Aside from the upcoming release of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, the biggest news in the gaming world is the immanent release of GTA V, which is something of video gaming royalty.
The last offering from Rockstar, GTA IV was released way back in 2008. This was a huge leap forwards, as all GTA games are, from the previous installment in many ways. However, as amazing and polished as GTA IV was many felt that it was missing some of the soul of the GTA franchise.
This was pretty much entirely solved with the release of the Lost and the Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony as stand alone DLCs in 2010. The Ballad of Gay Tony in particular was Rockstar at their very best, reintroducing some of the funnest parts of previous GTAs which had been missing – parachuting especially springs to mind which was brought back with TBoGT.
GTA IV, especially after the DLCs, was a resounding success. I personally loved it, and the figures agreed. The game made a record smashing $500 million in its first week, far more than any other video game ever. It’s won more Game Of The Year awards than any other game, and has been called the best game of the current game console generation by some critics. This was in line with a history of GTA titles smashing sales records and setting the video game world alight. So, GTA V has quite a pedigree to live up to.
What makes GTA?
Its a good question that isn’t easy to define. First and foremost though is the open world. GTA has pushed the boundaries of sandbox worlds with every release, and GTA V looks set to continue with this. In fact, the game map was leaked just yesterday (which you can see next to this). If you look closely the world looks enormous. Initially many argued that it was far too small. The trouble here is that GTA has usually gone down the route of gating areas, with a starting island and then two or more other islands which gradually open up over time to the player. For GTA V the developers scrapped this precedent in favour of one big flowing open world, which I much prefer, but which makes it more difficult to compare scale.
The best way to judge the size of this game map that I have found though is to look at the size of the airfield in the North West of the map. If you compare the scale of that on the game world to the scale of GTA IV’s airport to its game world map, you realise just how massive this game world will be.
You can see the differences in the two maps here for yourself, with GTA IV’s map on the left and GTA V’s on the right above. It seems pretty clear that Rockstar have managed to push the boat out once more on the size of their sandbox with GTA V.
Secondarily to what makes GTA is the involvement in the world, you feel part of the city of, in the case of GTA V the world of Los Santos. Every little piece of the game design goes in to this, with Rockstar’s impressive attention to detail showing in the vibrant worlds they create. 5 years of development and a reportly record breaking £170 million development budget has gone into this aspect first and foremost.
The best example I can think of of this is the radio stations. Liberty Rock Radio from GTA IV sticks in my mind here, with Iggy Pop himself drafted in as the aging rocking DJ with attitude playing a character essentially parodying himself. You listen to Liberty Rock not just for the music but for his character, you invest yourself in the radio station. I’ve never felt that with any other game similar to it, with the radio stations just playing a random collection of themed songs back to back – it doesn’t feel like a radio. GTA V is set to continue in this stream, real radio feel and all.
The final bit that makes GTA is that at the end of it all its good fun. It’s good fun to have a shoot out which you know is only going to end with your death when you have APCs bearing down on you with your 6 star wanted level. Even the missions are good fun, with a strong story driving every title with strong and believable characters which you invest in doing a variety of missions – none of which feel like gap fillers. For all the polished gameplay and top notch story line, the game doesn’t penalise you if all you want to do is load it up for 10 mins and have a pointless shoot out to destress – and yes, that does work in a strange way, and it’s not something to be afraid of having studied the psychology of human violence in the past! GTA at its heart is good fun.
So, I’m excited for the release of GTA V next week. It will be a fantastic game, which will break its own sales records again I’m sure, will probably take more Game Of The Years than any other title before and will be a solid favourite of many gamers. Rockstar have achieved legendary status with GTA through attention to detail and a massive investment of time, effort, money and care. It shows on the finished product and should be a shining example of all that is good in the games industry.
Digital Salad – https://lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com