On behalf of RPS, I’d like to offer an apology. You may have noticed that we haven’t joined every other gaming blog, Twitter feed, Facebook page, Vine, easily graffiti-ed wall, bus, building, tree, and organized crochet ring in plastering all our available surfaces with each and every Grand Theft Auto V screenshot to hit these mean e-streets. It is, I’m well aware, a travesty. But hey, it looks like Rockstar’s in the market for someone to speed its PC porting process along a little, so I think I care again. Sort of. I mean, the game’s world looks marvelous, expansive, and varied, but – as ever – this one’s grandly thieving fingers are sticky largely because they can’t keep out of film’s painfully predictable pie. Trailer’s after the break.
WHEEEEE VROOOM PLANES CARRRRRS HELICOPTERS TOILET FEEEET. Aaaaaaand of course “cinematic” story missions. Can’t forget those.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s not like I hate the idea of story in my sandboxes. It’s just that recent GTAs have taken that element a bit too far, hoping to mold my virtual life around that of my character. GTA IV’s Niko Bellic epitomized this confused tug-of-war, with annoyingly mundane aspects of his “real life” (relationships, phone calls, NIKO MY COUSIN) buzzing around non-mission fun like flies dive-bombing soup. Missions themselves, meanwhile, didn’t really leverage the “living, breathing” world the game tried so desperately to create. They were just standard linear (and often frustrating) videogame fare. Were there some good ideas in GTA IV? Certainly. But none of them really gelled with one another.
Flash forward to GTA V and – at least, based on this trailer – Rockstar looks to have only partially understood why GTA IV was met with such mixed opinions (after, you know, being called the Citizen Kane of gaming eleventybluesalivaapplesauce times). They’ve crafted another world that’s no doubt littered with detail, the steaming detritus of American excess, and, er, litter, and some systems seem tailored to letting me explore it at my own leisure. I can hunt, bounty hunt, play tennis, bike, and parachute. Fun! I can bounce between characters halfway across the world. Neat! I can decide how my three-growly-man crew will approach missions. Cool! But then they resume their own lives independent of my control, and – while an interesting, kind of Sims-ish twist – it sounds like the whims of plot and character development might take priority over my own.
I wish Rockstar would just make up its mind about what it really wants to do already – or at least offer a “sandbox mode” that lets me disable all extraneous nonsense and simply explore. That’d be really magnificent, actually. Give me options for everything, on/off toggles for character behavior, police pursuit, story missions, side missions, etc, etc, etc. Pretty please, Rockstar? I’m no programmer, but surely that can’t be impossible.
As is, GTA V looks very promising in places, but rather worrisome in others. I see specs of Max Payne 3 and Red Dead Redemption sprinkled throughout, but also just enough GTA IV to give me pause. Oh well. Honestly, I’ve always been more of a Saints Row man myself anyway.