With Game Informer’s cover story finally unveiling some concrete details about Grand Theft Auto V, the Internet finally has a reason to talk incessantly about Rockstar’s popular open-world series and we here at GamerSushi are no different. I have stoically ignored all GTA V rumors and discussion until new information was released. However, since that has now happened and we find ourselves in the golden age of GTA V info, I have some thoughts and concerns, as I so often do.
First, as we have mentioned in the past, Grand Theft Auto IV was a disappointment. I know some people swear up and down by it, but as a huge fan of the PS2 trilogy, I didn’t find much to like. The world has bigger and denser, but there just wasn’t much of a reason to explore it anymore. The numerous side activities of previous games were scaled back, leaving you with only a few things to do other than the story missions. Instead, they were replaced by what amounted to taking your friends out on dates, which was fun and unique exactly once. We all got a laugh when we took our perverted cousin Roman to the strip club, but that wasn’t something I was anxious to repeat.
The other minigames were poorly controlled and very tedious. Bowling was kind of interesting, but a single game took forever and the overly long animations had me scrambling to quit as fast as I could. And the only real purpose for this was so you could get bonuses, like Jacob the weapons dealer giving you a discount. Honestly, what kind of black market merchant of death cuts into his bottom line just because someone takes him to a comedy show? It just makes no sense and wasn’t fun.
Speaking of the comedy shows, when did Rockstar get the impression that gamers want to watch stuff instead of play the game? I love Ricky Gervais more than most, but I didn’t pay $60 on launch day to watch him or Katt Williams or even a bunch of supposedly-clever TV shows and commercials. I want to play the game. Obviously they got so much feedback about their (admittedly) hilarious radio shows commercials in the previous game that they thought the next logical step was television. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t. I wanted to get out there in Liberty City and do some damage. The joy of GTA is exploring the world, not sitting at home in your crappy apartment watching TV. THAT’S ALREADY MOST OUR LIVES, ROCKSTAR!
Not that I should have been that anxious to go exploring. There wasn’t much to see or do, as previously noted. Sure, the world was neat to look at and the size and scale was stunning, but once the shine wore off, it just felt like obstacles to my objectives. The citizens felt more real and were plenty entertaining, but you couldn’t go into most buildings and the overall size of the city just made it more frustrating to get from Point A to Point B. Especially since the islands were connected by the long bridges and highways, which meant the quickest way to get anywhere was to avoid the city itself and stay on the main roads. Or you could just abuse the taxi service like I did. This was the first GTA I didn’t want to drive around myself. The city was a marvel to look at, but as a world where a game has to take place, it failed.
So that’s where GTA IV went wrong, in addition to the legacy issues like combat and the new ones like terribly unfun driving controls. But all is not lost: Rockstar need only look to itself and its nearest competitor for inspiration. Red Dead Redemption had a fantastic take on gun combat, with the slow-down time, mark your targets and release mechanic. I didn’t play Max Payne, but I understand the gunplay was sublime, from the accounts I’ve heard. Rockstar only needs to marry that quality to the open-world layout of GTA and that particular issue should be solved. As for the driving, more arcade-y, less realistic. Think Burnout or Need for Speed instead of Forza or Gran Turismo.
One thing that concerns me about the changes that were made in GTA IV was that they seemed to originate from a thought process that lacked any real understanding of what made GTA popular in the first place. Saints Row understood exactly why people loved GTA and they capitalized on it, honing the sheer joy of causing unbridled craziness and chaos and then took it a step further by ratcheting the insanity up to a ridiculous degree. Little things like causing crazy car stunts while outrunning the police were nowhere near as enjoyable in GTA IV and it hurt the replay value. In fact, it hurt the value of the initial playthrough, as I tended to just rush through the story, something I never did before in a GTA game.
And about those police…during my hundred-plus hours playing the GTA trilogy on the PS2, I had a routine that I rarely deviated from: when I was ready to quit for the night, I saved my game and went on a killing spree, causing as much death and destruction as I possibly could. I was a shining beacon in the darkness, daring any and all law enforcement to come at me, bro. You want to call in the military? Fine by me, just be warned that I am jacking that tank and Lord help you if I do. This was one of my favorite things to do and from the stories I have heard, I know I am not the only one. But the magic was gone in GTA IV. It must be brought back. GTA IV failed to capture my attention like the previous GTA games did and while the idea of three characters is a novel concept for GTA, it comes with one serious misgiving: Will there be co-op? This would be a travesty if there were no way to explore Los Santos without a buddy at hand. With all the games offering co-op, there is honestly no excuse.
GTA IV gave us many changes and “innovations” to the series, but somehow it all felt like a small step backwards. GTA V promises us many new features as well, but I only hope that this time Rockstar pays more attention to the fanbase’s desires. I am not saying they need to cater to the public, but they can’t again lose sight of what made GTA great. Rockstar needs to understand one main thing: GTA is a playground. We want lots of toys, lots of things to do and if possible, we want to play with friends. A lot has changed since 2008. The gaming landscape is a different place now. I sincerely hope Rockstar is able to adjust and deliver a game that gives us what we want and even what we don’t know we want. That’s what they were able to do so well in the past. After GTA IV, my confidence was shaken, but Red Dead Redemption gave me hope again. I guess we will find out in just a few short months. See you in Los Santos.
What do you think Rockstar needs to do to bring the magic back? Are you excited for GTA V or do the announced features make you worried? Hit the comments!