On March 4th, 2010 myself and the other fansite webmasters were contacted by Rockstar Games about attending another fansite event in New York, this time for Episodes From Liberty City's PS3 and PC launch. The event was originally scheduled for March 19th to 21st, however as the game was delayed, the event was pushed back to April 9th-11th.
My flight from Bristol airport departed at 10:30 A.M. on Friday, 9th April. It was pretty boring as I was flying alone this time, as in the previous events I have flown with Jevon from Birmingham airport. The in flight entertainment for the 7 hours 50 minutes flight wasn't actually as bad as last time. I watched Sherlock Holmes, listened to my music, and read more of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
I touched down in Newark at about 1PM (EST), though the queue for immigration was pretty long and took ages to get through. It was probably closer to 2PM by the time I had arrived at the hotel. This time we were staying at Ink48, which was another excellent choice of hotel by Rockstar. On the way to the hotel I'd been texting Jevon from GTANet as he had already arrived, so after dumping my stuff in my room, we met up and went down to the bar for some drinks whilst we waited for the other webmasters to arrive.
That took quite a few hours - numerous drinks had been consumed so I think it's safe to way we may have been a little tipsy on meeting the others as they got there! Once everyone was there we headed out with a couple of Rockstars to a steakhouse opposite the Apple Store called Old Homestead Steakhouse. The smallest thing they did was a 10oz burger, which I had - it was delicious too! We all chatted with each other for a while before we headed back to the hotel, we were told we would be picked up at 11:30 in the morning for the EFLC event itself.
While some of us (Jevon!) were falling asleep at the table, some of us were still quite awake and fancied a bit of exploration around the hotel. We thought we'd check out the roof so we got in the elevator and pressed 18... then 17... then 16... none of which worked. So we went to 15 instead, and took the stairs the rest of the way. We found the roof to be somewhat of a construction site - we clearly weren't supposed to be there, and after a few minutes we headed back down to one of our rooms. Mine happened to be the closest so that's where we ended up. We lost a few webmasters so it was now myself, Simon (iGTA), Casey (GTAGaming) and Jesse (GTAHood). We chatted for a while and also played with the condoms I'd found in the minibar - seems some of us are still a little immature! Eventually everyone headed off to their own rooms and presumably passed out for the rest of the night.
After awaking several times during the night I eventually got up around 9 or 10AM, and most of us were down in the lobby by 11AM waiting for Rockstar to show up. As usual they were late and it was more like 12:30 by the time they arrived. We all got in three separate cabs to take us to the Rockstar offices.
Despite being in the last cab, we actually arrived second, one of the others seemed to have got lost. Eventually we all got there and headed up to the offices, past the huge glowing R* signage (for anyone who wasn't sure where they were!?) and on into the room they use to show their games to the media. The room was set up with 5 PS3's hooked up to huge TV's, and 5 PC's, all running Episodes from Liberty City. I went on over to a PC next to Simon, with Andy, Adam and Jevon on the other side. After playing a couple of missions we decided to get some multiplayer on the go in free roam mode. We decided to go around seeing who could do the parachute jumps opening their 'chute at the very last moment. We all failed a few times which was pretty funny, but I think I managed to achieve the best of just 184ft above ground :)
I went to grab a drink and let Jevon have a go on my PC (we had one too many webmasters than we had systems), where he did a couple of GTA Race's with the others. Meanwhile I found a copy of the GameInformer issue with the L.A. Noire cover story. I didn't read it all, but from skimming through it and seeing the screenshots I can confidently say it's shaping up to be a pretty awesome game, and the noir style looks amazing. It's probably going to be a fair bit different from GTA, focusing more on the investigative side of things, but at the same time having enough gun action to satisfy the action fans - certainly one game to keep an eye on.
As far as comparing the PS3 and PC versions of EFLC with the 360 version, there isn't really all that much to talk about. The PS3 version plays exactly like the 360 version. The PC version obviously has the same graphical enhancements as were seen in the original GTA IV. One minor, but cool new feature that's been added is that the moon is now on an actual lunar cycle. This wonderful attention to detail is one of the things I love about Rockstar. While many will no doubt never notice this, when you do, it'll make you think "wow, look at the effort and attention to detail they put into their games". For those interested, the PC's we were on couldn't run the game at max settings, but they did run it pretty smoothly for the most part and it still looked far better than the consoles, only when rain and lots of explosions occurred did we see slow downs. The PC's had dual core Intel T9300 (I think) 2.93GHz processors with 6GB of RAM. Not sure what GPU's were inside but they had 1GB of available memory according to the graphics settings.
While in the office we enjoyed a lot of pizza and soft drinks. Security was a lot less strict this time. We still had to be escorted to the toilet if we needed it, but could see more of the offices. I can't say what or even if things were seen though! After some chit chat with various Rockstars and webmasters, and pissing about with glitches (swing glitch, walking underwater etc.) and stuffing copious amounts of stickers into our pockets, we were told by Rockstar that later on in the evening we'd be picked up promptly at 7:30 P.M. for either a helicopter tour, or speedboats... Hmm... really?
A slightly conspicuous black van had pulled up outside the hotel. We piled into the van along with three Rockstars, and ended up in a slightly dodgy looking part of Brooklyn, at what appeared to be a derelict/abandoned warehouse. Rockstar had lied... there were no helicopter tours or speedboats. No, upon arrival we saw a van decorated with a Red Dead Redemption livery. It was obvious then what we'd be getting up to tonight. We walked inside to find that Rockstar had transformed the place into a 1900's western themed bar! Our first site was a man playing a piano, dressed in suit complete with bowler hat from the era. Four lovely ladies were also dressed in clothing from the era, two working on food while the other two were behind the bar. Wooden barrels, nooses, candles shaped like bundles of dynamite with the wick looking like the fuse, and gallows to which huge TV's and consoles were attached! The place had an awesome look and feel, and such created a great atmosphere right from the start - and this was before we'd even seen Red Dead Redemption!
We were told we could go and grab a drink from the bar if we wanted (at this stage I'd just like to point out that having a British accent in America is always an advantage when talking to girls!), and told to head upstairs where 3 TV's were setup with Xbox 360's and Red Dead Redemption single player started. We gathered round one of the TV's while a Rockstar talked a little about the game, it's similarities and differences to GTA IV, and played a couple of missions to demonstrate how the game played. After the brief demonstration we were able to play a bit ourselves. I watched Simon play for a while, before taking over and doing a few missions myself. I only played a few missions as I did not want to spoil too much of the game for myself. But I can say I loved what I played of it.
Red Dead Redemption uses RAGE, the same game engine used to power GTA IV. As such, it feels very similar to IV, and in fact the controls are virtually the same so it was easy for me to pick up and familiarise myself with it very quickly. The only thing you need to get used to is the horse's stamina meter, 'sprinting' too much will tire the horse and he'll throw you off if you keep trying. After a short time you get used to briefly pausing while the horse catches it's breath. At the moment I'm afraid I cannot reveal too much more about gameplay specifics, but I'm sure you'll be hearing about those very soon. The game itself is of course completely different to a GTA, with it being set in the early 1900's, and with horses as your vehicle. It is visually stunning and the map seems huge, a lot of exploration is to be had from the wide open plains to the amazing canyons. You could call it Grand Theft Auto: Wild West as someone put it. That said, it is a very different game to GTA, but I'm sure that the vast majority of GTA players will love it, and even if you aren't a huge fan of GTA, I would urge you to pick this game up and give it a go. I think you'll be impressed by what you see.
After a bit of single player action, the majority of us headed back downstairs to the 6 Xbox 360's set up for multiplayer. Again I won't go into specifics, but we played in free mode for a while - you can pretty much do anything you want. The first proper game mode we played was just your basic free for all and I believe I won it quite convincingly! An interesting and cool aspect in multiplayer unique to this game is that most modes start out with a duel. After a countdown it's a just a last man standing shootout. Winning this gives you the advantage of being able to get to the objective quickly while the others are respawning.
Red Dead Redemption is definitely as awesome as it looks in trailers and screenshots, and I can say I will certainly be putting a lot of hours into this game!
We'd been playing for quite a few hours, so it was already pretty late by the time we got in a van and headed back to the hotel. Those of us who arrived in the first van went up to Kyle's room and ordered room service and had a chat for a few hours, at about 4 AM we decided to head off to our rooms and call it a night.
Most of us were in the lobby in the morning waiting for our rides home or to the airport, with the exception of Kyle who had an early flight to catch. We discussed our thoughts on GTA, Red Dead, as well as our websites and new ones we might be making. A few of us decided to head out into the city, specifically to the Apple Store where Simon hoped to pick up an iPad for a friend. After spending 10 minutes or so inside pondering the usefulness of such a device, we walked back to the hotel and said our goodbyes to the remaining Americans (and Canadian). When it was just the British contingent left, Bill took us out to get some food in what is probably the loudest restaurant in existence, albeit with very nice food. After finishing our meals it was back to the hotel for the last time while we waiting for our rides to the airport.
At around 4 PM we were ready to go. Simon and Adam were off to JFK, while Jevon and I were going to Newark. After long queues just to check in, we wandered round the duty free shops for a bit and I picked up a few gifts for family and a special someone back home, spending the first US Dollars since I'd got there! Jevon and I sat and talked for a while before he had to get on his plane, my flight would be an hour or so later, so it was more excitement for me as I sat and waited!
Once again I had an amazing time and experience in New York. It was great to see the other webmasters again (and Jesse for the first time - interesting ice-breaking conversation we had huh?!), most if not all have pretty good friendships with each other now. So first thanks goes to everyone for coming a long. The biggest thanks of course goes to Rockstar Games. I want to give a HUGE thanks to the whole of Rockstar Games, especially those directly involved in some way - you guys are awesome! Just as much as you appreciate the hard work we put into our fansites, we appreciate the hard work you put into your games, which enticed us into making fansites in the first place!
We at TGTAP already have a network of small fansites for a few upcoming games, most of which are by Rockstar. One which was discussed a bit over the past few weeks was one for Red Dead Redemption. After having seen and played the game, it has reassured me that it will be so good, to a point that it would be stupid not to do a fansite. It's been worked on for the past week or so, and is almost ready for launch. Expect to see Red Dead Place launched in the next few days!
In addition to myself (Chris) from The GTA Place, the following webmasters were at the event. You can read their views and impressions at their respective websites:
Some of our affiliates (view all):