The GTA SA Nostalgia Run
I played out GTA SA a few days ago. For like the forty-ninth time - but for the first time in a long time too.
It was one of the games I feel like I grew up on, and possibly the game I have at this point played the most of any one game...
That might not be true, there are some strong alternative contenders to the total-gameplay-time throne - like the other two GTA installments that came before it, but either way I have fond memories of GTA SA in particular.
And GTA 3. And GTA VC, which I've played through way more recently.
Mostly on PC, but I got VC for Android a few years back too, when I finally bought a phone that was capable of such games, and the mobile anniversary edition of it had just come out.
Not sure GTA SA ever did come out for mobile (Edit: It did), but if it has it's not worth it y'all! The visual acuity and quality's severely limited with these mobile ports - as is the gameplay experience overall considering you play it on such a tiny device, though it is impressive that such tiny devices actually pack the power to play such games these days!
And it's pretty fun being able to relive the game with swipe-based controls when you're used to keyboard and mouse. Even if the latter's considerably better in all areas, not least precision.
But anyway, the reason I haven't gotten back to GTA SA as much as I have GTA VC - and even GTA 3, is probably because it's just so big compared to the other two.
If you want to go for a full completion of the game it takes considerably longer to do so - the game world is like three game worlds in one compared to the previous two - and that factor might've made me the most overjoyed when I first tried that game. And the reason I still feel like it's my favorite of the three. It was HUGE! Just when you thought you were nearing the end of the line a whole new city opened up to you, and the game world expanded incrementally and impressively as you went along; providing more adventure than you could ever imagine you were bartering for when you got it.
They even have that brief throwback to Liberty City! To Marco's Bistro. Even though the flight there was considerably shorter than I remembered.
I remember the world being bigger too, though it's still immense.
And maybe the size is just right, considering how lost I am with the newest segment of the franchise.
Whereas this one provided expectation-surpassing adventure and breadth, the new one seems to just have too much, plain and simple. The world's either too big or too cluttered. Or too dynamic.
I was blown away by the visual improvements, but somehow not as blown away by the world itself. Something about the dynamics or aesthetic of it all just seems too smooth. Too good. Now that I've been back to the nostalgia realm of GTA SA again the notion's reinforced on me again.
There's just something they did so flawlessly with the first three games - and with VC and SA in particular - that the newest ones seem to have lost.
But then again maybe I just haven't played them enough.
Maybe I poured so much time into these old ones that the game worlds there are imprinted in my mind to the point I see them differently.
I still do get lost occasionally along the mountainous roads of GTA SA - especially between Los Santos and San Fierro, but you figure it out after a while. It comes back to you. The map has an immensely simpler overview too compared to the new ones. When you look at that terrainial cheatsheet it almost seems like the world is smaller than it seems there.
Like - akin to for example how they made 2D sprites seem 3D in DOOM just by rotating them - somehow they managed to make this world also seem even bigger than it is, be that by mechanical or architectural design.
It's so balanced.
The time it takes you to get around is just right. The distance from one place to another is just right. Everything's so calculated and polished and... natural.
And Grove Street truly feels like home.
Even though they say you can't relive your childhood memories I had a really good time with this re-run, and from it I currently have... a few hundred GB and hours worth of game footage in video form I'm planning to chop up, and merge, and occasionally speed up for repetitive road or exercise-related segments, as to make for one long-ass walkthrough from start to finish, just to make it feel like the time I spent going through this game again was worth it after all.
Lately game time just does not feel like worthy time unless I record it.
I realize that argument is just like being out on a real world vacation and typing away on a phone or laptop as to make the best possible use of that time - and thus making said vacation all but the retreat and recuperation time it's meant to be. A game's meant to be enjoyed too. Nothing more.
But it's not entirely the same is it?
With games the recording process doesn't need to distract you.
At least not as much.
You can have it running in back without paying the recording a second thought, just making sure you start the recording process when you start the game and to stop it when you stop it... and maybe consider being a bit more efficient with your gameplay time as to not waste viewer time on unproductive rampages and joyrides around the block.
Though of course I've done a fair share of those too.
Wouldn't be GTA without 'em.
Also delved a bit deeper into the in-game dating realm than I was planning to - wonder if that's a reflection of some real life desires. Hmm. If I delved deeper into my subconscious mind maybe I'd figure that out too...
I was planning to write about the video tools I've been testing now that I have all this footage to edit, as Windows Movie Maker isn't a viable option anymore, and I'm not a huge fan of AVI Demux or OpenShot (the first works great more so for simple cuts, and the latter is terribly hardware-heavy even for small files so I can't imagine it working with 20-30GB MKVs), but maybe best save that for some other point! Video tool recap: later.
I'm still not entirely done with this game either.
I made it past the last mission yesterday, and feel content and free and satisfied with my nostalgia journey... but I still have some oysters to fetch, and some dates in wait, and some driving/boating/flying lessons to ace and races and derbies to stage and hoods to take-over! And I think there are two clothing chains I've yet to buy the entire wardrobe from.
It really is an extensive game... but not too extensive.
You can complete it in a week, and you can keep playing... for almost as long as you'd ever want to. :)
I considered installing the Thing To Do In San Andreas Till You Die mod this time btw, I've known about it for years now, but going through reviews I discovered it's unfortunately not bug-free, and I wasn't looking to have my game crash during any of these recordings.
Instead I opted for just the Silent Patch (couldn't get the game running properly without it - the mouse wouldn't work in-game - and the splash screens didn't show before the menu either), and the Extended Gang Wars mod by the same author, which expands the territories you can take over to all that show any hostile gangs in-game.
No drastic change, just a natural expansion. TTDISATYD had this and much more, but that's something for another time. In another ten years maybe.
The mod's still being developed; maybe it'll be flawless then...
Also big props to the Definitive Edition mod, which was also a high contender for one all-in-one mod to try the game with this time around - it includes the Silent Patch as well - and seems pretty much bug-free, but it just seems to change the visuals of the game too much for it to still feel like the original experience.
I'm not a huge fan of the ENBSeries visuals - the way they make things hazy/bright/shiny rather than just plain pretty - beautifying certain surfaces, but otherwise also somewhat distorting the natural atmosphere/scenery of the game. And that's also included.
And new textures - especially surface-related ones - generally don't make things look better to me, just messier.
I believe additional polygons and enhanced physics/particle effects would be a better thing to focus on, or to combine with these, to really change the world in a way where the high-res textures don't seem so misplaced.
Especially the grass.
The high-res grass just looks wrong to me. With the same in-game form and motion it just looks sharp and edgy, not like the lush vegetation it's intended to be.
Maybe there'll be additional improvements on these things in time though, and it'll be possible to play the game in a way that feels enhanced with these new textures, instead of just edited.
There's a mod for GTA VC that does exactly this, and adds thousands of new polygons/points/whatever-the-things-that-control-the-detail-level-of-shapes is called. I can't find it right now. I can't remember the name, but it's out there, and that one works amazingly well.
The textures don't change at all but suddenly everything in the game feels so much smoother; natural; modern. I wish someone could do the same thing for GTA SA. There's also a great corona fix for GTA VC that drastically improves the lighting. Maybe there's something similar for this game too...
When I'm all done with collectibles maybe I'll give modding a shot too!
Not all retexturing projects are bad either.
There's a set of retextured cars out there for example that look amazing - probably more than one that does.
When done in moderation such edits work well - and when they're done well, but when it's the whole world it just gets wonky without more form-related fixes. Maybe certain models (like cars) already have a larger amount of polygons too, and work well with new textures.
Vegetation seems the most difficult to get right.
I'm just repeating myself at this point though! Wanted to write a bit about my experiences with this game while it was fresh in mind, but that's about enough for one post ain't it.
There's more I love. I love the story. I love the struggle. I love the VAs. I love the music - even the country songs! It's such a balanced assortment.
I STILL love everything about this game, even if the visuals feel a little dated. The mechanics still work. The cars are still fun to drive. The missions still feel rewarding and at times exciting and/or suitably aggressive.
It's a good mix, and the main character's a good pick.
For all his flaws you gotta love CJ.
You probably wouldn't love him as much if he didn't occasionally err too. Protagonists need flaws to be relatable - but not so many you just feel sorry for them. He's a good balance. Both good and bad traits and not too much character - you can put yourself into his shoes too.
Which reminds me: The main thing I dislike about GTA V is really the three-character selection.
It's not a revolutionary dynamic, it's just wrong. It doesn't let you immerse yourself in any one character role. It doesn't let you feel like you are any one character - since each character is living their own life while you're off playing one of the other two. And that - to me at least - is a huge detriment to the whole experience. I still can't understand how they opted for it.
You just can't bond with 'em; can't immerse yourself in the game; can't make their story your own.
But more on that in some other post too, this is getting way too gigantic...
Finna slow down with the gaming a bit now but: I'll probably keep getting back to this one for some time yet.