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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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  1. tactical20
    Since: May 2010

    They are all equally brilliant in my eyes. Cannot wait for GTA V.

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 11:44.
    • Flash
      Since: May 2009

      Yeah this is my stance too. I just love the essence of GTA.

      Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 13:08.
  2. spacedelete
    Since: Mar 2012

    I used to love the GTA series but I’ve been burnt out and after replaying the classic ones I’ve realised how average and vanilla they are.

    Vice City especially is overrated. It was exactly like GTA 3 except in the 80’s. San Andreas at least had loads to do even if it was still too huge for my liking.

    Going back to GTA 3, Vice City and San Andreas I realise theres nothing to actually do than missions or rampages.

    Also PS2 versions run like utter shit. I honestly don’t know how I enjoyed these classic GTA games.

    Overall I’m tired of the series but I’m still going to get GTA 5 as it looks like what the GTA series should be like hopefully with good controls and combat.

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 12:05.
  3. dantheman
    Since: Apr 2013

    Kris, I guarantee you are going to be blown away with this game IF YOU PLAY IT PROPERLY! (And the story as well). Be aware that it is Rockstars biggest,best title they have ever made they delayed it to make it better. You mentioned that you only played bits of san Andreas and GTA IV, that’s why im guessing you didnt appeal to those games because you didn’t play much of them. But seriously how could you not have liked San Andreas, i would understand why you wouldn’t like IV because there was less to do that previous games, yeah Vice city was also a masterpiece but you have got to have some shit taste in games if that game didn’t appeal to you. This game will have A LOT MORE than everything you enjoyed in previous GTA games. Yes its old fashioned? but they’re progressing with every game made.

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 12:20.
  4. stonyk
    Since: Dec 2009

    Same here. Lost interest after San Andreas. Tried GTAIV and sold after a few hours in, then bought again a year later and again sold after a few hours in. The issue with GTA for me is that they need to really improve the gameplay. It’s basically a 3rd person action game and after playing Unchartered games they need the same level of quality in the 3rd person. The shooting and moving in GTAIV is terrible and not come on enough since the last generation. Sort this out, add a decent story line (GTAIV rubbish again) and it may bring me back in.

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 12:41.
  5. The Lone Steven
    Never heard of him.
    Since: May 2010

    I loved the GTA3 era games. Although San Andreas kept dropping the N word too often and swore for no reason. Vice City was excellent and was basically a tribute to 80s Mafia films. I think.

    Then GTA4 came along and decided to not be fun or have many side activies. Instead it decided to be a baby sitting game as well as a GTA game. What a disappointment that was.

    I hope GTA5 will bring GTA back to it’s former glory and not make us want to switch the TV off due to it’s abuse of swearing.

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 12:52.
  6. Kevatron400
    Drake, baby.
    Since: Dec 2008

    Vice City is the only GTA game I’ve ever completed. Love Tommy Vercetti, great character.

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 12:53.
  7. Motalla
    Since: Dec 2011

    I’ve never played the earlier games in the series. My GTA entry was San Andreas on the X-box with the “hot coffee” patch. I enjoyed it quite and bit and liked the freedom. However as time progressed other games caught my interest. One of the first games I bought for the PS3 in 2009 was the latest GTA, mainly due to its high recommendation and rating. But I have never really played it, I mean to, but so far it is in my pile of same. I probably pick the next GTA up a few months after its release to put it on top of the pile.

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 12:55.
  8. Andy Torr
    Since: Sep 2008

    I don’t know why everyone hates GTA so much. Vice City was good, but it wasn’t as good as San Andreas in my eyes. It had everything VC did and more. As for GTA IV, I don’t think I’ve ever had as much fun playing a game online as I have over the years on that. Yeah, there isn’t as much to do in the single player as San Andreas, but it has a greater sense of realism, which I love, and multiplayer online never fails to put me in tears laughing. I’m sure some of the guys around here that played online with us will probably agree. I can’t wait for V!

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 13:08.
    • bunimomike
      Since: Jul 2009

      I’m buying GTA V for the singular purpose of being able to tool around with you and the guys. The single campaign can wait… and I never normally say that! :-)

      San Andreas, in my humble opinion, was a bit of a sprawling mess. One of the few times I’ve not finished a GTA and the area became very boring when I made it to the Las Vegas area (apologies for not remembering the actual name).

      Then again, I think they’ve gone a little too far the other way with GTA IV so I reckon GTA V might hit that happy middle-ground that many of us are aching for. Tone, style, humour, epic chases, etc.

      Yep… very much looking forward to it still. :-)

      Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 13:20.
      • 3shirts
        Since: Aug 2008

        Yeah, one thing San Andreas badly needed was a fast travel system. I loved cruising the endless highways to the classic rock radio stations sometimes but only when I WANTED to. A lot of the travelling was just annoying especially if you randomly crashed your car in the middle of nowhere and had to run bloody miles or hijack a tractor that was only slightly faster than walking anyway!

        Comment posted on 04/04/2013 at 12:14.
  9. skibadee
    Since: Oct 2009

    GTA 4 is my favourite game this gen. I grew up on GTA loved the approach 4 took it matured I liked that, can not wait for 5.
    a lot of TSA members seem to not like GTA not that it matters never been short of sales.

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 13:30.
    • Airiaen
      Since: Aug 2009

      its not a sales thing :/ part of the game just gets either more dull or just too serious. It felt like a step back to me in some places imo.

      Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 18:56.
      • skibadee
        Since: Oct 2009

        my point is your not really going to affect the game because most love it so it will sell by the bucket load.

        Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 19:43.
  10. Adam Garrett
    Community Manager
    Since: Feb 2009

    I’m very much looking forward to GTA V but I get what Kris means. Many games are in need of or are adapting and and evolving and because they have shown so little so far and because what they ave shown is very much the things we would expect from a GTA game then there’s that little worry in the back of the mind that it could be underwhelming and not improve upon GTA IV.

    However, then again, the city in GTA V does look infinitely more fun already from the trailer and the humour aspect seems to be back. If they show some of the possible multiplayer off and mention some fun new possibilities in the game then those little doubts in the back of my mind will be gone.

    On a side note though, enough of the arrogant PR shit where you release one (or even half of one!) screenshot and expect us to wet our pants for you.

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 13:32.

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