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Opinion

Why I'm Not Sold On GTA V

Where did it all go wrong?

When I was younger I absolutely loved the Grand Theft Auto series. I almost certainly shouldn’t have been playing the games at the age I was, although most of the time my older cousins were letting me play and cutting my parents out of the loop. This was before GTA 3, back in the top down era, and I absolutely loved the games.

Despite the age rating for the games, I never actually found them that violent. Sure there was blood when you ran people over or shot them, but the game’s styling made it seem more comical than realistic; it was almost a cartoon in the way the consequences of violence were displayed.

Then came GTA III when I was a bit older (though still four years too young to be playing the game), and the series switched to the now familiar 3D perspective. Despite the more realistic violence and presentation my love didn’t vanish, in fact it increased. GTA III was a great game, plain and simple, and just as fun as the 2D titles. It was certainly a less ridiculous game than earlier games in the series were, but it opened up new avenues of destruction and new ways to play.

It’s easy to see why older Grand Theft Auto games had a cartoon-like feel to them.

In retrospect it seems crazy that the next game in the series, Vice City, came just a year after GTA III was released; I didn’t actually realise that until researching this article. For me, Vice City was where my interest in the series peaked, perhaps because it felt like it was when Rockstar really nailed the formula for the game.

The biggest part of this is that Tommy Vercetti is a simply brilliant character, and was the first GTA protagonist that you were really given a reason to grow attached to. He was a genuine character with growth and a story that really progressed, far beyond any of the protagonists in earlier games. I mean at the start of the game you’re basically alone, trying to survive after your bodyguards have been killed shortly after your arrival in Vice City. By the end of the game you’ve fought your way up to being the kingpin of Vice City. Rockstar had given us a character we could really sink our teeth into and care about.

Given this, San Andreas should have appealed to me even more, it seemed to push things further and give you more reasons to grow attached to the new central character, CJ. I don’t know what it was, perhaps it was the simple fact that I’d grown so attached to Tommy or perhaps I’d simply moved on from those games, but I just couldn’t get into San Andreas and I never finished it. I’ve watched my brother play all the way through it and it seems fine, but it never really grabbed hold of me in the same way that Vice City had.

Tommy Vercetti, as good as it gets.

In fact no GTA game since Vice City has even drawn me in enough to make me really want to play it, the exception being Chinatown Wars, which had a sort of nostalgic appeal. I still pay attention to the series, and I’ve played bits of pieces of IV and its DLC, but ever since Vice City the series has never really grabbed.

There were only two years between Vice City and San Andreas, and I really can’t work out what happened to my feelings for the series in that time. What changed that I loved one game in the series, and then that love simply evaporated by the time the next game rolled around? The answer is probably nothing, and that may be where the problem lies.

It’s not really fair to say that absolutely nothing has changed in the Grand Theft Auto series, in fact Rockstar do seem to try new things and pull off impressive technological feats with every game. However, particularly in recent years, it’s starting to feel like GTA is being left behind, that they’re not evolving the game enough.

At the time that my interest in GTA was at its peak there was very little out there that was doing similar things, and nothing that was doing it to the same scope and as well as Rockstar were. That’s simply not true any more – this generation has seen the open world genre open up, with Rockstar broadening their horizons as well. It’s hard to argue that Red Dead Redemption didn’t open up new avenues for open world games, and the game generated the same kind of fervour that Grand Theft Auto titles do.

Then there’s the titles from other developers, your Assassin’s Creeds and your Sleeping Dogs, that have looked at things in a different way and put their own spin on open worlds. Even games like Batman: Arkham City have contributed to the growth of these games, something that seemed exceptionally unlikely five or ten years ago.

Despite the new elements in GTA V, it still feels like you know exactly how it will be.

In the wake of that, Grand Theft Auto is starting to feel a bit stale. Despite the changes in San Andreas it felt a little stale in the wake of Vice City, and the growth of similar games hasn’t helped that feeling. What we’ve seen of GTA V certainly looks like it could be interesting, I can’t deny that, but at the same time I feel like we’ve seen a lot of it before, like you know exactly how 90% of the game will play.

That’s not always a bad thing, it can be very comforting to come into something and feel like you know exactly what you’re doing straight away. However, it can also leave you with a feeling that a game’s terribly old fashioned, that it hasn’t learned the lessons that other games have to teach. It would be like releasing a modern military shooter that had only looked at games before the release of Modern Warfare for inspiration; I’m sure it would be fine, but it would feel a bit dated at the same time.

When you look at games that are out now and, more crucially, games like Watch Dogs that should be releasing in a similar timeframe, GTA V has this feeling of being a throwback to an earlier era, like Rockstar have developed this game in partial isolation. That’s not to say they’re not trying new things, and the idea of three protagonists is certainly one of the more interesting concepts they’re bringing in, but there’s nothing I’ve seen of GTA V that really goes “You must play this game!”

Vice City gave me that feeling, and I’d love it if Rockstar could show me something in GTA V that brings me back to a position where not playing it is out of the question. But, for now, my excitement’s other places, and Rockstar would need to do something special to change that.

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47 Comments
  1. Eldave0
    andUandU
    Since: Aug 2008

    I suppose it depends what you play GTA games for really. Personally I have never been a fan of the games’ driving mechanics, shooting mechanics or storylines (Sleeping Dogs handles each of these elements infinitely better). Instead I used to play GTA games for their humour and straight-up fun, both of which were completely absent from GTA4, as RockStar decided to stick a rod up their arse and focus on giving their franchise an unnecessarily serious tone. If GTA5 is the same I will gladly give it a miss.

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 10:01.
    • ohmikkie
      Member
      Since: Nov 2011

      Same here. I remember I used to just have those games on pause just listening to the radio stations.

      Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 13:19.
  2. BerackyWack
    Member
    Since: Aug 2008

    I was exactly the same, loved Vice City and couldn’t get into San Andreas. I think it was the repetitive missions at the start that I had already done 2 or 3 times before on Vice City and GTA III. Hopefully GTA V brings something new.

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 10:11.
  3. psychobudgie
    Member
    Since: Nov 2009

    I’m finding myself in agreement with you on virtually everything.

    Vice City was the pinnacle of GTA in my opinion. It had a fabulous story, great characters, superb voice acting and probably the best soundtrack to feature in any sandbox game ever. Felt the same as you with regards to San Andreas. Just never did it for me.

    GTA 4 was an improvement though. Not quite hitting the heights of VC but a good game none the less. Seems to have lost some of the humour of the series along the way which makes it feel less like GTA.

    Saints Row The Third was a fine example how to carry a franchise forward whilst improving upon that which makes it unique. I sometimes think that Rockstar have forgone that particular element.

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 10:12.
    • SH Number 7/Mini-Lipscombe
      Member
      Since: May 2011

      I disagree with your opinions on SR3 at the time I thought SR2 was brilliant, it had a good serious tone and awesome humour. But SR3 went to far, I didn’t enjoy it as much, I love humour in my games but I still want the to be seriousness in it, I still want to feel like a badass. SR3 was just to silly and it dissapointed me greatly, I had the idea that this was going to be the one that blew my time with GTA away and make me forget about that series, but it didn’t it left me craving a good GTA game again.

      Comment posted on 04/04/2013 at 18:56.
  4. matthangzhou
    Member
    Since: Sep 2010

    IV was missing one thing for me: fun. The previous games were a hoot to play but 4 is one of the few games I’ve never finished.

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 10:13.
    • ChaosAscension
      Member
      Since: Nov 2010

      Agreed. I think the only true comedy I got out of it was the getting drunk. Which was handled brilliantly for a video game.

      Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 10:41.
  5. Origami Killer
    Member
    Since: May 2010

    For me San Andreas was the best GTA, I’m not sure why but it was the GTA I’ve had most fun with. Vice City coming a close second. I was unhealthily excited for IV, I was literally running around Cardiff City Centre trying to find a copy in GAME and HMV – and I managed to get the last one in HMV that day. For all that effort the game didn’t stand up to expectations. It’s good but didn’t capture that fun element that the previous titles did. I’m not a huge fan either of a story about a Russian immigrant. I’ll be excited still for V but not as much, and I’ll be going into the game expecting very little.

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 10:24.
  6. ChaosAscension
    Member
    Since: Nov 2010

    My sentiments exactly. I, and many other fellow gamers (all in our 30′s) feel the series has run out of steam and is struggling to reinvent itself. Ironic, when we (like probably many others) have sat up late at night discussing a myriad of things we’d love to see/do in a new GTA game. ’4′ seemed very faceless (partly down to the main character) and tbh, the missions were very unimaginative. I didn’t finish it, nor had the desire to finish it – a rarity with these games. I have high hopes for ’5′, though in the back of my mind, I see the next gen as being where the series will re-invent itself and come of age. But, if it takes another 3 years to make it, will we all care AS much… :/

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 10:30.
  7. cc_star
    Team TSA: Writer
    Since: Forever

    Series peaked on PlayStation 2 with Vice City/San Andreas (depending on your opinion)

    We’re a long way past the point of a developer shipping out more of the same.

    It’s amazing that in an open world sandbox where almost anything is possibly the game has you going endlessly from map marker to map marker to kill someone who annoys your ‘boss’ in some way.

    This generation has seen a ridiculous number of franchises where there’s been just ‘one too many’ in the series released.
    Enough already.

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 10:40.
  8. freezebug2
    Member
    Since: Dec 2008

    Loved GTA III, Vice City and San Andreas but tolerated GTA IV by way of completing the SP campaign then trading.
    Trying a new direction as they did with IV just didn’t cut it for me so I’m very happy that they are getting back to what made GTA the standout leader of the pack.
    I think V will be an enhanced, updated and new Vice with smatterings of III and San Andreas for good measure.
    Basically I think that Rockstar are listening to the fans and hopefully delivering on the overwhelming wishlist which is for a return to a Vice-esque vibe (and some) with the new game.
    Seriously looking forward to receiving my long awaited pre-order!

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 10:43.
    • Broonba
      Member
      Since: Mar 2009

      I totally agree with freeze here. I’m expecting (possibly hoping) that V will blow us away. III was great. Vice was ace. San Andreas was excellent & V (I think) is gonna be superlative.

      Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 12:22.
  9. parryman
    Member
    Since: Apr 2012

    It’s uncanny, it’s like the article was written from my opinions. VC is the pinnacle of the GTA series.
    IV didn’t grab me at all.
    I recently picked up Saints Row 3, and it reminds me of the good old GTA days.

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 11:25.
    • 3shirts
      Member
      Since: Aug 2008

      Saints Row is a series that’s gone the opposite way to GTA. It started off a bit serious and rapidly went crazy. SR3 was absolutely nuts and I loved it. I’m concerned that SR4 might actually be certifiable but I do know it will still be immensely fun. I just hope GTA V manages to rekindle some of the fun of Vice City.
      A good story is important but outside of that, let’s just have some god damn fun!

      Comment posted on 04/04/2013 at 12:11.
  10. Taylor Made
    Member
    Since: Oct 2011

    San Andreas is the game that got me into GTA, my love for hip hop was fulfilled in a game, the homage they did to eazy E, the whole west coast theme like was epic, eating, gym etc loved it & remains the best GTA in my eyes.

    Hardly ever played GTA again after, played the ballad of Tony love it, it’s good.

    I’m looking forward to new GTA

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 11:27.

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