With less than two days away from the worldwide unveiling of Grand Theft Auto V, it’s time to dig into the rumours, dismember the lies, and share our desires/predictions for what the next Grand Theft Auto will bring.
Time For a New Setting…
The most common rumours surrounding Grand Theft Auto V involve the setting. If the majority of these reports are accurate, the game will either take place in Vice City or San Andreas. But come on, anyone can make that prediction! It’s the obvious, no-brainer expectation.
One of the more interesting rumours is that the game will take place entirely in Los Angeles – the real Los Angeles. This is doubly interesting because it would be the first time that a Grand Theft Auto game took place in a real city, and because it indicates that the San Andreas rumours aren’t total crap.
But as much as I would love to cruise through LA instead of some artificial re-creation, there is almost no chance that Rockstar – or its parent company, Take-Two Interactive – would allow this to happen. Grand Theft Auto games have and always will be controversial. That controversy has served as a nice marketing tool, especially in reaching younger gamers who may not have paid attention to the franchise until mum and Dad complained. Through it all, Rockstar has come out looking like champ. There have been hard times, to be certain. The Hot Coffee catastrophe could have really hurt the company. But Rockstar survived, primarily because the developers have a stellar defence: it’s entertainment! And most of all, it’s very fictional.
…But Not a Real-World Setting
If Rockstar were to change its development philosophy and bring Grand Theft Auto to a real city, it would run the risk of being faced with a much bigger controversy. Now if someone committed a crime in LA and blamed it on the game, the media headlines would read, “Man Commits Crime in Virtual LA, Then Commits Crime in Real LA.” That headline is probably tame compared to the snide statements that video game-hating bloggers would concoct.
Yes, Rockstar would still have the “it’s entertainment” defence in its holster. However, that defence won’t be as effective if the series becomes less fictional. Taking it to a real Los Angeles will accomplish just that.
But that’s not the only consequence for de-fictionalizing the series. If Grand Theft Auto V took place in a real city, it wouldn’t be as fun. Part of the thrill of this franchise is the simple fact that it takes place in a world that’s similar to (but not completely like) our own world. It’s that separation from reality that allows us to enjoy the idea of running over drunken pedestrians.
So if we’re not going to LA, where will Grand Theft Auto V end up? For better or worse, San Andreas sounds like the most accurate rumour. But I’m betting there’s a good chance that the series will go to an entirely new fictional city, one that’s inspired by Detroit, London, or a mixture of cities.
Gaining a Little Perspective
Grand Theft Auto IV was often criticised for being too similar to the previous entries in the franchise. Realistically, however, the developers can’t do much to change the series without taking it out of the Grand Theft Auto mould we’re all used to playing. Resident Evil faced this very same problem, and it took three sequels and several unusual offshoots for the franchise to birth a sequel that one-upped the original: Resident Evil 4.
How did Capcom create innovation in a series that was getting old? By changing the camera perspective. It sounds minor, but by bringing the camera behind the character, by enhancing the size and scope of the world, and by making the battles against monsters and zombies as compelling as possible, Resident Evil 4 was like a whole other game.
Rockstar can (and should) do the same for Grand Theft Auto V. Frankly, that’s exactly what I expect the developers to do, albeit with changes that aren’t as severe as the changes Capcom made to the Resident Evil series.
Mission-Based Gameplay: A Franchise Staple or a Stagnant Feature That Has to Go?
If nothing else, the Grand Theft Auto series will be remembered for providing the best vehicle controls of any game. It is the very essence of what a “driving” game is supposed to be; you can hop in a car and cruise for hours without ever wanting to take a break. Best of all, you’re never tied to just one car, as every vehicle in sight is yours for the taking.
Despite these great, slowly evolving mechanics, the Grand Theft Auto series has yet to move away from using mission-based gameplay. Some love it, some hate it, and others simply wonder if we’ll ever get something new. Well, Rockstar, I’m here to tell you one thing: it’s time for a change.
I’m not saying that the missions should be taken out entirely. But how about a quest that actually made the player feel like he or she had to complete something worthy? How about a mission that took the player for a journey beyond the usual go-here-go-there-accomplish-this mechanics?
Chances are Rockstar isn’t listening. Chances are Grand Theft Auto V will retain its traditional mission-based gameplay formula.
Despite this and despite my complaints, there’s a good chance I’ll buy the game anyway.
Follow me @LouisBedigian