I am seriously into video games. If you're in any doubt as to my hardcore gamer credentials, let me list them for you:
1: I've got most of my body tattooed, and most of the ink represents my love of video games. A sleeve of girls from titles well known (Princess Peach from Mario, Chun Li from Street Fighter) to the obscure (Morrigan and Felicia from Darkstalkers), on the other arm the directions to pull off a perfect Ha-Do-Ken fireball, a Pac Man ghost and then on my legs portraits of Balrog (I'm a geek, so you may call him Vega - but then we can't be friends) and Gouki (again, Akuma, see previous point).
2: I once got third place in a Street Fighter 2 tournament at the Gamesmaster exhibition. I was 15-years-old. It is one of only two trophies that I have ever won.
3: I completed two of the greatest games of all time - Final Fantasy 7 and Metal Gear Solid - in Japanese because I could not bear to wait for the European versions.
4: When I had a real job, I took a week off to complete Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and GTA IV. I did the same for GTA: San Andreas, but then I took an extra week off on the sick to finish it properly.
September 17 marked the launch of the last game of the current generation that I have been excited about. And when I say excited, I mean to the point of not being able to sleep. Really. I am speaking of Grand Theft Auto 5, The ultra-realistic sandbox game that is a million miles away from the daft little 2D car chase game that started the series.
I shouldn't have it yet. The plan was to buy it on my way home from my gig in Gloucester tonight, but that has now been cancelled, leaving me with a free evening. More to the point, as I sat with my long-suffering fiancee watching TV last night the constant adverts made my palms sweaty with anticipation and I just HAD to have it at midnight.
Because I don't live in London I reasoned that the queues that my fellow comics were standing in on Oxford Street wouldn't extend to my local out of town Uber-Asda. Oh, how wrong I was.
I rocked up just before midnight expecting a gaggle of students and teens grabbing their copy. Nope. I arrived to find the queue 200 deep, impatient and unruly. Looking at the queue I doubt that anyone there was as obsessive about gaming and as insistent that GTA V is a step forward in the art form as me; It was much more likely - I decided this as a massive gaming snob - that everyone there would get the game, learn the cheat codes and then just steal cars and murder prostitutes.
Eventually the queue started to move, initially because most of the people ahead of me traveled in packs and a lot of them couldn't last five minutes between cigarettes. The woman in front of me was texting her partner with the words "I cannot believe you have made me queue up for this". He replied with "You made me queue outside DFS on Boxing Day 2007." Touche, sir. Touche.
As we got closer to the till, the experience became an insight into the youth of today. I have queued for many things and if I had spent a few hours in the same place I would have left no trace, even if queuing outside. The inside of this particular ASDA was not as immaculately kept by the time the hordes were on their way home, game in their grubby mitts.
The DVD racks were covered in empty beer bottles (Stella being the brand of choice) and with even more cans of energy drink (all in the tramp-sized cans). Of course, I didn't need an energy drink to stay awake because I was powered by sheer excitement. Plus I'd had a nap, I'm a pro.
Also strewn around the aisles and within the shelves was empty box after empty box of 20 chicken McNuggets, because queuing for half an hour is hard work and means that you need to consume something deep fried. The parody of fast-food culture contained within the GTA series may well have been lost on these consumers.
As I got to the front, I saw two brilliantly tragic and hilarious occurrences. First, one young man got to the front and was asked - as he was buying the Xbox 360 version - if he had the required 8GB space on his hard drive. He stated he did not. The woman behind the counter told him that he would not be able to play the game, but he could if he purchased a 10GB flash drive. The drive was £20. He only had the £40 for the game. He merely trudged away, dejected.
Then came the man who had for 40 minutes queued directly in front of me. Upon getting to the till he proudly asked for the PC version.
There is no PC version.
He was told this and refused to believe the woman on the till, arguing his point until I calmly showed him Wikipedia (luckily he wasn't a university professor so citing a Wiki was completely allowed). He also sloped away, allowing me to buy my copy whilst laughing internally at that man and a few of my friends that insist their PCs are "gaming machines".
I have expected so much of this game whilst only knowing snippets of what it actually contains. Here's a link to some GTA super-fans and what they wanted in the game. My favourite is the guy who has even designed his own protagonist and which knives should be allowed as weapons. Insane.
I won't ruin the game for anybody who hasn't played it yet, but I must make a serious point about it: It is even better than I expected. Everything about it feels amazing; it is as close to perfection as a video game can be, and totally worth the time and effort that Rockstar have gone to to develop it over the last few years. The opening section is...
... I've said too much. You should probably get it. The only reason I'm even writing this now is because I can't get to the Xbox. I should be writing other stuff, but it's all I can think about. It's worth every penny. It's even worth braving Queensferry Asda at midnight.
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