I hope this is okay to post here with a link to my site. I couldn't work out how to add a blog post to the Grand Theft Auto V page. Anyways, here's my thoughts on the future of the series. I'd love to hear some feedback, either on here on in the comments, it's up to you ;). Thanks.
Edit: Attached post below:
Present-day. San Andreas. These were the answers to two of the most important questions answered within seconds of the trailer going up online. Because on Wednesday afternoon, Rockstar pulled the curtain back for the first time on the industry’s worst kept secret, Grand Theft Auto V.
From the moment Grand Theft Auto IV hit shelves back in 2008, fans haven’t been able to stop speculating about the next city the series would gravitate towards. Amsterdam, Canada and others were laughed off, whereas some of the more serious suggestions (London, Cuba, Tokyo) seemed plausible. Whatever side of the fence you were on, one thing seemed certain; it was time for GTA to move outside of the United States.
Over the last few years Rockstar Games have focused their attention into various other IPs, notably Red Dead Redemption and this year’s detective thriller L.A. Noire, with Max Payne 3 waiting in the wings for an early release next quarter. With rumours of new consoles on the horizon growing fast, fans began to wonder if they might ever see another Grand Theft Auto this side of consoles.
Just last week, out of the blue, in typical Rockstar fashion I might add, Grand Theft Auto V was officially announced by Rockstar Games, with a trailer set to follow the following week. Speculation started up again; and characters, locations and time periods were all at the forefront of the conversation. Why were they moving straight to V? Why weren’t they following the 1-2 year development cycle that worked so well on the PS2? Did we need V and why had Rockstar taken four years out to develop the next GTA? Whatever the answers to those questions were, this was going to be huge.
On time and as promised the trailer hit the internet on Wednesday afternoon, bringing back a familiar setting along with it – San Andreas. Set in the current day, you play as retiree (sort of) who’s moved to Los Santos with plans of leaving behind a life of crime and settling down. Reaction from fans was mixed. While some were happy to be going back, others felt let down by Rockstar for playing it so safe.
Personally, I thought the trailer was phenomenal. Rockstar always fill their trailers with clues to keep fans guessing and pump out stuff so infrequeuntly, you can’t help but get caught up in the hype. Rockstar are masters at this, and just up until a few years ago, they used to keep gameplay screens and videos under wraps until launch day. I always loved that about them.
I guess I’m okay with San Andreas, and I can wait until the next generational leap for them to do something completely different, I just believed the time was now. For the sake of the series, they either need to step outside of America, or do something completely revolutionary. I understand the allure of America, Grand Theft Auto’s always seemed to succesfully poke fun and thrive off of American pop culture, it’s been the backbone of the series in a way. The problem I have is that revisiting the same cities over and over gets repetitive, no matter how good the stories yet to be told are.
Building up to the release of the trailer, I’d hoped the series would return to London, the odd city out that has yet to receive the 3D treatment since the top down GTA games of the 90s. The underworld of organised crime in London would have worked so well as the backdrop to the next GTA game, with movies like Lock, Stock and Snatch acting as its foundation, just as Goodfellas was to III, Scarface to Vice City and Menace II Society to San Andreas.
I’ve always thought what made Vice City and San Andreas so great were the perfectly matched time periods. In the early 80s, Miami’s drug culture had shifted into the “designer” period. A booming economy, growth in disposable income and Miami’s club revolution were all cultural movements that caused scenes like the ones in the movie Scarface. This era lent itself kindly to Vice City while the gang culture in the late 80s and early 90s helped shape the vibe of San Andreas. San Andreas nailed a period where the public were coping with the aftermath of the L.A. riots and the beating of Rodney King. Where gangster rap was on the rise and feuding between the East and West Coast popularised a movement that was at the very heart of that game. These events shaped Vice City and San Andreas into games that mirrored the controversial cultural happenings of the time period.
Of course, the success of these games wouldn’t have been possible without the help of fantastic accompanying soundtracks. The music of both games did a great job of reflecting what was popular at the time, playing an integral role in capturing the time and social moods of each era perfectly, more so than any number of polygons possibly could.
As much as I loved Grand Theft Auto IV for the leaps it took, the noughties just weren’t as relevant and exciting as past eras. The soundtrack was bland compared to previous efforts and Liberty City just didn’t seem as fun this time around. The previous games seemed to take us back to the golden eras of crime, whereas IV seemed more focused on the American dream, my biggest issue with the game. This is the same problem I have with this upcoming release.
Now I’m not stupid enough to write Rockstar North off, especially after just one trailer, but I’d like to see certain game elements refined in GTA V. For instance, I wasn’t a fan of how side missions were handled in L.A. Noire. They seemed lacklustre and felt like more of an afterthought, one of the many things that game did wrong. The recent release of Arkham City redefined this concept, these self-contained stories are so well designed that they’re able to stand on their own against the game’s main story arc. As of writing this, I’ve still yet to dive into the main story simply because I’ve been so caught up in the side missions, which is testament to how well-rounded the game is.
It’s hard to judge a new game from one trailer, especially when details are so scarce at the moment. What we do know is Grand Theft Auto V will “focus on the pursuit of the almighty dollar”, set against present-day Southern California. Judging by the many themes seen in the trailer, money deprivation might play a big enough role. What if the game were to use the current global economic crisis in place of the gang violence of the 90s, and the drug-soaked club scene of the 80s? Such themes are sure to provide new and interesting subjects for the series to toy with.
Here’s hoping Rockstar build on the great character development from IV, with enough change to keep fans on both sides of the fence happy. After all, this is being penned as the “largest and most ambitious game Rockstar has yet created”, that’s got to count for something, right?