Category Archives: GTA 4

The First and the Furious

So, my fare wants to go to Booze Town. Fine by me. A check of my map reveals that this is about halfway across town to the North. Pretty easy journey, though.

He’s in no hurry, and tells me to take it easy as he’s high. Whatever he’s on is obviously pretty lousy though, as he spends half the journey shouting at me for no reason. Damn, boy, you’re moving in the wrong circles if this is your idea of pillin’. Well, whatever. Away we go!

As you can see, driving around in Liberty City like a normal person is slow. I’d call it boring, but I’m quite surprised by how relaxing it is. It does help that it’s given me an excuse to properly listen to the radio stations for once, and also that other drivers are not vastly more considerate of human life than the typical GTA protagonist. Pedestrians are taking their lives in their hands pretty much every time they try to cross the street, it seems.

On the flip side, the light is green! No cross! What is wrong with you people? GET OUT OF THE ROAD, ASSHOLE.

It’s well past midnight by the time I drop off my “I’m definitely high, honest. I didn’t just spend $80 on a bag of sherbert and some oregano. Please tell me I’m cool” passenger. He drops 43 dollars on me and says a reluctant “thanks”. Pretty good money for a short trip.

Unfortunately, there’s some kind of hold-up further down the road, and traffic is completely static, even though I can see the light turning green. What the hell? And oh wonderful, my clever idea of pulling a probably illegal u-turn is invalid, because a bloody bus has pulled out behind me, blocking the other lane too. You moron!

As you can see, I can’t even cut through the middle, as some idiot has decided to sit there blocking it. Gah.

Resigned to my fate, I switch off the engine, and wait. Getting out of my car and looking doesn’t seem to help, although while I’m doing so, an ambulance arrives, and ruthlessly rams a car out of its way. While one of the paramedics gets out and tries to treat… someone, the owner of said car comes stomping up to the other, and drags him out of the ambulance. Oh damn. This could get nasty, and it’s right outside my window.

I do what a good citizen should: roll up my windows, and switch on the radio.

I see nothing. I hear nothing. I drive. Fighting paramedics? Never heard of it. You want driving? ’cause I can do that.

Eventually, the little room the ambulance made kicked of some kind of chaos theory situation that left me with enough room to pull off a u-turn and get moving around a backstreet, away from whatever was causing the traffic jam.

Despite this incident, traffic will be lighter at night, so it should be more efficient to work then. I really don’t want to be stuck in a jam like this all day. With that in mind, I head home to get some sleep. First though, I need to drop off the cab.

There we go. That’s my meal ticket right there. See you in the morning, Bess!

By the time I’ve walked home, it’s gone 7am. Scoffing a much-needed hot dog from the beautiful, noble vendor who’s still open at this obscene hour, I try to watch a little tv, but quickly lose interest, and go to bed.

It’s mid-afternoon when I wake up. Raining again, too. I grab some breakfast at the Boringname Diner (seriously, it’s called the “69th street diner”; a name so dull it makes me want to go somewhere else purely to make my routine sound more interesting. It’s like opening a place called “Shop #133” or “There is a Pub Here”. Actually wait, I kind of like that one), and start walking to the depot.

On the way, shit goes crazy.

Just down the road from the depot, I’m walking along, minding my own business, as is everyone else in sight. Then a car pulls up alongside me. It is on fire.

I embarass myself a bit by running around in a panic, caught between wanting to flee and wanting to know what the hell I’m fleeing from. The car explodes, and some poor bastard gets mown down by an assault rifle at a range of about three feet (watch the guy in the white puffer jacket who gets out of his car on the right at about 15 seconds. Jesus christ, that was brutal). I duck down and get the hell out of there. Dunno if it’s a gang thing or what, but I hide at the top some nearby stairs, and call the cops.

By the time the cops have arrived, the show’s over. A car sped off, and a fire engine and ambulance soon arrive to take care of the mess.

Damn. That guy looks pretty dead. Poor bastard didn’t even do anything, far as I could see. Guess I was wrong about this neighbourhood, huh?

Well, Roman’s expecting me, so I press on towards work. Unfortunately, it seems that whatever’s going down is still not under control after all, as a proper gunfight breaks out right outside just as I get there. A cop takes cover immediately next to me, so I take my cue to retreat. I can’t see what the cops are shooting at, but they sound outgunned.

I call the cops again – what the hell, right? They probably need all the help they can get.

Sirens blare in the distance along with sporadic gunfire. It sounds like there may only be one gunman, but quite a few cops. Once the noise dies down I risk moving closer, and there’s nothing much left but empty cop cars. No sign of any bodies, so… I guess they’re chasing someone on foot, maybe?

Well, whatever. My cab’s just a few feet away, so I duck inside and drive away, taking the low road through Broker Naval Yard to avoid whatever it is that’s going on up here. Roman’s pointed me towards a fare in Outlook, which according to my map is on the far side of the park I found yesterday. When I get there, it’s already dark, but my fare seems alright.

Gotta say, he is seriously rocking that ‘tache. His face has actually sculpted itself around it. Just try to imagine that guy without his moustache, and you’re no longer looking at a man.

He’s a quiet customer, as clearly words are simply a worthless extravagance to one sporting such facial adornment. It’s midnight when I drop him off (I told you the time passes quickly. I’d mod it out, but it’s a bit of a pain in the arse to do without screwing the game up). He gives me… twenty-eight dollars.

The hairy son of a bitch! Get the hell out of my cab, you fuzz-lipped cheapskate.

I call Roman, mocking him for not paying attention to who has his cars, at the exact moment that I’m very obviously about to distractedly steer one of his cars into a pedestrian. Oops. Narrowly missing her, my punishment is to get stuck behind what appears to be the ghost of a garbage truck.

Impatient at its laborious pace, I turn away at the first opportunity, and find myself in a garbage dump. Not the most gripping ghostly curse there, guys, but I guess you have to work with what you’re given.

My next fare is right outside Dull Street Diner, so I’ve quite a drive back. It’s about now that I notice Bess has almost no petrol. Damn it Roman, you could at least give me enough fuel to do the job, guy. Sigh. Filling her up sets me back $50. Well that’s just great. I am now officially operating at a loss.

Back at the diner, I pick up the customer, a slightly jittery lady who expresses amazement at… something. I don’t know if it’s my driving skills, my haircut, or some kind of debilitating short-term memory disorder that sees her repeatedly surprised to find herself in a cab for some reason. It’s a relief when she gets out back at East Island city, which seems to be the generic name for a large chunk of this island. She pays me just short of fifty dollars, though, so maybe I should pick up more weird people.

It’s coming up to 6am. Roman has another fare lined up over in the East. I’ll head over there, and depending on where he needs to go, might be able to squeeze a quick lunch in and maybe another fare before I call it a day.

This guy is in a bit of a hurry, so I put some pressure on the pedals for a while. He needs to go to Meadow Hills, and driving around, I can kind of see why. This is a nice neighbourhood! Kind of reminds me of a town I used to live in, although we had a theatre and Elizabethen cottages instead of a couple of ugly monuments to plate spinning.

I drop the guy off at 8am, and damn, I need to eat. This far from home it seems a waste to drive all that way, so I cruise around Meadow Hills for a while, looking for somewhere to eat. There are a couple of pizza places, but none are open. I spot a carwash, and a woman having trouble with her engine, but there’s no sign of anywhere open for business. Pity I can’t ask a passer by… although there aren’t very many of those around, either.

Bah. Oh well, I’m just burning fuel either way here, so I might as well go home. Boppin’ along to an old (‘School’ – insistent terminology Ed) hip-hop station, I find nothing to eat on the way, but hey man with a beat like this who cares, word up for sure with my homes.

With Bess dropped off, I throw a few dollars at a cab to take my fat arse home, where I practically absorb a couple of hot dogs through my skin. Okay, so that wasn’t quite a 24 hour shift, but even discounting that Die Hard business at the start, I need to be making more money than this. I’m on $77 after two days. I need to be making $50 a day, minimum. And that’s assuming I don’t have to fill up again, or get into an accident.

Troubling matters that I need to ponder. But for now, I have more imporzzzzzzzzzz

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Into the City

Kinaya’s tale begins on a Sunday night at about 8pm. As a povvo newcomer to Liberty City, I quickly fell in with some slightly less recent immigrants. Fortunately for me, one of these people, Roman, was kind enough to offer me some work, and fortunately for his trachea, it isn’t work that has anything to do with his obsession with tits.

Roman runs a sliiightly dodgy, but not quite dishonest cab company, and any time I like, I can give him a shout and see if any work is available. I don’t know how long it’ll last, but all it requires is the ability to drive. I know how to make a car go and stop, and can turn both left and right, which appears to be more than can be said for some of the locals.

Roman is also renting me a flat. It’s a bit of a dump, and right underneath a railway track, but it’s within walking distance of work, there’s a diner right on the corner, and there’s even a beach a short walk away when I get some time off. I can make this work for about $300 a week, all inclusive.

There’s no real kitchen though, so I’ll have to live off the land. That’s fine, food’s pretty cheap here, and portions are American – you buy actual meals in restaurants here, not extortionate finger food bullshit like in some stupid little countries I could mention. But I have literally no money, and mama’s gonna be hungry before bed.

So, after cleaning up the worst of the mess in the flat, I figure I’d best get started on making some dough right away. Mmm, dough. Roman’s cabs are North from here. I head that way, calling him a couple of times on the way, but he’s not answering. When he finally does, it turns out he has nothing for me right now. Dang.

Oh well. I try another few times, and keep walking. Might as well get to know my neighbourhood a little before I try again. It’s still early too, I guess. Not even close to chucking out time.

Lots of traffic around here. Pretty weird for a Sunday night. I guess that’s city life though, huh? Lots of people around, too. I’m definitely in a low-end neighbourhood here, but it’s not exactly the ghetto. Liberty has a reputation for being dangerous as all hell, but things seem pretty chilled right now.

“Pretty chilled” is also a fair way to describe how my nights will be if I don’t get some work soon. Ulp. Walking away from the street under the railway, I soon find a little park. Not bad! Another place to relax if the beach isn’t doing it for me. Quite a nice place. I’ll have a wander here, maybe give Roman another call, see if there’s any work going.

Oh, seems there is. Kind of a shame, but I can always come back. Roman asks me to come grab a car from the depot. I need to eat, so I can’t afford to say no. Time to head back. On my way I pass a man with a saucepan on his head.

Sup, bro. Nice night out, huh? Like the hat, by the way. I used to have me a quality pan back home. Gonna save up for a set, maybe get hold of some decent chopping boards. Nothing like good head-and-cookware, I say. And what’s the deal with Teflon?

Back on railway street, I turn North, further away from home. Roman’s depot is a few minutes’ walk away. I’m not about to go poking about in the dark, but it looks like we’re right on the edge of a dockyard here. There’s a nice view for such a crappy area.

Pretty soon I reach work, where my chariot awaits.

Here we go. Right inside there is my meal ticket (like a dope, I somehow forgot to take a screenshot of the cab before I got in). She might not look like much, but if I take care of her, she ought to see me through just about anything that comes my way. I jump in, and pick up instructions from Roman to pick up a passenger from Firefly Island. Customer number one of many, here we come, and if any other cabbies get any funny ideas about nicking my fare, they’re bloody well for it. You can’t take this guy from me.

Exciting first person view! I have first person view mods installed for both in-car and on foot, however the latter makes for slightly distracting videos, as Kina’s hair flicks frequently in front of the camera. It’s fine for walking around as you get used to it, but in short videos it’s kind of annoying. However, I seriously dig the in-car look. It too has a few clipping issues, but is mostly pretty convincing – more so than any game I’ve played in fact. Oh, and speaking of mods, I will put a list up at some point. Modding GTA 4 is a bit of a pain in the arse due to the necessity of third party files and choosing how much you want to patch the game – more recent patches rendered many good mods inoperable, whereas older patches mean limited functionality for other mods. It is a wearisome update I don’t have the patience for right now.

But anyway. Unless I get really pissed off, most of the time I spend driving will be… well, it will be like driving around in New York, obeying the rules of the road. And my god, if Liberty City’s traffic and pedestrians are even slightly like the real thing, I think I understand why New Yorkers are such a bunch of walking explosions. Get a goddamn MOVE on, people. I’m on the clock here!

After a few minutes, I find Firefly Island. Turns out it’s even closer to my apartment than the depot is. Confusingly, it is neither an island or a firefly. Maybe it’s a clever ploy by the tourism board. Whatever. My fare gets in, while a drunk pedestrian decides to walk directly into my stationary car and lie on the bonnet, staring accusingly at me the whole time that my fare gets in.

Not today, son. I’m not some dumb schmuck fresh off the boa… well okay, I am, but I’m still not going to fall for your weird insurance scam or whatever you’re pulling. I have a job to do, and I am outta here.

Cerveza Heights, huh? Eso suena como mí típo de barrio, sabes?*

You the boss, man. Looks like I got here just in time, too, it’s absolutely chucking it down out there. Beer Towers, here we come!

*Yeah, I know this doesn’t really translate well. Indulge me. I’m new here.

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Lady Liberty Rules

The rules and restrictions of Lady Liberty are as follows:

I must eat at least twice per day, aiming for thrice, and four times on a busy day. Basically, I’ll eat as often as possible without getting silly. The game clock runs rather fast, so a regular eating schedule may not be possible, but I can make this up by eating lots before and after a long day, so an average will be maintained. It goes without saying that if I fail to eat for three days, it’s game over.

I must sleep every day, within reason (an occasional all-nighter is hardly unlikely for a poor immigrant).

I must maintain any vehicle in my care. That means paying for fuel, and repairing any damage, barring the completely trivial (eg: a small dent isn’t a big deal, but a broken headlight is unlawful and therefore must be repaired).

Now, these last two rules are the most important, as they’re the two that may cause the most conflict. Firstly, I must pay my bills. I’ve estimated $300 per week on living costs (excluding costs listed above), and must raise this money by any means necessary. But! And this is the big one:

I must not break the law. The whole point of this is to see if I can make it as a law-abiding citizen. As you can imagine, this is not totally black and white. If I get desperate for money, I might have to cross that line. Also, let’s face it, nobody’s totally law abiding (apart from that one incredibly uptight, boring guy at work who is destined to die in a hail of police bullets after his inevitable psychotic break), and there will surely be times when I’ll break the speed limit or get boozed up and wind up in a fight. However, to help police this, I’ve installed mods that criminalise dangerous driving, speeding, etc. Abiding by the law also means following the rules of the road.

I should probably declare here that I don’t actually drive in real life, much less in the USA, so when I say ‘rules of the road’, I mean the obvious ones, like stopping at red lights, sticking to speed limits, and never indicating when someone is crossing the road, then giving them a shitty look like it’s their fault you’re a useless idiot, and being surprised when they respond by standing still in front of your car and examining their fingernails.

But anyway.

Other rules… well, to be honest, I haven’t played GTA4 enough to say for sure whether I’ll need more rules. So we’ll play that by ear.

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GTA and Chums: A guide for our alien friends

So. GTA 4, then. You’ve heard of Grand Theft Auto, of course. You’re not old enough to be on the internet if you haven’t. If you’ve been playing games for long, you’ll likely be very familiar with the series, but I’m going to press on anyway, because GTA’s history is rather important.

A crash course in case you’re new to Earth: Starting out in 1997 as simple, even backwards-looking 2D driving/shooting game, Grand Theft Auto’s irreverent humour, lively city environments and freeform driving/shooting gameplay caught the gaming world’s imagination. As a lowly dogsbody for a variety of local criminals, the player was set loose in a city to carry out missions for them, or more often, simply cause as much havoc as you liked by stealing cars, starting fights, fleeing from the police, and generally being a bastard. The city, crucially, went about its business without you either way.

After a London-based spin-off and much improved sequel, GTA 2, it reinvented itself in 3D in 2001 with GTA 3, an ambitious, hard-to-classify action game that popularised sandbox gameplay and essentially confirmed its style of gameplay as a whole genre.

From then on, GTA was no longer a slightly niche novelty title, but instead one of the most famous (or infamous, depending on your outlook) and influential game series of the last decade. Every new release in the series is hotly anticipated, and just about everyone has tried to emulate its success in one way or another. Indeed, the “game” neighbourhoods of the internet went a bit mad when GTA 5 was announced last week, just as I was putting the finishing touches on the mod setup for this. Hmph.

The series continued strongly in 2004/5 with GTA San Andreas, which had a rather “kitchen sink” design, with loads of new features apparently thrown into a monstrously huge and varied game world. Its plot also took a somewhat more character-centric and dramatic turn, as opposed to the lightweight, naked parody the series had stuck with so far.

GTA 4 was released in early 2008 on the funsquare, to much acclaim. Personally, I found it rather boring and repetitive, although a staggering technical achievement, and it painted an impressively detailed and complex world. The story had definitely taken centre stage, and many of San Andreas’ details had been dropped in favour of a more ‘real’ and complex setting. It was well-written and acted, with a high standard of voice acting and impressive production values, but its cut scenes of drama and moral pontificating over immigration, American life, and reluctant murder didn’t really sit well with gameplay that encouraged you to freely murder hundreds of innocent people in between cut scenes just for a laugh. Oh, and you had to spend half the bloody game answering phone calls from sulky friends demanding you drop everything and take them bowling, the bastards. There’s such a thing as too much realism, right?

Its protagonist, Niko Bellic, was original and well-drawn, and will quite rightly remain one of the most famous game characters for years to come, but… well. I’d played Saints Row the year before, and that’s a series that remembers why everyone fell for GTA in the first place: It was stupid, senseless fun. It’s rather telling that the most fun I had with GTA 4 was watching the in-game tv channels, and later, repeatedly nudging a fat man until he fell over.

I know how it looks, but I assure you it thoroughly sends up its own ‘gangsta’ theme. Saints Row: The Third is due out later this year. This is a trailer for it (photosensitive epilepsy warning: It’s a bit like they’re trying to kill you). Saints Row is not a series that asks “why?”.

But back to GTA 4. The PC release came later, and was… turbulent. Plagued with bugs and other technical issues, it caused rather a fuss among the PC crowd. It didn’t help that it required a fairly monstrous machine to run respectably. Indeed, even today, three years on, it’s not going to give every PC’s hardware an easy time. Fortunately, I happen to have a pretty decent PC, and as a tip-off from Rock, Paper, Shotgun about a recent fireside sale of the entire GTA series happened to coincide with my pondering a new feature, I was able to put together a cunning plan.

I wasn’t overly fond of GTA 4, but I scratched the surface of its background world and was impressed. For all my complaints, I never really gave it a fair hearing. I criticised the game for what it wasn’t, rather than what it was, something I’ve since learned is seldom reasonable or fair. But I’ve since acquired a machine that can hack it, and discovered a variety of mods that have helped tailor it to suit my plans.

What are my plans, you ask? Well. I will learn to appreciate the time and massive amounts of effort Rockstar put into this world. I will do this by living in it, only this time, not as an ultra-rich, demi-mortal mass murdering crime lord, but instead, as just another poor migrant trying to get by in a strange and foreign city.

I’m going to play GTA without breaking the law.

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Keen, are ya?

Meet Kinaya.

One of many victims of our troubled times, Kinaya grew tired looking for increasingly scarce and insecure jobs, of being refused opportunities she knew she would take full advantage of, of watching her town slowly board itself up and drift away with the wind. So, selling all her remaining gear, and putting on, for some reason, her most dreadful clothes, she gathered all her eggs, and threw them carelessly into one basket.

Which basket, you ask? This one:

The biggest basket in virtual America: GTA 4’s Liberty City.

Anyone can come here and make it big (provided they have no qualms about robbing and murdering absolutely everyone they meet, sometimes in that order). It’s the pride of pretend America, and a highly impressive technological achievement, even though the game’s several years old; a modern metropolis teeming with life, with all its clamour, colour, and simmering violence. Many a criminal has made their way here and made it big within weeks.

But I am no criminal. I came here looking for an honest living. I will sleep, eat, and breathe in this city, enjoying its sights, exploring its secrets, and mingling with its people.

From nothing, Kina will earn her place in this city, as a decent, normal, law-abiding citizen. She will be…

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