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May 19, 2008 - Image 9

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2008-05-19

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Monday, May 19, 2008
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
VIDEO GrEie hnbs
Crime has never bee so fun

Car-jacking, drug-
dealing and more violent
excitement in
blockbuster sequel
I find myself unconsciously slipping into
a Russian accent sometimes. Every time I
see a taxi on the street I want to get in and
teleport to my destination; whenever I see
a police car, I want to turn
tail and run. That's how
much I've become invested ****
in "Grand Theft Auto IV."
Twenty, 30 hours in, the Grand Theft
game is so consuming that Auto IV
it's hard to concentrate on
anything else. It's just that Rockstar Games
damn good.
The original "Grand
Theft Auto" (and by that I mean "Grand
Theft Auto III") changed everything in the
video game industry. Not only did it push the
boundaries of gameplay with open-world
exploration and well-thought-out story-
telling, it also drew more controversy than
all the violent slasher films released in the
last 10 years combined. You could kill police
officers, you could bang hookers, you could
back over old ladies with your car - you
could do absolutely everything you'd never
do in real life. And that's why we loved it.
Two installments later ("Vice City" and
"San Andreas" being worthy intermediar-
ies), we've finally arrived at "IV," which
even before its release was being heralded
as the greatest game of the year and per-
haps one of the best ever. After month after

a "moral choice"), with different results for
each decision.
In addition to a (mostly) believable story-
line, Rockstar has tried to amp up the real-
ism in "GTA IV" by making subtle changes
to gameplay without distorting its core. The
most notable addition is the cell phone, with
which you can call and text your friends,
take pictures and even dial 911 if you ever
find yourself in need of a police car or fire
n truck. Taxis now teleport you directly to
your destination (a huge timesaver), you eat
fast food to get healthy (ironic, no?), you can
go on dates (or just pick up a high-priced
escort) and go drinking with your boys
(then drunkenly attempt to drive home). It's
a whole slew of new virtual activities for the
U.S. Senate to call hearings about.
But for every element of realism Rockstar
places in the game, there's an equal amount
of fantasy, which is why the game is still fun
to play. After all, who wants a game where
you have to obey traffic signals and stop to
get gas and use the bathroom? Sometimes
ROCKSTAR GAMES the discrepancy between reality and fiction
Daily Arts W riter is downright head-scratching, like when
the police show up at a drug deal and your
a bevy of shady characters ranging from partner informs you that you can get 10
inner-city gangsters to the Irish mob to the years for heroin possession. Oh really? And
Italian Mafia. His endless attempts to start what's the sentence for killing 30 SWAT
fresh and construct a new life inevitably officers with an AK-47 as you shoot your
fail, swept away bythe undercurrent of Lib- way out of the bust? Niko is characterized
erty City's crime. as burdened by inner conflict, but it sure
And there's the rub: Amidst all the car- doesn't seem like it when it takes him three
nage and explosions, you find yourself actu- seconds to be convinced to rob a bank or
ally caring about Niko. The storyline is one shoot down a helicopter with an RPG. Yet
of the most engrossing you'll find ina video none of this ultimately matters - the game
game since "Bioshock," and the game actu- is just too much fun to concentrate on these
ally calls on you to make moral choices (if little moral discrepancies.
you call choosing which of two guys to kill See GTA4, Page 10

By Paul Tassi I
month of delays, it's here, and, amazingly, it
lives up to the hype.
You are Niko Bellic, an immigrant fresh
off the boat from an unspecified country in
the Balkans. He's arrived in Liberty City to
see his cousin Roman, who writes him let-
ters boasting of mansions, sports cars and
"American titties." When Niko shows up,
rather than finding his cousin living the
American dream, he's confronted with a rat-
infested apartment and loan sharks knock-
ing on the door for debt collection.
Soon Niko finds himself in deep with

ALBUM REVIEW
Indie rockers explore new, darker depths

Death Cab's latest is
more than a rehash
of previous hits
By SASHA RESENDE
Daily Arts Writer
As the poster boys for 21st cen-
tury mainstream "emotional" rock,
Death Cab For Cutie has a lot to live
up to. The Seattle-based quartet
has been perfecting its recogniz-
able brand of easy-listening emotive
rock since 1997, earning a loyal fan
base and recent major label support.
The band's 2005 LP Plans - its first
major-label release through Atlan-
tic Records - was a college radio hit

and won the band its first Grammy
nomination.
On the band's 7th studio LP, Nar-
row Stairs, Death
Cab takes a daring*
chance by playing Death Cab
withadarkermore
innovative sound. for Cutie
These changesN .t
show both the NarrowStairs
band's malleability Atlantic
and what it values
in the creative process of record-
ing an album. If making money and
securing more album sales were
the band's top priorities, it could've
easily churned out Plans 2.0 - a
collection of sugary, easy-to-digest,
proto-indie pop tunes for a main-
stream radio audience. Instead, the

band pushes itself creatively and the
end product is a decidedly different
Death Cab For Cutie album. The
new LP is a departure from Death
Cab's earlier sound and will likely be
a turning point in the band's music-
makingcareer.
Although Narrow Stairs can
hardly be called Death Cab's most
digestible album, the LP marks a
few key changes in the band's cre-
ative approach. Rather than revert
to cryptic messages and subtle-
ties, each of the album's song titles
refers to a specific line in the given
song. Likewise, the album's lyrics
are fairly direct and don't require
an English B.A. for proper analysis.
One typical example can be found
on the borderline-sugary post-

breakup track "Your New Twin
Sized Bed." As if the song's title
isn't direct enough, the track opens
with the following verse: "You look
so defeated lying there in your new
twin sizedbed /With a single pillow
underneath your single head." By
the song's end, its content has been
spoon-fed ad nauseam and there
is little room for the listener's own
interpretation. While these chang-
es might displease diehard Death
Cab fans who revel in approaching
singer-songwriter Ben Gibbard's
words as though they're gospel, this
cautious reworking will remove the
band from the realm of "indie pre-
tentiousness" and will likely secure
those mainstream fans who are
looking for soft-rocking beats rather

than obscure wordplay.
From a technical stance, Nar-
row Stairs experiments with differ-
ent sounds that haven't been heard
on previous Death Cab albums.
The band's producer and guitar-
ist Chris Walla explained to Bill-
board Magazine in late 2007 that
the synth-punk group Brainiac had
been a major influence and that the
new album would feature some jam-
band inspired experimentations.
The latter can certainly be heard in
the intro of the album's first single,
aptly titled "I Will Possess Your
Heart." Clocking in at over eight
minutes, the song is cut for radio
play but the full version is neces-
sary to appreciate its full depth. The
See DEATH CAB, Page 10

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