A little rant

rantBy hitting control-option-command+8 in Mac OS-X, you can invert your screen colors (make them go negative). I’m sure there’s a reason why someone would want to do that, but I’m most certainly not that person. Nevertheless, the other day, I opened up my laptop only to find my colors have been inverted. Somehow, my two year old had hit this improbable key combination and plunged me into bizarro negative world. It took me a little internet sleuthing to get back to normal.

After another flurry of precise key presses, the same two year old bought me a subscription to Guitar Hero on my cell phone. Best three dollars I never spent. I have no idea how he did it, but there it was.

I relate these stories in preface to a rant about Microsoft’s ridiculous Xbox Live Arcade refund policies. (Hint: they don’t have one)

Up front I am going to admit that this was my fault. It was me that left the controller out in the open with the 360 on. While I was up at the computer I get an email from Xbox Live, thanking me for my Games on Demand purchase of GTA IV. Sure enough, in the space of no more than THREE FREAKING MINUTES, my two year old had navigated to the XBox Live Marketplace, located Games on Demand, selected GTA IV (at least the kid’s got taste) and purchased it. My heart sunk as I see the “no refunds” disclaimer in the XBL email. Great.

So against my better judgement, I give Xbox/Microsoft a call. All I was looking for a little understanding and maybe a little compassion and maybe to get the purchase wiped off my credit card. I explained the unlikely sequence of events that had got me to this point (I mean come on! I own the game. Why would I buy it again?) and asked for the refund. I made my way through about four levels of “you can speak to my manager” before I was met with utter silence on the other end of the line when I declare, “I find it hard to believe that a company as large as Microsoft has no way to remove a purchase from an account. At all. That is mind boggling.” “You have to dispute the charge with your credit card company, sir. There is nothing else I can do,” she finally replies.

Yeah, so we had to dispute the charge with our credit card company.

I am still flabbergasted that Microsoft, in their infinite wisdom, did not build in any mechanism to deal with this type of issue. It’s nigh unexecusable. I wonder sometimes why I stick around.

The Lost and Damned Impressions

I’ve made it no secret: I loved GTA IV. I loved the story, thought that even though it had flaws, it was still a great game. I’ve also been excited to give the new DLC, The Lost and Damned, a whirl. So after downloading the new content and putting a few hours in, I figured it’s time for some impressions.

GTA IV TLAD

In keeping with the theme, let’s go with some bullet points.

The Good

  • It’s still got the GTA IV flavor. Yes, you no longer play as Niko, the crazy immigrant. You now play as Johnny Klebitz, a member of a Liberty City motorcycle gang. It still feels like and plays like GTA IV, except now you’re riding around on a big chopper.
  • That being said, cruising around Liberty City not as Niko is an odd sensation. This is not a bad thing. It feels nostalgic, almost
  • One huge complaint about the original game was the lack of checkpoints during a mission. That has thankfully been rectified, and now if you fail a mission, you’re able to pick up right where the action started. This is a good thing.
  • I didn’t mind the motorcycle riding in the original, but it’s definitely been improved for TLAD. Racing choppers with a bat to beat on your opponents is most satisfying.
  • The moments where Niko’s story and Johnny’s overlap is a nice touch. Even during the opening cinematic, there’s a shot of Niko walking down the street, as if he’s passing the baton.
  • The new weapons pack a nice punch.

Johnny

The Bad

  • Things start out too suddenly. As Niko, you were eased into the storyline and there never seemed to be any “pressure” to further the story. In TLAD, the story seems top-heavy. Things come at you fast and furious so far and they haven’t seemed to slow down
  • The main character, Johnny Klebitz, isn’t as enjoyable to play (at least initially) or as likable as Niko. You understood Niko’s motivations. Johnny’s are a little cliched and obvious. That can still change, but I’m not sold on him.
  • The new weapons are fun but useless. They start you out with a powerful double-barrel sawed-off shotgun and then dump you into a shoot-out where the shotgun is worthless. It’s a blast to use while you’re riding around on your chopper, but I’ve already picked up all the other guns which are actually useful in a firefight.

The Ugly

  • Yes, it’s the scene with the Johnny and the politician exhibitionist (Stubbs is his name, I believe). It’s un-com-fort-able. Even Johnny looks uncomfortable. I’d really rather not have another man’s wedding tackle in my video games, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

I’m definitely not finished with TLAD but I’m happy with my purchase. I’m not in love with the story the way I was with Niko, but I’m willing to let it grow on me. I’m looking forward to continuing on with it.

GTA IV

It’s like Christmas in February!

It’s The Lost and the Damned Eve!

Grand Theft Dead Rising?

I just read this rumor earlier today on Joystiq.

While it would be weird to go from the gritty setting of Liberty City to a zombie-infested Liberty City, I would certainly approve this change. Especially if Frank West was a playable character.

The flying rat infestation

Speaking of GTA IV and cheats, I recently uploaded a set of three maps to Flickr that have the locations of all the pigeons in the city (again, there’s an achievement for that). Now that I’ve finished the game and Niko has done what he needed to do, I suddenly feel a responsibility to clean up the pigeon problem in Liberty City.

If you’re like me and you’re interested in exterminating all the flying rats, you can check out the Flickr set here. I’ve embedded the images after the jump.

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