MY GETAWAY WEEKEND...
Here's where I went:
...shyeah, right, I wish.
No, my Getaway weekend was to London... virtual London!
While I've visited this particular virtual London a few times before, driving around the original Getaway game in free-roaming mode when my brother John brought over his Playstation 2 from Vancouver in August 2003, and then I aimlessly free-roamed London again in this sequel, The Getaway: Black Monday, over the first few days when I had the PlayStation 2, before I got too absorbed by Gran Turismo 4 and then Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, this weekend past was my first real attempt to have a crack at the game beyond just a non-committal exploratory session playing the first level last January, just to see what it was like. (I thought I might do a little better now that I've honed my skills at this sort of game with San Andreas.)
And crack it I did.
I finished it all in just three days or so.
As such, now that I've played, all of the way through, both a Grand Theft Auto game and a Getaway game, I can understand why Grand Theft Auto gets most of the glory. It took me five or six weeks to finish San Andreas alone, and I usually played for at least a couple of hours a day. You get far more bang for your play value bucks.
I think big part of why this is, and this isn't exactly a criticism, is that The Getaway: Black Monday is much more of a cinematic-type of game, with a lot of cutscenes and a plot that's always advancing, so everything's very linear and anytime you're playing the main part of the game, you're always in the mission with one specific task to accomplish, while Grand Theft Auto, while it has missions, isn't nearly as linear, and there's usually three to five missions you can undertake at any one time, or, if you're not in a rush to advance to the next mission, there are plenty of side things to do in the open city. For example, you can walk into any bar and play a fully-intergrated game of 3D pool. The Getaway: Black Monday, on the other hand, has lovingly re-created one smoke-filled pub with a lot of snooker tables, but they're just decoration (other than that you can use the snooker cue as a weapon, but San Andreas has the pool cue as a weapon as well).
And San Andreas has cinematics, but they're mostly only at the start and end of missions and most of the missions themselves aren't really designed as movie scenes that would be interesting to watch, if you're not playing it.
I easily concede that Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is the better game, but I'm still in awe of the amount of detail put into The Getaway series, which must be a licensing nightmare, with dozens of real automobiles and most of the major storefronts of central London appearing in the game. Some people might cry "product placement", but, in most cases, I think they just asked for "clearance" and didn't take a cent, and, even when there is product placement (like all of the posters and bus ads for Sony-distributed films like Hellboy and Spider-Man 2), I find it just adds to the realism. (Interestingly, while the "Big Four" American fast food chains that you find all over Britain, McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, and Pizza Hut, appear, once again, in the sequel, I can't find any Starbucks anywhere, while I distinctly remember there being a Starbucks on the road you started on in "Free-Roaming" mode in the original. Did Starbucks find the first game too violent to want to be associated with the sequel? And, while there is a Burger King seen at Leicester Square, the one at Piccadilly Circus next to Boots Chemists (pharmacy) is mysteriously missing, probably because of texture limitations.)
I'm satisfied with the time I spent playing The Getaway: Black Monday, but I would have liked a little more.
Also, in other "me" news, drawing the crayon picture of Piccadilly Circus last week really invigorated my desire to draw, so, the past few days, I've finally been finishing that drawing based on my photo of that Asian girl photographic a classic Austin-Healey car that I started back in September and hadn't touched much since December.
I don't feel like scanning tonight, but I've added a lot more than you can see in the last scan, and am at least 80% done. It's not entirely photo-realistic, but it's the next step up on the realism scale from my (normal) London drawings.
Sunday evening, my parents and I ate at Red Lobster, because my sister was treating my mother to a late Mother's Day dinner. She decided to have it a week late because she didn't want to face Mother's Day crowds, and, while my parents and I had to wait 20 minutes to get a table (just to wait another 10 minutes for my sister and her boyfriend to arrive), the waitress said that we made a wise choice, since the waiting time to get a table on Mother's Day was two hours.
While we were waiting, and while my father was looking-out-for-my-sister-and-her-boyfriend-slash-smoking outside, I mentioned, to my mother, my idea for a surprise present for my sister (whom I don't think reads this blog, but, if she does, I guess it won't be much of a surprise). I think I'll do a drawing for her based on this photo of her, Nick, and I as young children in downtown Montreal in the autumn of 1980, which I like because we all look so optimistic. I hope to have it done by the time the baby's born, which should be in late June.
Three members of our five member "party" had the shrimp platters, with my sister's boyfriend opting for 45 shrimp. But he jogs a lot, so he won't take too long to work that off. I'm trying to lose a bit of weight, so, like last time I went to Red Lobster, I just had the plate of fried popcorn shrimp and fries, which I know isn't exactly health food either, but it's surely got hundreds of less calories than the shrimp platters, the same way that the Big Mac is relatively healthy compared to the monstrous Texas Double Whopper. I'm on the "relative" diet where I can eat pretty much anything I want as long as I can find something that makes it look healthy in comparison. It doesn't do much for my waistline, but it does assuage my guilt.
Don't remember much of the conversation they had, since it was mostly "baby, baby, baby", but, when they were talking about names for the kid, whose gender they don't know because its hand was covering the genitals in the ultrasound, since I thought the baby was due in July, I suggested "Juliet" if it was a girl, just as a lame pun on "Juillet", the French word for "July".
In the "You Can't Go Home Again" department, my brother Nick returned to Montreal this past weekend to attend the wedding of a friend. While in Montreal, he and another friend from his little group went to visit his friend's father, who still lives in Pincourt. Since he was in Pincourt anyway, he decided to just have a peek at our old house, a decision that he would come to regret.
What he saw on our old front yard was piles of timber waiting to be hauled away. The new owners of our old house had evidently been using Victoria Day weekend to do some yardwork, and that yardwork entailed chopping down at least two trees in the backyard, the two trees that Nick himself had planted around 15 or 16 years ago. They were an elm tree and a spruce pine tree, which he planted as saplings and which I was scrupiously careful to avoid mowing down up until the mid-90s, when they were large and thick enough that I could push the mower right up to them and do no damage. After that, my mother had been able to hang birdfeeders off the branches of the elm, and she put some of those bell-shaped things with seeds in fat in an orange mesh on the evergreen, which also, as you can probably guess, had Christmas lights strung up in it to serve as a living backyard Christmas tree. And the elm also served the purpose of watching over the gravesites of our old dogs Lucky, who died in 1988, and Penny, who died in 1996 (and the ashes of Penny's son Sledgehammer, who died in 2002, were scattered there shortly before we moved).
My brother could see that the two silver birch trees, which were towards the back of the backyard, were still there, but birches tend to only live about thirty to forty years, and these trees are already about 30 years old. The elm and pine trees could have lived for another century. And, since they're a family with kids, having trees in the backyard is actually healthier, since the girls can play outside in the backyard and have some shade.
It's their house, so they can do as they like, but it's still a goddamned shame.
And my brother also noted that they had removed all of the perennial flowers, like the tiger lilies, from our old front yard, and had replaced the garden along the front windows and the garden around the big boulder (not really visible in the photo due to the parked cars) with grass, from the curb to the basement windows. Seems rather anal to me (especially considering that you have to mow the grass right along the side of the building with a Weed-Whacker or something like that).
At least our boulder is still there, but that's probably only because it'd cost too much to have it excavated.
Finally, probably on Friday, I shall watch a film my brother John worked on... a little movie called X-Men 3: The Last Stand.
It's a film he's been talking about making since he was seven years old... okay, not really. But he did synchronize some of the audio to the visuals, and the scenes he worked on were during the climax, which he said was filmed on a huge bridge set built in a Vancouver hangar.
The place he works at also handled some of the post-production for the Internet phenomena movie Snakes on a Plane, but I don't think he worked on that directly.