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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. KeRaSh
    Since: Nov 2009

    I agree. Vice City was the peak. I really like Watch Dog’s approach and I hope that Rockstar goes back to the drawing board for their next gen installment.

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 13:36.
  2. Tuffcub
    On the naughty step.
    Since: Dec 2008

    Never liked any of the GTAA’s. Saints Row FTW.

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 14:14.
    • Airiaen
      Since: Aug 2009

      but it has no physics, Saints Row sucks.

      Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 19:16.
  3. The Von Braun
    Since: Oct 2012

    Loved the 1st game and GTA:London on PSone, tried to get into GTA2 on PSone and again DC later, just never did anything for me, not sure what went wrong, but i just did’nt take to it.

    Loved GTA’s 3+VC on PS2, bought them again on Xbox, poured hours back into them, but San.An.? hell no…..and by then even the biggest GTA fans in terms of my friends gave up around halfway through and admitted it was just trying to cram too much in-throwing every idea you have for a game, into a game does’nt mean everything is going to work.

    After that, i was hooked on Scarface on Xbox and did’nt try a GTA game again until LCS on PSP, put a few hrs in, walked away never to return to it.Have Chinatown on PSP yet to try and i’ve never bothered with GTA 4.

    Personally feel series had a good run, made the jump from 2D-3D very well, but Rockstar need to let the series rest for a few years, Red Dead Redemp.just felt like a GTA MOD, with game engine handling the spartan wild west better than a sprawling cityscape.

    Sure MS will sign up some sort of time exclusive on the 360 DLC etc, but in all honesty, i don’t see it as the system seller it once was and Rockstar are not the great story tellers likes of EDGE would have them believe.

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 17:04.
  4. jmg24bad
    Since: Jan 2011

    Im sorry, but GTA san andreas is the pinnacle of the series. It was the most diverse game overall. I played vice city, and then I played San Andreas, san andreas shat all over vice city

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 19:37.
  5. rept0n
    Since: May 2010

    Gonna have to be controversial here.

    Been a fan of the GTA series all the way through (really liked the top-down series, but they feel so far away from what GTA has become, that they’re almost like different games altogether).
    Didn’t really have time for Vice City on release, but played it through at a later date… I LOVED the many many many film references, and the music is the best that the series has had… but it isn’t my favourite.
    GTA III was okay, seemed a bit boring towards the end.
    San Andreas was probably my highlight… I really liked the scale and the variety. Again, the themes are references were good (but not as familiar), and I think it was the first in the series that the ‘hype’ got me.

    GTA IV… HYPE, check, next Gen, check… Eastern European protagonist – Perfect.
    The graphics were incredible, the scale HUGE, the refinements to the formula – balanced, the set pieces – unmatched. The comedians on Times Square – great thought.
    I think I’m the only one who holds this game above Vice City. It’s really really good.
    In a way, the scale was strange… the clarity and draw distance is great, but because it was limited to Liberty City, it seemed smaller than San Andreas’ countryside.

    I have never had time (too many other games) for the DLC… and really couldn’t get into Red Dead.

    Now we have GTA V… I’d really like to see it optimised for the next gen, but hopefully they’ve squeezed every last drop from the current hardware. The three central characters should be interesting.

    The series for me has been more about the journey (rags to riches etc) and the various stories and supporting cast. The film references have been great, and the radio was brilliant for the themed games. I’m just looking forward to release day, as I haven’t seen a game that entertains me quite as well.

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 19:39.
  6. Foxhound_Solid
    Is a smart cookie.
    Since: Dec 2009

    Never got along with GTA. Always found them boring with loose controls.

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 19:55.
  7. jmg24bad
    Since: Jan 2011

    I also feel like this article isnt really needed. For one, we know little to nothing about GTA 5, any indication of the screenshots would show you, this game is upping the ante big time. When we get to see more on GTA5 we can defiantly decide if it will be worth it (I feel like its going to be like red dead in terms of exploration) . I can guarantee it is a step up from gta4 (which really wasnt a 10/10 , more like 8.5) which will make this game incredible

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 20:06.
  8. hellfire13
    Since: Nov 2008

    Vice City was the most fun, and best all round game IMO. San Andreas was also pretty decent but having to eat food and go the gym was not a good addition. There was no fun in this.

    IV was the only GTA I didn’t complete because I got fed up having to babysit my “friends” and go out on dates etc. It also seemed like any time you were trying to carry out missions you would get a phone call from one of these annoying people.

    I am looking forward to GTA V but just hope they have removed the things that spoiled SA and IV.

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 20:26.
  9. cam_manutd
    Since: May 2010

    Never owned a GTA game and this probably won’t change my mind.

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 20:34.
  10. Nobaca
    Since: Apr 2013

    Dude, you jugding something that hasnt even been released! Give us your opinion after you have played the game. It makes no sense, oh wait it does because now in days, society teaches us its right to judge things by its cover. Yes totally hate a game by pictures and trailer.

    Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 20:57.
    • teflon
      Community Team
      Since: May 2009

      Would you be making the same point if Kris had come along and said that he’s really hyped up about GTA 5?

      It cuts both ways, and whereas there are many out there salivating at the merest glimpse of some of the screenshots, there is also a sizeable contingent which is somewhat sceptical.

      The final few paragraphs certainly say that he’s willing to be won over, just that going into this game after two games which didn’t grab his attention, and with a lot more competition in the genre, GTA 5 has a lot to live up to.

      Comment posted on 02/04/2013 at 21:48.
    • Kris Lipscombe
      Team TSA: Writer
      Since: Mar 2009

      My more general point is that I’m judging the series overall, and based on past experience of the series, the kind of games Rockstar make and what we’ve seen so far of GTA V I’m not interested at the moment. I’m not just judging GTA V on what I’ve seen of GTA V, but also on past experience. That’s essentially how we make every decision in life, so it seems like a reasonable course to take.

      I’m also perfectly open to have my opinion changed on the game.

      Comment posted on 03/04/2013 at 10:11.

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