Is Grand Theft Auto Still Relevant?

Rockstar Games is one of the most recognized studios in the gaming industry, and for good reason. Throughout the years, Rockstar has continued to push the limits of video games, both in terms of technical advancements and controversial content, and has always managed to break new ground in storytelling and realism. The studio’s most recent success is Max Payne 3, which released to critical acclaim and has sold very well commercially.

While the studio continues to branch out and try new things, they will forever be associated with one series in particular. When fans hear the word “Rockstar” they inevitably think of Grand Theft Auto, which propelled the studio to the rockstar status (pardon the pun) they hold today. For years, fans have gone crazy whenever a new title in the open-world crime series has been announced, and the speculation begins about how Rockstar will dominate the industry once again. The announcement of Grand Theft Auto V really got me thinking about the series, however, and made me wonder if can stand up to some of the upcoming open-world underdogs that have been making waves in the gaming world. Is Grand Theft Auto still relevant in the gaming industry, or is it time for Rockstar to move on?

When GTA V was announced months ago, I found myself only somewhat excited to see the trailer. I loved Grand Theft Auto IV, mostly due to the unique characters and incredibly detailed world, but had finished the game feeling like something was missing. Still, it was an enjoyable experience. After watching the trailer for GTA V, I found myself less-than-excited for the game. The story of a retired mobster/hitman/gang member with a family at risk has become an over-used cliche, and unfortunately for Grand Theft Auto, so has a lot of the series’ gameplay mechanics.

Look at some of the games we’ve been seeing lately. Watch Dogs made a huge impression at E3, presenting an open-world experience with a great gameplay twist, and better graphics than many other game on the market. The shooter elements look to be very well done, which is something the GTA series still has to work on. This seems to be the case with a lot of open-world titles coming out over the next year. Along with Sleeping Dogs, the Saints Row series, all of these titles take the open world formula made popular by Grand Theft Auto and expand upon them in a variety of ways. Granted, Saints Row isn’t much for telling a good story, and we still have yet to see how Sleeping Dogs and Watch Dogs turn out, but is the story alone enough to keep the GTA series around?

The Grand Theft Auto series has had a huge impact on video games, but it’s presence in the media and its reputation for causing controversy has definitely played a big role in making it such an important franchise. The series is known for its over-the-top violence and sexual content, and is arguably the biggest reason so many people were originally drawn to the series. With this type of content being the norm in the gaming industry these days, and Rockstar pursuing more realistic stories and situations, they’re going to need to focus on revamping the gameplay if the series is to survive.

Ultimately, I know that Grand Theft Auto V will be a good game. Even with the cliche story, Rockstar has a way of making such memorable characters that it can be overlooked. However, I just don’t feel like the series has that epic, “game of the year” feeling that it used to. Hopefully my mind will change with the release of new information, as I’ve always been a fan of the series. Whether or not Rockstar will once again change the face of the gaming industry still remains to be seen.