By Harold Goldberg
At first, I was annoyed at the wait to load the game onto the 360. I loved looking closely at the expertly drawn character screens. But they began to repeat, and because I’ve been very much anticipating this particular installment, I was getting antsy.
I looked at the massive map in my hands and, like it was an involuntary reflex, said ‘Wow’ aloud.
I started listening to the score as the game loaded, really, closely listening, closing my eyes, and it took me to another place, calming me, relaxing me, but not so much that I couldn’t appreciate every note. That opener features a moody, worthy score by Tangerine Dream.
The prologue/tutorial in the pelting, gray snowstorm was beautiful like something out of a Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven (except it’s more modern). It reminded me of being in my hometown, but I rarely had this much adrenaline going in Buffalo.
The Sopranos-inspired intro with a frustrated Michael dealing with the b.s. of psychology was dark satire, so deftly written.
Then, as Michael walks through the crazy passing parade near the beach, it’s such a wonderful hint of what’s to come into that culture.
The comedic banter between Franklin and Lamar makes that first joyride more complete.
That first red car handled better than the white sports car. I drove both about six times each.
Franklin’s Los Santos is rough and tumble. Don’t be fooled by the tidy homes. I got beat up because I pulled into the wrong driveway.
Inside Franklin’s house, his Mom’s is hilarious, but she’s a brow beater.
There are dozens of self help books on a shelf. Who knows why?
Franklin smoking pot offers up another humorous riff. He doesn’t want to be a “B” guy. He wants to be an “A” guy. I know the feeling.
The usually shy Dr. Dre shows up on DJ Pooh’s radio show!
And, if you’ve read this far, note that I have a much, much longer story to be published elsewhere. I’ll keep you posted!
Harold Goldberg is the founder of the NY Videogame Critics Circle