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Posted by dankempster

I've always found the concept of writing feature wish-lists like this a little strange, mainly because there's no way that any developer is going to be reading the ramblings of often rabid fans on the internet, and then tweaking the game experience accordingly. In that respect, it doesn't really achieve anything except setting up the writer for inevitable disappointment. And yet here I am, writing just such a wish-list for Grand Theft Auto V, the upcoming addition to Rockstar's most celebrated franchise. My change of heart stems from recently returning to Grand Theft Auto IV, which I have no hesitation in declaring my favourite game ever. Despite having a great deal of love for that game, though, I'm not completely oblivious to its flaws - flaws which, on playing through the game for the third time in four years, are even more apparent than I remembered. That's my impetus for deciding to put pen to paper (or should that be fingers to keyboard?) and compile this list - to highlight some of the problems I had with GTA IV, and suggest ways in which they could potentially be addressed in GTA V.

Oh, and a small disclaimer for anybody who comes into this blog expecting "MORE EXPLOSIONS! MORE CUSTOMISATION! MORE DILDOS!" - you won't find any of that here. Sorry. With that said, let's move on to point number one...

A Better Characterised Protagonist

Niko was a great character, but his motives often seemed to clash with GTA IV's narrative

The Grand Theft Auto franchise is renowned for bringing us brilliant characters, and GTA IV was no exception. Who could ever forget characters like Little Jacob, Vlad Glebov, and Phil Bell? And then there's the man at the centre of it all, Niko Bellic, and the story of his rise from 'rags to slightly better rags', as I believe Rockstar themselves put it. One thing that's always bothered me about Niko, though, is that the game handles the development of his character so poorly. We weren't made to feel like Niko's progression from "I promised myself I wouldn't kill people here" to "I'll rip your fucking heart out" was a natural one - it simply happened at some point, without the game letting us know about it. A side-effect of this was a tangible disconnect between who the player thinks Niko is, and what he's being asked to do. Whoever we turn out to be playing as in GTA V, I hope that their personality is properly developed and above all, justifies their actions. Progression from reluctant petty criminal to psycopathic assassin is fine, Rockstar. Just try and explain it a bit better next time around.

A More Vibrant City

Liberty City felt lived-in, but it didn't really feel alive

Just as I prefaced the previous point by saying I loved GTA IV's characters, I want to preface this one by declaring my love for Liberty City. It's without a doubt one of the best open-worlds I've seen in a video game to date - roads clogged with traffic, pavements bustling with residents, and remarkably sophisticated levels of interactivity. It's pretty damn hard to criticise a game world in which I can run someone over, call an ambulance, and then watch as the paramedics I've just summoned get to work reviving the victim of my reckless driving. That being said, my one small problem with Liberty City is how drab everything is. I realise it's a dense urban environment, but it becomes a drag driving down nothing but grey concrete corridors. Even the theoretically beautiful parks dotted around the city seem to have adopted washed out colour palettes. Thankfully this seems like something that GTA V will definitely address, its Los Angeles-inspired setting providing a perfect opportunity to bring dense suburbia and the glitz of Hollywood together. The colours that we saw in the first trailer are confirmation enough for me that Los Santos is going to give us much brighter and more varied environments, and I for one couldn't be happier.

A Wider Variety Of Distractions

If they can incorporate it in a way that complements the world, I'd love to see vehicle-specific missions return in GTA V

If there's one major criticism I want to level at GTA IV, it's that the game doesn't really give you enough stuff to do when you want to take a break from the main story missions. This was one of the big strengths of Vice City and San Andreas, games which literally had optional content packed onto every single street and in dozens of different forms. Comparatively, GTA IV takes place in a larger game world, but opportunities for distractions seem scarcer somehow. GTA V's new setting and more varied environments seem to lend themselves to all manner of mini-games and side-missions, though, so I hope Rockstar North take advantage of that and populate Los Santos with a lot more things to do outside of the main campaign. I think it's worth noting that GTA IV did succeed in translating some of the old Odd Jobs to the new generation, most notably the Taxi Driver and Vigilante vehicle missions. I'd love it if they were able to give the Paramedic and Firefighter missions the same treatment for GTA V. I also think it could be interesting to implement some procedural events, like the ones in Red Dead Redemption, to keep the player engaged and on their toes even when they're not doing anything in particular.

More Varied And Complex Mission Structures

Some alternatives to the basic 'drive there, shoot them' mission set-up would be nice

As I'm sure anybody who's powered through GTA IV's story in pursuit of the Liberty City Minute Achievement will attest to, the game's main story missions get pretty damn repetitive. Sticking to the main missions means you're in for twenty solid hours of 'go to this place, shoot these dudes, pick up this item, and bring it back to this location'. As one of an apparent minority who loved both the driving and the gunplay in GTA IV, this wasn't too much of a big deal for me, but even I was beginning to feel a bit of errand fatigue towards the game's end. I'd definitely welcome some different styles of missions, or even alternative mission strands along the lines of Vice City's business-specific threads. I'd also like to see Rockstar employ more complex mission structures in GTA V. One of my favourite missions in GTA IV was Three Leaf Clover, an elaborate bank heist split into multiple stages. More missions of that complexity in GTA V would make me a very happy gamer.

More Stuff To Spend Money On

Imagine building a real estate empire in Los Santos

It's pretty clear based on previous GTA games that money is going to be a big deal in GTA V - perhaps an even bigger deal, given the game's stylized logo. If that's the case, then I hope the game gives us more opportunities to spend our hard-earned dollars than GTA IV did. That game threw a lot of money at the player, but didn't really give them any opportunity to throw it back into the game. Sure, we could buy food, clothes and guns, but that was pretty much it - very far removed from the limitless things to spend it on in previous GTA games. The good news is that the West Coast setting seems like a perfect backdrop for lots of spending opportunities. Given our potential protagonist appears to be a family man, perhaps there will be chances to buy up some real estate, just like in Vice City and San Andreas. Or, after successfully implementing some cool gambling mini-games into Red Dead Redemption, perhaps Rockstar will offer us the opportunity to whittle our money away at a more modern poker table. Whatever way it could happen, I just hope it happens. No point earnin' it and not burnin' it!

Tweak The Friend System

Giving players more choice about when they hang out with friends might make them less annoying

While I didn't personally have any issues with Niko's buddies in GTA IV, I know a lot of other gamers did. The regular calls from acquaintances suggesting a trip to the comedy club, or pool hall, or bowling alley, probably disrupted the experience for a lot of players. On the flip-side, though, I felt like the friendships in GTA IV added a lot to the game, both in terms of longevity and depth. Getting to know characters like Little Jacob, Brucie Kibbutz and Packie McReary was a lot of fun for me, and the in-game rewards for doing so proved very useful over the course of my time with the game, so I really don't want to see that side of the game disappear altogether. As a compromise, I'd like to see Rockstar keep friendships in GTA V, but make them pursuable entirely at the player's discretion. Don't force social interactions down the player's throat by bombarding them with calls, and don't punish them for ignoring that side of the game. Instead, just let the player choose when and how they want to interact with NPCs. It leaves that side of the game intact for those of us who want to experience it, without penalising players who don't - a win-win situation.

Borrow Some Mechanics From Chinatown Wars

Throwing Chinatown Wars' police evasion system into GTA V would make for some incredible car chases

Early last year, I played the PSP version of GTA: Chinatown Wars. While a lot has happened between then and now, I can still remember being completely captivated by some innovative aspects of its design that I still hope and pray will make their way into future console GTA games. The drug dealing side missions would fit right into the Los Santos setting - the breadth of the economic spectrum within the city could even possibly pave a route for some kind of ranked progression. More than anything, though, I want to see that game's police evasion mechanics make their way into GTA V. For anybody not familiar with Chinatown Wars, the only way you can shake off your wanted level is by forcing pursuing police cruisers to crash. It made for some dynamic, cinematic car chases in that game, and I'm convinced if it was properly implemented, it would do the same for a console GTA game as well. We'll obviously have to wait and see what changes Rockstar North choose to make (if any), but this is the one I've found myself longing for the most.


Well, there you have it, a little list of my wants and desires for Grand Theft Auto V. None of these are exactly deal-breakers, I know, but that's probably because at the end of the day, I just love me some GTA. Unless something goes very wrong between now and the speculated 2012 release date, I know I'm going to adore GTA V regardless. These are all just things that would make me adore it that little bit more, I guess. I'll sign off by opening up the wish-list and handing it over to you - what changes would you like to see Rockstar make to the established formula? I look forward to reading your thoughts. Thanks very much for reading guys, I'll see you around.



Currently playing - Grand Theft Auto IV (X360)

Posted by Peacefulpaul108

Very nice bit of writing - I think I pretty much agree with all of it, and unquestionably the character progression stuff would be the top of my wishlist. I loved GTA IV too (including the driving and shooting!) but my heart did sink a bit at the voiceover of the V trailer "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in" in almost so many words. Again.

Of course, GTA V will almost certainly be wonderful one way or another, but I definitely hope Rockstar is looking in some of the same directions as your wishlist is :-)

Posted by BulletproofMonk

IV didn't force you to hang out your friends. You could turn all that stuff off. The sleep mode function is pretty well hidden in the cell phone menu, but it's there.

Other than that, I agree with most of this. Especially the ''more stuff to spend you're money on'' bit. By the end of the game I had over half a million dollars, and nothing to spend it on. It was quite frustrating.

Posted by dankempster

@BulletproofMonk: But didn't Sleep Mode also disable all phone calls that could potentially advance the storyline? So until the credits rolled, people who were bothered by that stuff were left with two options - either tolerate the calls for the duration of the story missions, or turn them off and freeze your story progression. Don't get me wrong, I know the social interaction was never mandatory, the penalisation for ignoring it was minimal, and personally I always enjoyed spending some time shooting pool with Roman or Jacob. I just think it would be beneficial for all involved to let the player decide if and when they want to hang out with their in-game pals.

Posted by TheGreatGuero

Nice blog, Dan. I too absolutely love GTAIV, and I do agree with your criticisms, though I must admit I had completely forgotten who Phil Bell was until I looked up his GB page. You know, the money thing is very true. All that money and nothing to spend it on but a bunch of outfits (most of which you'll never wear). Speaking of that, the wardrobe setup was done horribly and it took forever to toggle through all those things. As much as I enjoyed GTAIV, some areas felt like they were a step backwards. I always LOVED the import/export garage of last gen's GTA games, and it was a great way to get you to learn all the different cars, plus it allowed for some cool unlockables and a great way to earn cash. GTAIV totally ruined that. Collecting all those cars for Stevie was a complete chore. You had the missions you could do in the police car, but they weren't all that great, if you ask me. Oh, and yeah, buying property is always a great idea. And hey, how about buying some businesses again? I always enjoyed that about Vice City.

They need to fix the player movement and gameplay mechanics a bit, though I have no doubt this problem will be fixed. I'd prefer if they got rid of the lock-on ability entirely. Also, it sucks when you get hit by a car and then are like paralyzed for a moment during your character's animation of getting up and can totally be killed at that moment while you're defenseless. Ever get nudged by a taxi, only to fall in the street and get NAILED by a fast car and die? It's funny. Heck, it's even pretty cool, but man does it suck! Same goes with the motorcycles. You fall off one of those and you just watch your health keep dropping while you tumble, which makes it a little discouraging to use motorcycles at all.

More stuff to do would be excellent. Heck, I remember having a blast doing the pizza boy missions in Vice City. While maybe a little silly to do in a modern GTA game, that kind of stuff was fun and you were rewarded nicely for completing those sort of objectives, which is appreciated. One of my big issues with GTAIV and even San Andreas is there's a lot of stuff to collect, but you have to collect every last one of them to be rewarded. How about some progressive rewards? Remember in GTA3 and VC when you'd collect 10 hidden packages and get a weapon spawn at your safe house? That's good. More of that! Don't make me have to collect 100% to get rewarded. And for God's sake, no more pigeons. I say go back to hidden packages. The pigeons were terrible in so many ways! 1. Their glow was faint and similar to pretty much every street light in Vice City. 2. Their sound was too hard to distinguish with all of the game's background noise. 3. You had to SHOOT them to kill them, which gives you an automatic wanted level. Give me a little more encouragement to want to find every stunt jump, to collect every collectible, etc.

GTAIV borrowed a few things from the Scarface game, which I think was actually quite a great game in its own right. Though, in Rockstar's defense, Scarface stole a lot from GTA. But anyway, the whole cell phone thing was seen first in Scarface, and that worked pretty well for the game. I hope they expand on it and make better use out of it for GTAV. But also, they borrowed the wanted level from Scarface, although it didn't work very well in GTAIV. The system was definitely a downgrade. I hope they get rid of it and find a better way to implement the wanted level system. Scarface had drug dealing as well, and I found it to be a lot of fun in that game and I would totally like to see something similar in GTAV.

Bring back bicycles! Give us back tanks! The option of choice in GTAIV was excellent and they presented us with some really difficult decisions. I'd love to see more of that! The truth is, though, that I'm not worried at all. I have complete confidence in Rockstar. Not to sound like a fanboy, but I do think they're the best game company around right now, and they just keep pushing the envelope for all other games to follow. I am incredibly excited about GTAV, though a little discouraged by the fact that San Fierro and Las Venturas didn't make the cut. In the end, though, perhaps that won't matter to me at all.

Posted by dankempster

@TheGreatGuero: You bring up some great points, some of which I wanted to address in the blog but was worried about turning it into an even bigger wall of text than it is. I'll try to reply to everything!

Yeah, the wardrobe set-up was horrible and unnecessarily slow, but it's a marked improvement on San Andreas. I went back to that recently and tried to change my outfit - it literally takes minutes. I also think the car-stealing side stuff in GTA IV is a big step back, and the fact that you're directed to the specific car in question turns it into just another mission and kinda saps the fun out of it. Remember that rush of cruising the city streets in older GTAs, and spotting a car you desperately need for the garage? That was missing in GTA IV, and I noticed its absence. I'm actually doing the Vigilante stuff in GTA IV right now, and I've found it a bit hit-and-miss. Some of the Most Wanted targets that require you to storm apartment buildings or raid warehouses has been loads of fun. On the other hand, the procedural Vigilante stuff isn't very exciting at all.

My current playthrough of GTA IV has been with the lock-on targeting turned completely off, and while I enjoyed the game with auto-targeting on, I'm enjoying it a lot more this way. I've never understood the criticism levelled at the shooting in GTA IV, I personally find the gunfights to be incredibly fun, tense and dynamic. Those moments where Euphoria and RAGE conspire against you and get you killed unexpectedly are indeed frustrating, albeit very entertaining. I avoid motorcycles like the plague in vanilla GTA IV, which is a shame because they're a lot of fun to ride. They're just not much fun to be dismounted from.

I agree wholeheartedly with what you say about collectibles, especially the point about progressive rewards. I won't say too much about that, because I wrote a whole blog about it earlier this year, but suffice it to say, I think GTA IV did collectibles totally wrong. On the other hand, I think Red Dead Redemption did collectibles totally right, so hopefully Rockstar North can take some hints from the San Diego studio in that respect.

I've never played the Scarface game, so I can't really comment too much about that, but I do think it's cool that Rockstar aren't afraid to recognise good ideas and borrow them from their own imitators. Some of the features in GTA IV, like flying through the windscreen in high-speed collisions, were lifted from Saints Row. I loved GTA IV's cell phone, it really is an integral part of the experience and like you, I hope they expand on that concept in some meaningful ways. Given how prevalent smart phones are these days, I'd love to see them expand on that aspect of the game with some satirical App Store or something along those lines. I didn't really care for GTA IV's system for shaking wanted levels - it wasn't a very reliable method and rendered the few Pay & Sprays littered around Liberty City practically useless. This is why I really hope the Chinatown Wars system makes it into GTA V - I'm convinced that trying to coax pursuing cops into totalling their cruisers would make for some really awesome car chases.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

Yes, yes, yes! All of these! I especially agree with the distractions - it's one of the reasons I didn't much care for GTA IV and LA Noire. If they take their cues from both Red Dead Redemption and their competitors (namely Saints Row, but I could also see them taking inspiration from games like Assassin's Creed or the like), this should be a return to form.

Posted by AngelN7

@TheGreatGuero: I actually like the fact that you could die in some situations like riding a bike or getting hit by a car , that's realistic I think that set the tone for what that game was you just weren't an avatar or carpet that could be stepped on ignoring the laws of physics and whatnot , you where a character a human and you could die doing a mundane activity like riding a bike if you weren't carefull , I think they could refine that stuff in GTAV. Bike riding for example needs to remain as dangerous as it was in IV but how about implementing the Driving school from SA and as you progress your character gains the necesary skills to beter at riding instead of making your character have his butt glue to the bike for gameplay purposes , I don't think they should go back to the same tropes from the older games but tak the ideas what worked there and using them in a better way.

Posted by AlecOfTheWest

I didn't have any problems with Niko's characterization, and I still think Liberty City is one of the best open-world cities in a game. I agree with the rest of your suggestions, especially the variety in missions.

I don't want them to do side activities like Saint's Row does them, though; logically integrate them into the world like GTA IV did, just add more of them.

Posted by dankempster

@AlecOfTheWest: I'm definitely with you on that one. I really liked the way that the Taxi Driver and Vigilante missions were re-dressed to work within the world of GTA IV. If they can apply that treatment to other odd jobs for GTA V, I'll be very happy to see them return.

Edited by Claude

I loved Liberty City in GTA IV. I remember driving from my first home to go play some pool with my cousin. But once I started making money in a trail of blood in the story, there was only one pool table to play in the whole game. I even had an apartment with a pretty new pool table and couldn't even use it. I wanted to live in that city but felt restricted. I wanted to play the same minigame, but with a different crowd.

But no matter my wish list or my disappointment to some aspects of GTA IV, I will buy and play GTA V. Maybe in our dreams, Rockstar will have read this before you wrote it.

I still need to play Episodes from Liberty City. I feel like I'm missing some things from that great City.

Posted by BulletproofMonk

@dankempster said:

@BulletproofMonk: But didn't Sleep Mode also disable all phone calls that could potentially advance the storyline? So until the credits rolled, people who were bothered by that stuff were left with two options - either tolerate the calls for the duration of the story missions, or turn them off and freeze your story progression. Don't get me wrong, I know the social interaction was never mandatory, the penalisation for ignoring it was minimal, and personally I always enjoyed spending some time shooting pool with Roman or Jacob. I just think it would be beneficial for all involved to let the player decide if and when they want to hang out with their in-game pals.

Now that I think about it, you're probably right. I guess Sleep Mode was there if you just wanted to roam around and do random shit.

Anyways, I haven't played the game in ages, so I'll just shut up now before I embarrass myself even more. :)

Posted by Vigil80

Great post. I had started on a list as well, but this is so much more professional. :)

I'll just add my 2 cents:

Vehicle saving and customization. GTA4 had the half-measure of saving vehicles in the apartments' parking spaces. But if an NPC decided to drive off in it at the end of a mission, it was gone. So whether I can save and tweak to my heart's content as in SR3, or I have to save up and buy them like Sleeping Dogs, I want to be able to find a car I like, paint it, and keep it forever.

Dynamic combat. Open world games have shown us recently that they don't have to sacrifice when it comes to combat. Players have every reason to demand finesse. Niko Bellic was stiff as a board.

Traversal. Not just running and jumping, but climbing, squatting, rolling, vaulting, and diving. Anything less will be a disappointment.

Co-Op. The technological limitations are surmountable by now, as SR3 has shown.

Repeatable side missions. Making your own fun - which usually boiled down to getting a 5 star wanted level and seeing how long you could survive - is well and good. It's part of the joy of an open world game. But some other reasons to keep coming back certainly wouldn't go amiss.