Let's be honest, at this point we know what to expect from a Grand Theft Auto game. The formula has only been slightly tweaked over the years, with the series claiming the title of being the single-most-cited franchise for its dedication to violence, drug use, criminal activity, and every single other negative influence that a game could have on the youth of the world.
But then Rockstar Games took a break. In the absence of GTA, the publisher brought to market a gripping western open-world experience with Red Dead Redemption that redefined the developer, and the notion of a 'mature' video game in the minds of many. Then the company followed that up by giving their vote of confidence to L.A. Noire, a 1950s police drama that replaced gunplay and violence with detective work and cinematic storytelling. So now that our perceptions of exactly what a Rockstar title is have so greatly changed, we can't help but wonder about what Grand Theft Auto V will offer. Sure the GTAV trailer on the way, but that doesn't stop our minds from racing until then.
The basic premise and attitude of the game are a given, and it's a good bet that vehicle destruction and a vast arsenal of weaponry will be on hand for the loyal fans. We've even got a pretty good idea of how Grand Theft Auto 5 the gameplay will look. Now that we've had four titles to play through, and some new ideas explored in the series' downtime, we've got more than a few hopes and demands for Rockstar to hear.
We've put together a list of some of the things we most hope to see with Grand Theft Auto V, and some shifts that could truly take Rockstar, and the series to new heights.
Improved Shooting Mechanic
We're not going to waste any time here, and immediately point out that while GTA may have advanced in leaps and bounds where graphics and storytelling are concerned, the same primitive shooting system has been carried over. In this age of triple-A shooters being released on a near-monthly schedule, Rockstar has to address this issue, and fast.
Snap-to targeting, snap-to cover, and awkward sprinting and spinning are all aspects of the shooting that have given players headaches over the years, and there is really no excuse for it to continue. Throwing a molotov cocktail at your feet, or being completely unable to dispatch an enemy who happens to be standing next to a doorway you've walked through are problems of a bygone era. The guns themselves are a blast, and the combat scenarios aren't particularly broken, but the shooting mechanic (even in Red Dead Redemption's gunslinger milieu) are more likely to make a player feel frustrated than bad-ass.
A solution could mean moving to a Gears of War 3-style free-aiming third person view, adopting a more intuitive cover system, or even throwing in a first-person view to avoid the need to run around a room just to make a complete turn. If GTA V plans to heighten the stakes like GTA IV's bank heist did, and we certainly hope they do, then this problem could be a major drawback to the series if it isn't addressed soon.
We won't be holding our breath on having the chance to play through the main story with a friend, but the proposition is a fair one. With long-time single-player franchises like Resident Evil and Mass Effect choosing to implement cooperative gameplay, the notion is clearly one that fans and developers alike are starting to demand. Playing with your friends makes any game better, and with so many years having passed since the last GTA title, there are plenty of fans who would love to experience the newest game cooperatively.
The strongest reason usually used for not including co-op for a game's campaign is that the story won't allow for it, or that the singleplayer narrative is only intended to be experienced by one person at a time. Nobody will ever accuse Rockstar of sticking to story over action - at least in the GTA series - so that justification is out. Blowing things up co-operatively in an actual mission would be something fans have been missing, and the current incarnation of GTA multiplayer is lacking the direction that one of their game's stories would deliver.
It's important to remember that in the absence of the series' fifth title, some have said that Call of Duty has usurped the title of most mainstream gaming franchise from the orgy of criminal activity and bloodshed. We'll choose to ignore the ramifications of a game letting players shoot each other being the only one to overtake one in which the player shoots policemen for the moment. While Modern Warfare 3 still refuses to let players experience the game's story in co-op, adding the mode would be a smart way for the developers to gain some lost ground.
No long-winded explanation for this one, since we like to think that our readers know why bringing airplanes (lots of airplanes) into Grand Theft Auto V would be a wise move. While airplane flight used to be a skill possessed by only a few developers, recent games have taken serious steps in making the form of transportation more than approachable.
One need look no farther than Just Cause 2, which managed to bring bi-planes, fighter jets, and even commercial airliners into a third-person action title seamlessly. That game managed to make planes as easy to operate as a car, and the opportunity for missions and open-world carnage are limitless.
Plot Surrounding Financial Crisis/War on Terror
Anyone who has spent some time with GTA knows that as much mud as the series has thrown at it, the satire and sense of humor on display is as cutting and witty as a British dinner conversation. Whether we're talking about the parody of the 1980s that Vice City brought, the Republican Space Rangers TV show from GTA IV, or the range of star-studded radio shows in the game's universe (we're looking at you Lazlow), the periphery content is more than rewarding for those players who look for it.
If there are two issues that we would love to see the developers at Rockstar riff on, it would be the near-collapse of the American economy, and the ongoing war on terror. We don't want to see anything that will openly offend those affected by economic declines, or anyone of a specific racial group, but it's hard to think that the publishers would allow it anyway. That being said, the war of words and fear-mongering that the ongoing issues have brought out are ripe for satire, and that's what Rockstar does best.
Whether that means a protagonist who is a returning soldier, an out-of-work banker turning to a life of crime, or a former automotive executive forced to steal the cars he helped to make, they're all better than a simple revenge story. It doesn't have to be heavy, but the world of today is extremely different from the one into which GTA IV was released, so we would love to see this game reflect it. Those of you who have your own theories would do well to check out the list of registered domains for clues.
A Completely New Time & Setting
Before you hardcore fans flip your lids at the idea of us bashing Vice City, San Andreas, or the streets of Liberty City, allow us to explain. Regardless of what part of the country the games in this series have taken place, or even in what decade, the continuity of the world has remained constant. That is, people act the same way towards violence, and the same standards for legal and illegal behavior are in effect. We would love to be thrown into an entirely new world for this game, and if that means taking a trip through time we're all for it.
Rumors of Grand Theft Auto 5 being set in the future have been around for years, most recently replaced by rumors of it taking place in Los Angeles. We hear and understand all the complaints and fears raised against placing a game in a futuristic setting, even if a GTA set in the ultra-modern-but-still-familiar world of Futurama is something we would like to see. As interesting as stealing hover-cars would be, we can't help but think that the past may be a richer setting.
Rockstar found huge success in exploring the world of the American frontier with Red Dead Redemption, but we'll leave the Old West to that franchise for the moment - even if we have reason to suspect Native American connections. Period dramas have taken television and movies by storm over the past few years, and for Grand Theft Auto, there is plenty of story potential waiting in one of America's most crime-filled periods: the prohibition era. We don't want to see another incarnation of a video game version of The Godfather, but there's no denying that tommy-guns and fedoras scream cool.
There may be skeptics who think that the genre is completely over and done with, but cowboy games were nothing to brag about before last year either. If Rockstar could bring a great story and their usual amount of polish, there's no reason why they couldn't do the same for 1930s to even 1940s America.
Undercover Cop/Female Protagonist
Rockstar has made a habit of choosing protagonists that cause raised eyebrows prior to release, and we have every reason to believe they've got something similar cooked up for GTA V. While every major action game was building their adventure around a gruff, tough white male protagonist, Rockstar brought in an African American, an Eastern-European, and a Hispanic bodyguard of the openly-homosexual 'Gay Tony.' Even when they decided to stick to the formula for the GTA IV expansion The Lost & The Damned, they dug into the drama of a biker gang before it was hip. With the fifth game, it's time to go big or go home.
Whether that means building the game around the other side of law and order, and placing the player into the shoes of a policeman or undercover government agent we don't really have a preference. But the amount of story, decisions, and new areas of gameplay to explore would certainly be a welcome change to a formula that may very well be growing a bit stale. If nothing else, it would be nice to see the inside of a police station without setting off an alarm.
That being said, there is a chance that Rockstar could make the statement they've been slowly moving toward, and cast a female as the leading character. The move would be sure to upset plenty of players for reasons that are hard to discuss intelligently, but the times are a-changing. Rockstar has taken major strides toward a mature, intelligent gaming experience over the past few years, and bucking the one remaining restriction that their genre holds could make a statement for years to come.
The skeptical part of us says that Take Two wouldn't ever allow that much of a risk, and who is to blame them? But Rockstar's piece of the gaming pie has only gotten smaller with the rise of other action developers. It wouldn't be a bad idea to create a game that will attract mainstream attention, female gamers, and curious bystanders all while making an empowering move with a game that would likely be the highest quality.
We can only hope.
You may say that our desires are the same as your own, or completely foolish and potentially game-breaking, but that doesn't mean that they aren't possible. Rockstar has managed to shock and impress us when we thought we knew exactly what to expect from them, and with this many years to develop a game to define them for the future, we might be in for one heck of a surprise.
We'll likely find out when the first trailer for Grand Theft Auto V is released on November 2, 2011.
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