universe, the level and detail of the games increase dramatically. This is immediately noticed at the very start of GTA III, and the game makes full use of the advantage in their recreation of Liberty City, a reference to the first level of the original GTA. Based on New York City, the 3D era Liberty City comprises three large islands, all accessible via bridges at various points in the game. The city is quite diverse, with residential neighborhoods, businesses, industrial areas, parks, shorefronts, and more, all reminiscent of its real-life counterpart. Liberty City is often described as the worst city in America, due to its high amounts of crime and violence. The city is also diverse in its people, with pedestrians from all ethnic backgrounds to reflect its counterpart as well as its ethnic-based gangs (e.g. the Triads) or organized crime (the three Italian families). Additionally, the game sees the added bonus of time (represented by a clock with each “hour” being played out in a minute), as well as day/night cycles and even weather patterns. All of this heavily contributes to the newly-established atmosphere for the franchise.

    For the third game, Rockstar North (now the developers of the franchise) revamped many of the features of the previous games in order to take advantage of the new engine and the environments and physics possible. Instead of a top-down perspective, the player can now be controlled in a third-person perspective that allows much more versatility and ease in getting around. Carjacking and driving is still an important part of the game, and now the player can see ahead and behind him much more effectively than before, giving the player a greater degree of spatial awareness. The controls for driving are rather simple to learn, and the vehicles now can provide a greater degree of damage to others (running over pedestrians, ramming vehicles) as well as to itself (the cars will catch fire and explode if too much damage is taken or if the vehicle rolls over). Like before, vehicles have a large degree of variety in size, speed, and colors. Picking the right vehicle for missions could be crucial to mission success. The player can also fly a plane, albeit it takes a lot of skill to fly it as Rockstar made it deliberately difficult to do. The player also is able to listen to a variety of things on the radio from music to talk shows, and can hear news based on events in the game.

    Combat has been completely revamped, allowing the player a much more exciting degree of possibilities compared to the preceding games. Unlike the previous games where only weapon power and armor affected the outcome of a shootout, the 3D perspective also allows for the possibility of gunshots being more effective based on the location of the impact, just like real life. Wounds to the arms and legs will take much longer to bring down a person, while a single shot to the head will bring down an enemy no matter how armored they are. Weapons themselves are also different in that their power and speed vary considerably, from the slow firing pistol and shotgun to the ultra-fast (and completely unrealistic) M-16 rifle. Magazines and reloading as well as taking cover can be crucial to combat as well, and the AI will make relative use of cover in order to defend themselves. The sniper rifle also makes an appearance, allowing for distanced shots to be accomplished. In addition to all of this, blood and gore finally make an appearance in the game, which people losing limbs (and heads) as a result of gunfire and explosives. Finally, the game allows the player to perform drive by shootings if they have the submachine gun at their disposal.

    Gangs make a return to the franchise, but respect does not, at least not overtly. Gangs that you manage to annoy enough will definitely come after you, but this is determined by missions much more rigidly than before. At one point or another you will have a gang that despises you, and will attack you if you are in their territory. Whether with bats, fists, or guns, the player must defend himself against them. Gangs also have their own vehicles, which must be utilized in some missions (such as when you are instructed to start a gang war by performing a drive by in a certain vehicle).

    The local authorities also make a return, and once again the level of their response is matched to how much mischief you cause. Whether it’s the local police, SWAT, FBI, or even the Army, the player is capable of surviving these incidents once again by using bribes or Pay and Sprays. However, the military, not surprisingly, is incredibly difficult to survive, as their tanks (yes, they come after you in tanks) can usually ram and destroy a car in one hit, and they have body armor and the ultra-fast firing M-16s to worry about as well.

    Additional features of the game are somewhat few, but still worth noting. The missions and side missions have much more variety compared to the previous games, resulting in a lot more to do and a lot less repetition. The city also offers a limited number of easter eggs, as well as a new feature: collectibles. Scattered throughout the city are hidden packages, numbering one hundred. With every ten hidden packages collected, a new weapon will appear at each safe house (where you save you game and can store vehicles), allowing the player to acquire free weapons for use in missions or mayhem. Obviously, the more packages collected, the more powerful the weapons unlocked. Kill Frenzies return, now titled rampages, and reward the player money upon completion (as well as progress towards one-hundred percent completion). New side missions have also been added, involving vehicles such as the police car (and other law enforcement vehicles), fire truck, taxis, and ambulances. Completing the emergency services side missions can reward the player with things such as police bribes at safe houses, unlimited sprint, and a flamethrower delivered to safe houses, while the taxi missions yield a special taxi and cash. The player can also complete various “stunts” around the city in vehicles that will yield cash as a reward. All of these (and other side activities) are required to gain one hundred percent completion of the game.

    If one were to comment on what makes this game superior to the first two, it would likely be the addition of a story. Claude (though mute) actually has a purpose in his long fight throughout the city: to get close enough to his former lover, Catalina, who betrayed him. To this end, Claude will do anything from murder to arson to robbery for his various bosses, and will make many enemies and friends along the way. The bosses range from crime bosses to corrupt cops to businessmen, all of whom have personalities unlike the bosses in the previous games. The bosses are also actually seen and physically interacted with, unlike the unseen bosses from 1 and 2, and can betray or be betrayed by Claude in his quest. Though the story is not the greatest of the franchise, it is definitely an improvement over nothing. My only REAL complaint would have to be the fact that Claude cannot swim, and falling into the water is an instant death.

    This game was certainly revolutionary when it first came out twelve years ago. It took the good of the previous games and expanded and improved on them in many ways. Everything has been improved in an attempt to make the game as realistic as possible in its representation as the worst city in America, from the characters to the gameplay to the story. There really is nothing major that can be criticized that cannot be explained simply by the limitations of the time, and would really be unfair to note after such a long time. Therefore, I believe that this game deserves a 9/10 for its gameplay, story, atmosphere, and most important of all…how fun it is.

    Grand Theft Auto Vice City

    Grand Theft Auto Vice City (2002)

    Tommy Vercetti is a free man, after fifteen long years. Known as the Harwood Butcher, Vercetti killed eleven people in a brutal massacre while in the service of the Forelli Family, one of the branches of the Mafia in Liberty City. Now free, Tommy’s friend Sonny, head of the family, decides that the family needs to get involved in the drug trade down south, and chooses Tommy as the man for the job. Sent down with two others to make the deal, Tommy is ambushed, and the others killed. Without the drugs or the money, Tommy incurs the wrath of Sonny, who orders him to recoup the losses by any means possible. Tommy sets out to discover who set him and the others up for the ambush, as well as establish an empire of his own on the sunny beaches of Vice City.

    Set in 1986 and based on Miami (but likely set in the Florida Keys), Vice City is visually and atmospherically distinct from Liberty City in practically every way imaginable. The drug trade is at a high, the people are carefree, and the city is rampant with crime. Vice City is made up of two large islands and six smaller islands, each of them offering different neighborhoods, people (and gangs), and opportunities. The city has many sites and features, from golf courses to shipwrecks to even a military base.

    Much of the gameplay from the previous game remains intact, with some key changes. The vehicles, clothing, weapons, and many other features have been changed to reflect the fact that the game takes place in the eighties as opposed to the early millennium of GTA III. The combat and driving remain the same, if only made a little bit easier and more brutal (chainsaws make an appearance, making for especially brutal kills where blood splatters on the “screen” when used on someone. However, though the combat system has been for the most part retained, there are now varying levels of weapons that can be acquired in all classes, such as the submachine gun class, which has several weapons in it. This is helpful in increasing variety in the game as opposed to the single type of each weapon present in GTA III, as well as making enemies more diverse and challenging depending on their weapons. In addition, the weapons are far more realistic in their appearance and performance compared to the preceding game. Gangs and the police level make a similar return, though the gang problems (related mostly to the drug trade as well as the incredible level of ethnic diversity) have grown compared to GTA III.

    Additional changes to the game are also worth noting. One of the major changes is the capability of the player to purchase additional safe houses, as well as businesses that will generate cash for the player every day that can be collected. These businesses can be acquired by various means, but are typically unlocked via the storyline or completing tasks. In addition to the returning vehicle missions (which now offer newer rewards), the player can also do others, yielding brand new and valuable rewards for their completion. The player also has access to helicopters, including two that are combat-capable, as well as a sea plane for getting around. Motorcycles are also added to the game, allowing the player to do frontal attacks with submachine guns and weave in and out of traffic, at the cost of no protection against collisions and gunfire. Boats, which were occasionally used in GTA III, now feature much more prominently.

    Overall, the game has improved even more over the previous game in leaps and bounds, while still maintaining the good aspects of the predecessor. Vice City does not feel like a clone of Liberty City at all, and the addition of various new features and mission types only serve to make a better game. Tommy’s story is a much better one as well, and though Tommy is a bit of a one-dimensional character, he still provides more emotion and complexity compared to Claude, and his drive and mission is much more compelling than the simple revenge plot of GTA III. Tommy has been given a second chance, and is out to make a name for himself on the sunny shores of Florida. However, Tommy, like Claude, apparently never learned how to swim. I would give it a 9.5/10.

    Grand Theft Auto San Andreas
    Grand Theft Auto San Andreas (2004)

    Grand Theft Auto San Andreas
    Set in 1992 in the fictional state of San Andreas, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas begins with Carl Johnson, five years absent from Los Santos, receiving news that his mother was murdered. Flying out from Liberty City, Carl immediately finds himself in unfamiliar territory as he is practically framed for homicide by a couple corrupt cops, and also discovers that the life he knew in Los Santos was almost gone. His brother Sweet, head of the Grove Street Families gang, now leads a fragmented and weakened gang that is but a shadow of its former self. The streets are filled with drugs, pushed by rival gangs supported by the corrupt cops. Carl, realizing that something must be done, goes on a journey that will span the entire state of San Andreas to drive out the drugs, clean up the streets, and restore the Grove Street Families to its former glory.

    Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas takes place in the state of San Andreas, which is based on portions of California and Nevada. Comprised of three islands, three major cities, five counties, and eight rural towns, the map of San Andreas is currently the largest in the entire franchise, at nearly fourteen square miles. The sheer size of the map as well as its locales offers perhaps the most diverse experience in the franchise. Deserts, mountains, forests, slums, high rises, lakes…you name it, San Andreas has it. A great indicator of the changes compared to the previous game is certainly the diversity of locations, with even the rural towns all looking different to each other, while each of the three islands all offer new and different experiences. Additionally, the location of the state in relation to the real world allows for many cultural or historical references to the real world (e.g., the LA Riots of the early nineties). The three main cities (Los Santos, San Fierro, and Las Venturas) are clearly based on real world cities, and it really adds a lot to the gameplay. The rural areas, while not often visited, also add a nice change when driving between cities.

    Almost immediately the player will notice some key changes in the new title. First off, CJ is completely customizable. For example, the player can purchase a large variety of clothing and other accessories to change CJ’s outward appearance. The player can also get haircuts/hair styles and tattoos to change the appearance of CJ’s body, along with hitting the gym to make CJ muscular and lean. Alternatively, CJ can pack on the pounds if he visits the fast food joints too often without running, biking, or whatever else to increase his stamina and lose fat.

    Speaking of stamina and fat, the player can also increase their abilities in driving, biking, flying, lung capacity (you can swim now!) and weapons. With more driving and flying and diving, Carl becomes more proficient in their respective skills. These aid the player and also introduce a system that naturally progresses the character throughout the game. When it comes to weapons proficiency it depends on the weapon type, though by the end with some classes Carl will be able to dual wield certain weapons.

    One other notable addition is the gang warfare and turf. At certain points in the game Carl can assist the Grove Street Families by initiating a battle over a territory with another gang. If Carl succeeds, that territory becomes part of the Grove Street Families. It can be important when continuing the story to have a suitable amount of gang members in territories, due to the fact that players can recruit more and more gang members with each level of respect attained. Yes, respect has returned, only this time you can only get it with Grove Street, and it allows you to recruit members for gang warfare or drive by’s. You can recruit up to eight, but can only take three others along on drive by’s.

    Compared to the previous game, San Andreas just adds so much more. Much more diversity in locations, vehicles (including vehicle customization), missions (one particularly memorable one where you have to dive out of an airplane to get on to another airplane) and more make this game superior to others. There is also a plethora of side activities, properties to buy and utilize, collectibles to acquire (each island has different ones, leading to different weapons spawning at the three main safe houses on each island) girlfriends to date (yes, Carl can date now, and you get benefits from some girls), and challenges and other things to enjoy. So much has been added that it really is far superior to either GTA III or Vice City. There's also a lot of references to the other games, and it's always fun to see a familiar face. The story is far and away the best of the series, as Carl must battle gangbangers, corrupt cops, and even those he holds close in the quest to bring his family and gang to the top. The characters and their personalities only add to the increased depth and emotion of the game, pushing it far ahead of the others.

    With all this in mind, it can only be said that this game deserves a perfect 10/10.

    Grand Theft Auto IV - ?
    Grand Theft Auto IV
    Note Does not cover Liberty City Stories

    Grand Theft Auto IV (2008)

    Grand Theft Auto IV was seen as a reboot to the franchise, and as such we see a movement into what is known as the HD Universe. Taking advantage of the new engines possible with the current generation of consoles and higher-end PCs, Rockstar completely re-did the look and feel of the franchise. Returning once more to Liberty City, the franchise sees its first non-American protagonist: Niko Bellic.

    Niko Bellic arrives in Liberty City, intent on starting a brand new life for himself. A former soldier that has seen and done terrible things, Niko believes the stories of his cousin, Roman, that life in America could not be better. When he arrives, however, Niko discovers that his cousin had been deceiving him: Roman, who claimed to be living a life of luxury, with beautiful women, sports cars and lots of money, instead lives in squalor, with a failing taxi business and mounting debts from all sorts of undesirable people. Disappointed and understandably irritated, Niko sets out to turn Roman’s deception into reality, and using his violent and shady past as a means for giving himself a new life in a foreign land.

    Grand Theft Auto IV sees the return of Liberty City, and Rockstar really went all out in creating the world in which Niko must assimilate with. Though considerably smaller in size than San Andreas, Liberty City is absolutely packed with an astounding level of detail. The city feels like an actual living, breathing city, complete with accurate weather and its effects on the environment (things swinging in the wind, people using umbrellas, etc), people from all walks of life (including crazy preachers and buskers), construction and road work, older cars polluting more than real cars, and many more things that offer the most realistic portrayal of a city. The map has three main islands, one of them being Alderney (based on New Jersey), and many of New York’s famous locations can be sought out, albeit with different names.

    With the new engine come changes as well. Driving has received a significant change, with Rockstar attempting to be much more realistic when it comes to driving, particularly at high speeds, and what can happen while driving. No longer will a vehicle burst into flames when overturned or heavily damaged. Instead, the car will become increasingly more difficult to operate when damaged. An example of such would be wheels becoming jammed or damaged, or bullets flattening them and the tires, but not the rims, eventually coming off. You can still drive as long as the car will run (which it won’t with too much damage), but it will be more difficult. Additionally, collisions can harm Niko: crashing headlong into something could cause Niko to go flying through the windshield or over the handlebars, harming and potentially killing Niko. This makes car chases particularly more difficult compared to previous games. Additionally, the player can now set waypoints that, when driven to in compatible vehicles, come with GPS telling you what to do. Niko can also fly helicopters, but planes have been taken out of the game. The damage also affects helicopters, making it more difficult to fly. The tail of helicopters can even come off with too much damage, making it nearly impossible to land safely much less fly. Finally, stealing vehicles is much more realistic, with unoccupied vehicles needing to be broken into and hot wired.

    Combat has also received a significant overhaul. Completely free aim now, Niko can precisely aim where he intends to shoot, which can assist greatly with the addition of a cover system. Niko can use the precision free aim to shoot at exposed limbs or heads. Wounding now also does accomplish more than just whitling health. Wounding a person in the legs will cause them to limp (away, sometimes, when it comes to the police), and wounding them in the arms will cause them to temporarily drop their weapons. There are also a fairly significant amount of weapons that Niko can use in his quest, all of them with varying capabilities. In addition, the cover system allows for blind shooting and protection. It is still a third person shooter, and should be seen as such, but the game really does try to make the combat as realistic as possible.

    A completely changed feature is the cell phone, making a return appearance from the previous game but with more uses and features. Niko can use the phone to call acquaintances and friends, and call emergency services or taxi services. The phone is vital in some missions as well as maintaining friendships (which is where Roman can become quite annoying as he calls Niko to hang out when you are busy). Cell phones are also utilized by pedestrians, who can use them to call the police to report crimes they witness. This frustrating bit of realism can hurt the player as he shoots or steals and then leaves the area, only to have the police be called on him. Which leads into the next changed feature: wanted levels.

    In GTA IV, the wanted levels were changed to a different system to make it more difficult yet also a bit easier in getting away. In the past, the only way to get of a wanted level was police bribes or a Pay and Spray. In this game, when a crime is reported and the police get a lock on you, a blue radius appears on your minimap that you, the player, must evade. If you are spotted by the police while trying to get out of the radius, the radius will move and the player will have to drive or run farther to get out. With every star accrued, the radius gets larger, making it more and more difficult to get away. In addition, the military has been removed, being replaced with a branch of government known as NOOSE, based on Homeland Security. Armed with fast cars, assault rifles, and even attack helicopters, NOOSE is quite challenging to escape. Bribes have also been removed, but Pay and Sprays remain. Getting out of the radius or a Pay and Spray isn’t automatic walking away though...your wanted stars will flash briefly, or dim in the case of escaping the radius, indicating that you can be spotted again if you commit another crime or if you manage to attract attention to yourself. Finally, Niko can escape arrest if he is still at one star and cornered and ordered to get down, but by doing so you get an automatic two stars. So, it is a different system than before, but it is in essence the same.

    There is much more to go over, but I feel as if to go over everything would be dull. Overall, much of the gameplay has been changed in exchange for realism. Rockstar chose to focus on making the game far more realistic, eliminating much of the customization and other features from previous games. Some decry those changes, stating that’s what made the games so much more interesting. I personally like both systems, though some of the customization and other features are missed. But in any case, the story must be mentioned: Niko’s story is one of the more interesting out of the franchise. Without spoiling much, Niko has the opportunity to make several choices throughout the game, namely who lives and who dies. These choices affect the story all the way until the end. While not a huge part of the story, it certainly does make it more fresh than the others. And while many consider the sacrifices made for the story and the realism to be not worth it, I consider it a nice change.

    Overall, I would say GTA IV to be one of the best out of the franchise. I would not call it on the same level as GTA San Andreas in terms of fun and replayability, but it certainly is a worthy addition to the franchise. The new engine, physics, combat, and more certainly expanded the capabilities of gameplay, and provided a new way of playing the game. It is a beautiful game to look at and a lot of fun to play. I'd give it a 9.5 out of 10.

    Grand Theft Auto V

    Though it cannot be said with absolute certainty, I believe that Grand Theft Auto V will be the pinnacle of the current generation, and quite possibly one of the best games of all time. Grand Theft Auto has come a long way, through PC, console, and even handhelds (not covered in this review). From what we can see of GTA V, it seems as though Rockstar took the great things about GTA IV and brought it back to the location most players seem to love: Los Santos. Though it will only cover that city and the surrounding countryside, it could quite easily become the most diverse and fun games in the franchise.


    I hope you enjoyed reading this. It did not cover all games in the franchise, but I believe it hit what matters most.

    List of Contributors/Other
    List of Contributors
    Confederate Jeb - Editor/Writer

    apple - Writer

    SturmChurro - Writer

    Daily - Writer

    Manco- Writer

    frozenprince- Writer

    Akar - Writer

    Leonidas the Lion - Video Content Master

    Diamat - Writer

    Gen. Chris - Writer

    Chloë - Contributor
    Special thanks.

    Check out the other Content publications!