Five Things To Be Excited For
1. A New Formula
There is nothing wrong with a good ol’ “Rise to Power” story. From Scarface, to Goodfellas, to American Gangster the action crime genre is filled with these stories, befitting to a world where power is the ultimate currency. The problem is that Grand Theft Auto has done this formula to death, barely bothering to cloak the cliched twists and turns. In fact, the last three games have all started with a character arriving/returning to the city and fighting their way to the top echelon of criminals. Grand Theft Auto V, with its trio of main characters will likely have that same story told through the character Franklin, but it looks like it will at least be accompanied by the tale of Michael and Trevor who are already seasoned criminals with some power to throw around.
2. In-Mission Checkpoints
GTA IV was early enough in the current console generation that when it was released people were fairly forgiving about it’s autosave functionality. The game does the service of making sure you will never have to play a completed mission twice, but also ensures that any time you die you are placed all the way back at the start of the mission. This usually means you will need to spend some time retracing your steps through Liberty City to get back to where the action is, or find a cab and pay a little bit of money to speed up the process. It makes difficult missions all the more frustrating and pads the gameplay time. Given in-mission checkpoints were added to The Ballad of Gay Tony, it is safe to assume they will be in GTA V.
3. Gameplay Update
Rockstar has made impressive updates to their gameplay since GTA IV was released in 2008. It is not that the gameplay in GTA IV is awful, but it is rough around the edges. The cars handle in a clunky fashion, hand to hand combat is cumbersome, and the shooting sequences are pretty droll. With games like Saints Row and last year’s Sleeping Dogs, the open world genre has some competition with finely tuned mechanics. Rockstar has shown they’re ready for an update as well as Red Dead Redemption was a vast improvement on shooting mechanics and Max Payne 3 showed some of the best third person shooting to date. Hopefully, much of this will carry over to GTA V.
4. More Things to Do
Through all of the dating and time spent with friends in GTA IV, the activities start to wear thin. A few mini-games, a couple of theatres, restaurants, and bars make up the entirety of what GTA IV offers. Seeing the wealth of what GTA V has is very exciting. Opening up the countryside surrounding the city gives the game opportunities to provide many new experiences such as biking, hunting, and off-roading. Players can once again customize vehicles and having three main players gives more clothing options. Lastly, the internet has been expanded upon, providing more than jobs and potential girlfriends.
Grand Theft Auto protagonists have always felt rather cookie cutter. They are filled with wonderful intricacies that tie us to them as the story grows and make them interesting, but on the outside their generally stoic, helplessly bound to their life of crime. Trevor, the violent, trailer park dwelling protagonist of GTA V seems to be the first character in GTA’s history to be delightfully insane and happy to simply be a “service to the community”. These characters have always been encountered on the side, but it is nice to see one fleshed out and made playable.
Five Things We Will Miss
1. Liberty City
While Los Santos and GTA V look to have a myriad and wonderful improvements over the old and dirty Liberty City, there is something iconic about what Rockstar was able to tap into with the New York inspired metropolis. Los Santos is more suited to GTA’s biting sense of humor with its Hollywood world, Liberty City was more suited to the classic crime story. Families like the McRearys would be harder to come by, the culture of crime doesn’t have the same roots or history that a city like Liberty City would. It is the classic Los Angeles-New York argument and when it comes to crime worlds, New York is just cooler.
As of right now, it looks like the relationship mini-games–both friends and dating–hit the chopping block for GTA V. This is understandable, as the three-character nature looks to expand your free-time options and keep you hopping about the city plenty. Not to mention juggling three different social circles would become cumbersome. However, choosing the relationships were part of what made GTA a personal experience. Deciding who Niko would become close with, who he would sleep with, and who he would give the cold shoulder made each players experience different. The relationships helped players shape the story of Niko’s first months in America. It is clear that GTA V is a more focused story and Rockstar wanted to keep the reins on who the protagonists did and didn’t like.
3. The Supporting Cast
Well, not the whole supporting cast, but enough that I felt I should generalize. GTA IV took a unique turn in the characters it surrounded Niko with. Plenty of them are moronic money-grabbers (see: Brucie and Playboy X), but many of them offered depth that had rarely been seen in the previous games. Niko and Roman’s friendship is a familial bond that ties both of them back to their homeland, keeping them grounded in a world that is trying so desperately to American-ize them. Dwayne is a man who once reveled in the power of crime, but prison has made him a shell of his former self. Even Brucie, who is the pinnacle of self-absorbed and shallow is a human being that we’ve all met before. However, one of the best relationships is formed between Kate McReary and Niko. Throughout the game Kate is listed as a girl you can “date”, but stubbornly refuses your advances. She reveals a dark side to the McReary past and her guilt that accompanies it. These characters add a layer to GTA IV that was a first for the series.
4. A Darker World
Tied with the grunge of Liberty City and the deep cast of characters, GTA IV was a darker game than players had expected from the usually dispensable series. There was still plenty of the humor that makes the series what it is, but there was weight that accompanied this entry in the series. Niko’s past is a painful place and his emails to his mother show some of that pain. The game deals with deep ideas, like escaping the past and the American Dream. While GTA V may have its serious moments, it is doubtful they will return to some of GTA IV’s heavier subjects.
Rockstar has never painted a very loving picture of modern-day America with their GTA worlds and IV was no different. The radio stations, billboards, and the general population all were filled with dead-inside, mindless, consumer-hungry attitudes. The characters that you ran into were lost in a scramble for their own ambition, losing sight everything else. Niko was the straight-man in a world of fools and played it perfectly. Hearing Niko interact with these people that he did not understand was some of the best writing that Rockstar has ever done. While his motivations left something to be desired, the way Niko comes to understand America and the people he meets is a refreshing and unique take on video game protagonists, especially for the GTA series.