I got a message from Caro over the weekend, asking me why I was suddenly playing so much GTA4. The answer is needlessly complex:
1. I am freaking the hell out for Red Dead Redemption, and playing GTA4 seems to be the best way to prepare;
2. It looks really, really, REALLY good on my PC; and
3. I'm mostly just playing The Ballad of Gay Tony, since I'd never really given it more than a quick hour's play when it first came out.
I'm actually playing it on both my 360 and my PC. I was trying to match my 360 game's progress on my PC, but I ended up doing things a little bit out of order, and then I was trying to match the 360 back to the PC. THIS IS ALL TERRIBLY INTERESTING, I KNOW. The point being, I'm about 8 hours in, at least on the PC - and I'm probably a little bit behind that on the 360.
TBoGT is pretty amazing, actually. I soured on the first GTA expansion, The Lost and Damned, mostly because the idea of motorcycle gangs in NYC is totally ridiculous, and TLaD took itself pretty seriously. And also because I'd gotten stuck in one of those Rockstar-patented controller-throwing missions where the task is made incredibly difficult because of certain arbitrary parameters that you cannot deviate from. Specifically, in TLaD, it was the mission where you have to destroy a bunch of non-stationary vans by throwing molotov cocktails from your motorcycle. (Why that particular weapon, and not, say, a rocket launcher, which I could just as easily procure from the local gun shop? Why do I have to stay on the motorcycle? And why is this specific action so incredibly difficult to manage, given the game's control scheme?)
TBoGT, on the other hand, reminds me of the zanier sections of San Andreas; the cast of characters are very well acted and very, very funny (especially Yusef), and the missions are as diverse as they are insane. The emphasis in TBoGT appears to be on super-powerful weaponry and base jumping. I have thrown a celebrity blogger out of a helicopter, only to then dive after him and parachute to safety. I have hijacked an APC and bulldozed my way through Central Park. I have shot down helicopters with explosive shotgun shells from the roof of a moving subway car - a car that I eventually stole with the help of a helicopter.
Hmm. Maybe it's the wrong game to be playing in front of the gritty Western style that is Red Dead Redemption...