Saturday, June 10, 2006
The Rant: Rockstar is Slipping
What the heck is going on with Rockstar? Known for cutting edge games, two of their most recent releases are showing major chinks in their once dent-proof armor. GTA Liberty City Stories for the PS2 and Table Tennis for the Xbox 360 are damaging Rockstar's rep.
I'm excited anytime I can get a chance to play around in the world of Grand Theft Auto. At least until I played Liberty City on the PS2. Essentially a straight port from the PSP game of the same name, Liberty City lacks the interesting characters, first rate voiceovers, and humorous writing gamers familiar with the franchise have come to expect. But that's not even the worst part!
The graphics, never a strong suit of the GTA franchise, are downright hideous. The game is dark, the environments lack any kind of detail and frame rate problems abound. It reminds me of taking a small picture and blowing it up, everything looks fuzzy and murky.
Throw in short, uninteresting missions and the fact that Rockstar didn't add any licensed bands to its radio stations (something done with great affect in San Andreas and Vice City) and you have a game that lacks the attention to detail die-hard GTA fans like myself have come to expect. The $20 price eases the blow but I still feel cheated. Liberty City just doesn't feel like a real GTA game.
Then we have Table Tennis. Read that again...Table Tennis. That's right, the bad boys over at Rockstar decided to fill the huge gap in the ping pong gaming market (What? You didn't know there was a giant market for ping pong games?!?). Forrest Gump must be wetting himself with excitement.
Unlike Liberty City, the game looks amazing. Detailed player models, stellar crowd effects and sounds. This is what a next-gen game should look like. The only problem is...ITS TABLE TENNIS! Was the license for croquet taken? When does the new badmiton game come out?
Here's my theory: One night Rockstar's Sam Houser was entertaining friends at his house. Down in his game room, Sam and a few of his buddies were pounding beers while breaking in his sweet new table when one of them half-jokingly suggested turning ping pong into a video game. Sam, in a drunken stupor, thought the idea was pure genius. He called one of his lackeys at the office and told them to start production on the game. Sam later passed out and forgot all about it until the game was released in May.
To quote Slim Pickens in Blazing Saddles "what in the wide wide world of sports is going on here"! When did Rockstar lose their attention to detail and just try to make a quick buck?!? When did they lose their stones and decide to make games only played in people's basements?!?
You're getting lazy Rockstar. You've built up a ton of good will due to your success with the GTA series and to a degree you've earned it. But you're better than that! You changed the face of gaming with the development of free-roaming game play. You made gaming attractive to adults by portraying mature material with a sense of humor. You made the only games I can think of that could be classified as "dark comedy". But now you're slipping. Other gaming companies are taking your ideas and improving on them. Many GTA clones have come out already with mixed success but eventually, if you don't get your head on straight, you're going to get left behind. Saint's Row is looking awfully good, so is Scarface.
Rockstar, you might be a little overconfident. You might be thinking that the gaming world can't live without you. You're wrong. Don't believe me? Than look no further than Halo 3. It was thought that without Halo 3, the Xbox 360 couldn't survive but it has. Don't make the same mistake. Unlike Bungie, you don't have Microsoft to save your ass and you have no other franchise to lean on if interest in GTA fades (and no, Midnight Club won't do the trick).
Its time you woke up Rockstar. Get back to your roots. Its time you took back your role as the gaming worlds bad boy because right now you look more like Justin Timberlake than Lenny Kravitz.