Friday, April 11, 2008

Bully for you, bully for me

Was home sick yesterday, which sucked on a multitude of levels - aside from just feeling like crap all day, it was also the first bona fide beautiful day of the year, and all I could do to celebrate was to open my living room window a smidge.

I did get some gaming time in, though, because, well, that's what I do when I'm home sick. And since all I can think about these days is the impending release of GTA4, I spent most of the day playing Rockstar games.

I even put aside God of War on my PSP to get into GTA: Liberty City Stories, and it must be said that while the game itself is definitely showing its age, it's still a pretty remarkable feeling to be playing a fully fleshed-out GTA game on a handheld, especially when it arguably looks better than the original PS2 version.

The vast majority of yesterday, though, was spent getting back into Bully, a game I'd put down a few weeks ago and, for whatever reason, never got around to picking back up. Basically played through all of Chapter 3 and am now a few missions into Chapter 4; I've finished all my morning classes and I think I only have 2 Shop classes and 2 Photography classes left; I've found all 6 transistor radios and as a result I'm almost unstoppable in a fight, even against 5 or 6 jocks. There's a pleasant mix of missions now; some are a little harder than others, but most of them can be beaten in one go. At first I wasn't sure how much of a completist I was aiming to be, but I've all but abandoned the idea of getting 100% now; I'll get all the rubber bands, gnomes and G&G cards (now that I've got the maps) and that'll probably be the extent of it.

One mission cracked me up, and then also kinda made me cringe: Photography 3, I think it was. The mission: go to the seedy part of town (New Coventry) and take 5 pictures of "hobos or dogs". If anybody wants to know why Rockstar's sandbox games "work" on a level that other GTA clones don't, this has to be Exhibit A. Let me pull back the layers on this one:
  • Photography 1 was taking pictures of flags; Photography 2 was (if I remember correctly) taking portraits of classmates. But the idea of having high school students actively seeking out and taking pictures of homeless people as a class assignment - especially when the pictures themselves are graded on how crazy and decrepit the people are - is a spot-on impression of every stereotypically pretentious art student out there, and BOY OH BOY did this remind me of people I knew in high school.
  • But then, when I got to New Coventry, it took me a while to find the hobos, because the seediness of the town ends up making everyone look a little shady and suspicious, and suddenly I found myself making off-the-cuff judgments of character of everybody I rode past.
  • And then, when you do find the crazy people - or, at least, you take enough pictures of random people and suddenly one of them gets marked as a successful photograph - you now recognize what you're looking for, but the fact that the mission is timed lends a degree of urgency to the mission, because suddenly the mission isn't about documenting the plight of the homeless and the poignancy of the human condition - it's about making sure you snap a picture with enough time to get back to class.
Now, not all of Bully's missions have this many levels of subtext to them - in fact, I'm not necessarily sure that this particular mission was intended to be read with this level of detail, especially since all classes are optional - but goddamn, this one (a) cracked me up and (b) made me a little bit uncomfortable. I guess I should be grateful that the graphics are so last-gen, because doing this mission in an Unreal 3.0 world might have made it somehow less subversive than it ended up being.

Still hoping to have it finished before the 29th, because after that I'm toast. I was thinking about liveblogging my GTA4 experience; as it happens, when GTA4 comes out, my wife will be home recovering from a surgery and I'm taking vacation time to take care of her, and her office is giving her a laptop so that she can work from home; she may or may not still be taking painkillers that week, but I doubt she'll be working, at any rate, so the possibility exists that I could play and type at the same time.

There's also a part of my brain that says: "Fuck that. I want to play GTA4, not document the experience of playing it." And you can't get immersed in a world when you're constantly pulling yourself out of the experience.

Maybe I'll just keep a tape recorder handy.

1 comment:

VikingWWU said...

I couldn't agree with you more about GTAIV (which, by the way, comes out on my birthday - how awesome is that?) Sometimes I feel like maybe I am a nut case for like Grand Theft Auto as much as I do. But, I can't think of a game I'd rather be playing right now.

Bully was awesome. I loved that game from start to finish. But isn't Rockstar, in general, a great game company? They made table tennis on a virtual console fun! In my opinion, that says a lot about the company.