I had a moment yesterday

November 2, 2008 § Leave a comment

I knew it was coming, but that didn’t prevent its finale from completely surprising me. Dimitri had coerced me into killing my former boss Mikhail. A promise of monetary reward was all it took to turn me against him. I entered the bar as Dimitri had ordered and, after making Mr. Faustin aware of my presence, produced a sawn-off shotgun from inside my jacket, ready to paint the walls. Fauston however had different ideas, and he fled to the roof, leaving a swarm of cronies in his wake. Niko was unafraid.

Without flinching he unloads his first two shotgun shells into the closest goon. Two more take cover behind the bar, and in vain Niko tries to shoot them through it. They’re visibly shaken, but remain alive, popping out momentarily to take shots at the approaching Eastern European. Showing no signs of emotion, Bellic walks behind the counter, and pumps two shells into each of them from point blank range,. He doesn’t give their twitching corpses a second glance before heading outside to hunt his real prey.

It’s raining outside. The drops fall hard and fast against Niko’s body, but he appears not to feel the weather around him. Pulling out a pistol he dispatches two more gang members who have assembled to protect their boss. One of them lies on the floor after being shot in the chest, begging for Niko to spare him. Bellic replies by shooting him once more in the back of the head. He shouldn’t have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Fauston is waiting for him on the roof.

The stairs leading up glisten in the rain, hauntingly beautiful urban decay surrounds them. Even so close to death Mikhail is defiant. One shot is all it takes to silence him, but it doesn’t kill him, the fall to the pavement below takes care of that, with his final scream being drowned out by the rumble of thunder overhead.

Do you remember the death of Mikhail Faustin? I do. Sitting up late at night, playing through GTA4 again in the vague hope of getting some trophies I came across this small gem of a mission, completely unexpected, but all the more glorious as a result. It stood out to me not because of the challenge it presented, or the level design, or indeed the voice acting. Instead it was the atmosphere it managed to put across, with the pathetic fallacy of the weather overhead, the cold heartless remorse with which Niko – or was it me? – slaughtered his (my?) former gang-mates.

It was the turning point of the game for me, a point where finally I became Niko Bellic. Not merely a passive observer, but a participant in an emotional sense, a witness to the unstable conscience of a psychopath. Niko can kill without showing any emotion at all, but after the mission I looked down on Fauston’s mangled corpse on the street below and was shocked. He had a wife, maybe even a family, and I killed him. He was a violent, sexist bastard, but was Dimitri any better?

I don’t care if the cover system was broken, or if the graphics were rough around the edges. For me GTA4 was about its story, the tragedy of a man promised streets paved with gold who gets them covered in blood, forced to put everything he holds dear on the line for something even he is unsure he’ll ever get.

I had a moment,

RIP Mikhail Fauston.


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