Been playing more GTA IV over the week - still trying to wrap my head around it. I've gotten more used to the car physics, and the missions have gotten a little more involved, which is both a blessing and a curse. Failure is now a bit more frustrating, but the overall experience is much more fun.
The world they've created is quite astonishing, but it actually feels a little more sterile than past games. I know that's a bit of a weird thing to say, but it's almost as though they've reached the uncanny valley of interactivity. The city *looks* so realistic, I want there to be more - it now feels like a game system operating on top of the real world, but the real world is missing.
The original complaint is still quite relevant - that they've spent a lot of time modeling things that are mundane. Obviously, this increases the sense of reality, but it's also really annoying. I want to catch a cab to skip to the destination rather than drive, but I need to *find* a cab, which sucks. Still, as the game progresses, it definitely gets better. The story's taken some interesting twists and turns. The writing is passable - certainly better than most games, but what stands out for me is the characterization. Yeah, a lot of the characters are stereotypes or relatively two-dimensional, but they use those stereotypes effectively, then turn them on their head enough that it's a pleasure to see who will stick to type and who won't.
Lots left to do in the game. I'm enjoying it, which means I've gotten over the controls for the most part. It's strange to me that the early parts of the game weren't better than they were, but in the midst of a four-star police chase... that's definitely when the game shines. Looking forward to more of that.
In other games, I've been playing a lot of Advance Wars: Days of Ruin. It's pretty much more of the Advance Wars formula - if you have an older AW game you haven't finished... you might as well keep playing that one. This one has a bizarre aesthetic - it's taken AW's traditional cheery approach to war and made it much more dreary. It's got amnesiacs, the destruction of most of humanity, and a bunch of people betraying each other to survive. Which means it's a really weird turn of events for a game that's lived on its charming bobble-headed approach to combat.
If you've read reviews, you'll probably have heard that the game's been stripped back quite a bit - most of the new stuff in Dual Strike is gone. To me, I'd say it's for the best. The game feels streamlined and efficient again. One of the things I really enjoyed about Advance Wars was how much it felt like a game of chess or checkers - simple pieces in complex combinations. Everything had a purpose, and each piece's utility was perfectly balanced. With Dual Strike, things got a bit out of hand. Managing two fields of battle with a bunch of units that didn't feel particularly distinct... it got to be a bit much. Where in AW, you could jump right in after not having played for months because there were only a handful of units, with AW:DS when I did the same, I felt lost. With Days of Ruin thus far, even if there end up being more units, the core mechanics have been dialed back a bit, making the focus more on the strategy than trying to juggle multiple fronts all the time.
As for the aesthetic, it's strange - it's almost like Jak 2, for me - something that had the "right" aesthetic in its earlier iteration needlessly tarted up to appeal to brooding fountains of teen angst. I didn't like Jak 2 (the core gameplay also felt focus-tested to death and a clear rip-off of the flavor of the month (at the time GTA3)), but I still like AW:DoR, simply because the game mechanics feel so right.
Other than that, game-wise, not a lot going on. I keep meaning to play more of Viking, but I don't. Instead, I finished Assault Heroes and played some PGR4. PGR is hands-down my favorite racing franchise. Here's to hoping that Activision lets Bizarre do their thing uninterrupted.