Fansite Events

Rockstar Games have invited the webmasters from the oldest Grand Theft Auto fansites to attend events in New York City and Los Angeles where we were allowed to play many of their recent titles weeks before their release dates. Rockstar provided luxury accommodations including travel and food, all expenses paid.
During the last week of March, 2008 I received a phone call at home from Rockstar Games. While this in itself was a surprise, what they was calling about was even better. Rockstar was inviting the webmasters from the major GTA fansites to New York City to experience Grand Theft Auto IV first-hand, a week before its release. Over the next few weeks our transportation was sorted out, and we were basically left in the dark on all other details besides the fact that we were going and when. I wasn't as much of a shutterbug as the other webmasters, however; living close to New York City myself I visit there many times a year.

I took a train from New Haven to Penn Station in Manhattan. A Lincoln Town Car was waiting for me outside to take me to the hotel. I still had no idea which hotel we were staying at. Prior to the trip I had looked up hotels in the area of Rockstar's office to see which was the cheapest and closest. I soon found out that cheap was not on the agenda.

After listening to my driver rant about how I look like Sylvester Stallone, we finally pulled over on Rivington Street, between Ludlow and Essex. I looked around for a hotel but saw nothing. I got out, he handed me my luggage, and I was then approached by two doormen who asked if I was checking in. Still completely dumbfounded, I said yes, and they led me to a glass door, which, when opened, revealed the lobby to the incredible Hotel On Rivington. Another person had come in just behind me, and followed me onto the elevator with me to check in on the second floor.

At the front desk, both myself and the then-mystery person received a Rockstar Games embroidered shoulder bag, and he introduced himself as Andy from GTA4.net. The ladies behind the desk then handed us our bill and asked for our credit cards. Luckily someone from Rockstar overheard and intervened to inform us that Rockstar would be handling all of the charges, which was a relief since the rooms alone cost over $400 per night. We got on the elevator yet again and head up to our rooms, which looked like something out of an Apple commercial, with high-contrast contemporary styling, and very swank.

Opening up the Rockstar Games bag that was handed to me at check-in, I was greeted by the swag seen in the photo to the left. I got myself acquainted with the room before heading back downstairs to meet everyone else. The webmasters who flew over from the UK were still out being shown some of the landmarks of the city. I met Casey (Zidane) from GTAGaming, who was waiting with Andy. Eventually we were joined by Blair (illspirit) from GTA4.net, Jordan from PlanetGTA and Chess Hubbard, a Chicago DJ who also does work for Rockstar. We went down the street to Spitzer's Corner Restaurant to grab some lunch (and our bags of donuts, which we had to ask for numerous times and were NOT given to us by Joey). While we were eating, we were joined by Kyle (Kodo) from GTAGaming. Afterwards we went back to the hotel and met Chris from The GTA Place, Psy from GTA4.tv, and Adam and Jevon from GTA4.net. After hanging around for a bit we were told that the evenings "festivities" would begin at 6:00pm, in the 20th floor penthouse suite.

Once the time arrived, we all made our way up to the top of the hotel and were greeted with four Xbox360 and six Playstation3 consoles, were hooked up to ten flat-screen televisions all with GTA4 loaded up and waiting for us to take over. After watching the opening sequence we were unleashed into Liberty City, while simultaneously viewing the Manhattan skyline all around us. Unlike the magazine previews that we've reported on in the past months, we were not limited to specific features or areas of the game. We played from 6:00pm to 4:00am, during which time a seemingly endless supply of caffeine and pizza was provided. As expected, the game is amazing. The level of detail, graphical and otherwise, is so immense. I don't want to elaborate much because I think it is a better experience to find out the little details on your own while you play it yourself. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take photos inside the penthouse because of GTAIV being visible on all of the televisions. I returned to my room to jump in the shower before going to sleep.

Day two, we were told to meet by the pool table area at 1:00pm, and after everybody had assembled (and Andy had returned from a terrifying incident involving his laptop battery dying during a news post) we went to Katz's Delicatessen for lunch, the first but not the last place where those who had never been to the New York were utterly confused (although I will admit that the first time I was there I had no idea how the hell to get my food either). After waiting in a line to get out longer than the lines to get serviced, we started back to the hotel. Two Cadillac Escalades were provided to take us anywhere we wanted to go, as long as we were back by 5:30pm. We stopped over in Central Park for a few hours, and on the way back we tried to get a glimpse of Rockstar's office building on Broadway but were limited to the very inconspicuous facade.

When we returned to the hotel, we had an hour to rest up before a night of multiplayer mayhem. On the elevator ride up the penthouse, a very well-dressed girl got on the elevator a few floors above me (and asked if the elevator was going down...). The next stop was at Adam's floor. When he got on and we said hi to each other, the girl, noticing that the penthouse button was pressed, and Adam had not pushed a different floor, asked if we were in the penthouse, and how we got it. "Yes" and "we know people" were our answers. A sense of pure superiority came over us, since we were dressed in tshirts and jeans, going up to a $7500 penthouse, while she was stuck riding up to the top floor with us only to go all the way back down. After sharing this story with a few others and grabbing enough Red Bull to keep us awake and alert, we were ready to see what GTA IV's multiplayer was really all about.

This time, all ten consoles were Xbox360s so we could all play together. Almost all of the multiplayer modes were available to us. Our favorite seemed to be GTA Race using fire engines or ice cream trucks. A few people jacked some busses and made a blockade through a narrow road, but a quick drop of a grenade out of the driver's window cleared that up pretty quickly. We also played Car Jack City, Mafiya Work, Turf War, Deathmatch, and Cops N Crooks. If you can get your hands on a rocket launcher then you will pretty much dominate the entire game. Each mode is extremely fun and they provide a good variation of the tasks you need to complete. We again played until about 4:00 am, and then hung out on the rooftop for another hour. I didn't get to sleep until it had already started getting light out again.

After 3 hours of sleep I decided to catch up on the happenings of the internet; not using it for more than 36 hours was making my blood itch. While eating all the candy in the mini-bar and watching re-runs of The Sopranos, I got a call in my room from Alison saying that there was going to be a short meeting before everyone checked out. On the roof, Rockstar informed us that the game had been leaked onto torrent sites at around midnight, and, like with when the map was leaked, to not allow any content to be posted on our sites. Thankfully around midnight we were all accounted for with our eyes and fingers glued to multiplayer. Myself and Casey were the first to leave. We said our goodbyes to everyone and thanked Rockstar for inviting us. This was an amazing opportunity, not only to play GTA IV before it was released, but to play it with other people who have the same passion for this video game series that I do.
To everyone at Rockstar,

I wanted to formally thank each of you for these past few days. As you probably are aware, I as well as everyone else had an amazing time. Being able to experience Grand Theft Auto IV first-hand a week before anyone else was in itself a great opportunity, but doing so in the atmosphere that you provided for us literally blew me away. I have always respected Rockstar Games and the hard work that everyone puts in, and I have always been grateful for the generous packages I've received over the years, but the level of hospitality that you showed us far exceeded my expectations. You continue to set the bar not only with your games but with the way you reach out to your fanbase and the people who support you the most. I am honored that you have allowed me to be a part of this occasion and proud to be such a long-time supporter of your work.

Please extend my thanks to everyone who was involved in making this such a fantastic event.
During the first week of February 2009, we were again contacted by Rockstar Games inviting us back to New York to experience The Lost and Damned a week before it was to be released. Despite receiving only a week's advance notice, this time we at least knew ahead of time what hotel we were staying in and where we would be playing the game, but that doesn't mean they didn't have any surprises in store for us.

We stayed at The Standard, a fairly new luxury hotel in Manhattan's Meat Packing District, built over the High Line. Rockstar was already proving to us that last year's epicness was not a fluke. This place was amazing.

After checking into the hotel and gathering with Adam, Casey, Kyle, Jevon, Blair, Chris, and Simon, we all got into a huge van which took us to Don Hill's, a bar on Greenwich Street which was closed for our private event for three days. The setup was very similar to the penthouse in Rivington last year: 8 networked consoles connected to 8 plasma televisions, but in an atmosphere that fit in with the theme of The Lost and Damned. We played a little bit of single player, during which time I noticed the missions are much more varied than the missions in Niko's story. We played the new multiplayer modes for the next three hours. Some are similar to the current modes but with a biker twist, and some are completely new.

When 6:00pm came it was time to drop the controllers, and we were told to line up by the back door. Rockstar employees emerged from the darkness of a storage room with a pile of squarish cardboard boxes and began opening them. Inside were Xbox360 Elite consoles, each custom painted glossy black with The Lost and Damned box art on both sides, and serial numbered out of 190 units, one for each of us. We also received a very sturdy Rockstar Games tote bag (which made lugging the Elites around the streets of New York a bit easier), a few more t-shirts, a Rockstar logo sweatshirt, a shit-ton of stickers, and a GTA IV pool cue complete with Rockstar Games pool cue chalk (no detail is spared). We piled into the same van we had arrived in, but less half the cubic feet than before thanks to our mound of goodies, and went back to the hotel.


Epic swag
We dropped off the swag in our rooms and met back in the lobby at 7:30 to go to dinner. Rockstar brought us to Hill Country Barbecue for dinner. After eating and talking to some more Rockstar employees, we walked a few blocks to the Empire State Building to go up to the observation deck. Thankfully there were no lines since it was late at night (do not ever go during the day unless you have more than 3 hours to kill...I learned this the hard way the first time I went there). After, we needed a way back to the hotel. A limo driver parked across the street noticed us trying to hail four different cabs, and offered to take us all back in his stretch. Score.

Our second trip to New York concluded with a visit inside Rockstar's offices on Broadway. The Americans (myself, Casey, Blair, and Kyle) arrived around noon, just as the others were leaving. We were brought up to the fifth floor and led to a conference room adorned with framed San Andreas artworks on the walls and Nintendo DSlites on the table. After being shown a demo of some of the new features in Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars on Rockstar's giant custom-built DS with laptop-sized screens, we were allowed to play a 4-mission build of the game for ourselves to experience how using the stylus is incorporated into the mini-games that you've all read about in reviews. Assembling a sniper rifle and filling glass bottles with gasoline to make molotov cocktails were just two examples, but browsing through the stats screen we knew there were dozens more: planting bombs on car engines, tossing coins into a slot to pay a toll, and hotwiring cars just to name a few. You can even use the DS's WiFi to upload your stats onto the Social Club, and even trade money, weapons, and drugs with other players, essentially becoming a medium for buying and selling in-game equipment outside of the game.

The entire world, though top-down, is in 3-D. The city is modeled after GTA4's Liberty City, minus Alderney. The use of the dual screen is very handy, with the GPS and stats on the bottom screen, leaving the entire top screen unobstructed for roaming around the city. The wanted system is completely different than any other GTA game as well. Instead of using the search radius system like in GTA4, you must disable a certain number of chasing police cars in order to remove stars from your wanted level. Disable is not the same as destroy, which would kill the cop inside the car and just add more stars instead. Once you get down to one star you can avoid causing further trouble and it will eventually go away. Our time actually playing Chinatown Wars was slightly limited, and there were only four missions to try, so I can't give a full-blown review, but I will say that this brief experience with Chinatown Wars - a game I initially had no intentions of buying or even covering on the site - has made me purchase a Nintendo DS and eagerly await March 17.
After slight disappointment that there would be no fansite event in October for the initial release of The Ballad of Gay Tony for Xbox360, the invitation to an event for the release of Episodes from Liberty City on PS3 and PC came as a nice surprise. This time, we stayed at Ink48, a botique hotel on 11th Avenue, right next to the USS Intrepid. Myself and Casey arrived around 5:00pm after a long car ride with a very entertaining woman chauffeur who, by the end of the trip, was trying to sell us a $50 million mansion. We checked in, brought our stuff up to our rooms, and within minutes received an email from Rockstar that we should meet in the lobby around 6:30. After nearly throwing the in-room umbrella out of the bathroom window, we headed downstairs and met some familiar faces, as well as a new one.

After being introduced to Jesse from IGN's GTA Hood and catching up with everyone for about an hour, Rockstar reps showed up to bring us to the Old Homestead Steakhouse, New York's oldest. Upon arrival, the place was packed, but after a few minutes we were led upstairs to a private dining room. After a fabulous meal including a Jenga tower of garlic bread sitting atop a pool of melted cheese, which was used as dipping sauce for basically everything else that evening, we were told that tomorrow our minds would be blown. What could possibly top tonight?

After ordering some $40 eggs from room service, I met everyone downstairs around 11:30 to be taken to Rockstar's office once again. While we ultimately ended up in the same fifth-floor conference room as last year's Chinatown Wars experience, this time we were given a quick tour of the fourth floor, the walls of which were lined with arcade-style "games from companies [Rockstar] put out of business." The environment of Rockstar's offices is unlike that of any other business setting I've seen. It has such a laid-back and relaxed atmosphere (read: no cubicles) while still maintaining the feel of professionalism. Our task today was to play around with Episodes from Liberty City for both PC and PS3. The games appear very similar on PS3 to their Xbox360 equivalents, however the PC version offers superior graphics. After a few hours of gaming and pizza, most of us were pretty exhausted. Myself, Jesse, and Simon gathered around a PS3 and were messing around with the swingset glitch. We managed to spawn a boat in just the right spot and were able to get into the boat before the swingset launched it halfway across the island. When it was time to leave the office, we were given promises of speed boat racing, which turned out to be Rockstar slang for something totally different.

7:30 came and we loaded into a huge passenger van outside of the hotel. After a 30-minute ride into Brooklyn, we pulled behind the Red Dead Redemption promotional van, so we knew, for the most part, what was in store for us. Inside of the big empty warehouse, Rockstar personally set up the space to replicate a saloon from the early 1900's. There was a guy playing the piano, girls in wild west outfits serving food and drinks, and all of the flat screen televisions and Xbox360's were attached to hand-made gallows, each complete with a hangman's noose. Wooden barrels were placed throughout the room, and lit dynamite-shaped candles were burning all around us. As with the previous events, the environment in which we played the game replicated the game itself.

We were shown a quick demo of the single player mode on the second-floor loft, but my and Kyle's attentions were turned mostly to the waitresses, who kept in character throughout most of the evening, like that episode of South Park in Pioneer Village. Multiplayer was fun - the modes which I can remember were free roam, and deathmatch and capture-the-bag, both individual and as a team. The map is massive and wide open. The animations and the level of graphical detail surpass that of GTA4, and what we were playing wasn't even the final build of the game. In short, when May 18th rolls around I expect everyone to be playing Red Dead Redemption. I lost track of time, and I think most of us started to leave around 2:00am. We were assured that swag would be mailed to us, since last year Chris's Lost and Damned Xbox360 got lost at customs on the way home. Myself and Casey, since we were the only ones who did not take a plane, were given our own dynamite candles. Can you imagine trying to get that through airport security?

The next day, everyone checked out of the hotel and we hung out in the lobby until our rides arrived. Kyle, who seems to get the crappiest itinerary out of all of us every single time, was gone before I even woke up. Half of the group decided to take a quick trip to the Apple Store with Simon, who wanted to buy an iPad since they were less expensive here. The rest of us stayed behind and watched Andy nurse his hangover. The other half returned iPadless, just in time for the first couple of cars to arrive. Andy, myself, and Casey were the first to leave, and the rest of the Americans left shortly thereafter. Everyone said their goodbyes and thanked Rockstar for having us come out again. I don't know of any other game company who goes to such lengths to luxuriate their supporters.
Almost exactly one year after the previous event, I received another phone call from Rockstar Games, inviting me to another fansite event. I assumed it would be just like all the others had been, however the curveball here was that the event was for Rockstar's upcoming crime/detective game LA Noire, and the event, instead of being held in New York City as had been the norm since 2008, was instead happening in Los Angeles. Oh yeah. Especially since the northeast had apparently forgotten what springtime is, I was all ready for southern California. My layover between Hartford and LA was in Detroit, where I met Kyle at the gate to our flight. This airplane had Wi-Fi, which made the four and a half hours much more bearable. When we landed, we found Scotty from Rockstar by baggage claim, holding a gigantic yellow R* sticker. Skeptical at first, we took our chances and assumed this was our ride to the hotel.

After fighting through traffic and observing gas prices which weren't as astronomical as I had expected, we arrived at the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, which is located directly on Hollywood Boulevard and has lodged many famous people including Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin, Hugh Hefner, Frank Sinatra, Bruce Willis, and Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, just to name a few. All of the webmasters were given poolside cabana rooms. Classy. After getting situated in the rooms, myself and Kyle went up to the third floor of the hotel tower to be given a quick demo of the basic mechanics of LA Noire. The first thing that really shined was the new facial expression technology. Another difference on this trip was that we would be playing the game on our own time, in the privacy of our own rooms, instead of in one large area with everyone else. While this was kind of a bummer since half the fun of the other events was playing the game in the company of all the other webmasters, it made sense in that LA Noire really requires the player to pay attention to fine details and make critical decisions, so focus is key. Also, there's no multiplayer. It was a welcome change of pace, as it made raiding the minibar that much easier.

I spent some time hanging out by the pool with Kyle, then we were eventually greeted by a Rockstar rep who informed us that our rooms had now been outfitted with Playstation3's. We were left to play the game for a few hours until dinner. I didn't get much play time in at this point, as I was pretty exhausted from the plane ride, but I did mess around with the first case, just to get a feel for the mechanics of the game, which are pretty similar to Grand Theft Auto. The car driving physics are a bit looser, but you get used to it. The subtlety of the game and how it alerts you to your surroundings is incredible. When searching a crime scene for clues, a piano chime can be heard, and, if enabled, your controller will vibrate, when you are in arms reach of something you can examine. When you've found all the clues pertinent to the case, the background music stops. Touches like these are a great way for the game to communicate with the player without reminding you it's just a game by flashing textual prompts at the bottom of the screen.

After enjoying the game and the hotel for a little while, it was time for dinner, which was set for 8:00pm in the hotel's restaurant Public Kitchen & Bar by Tim Goodell. The restaurant had created a custom menu, adorned with the Rockstar logo. We each selected an entree, and the appetizers and sides just...kept...coming...out. I am a food whore (Jesse will agree), so I have more pictures of the food from this dinner than of anything else on the whole trip. Sad, really. Halfway through the meal we noticed the hurricane-like winds ripping through the palm trees outside, so of course where did we go after dinner? Outside. I hung out with everybody by the pool for about half an hour before going back to my room to play more of the game.

The next four to five hours were spent diving deeper into LA Noire. This game will definitely take some time to complete, which I see as a plus, so you feel as though you are thoroughly getting your money's worth. You could spend 30+ minutes on a single case because you need to find the right clues in order to ask the right questions to the right people in order to get the answers you need to solve the case. Think about watching an episode of CSI from the 1940's. LA Noire makes you work for your goal and I like that. What clues you find, who you interrogate, what you ask them, where you go, and in what order you do them, all affect how the case plays out. You will always eventually solve the case, but they can take varying lengths of time depending on how you decide to investigate. This makes the replay value of LA Noire skyrocket and opens up the potential for previously unheard dialogue and unseen cutscenes with each new game.


Check out this Warehouse-exclusive LA Noire screenshot
Day two in Los Angeles was mostly consumed by the Black Dahlia Murder Mystery Tour. I assume this was figured into the agenda because the murder case is relevant to the game. While very informative, it was pretty drawn out. In fact, I can't even write everything about this tour because I will exceed my monthly bandwidth cap. We retraced the last steps of Elizabeth Short's life on the night she was murdered, starting at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel and concluding at the spot where her body was found, cut in half, on what is now somebody's front lawn. On the way back to the Biltmore, we stopped for a late lunch at Cole's French Dip for some amazing sandwiches, spicy garlic french fries, and atomic pickles.

Back to the Roosevelt for night number two of LA Noire indulgence. For those of you expecting this game to be Grand Theft Auto: Los Angeles 1947, you will be sorely disappointed. Yeah, you can drive around a huge open map (8 square miles if I am not mistaken) and shoot people (sometimes, and only bad guys), but that's about all LA Noire and GTA have in common. You will be penalized for causing mayhem, and you can't put rims on your 1946 Ford Super DeLuxe. LA Noire is a completely different animal. The decisions you make based on the information you discover while on a case have an impact on how you progress through the case.

The next morning, after an intense breakfast compliments of room service, the PS3 was evicted from my room and the trip was winding down. Everyone gathered outside by the valet at 10:30am. Since none of us checked a bag and had no room in our carry-ons, we were just given some t-shirts as parting gifts. All that was left to look forward to were the TSA agents at LAX. That, and when LA Noire releases in North America on May 17th. You can read about the accounts of this trip from the perspective of the other webmasters who also attended the event below:

Jesse - IGN
Simon - iGrandTheftAuto
Drew - Rockstar Network
Kyle - LANoireGaming
Zeeshan - RockstarDB
Adam, Andy, Blair, and Jevon - GTANet

And of course another tremendous thank you to Rockstar Games for putting this event together and for giving myself and the others mentioned above an opportunity to be involved in another indulgent experience.
The four-year anniversary of the first fansite event in 2008 was celebrated with a weekend stay at the elegant Soho Grand Hotel and the opportunity to play Rockstar's much anticipated upcoming title Max Payne 3. Almost everybody from the previous events was able to attend, and since the Los Angeles trip last year, a few more websites had earned notoriety from Rockstar Games, and their webmasters were also invited. The guest list was even expanded for older sites such as GTA Hood and Rockstar Network, as well as us here at GTA Warehouse, as we each had an additional staff member join us for this trip. Our long-time forum administrator James (JCMoorehead) was also invited and we were able to meet again for the first time in seven years.

During the usual meet and greet that occurs on the first day, I was introduced to a handful of new faces including Thomas from Rockstar Base, Gerard from Grand Theft Wiki, Kristian and Patrick from Payne Reactor, AJ from Rockstar Watch, Nick from Rockstar Resource, Domenic from PayneKillers, and Matt from Rockstar Network. Soon after, we loaded up into a caravan of Luxury SUVs and were driven to Brooklyn Bowl where Rockstar had reserved four lanes in advance. We ate, drank, bowled, and enjoyed live music until closing time, and were told to be ready at 4:00pm the next day.

A group of us took advantage of the large window of downtime, and after breakfast, Saturday afternoon was spent walking around Manhattan. We visited the site of the new World Trade Center, walked over the Brooklyn Bridge, and then split off into two groups - one going to Times Square, and the other going to Economy Candy, the sugar mecca that we learned of in 2008, as it was across the street from the Hotel on Rivington. We all reconvened back at the hotel for lunch and general video-game-nerd talk until 4:00 came and it was time to pile into a caravan once again and drive back to Brooklyn. This was beginning to look familiar..

We arrived in front the same warehouse in which we previewed Red Dead Redemption two years prior. After waiting outside for a few minutes while Rockstar's crew put the final touches on the inside, we were let in and were greeted by the ultimate lan party. Spent bullet casings littered the ground, music was blasting from the ridiculous speaker system, Rockstar logo signs were hung on the walls, and a spotlight of the Rockstar crest illuminated the floor. Sixteen Xbox360 consoles were hooked up to LED televisions in four groups of four, with leather chairs surrounding them. A random console's screen was being projected onto the huge back wall, and upstairs in the loft were a handful of monstrous gaming computers for those of us who preferred a PC.


Playing Max Payne 3
We played three chapters of single-player in order to get accustomed to the controls as well as the mechanics of the game. I don't think my eyes blinked the whole time. There are no loading screens - all the loading takes place during the cutscenes, which transition to and from actual gameplay fluidly, and dynamically incorporate in-game footage in real-time. The combinations of Bullet Time, Shoot-Dodge, and Kill Cam allows you to pull off cinematic gun battles that rival most movie special effects. Controlling Max as a character feels incredibly real. While shooting, his upper body turns toward the target while still moving in any direction. I never once felt like I wasn't in control, and all of the animations for reloading and weapon swaps, as well as the weight and recoil of each specific weapon, are contextually based on the weapons you're holding. Kill Cams are all unique, and enemies react based on weapon type and point of impact. You can even slow them down for added effect.

One of my favorite aspects of Max Payne 3 is the level of detail in the environments, and how characters interact with it. Cover is destructible, and the ease with which it breaks apart depends on the material it is constructed from. Wooden tables will obviously shatter faster than a concrete block. If you kill someone who is next to a glass window, they will fall through it. If they're up against a railing, they will fall over it. When you're running through the elements, the blades of grass by your feet move and the sand kicks up in a cloud. If you skid across the ground, your clothes will get dirty. The more you run around, the more you can see Max sweating. Every bullet is individually modeled, and even the ejected casings shine as they spin out of your gun and fall to the ground.

After a quick break for some food, we switched over to multiplayer and were introduced to the three main types of multiplayer modes: Team Deathmatch, Payne Killer, and Gang Wars. Before starting up a game, we were able to customize our character with any number of bodies, heads, clothes, and accessories to make our player unique. You can then select your loadout - which weapons and other items to have on you during the match. The more stuff you have, the heavier your load becomes and, in turn, the slower you can move and react. There are many different items and bursts that are available that help you in multiplayer, but since they haven't been revealed publicly yet we are unable to disclose them.

Team Deathmatch is what you'd expect - there's a timer and you kill members of the opposing team. Payne Killer is everybody against Max and his partner, both of whom have better weapons and more ammo and pain killers than everyone else. Kill one of them, and you assume their identity until someone else kills you. Gang Wars is the absolute highlight of multiplayer in Max Payne 3, featuring rival gangs fighting through a series of dynamic scenarios with objectives that change depending on the outcome of each of round, creating a story-based plot within multiplayer while still using all of the same mechanics as the single-player campaign. Because of this, Rockstar Games has created the most immersive, action-packed shooter ever - not bad for their first try. When it was said that Max Payne 3 "looks almost as good as it feels to play", Rockstar weren't trying to be clever - they were bragging, and rightfully so.

With the evening winding down and the rain beginning to pour, we all started heading back to the hotel around midnight. Upon arrival, there was a velvet rope in front of the door, forming a line of well-dressed folks who were all safe and dry under the overhang, waiting for their turn to be allowed inside. The looks on all their faces when a bunch of us ran through the rain in t-shirts and shorts and were immediately let in...priceless. After doing some catching-up on the internets, I was getting hungry again, so a phone call to room service made a juicy 3:00am steak appear at my door. After another three-hour night sleep, I met Drew for breakfast in the lobby, and we were later joined by a few more friends before it was time to check out. We all grabbed our bags and mingled for a little while longer until we found out our departure times. We still had a few more hours to kill so we all ordered lunch and exchanged more stories and nerd-talk until it was time to leave. This was my fifth event courtesy of Rockstar Games and they continue to find newer and better ways to blow our minds each time. They are champions of their industry with unfaltering hospitality.