There are dozens if not hundreds of amazing teams of games makers in this world. Greatest Hits is where we go to honor them and talk about some of the best games that they've made and, hopefully, talk about some of their lesser know gems. In this edition of Greatest Hit we talk about the only studio anyone will be mentioning this week: Rockstar.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
For such a prolific studio, I've somehow avoided most Rockstar games. There’s only one that I’ve actually played all the way through: Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. Even with the gameplay returning to the more simple top-down style of the original GTA games, Rockstar was able to expand on it and take the opportunity to develope a story on a handheld that is an extra brand of goofy. The hero calls out people for making one of the numerous movie references Rockstar often throws into their games and characters gave you multi-part quests that included very meandering metaphors about his hot dogs and his wife liking someone else’s hot dog now. But it's the drug trading! What a system. Easy to exploit, but when you really get into it, all of a sudden you’re having fun running across town to sell someone smack then escaping a drug bust and running away in a surprisingly well-made game. And with the top down effect looking so nice, it would be pretty awesome for Rockstar to revisit that style for the 3DS at some point...
I enjoyed Rockstar’s big titles like GTA and Red Dead Redemption but nothing will beat the memories I have of Manhunt. There was something about playing a game that the news outlets say kids shouldn't touch and parents should throw away. It was my forbidden fruit and when I found out that some countries banned it altogether I was even more enticed. I was twelve when the game came out and even then I knew that it didn't control quite right or look too great but I didn't care. The world and the unique story intrigued me and, as noted before, knowing it wasn’t meant for kids gave it that “laughing in church” kind of feel. Recently I made an effort to go back to Manhunt and play through it to make sure I liked the game instead of just liking what it stood for. It’s still great.
Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition
Rockstar may have made its name with the Grand Theft Auto series, but also essentially created open world street racing genre and sadly gets little recognition for it. The originator of the genre is often ascribed as Need for Speed Underground despite the fact that it came out in 2003, a full three years after the first Midnight Club. But Midnight Club wasn’t a great game. Like the first Burnout, it was less a game and more a proof of concept. Fast forward to 2005 and you get Midnight Club 3. With a sense of speed rivaled only the Burnout games and three open worlds, it was a delight to drive around in. Add to that a level of customization and tuning not seen in most arcade racing games and ridiculous abilities like bullet-time and you have game that is both realistic and completely bugnuts. Making it easily my favorite racing game on the original Xbox
Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption is more than just GTA in the West. John Marsten is easily one of my favorite characters in gaming, and serves a tragic reminder that our past is never just our past, and that the sins of yesterday may lead to the troubles of today. I look at him as a more successful version of Niko Bellic, the protagonist of GTA IV. Niko wasn't able to make the connection between the horrors of his past and the terrors of his present, for as much as he tried to run and forget, he ended up acting in the same way. Marsten, on the other hand, accepted that he was not a good man, in the traditional sense. He was a man that was good at doing bad things, and while he did not like the situation he was forced into, he was not afraid to shoot his way out of it. True justice in RDR may not have been metered out in his lifetime, but that ending, oh that ending, shows that even the most hardened of men can meet their ends with honor.
Red Dead Revolver
It is hard to say whether or not Red Dead Redemption would have existed without Red Dead Revolver. Comparing both games, the more overt similarities are the closeness of their titles and the Old West setting. As much as I loved Red Dead Redemption, Red Dead Revolver struck a particular chord with because it wasn’t about a former outlaw struggling to find his place in an increasingly civilized world. Instead, the game was a love letter to the Spaghetti Western. Red Dead Revolver made no attempt to hide this as it used a number of film scores for its soundtrack and certain levels were directly inspired by movies. For example, “The Traitor” is a near exact duplicate of a scene in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. While the gameplay wasn't the greatest, Red Dead Revolver’s sense of style and love for the genre won me over. Revolver didn’t set out to make any sort of statement like Redemption did giving it the freedom to “do its own thing” and provide a fun experience made up of cool characters and a compact, if slightly isolated, world that served as a backdrop to the familiar story of revenge.
Well, that does it for this edition of Greatest Hits. What do you think? Does our list include your favorite Rockstar title? Tell us in the comments below.
Jonathan is the host of the DarkCast, DarkCast Interviews, and Gamers Read. He loves books, video games, and superheroes. If he had to pick favorites, they would be Welcome to the Monkey House, Mass Effect, and Superman respectively.