Ack, look at that Graeme McMillan--he finished his part of the newsletter and he's giving you comic reviews! Me, I barely posted anything yesterday and now, until I figure out what, if anything, I have to say about Yukiko's Spinach, I'm going to review the first fifteen minutes of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories for the Playstation 2. I received my copy of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories the other day. Despite being 100% pleased with the game I was spending playing Dragon Quest VIII (which, if you like old school video game RPGs and the design work of Akira Toriyama, you pretty much owe it to yourself to buy--half the monsters you encounter look like outtakes from Dr. Slump), I threw GTA:VCS into my console like it was bucket of water on some flaming curtains. That is the power the Grand Theft Auto franchise holds over somebody like me. I can't really say what I was thinking as I did so, because there wasn't a lot of rational thought going on at that point, but it was something like, "I'll just see what part of the city you start out in...."
Interestingly, the first thing I noticed playing GTA: VCS was the pain; my eyes hurt constantly the whole time I was playing it. After the clean cel-shaded goodness of DQ8, my brain couldn't quite understand why someone had smeared vaseline all over my TV tube so thoroughly. Also, the camera perspective made me feel like I had a blind spot on my left which I kept trying to compensate for. And, finally, the opening, after a lengthy credit sequence, is a helicopter landing at an army base, followed by your character walking into a military office and talking to his corrupt superior officer and getting a job to drive someplace. I've seen more dramatic openings in porn.
In fact, the opening dialogue kinda reminded me of bad '80s porn. GTA:VCS's opening goes roughly like this:
Corrupt Superior Office: Welcome to Vice City, Vance! You're gonna have a good time here!
Your Character: I don't care about a good time, sir. All I care about is my family. I had to enter the military to take care of them. I can't afford to mess that up. They're counting on me.
CSO: What? You won't mess anything up! I'm not talking about anything dangerous, I'm just talking about having a good time and making money!
So, look. All I need you to do is go deliver a package for me to my friend on the docks. That's all! That shouldn't be a big deal, right?
YC: Well... okay.
Contrast this to bad '80s porn dialogue, which I recall running something like:
Corrupt Boyfriend/Film Producer/Talent Agent/Previously Absent Father Figure: Hey, baby! Welcome to [my sex club/ the sex industry/ the music industry/ my family estate], [Name of porn star]! You're gonna have a good time here!
Porn Star: I don't care about a good time, [boyfriend's name (usually Jake)/ Mr. (last name of producer/agent)/ Dad]. All I care about is [true love/ making it big/ becoming a star/ my horribly upset mother who sent me here]. So don't fuck it up for me!
CB/FP/TA/PAFF: What? Who said anything about fucking things up? I'm not talking about anything [kinky/ kinky/ kinky & demeaning/ kinky & demeaning & incestuous], I'm just talking about having a good time and [making money/ making money/ making money/ getting the family back together again]!
So, look. All I need you to do is [blow me/ blow me/ blow me/ blow me and your brother Jake here]. That's all! That shouldn't be a big deal, right?
To me, the comparison is sadly apt--just as the "plot" in porn exists just to get the sex going, the "plot" in GTA:VCS is just an excuse to get you driving around as soon as possible and hooked in with the wrong crowd who'll give you missions. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing (I admit all I wanted was to start driving around the city to see what was different and hear what was on the radio--and while I can't tell you much on the first front, on the second I heard Japan, Marvin Gaye and, most satisfyingly, "Rock You Like A Hurricane" by The Scorpions), it's a far cry from the old days when Rockstar would start by ripping off the plot from their favorite crime movie then try to make you care about the character.
On the other hand, it's only the first fifteen minutes (or really, only the first five with a lot of driving around thrown in) of the game, and I didn't like Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories until about four or five hours in. And it's a budget title (cheaper than buying seven Brian Bendis comics) that was originally released, for Christ's sake, on a handheld and inexpensively ported over to a video game console reportedly on its last legs. So probably I should just shut up and enjoy the hot girl-on-girl-on-piano-in-recording-studio action while I can. But if you find yourself playing this game and feeling what Simon Pegg in Spaced describes as "a moment of clarity," take cold comfort in knowing that you're not alone.