Ya know, it wasn’t until tonight that I realized that I never finished GTA4 (Vice City). I know I forgot about it for almost eight months at one point (the saved game had a time stamp) after I discovered Halo and I sorta left the game on a shelf… In spite of that, it’s because of GTA3 that I got a PlayStation2 (just like Halo was why I got an Xbox), so it should come as no surprise that I was out at Fred Meyer at 7am today, asking about GTA5… first impression is “Um, why do people have a ten on their hats?”
Sorry. Early 90’s humor, in reference to the era of Malcolm X hats (and it’s a comment I actually heard from a friend of mine, who was in the wilds of western New York for a few months!) which is right around when GTA5 takes place. The new arena is huge. San Andreas is a state and not a city. Within the state of San Andreas are three different cities, which I believe to be analogous to Las Vegas, LA, and possibly San Francisco – hard to tell at first glance.
Now a days, GTA is hardly about stealing cars. In GTA3 you were a criminal that stole cars. In GTA4 you were a mafia-type mobster that carried out particular crime missions in a Miami Vice-esque setting… a bit less about the cars. In GTA5 you’re in Boyz in the Hood, cerca 1993. Your first two or three missions are bike based. As in bicycle. It’s truly a crime simulation now, and this is not necessarily a bad thing, either! From what I’ve seen so far it will be a long story based run, with lots of playable scenes.
However, I have had a pang of misgiving… I’m afraid that GTA5 may have fallen into a classic trap of any successful gaming series: they’ve done too much to improve the game. Historical example: Heretic was a class act when it came out: first person shooter with six weapons and a bunch of maps. Hexen, which was the follow up to Heretic, sucked in a lot of ways. They added three different classes of characters, multi-part weapons, huge maps, and a lot of complicated steps for each level, which conceptually sounds great, but it ended up being a liability. By making it a bigger and “better” game, they took away from the play-able part of the game.
It’s too early to tell on this with GTA5, but they have added a lot of stuff. Your character in the game can have hair, clothing, and tattoo customization – actually mine sorta looks like Pedro at the moment – you can also train him up, feed him, and build his endurance. The classic problem with that is that most players end up spending hours just building up a character profile. This problem was actually found in GTA3: I spent at least 48 hours just collecting health, so that I could start each saved session at full strength (they fixed it for GTA4 and GTA5). That’s simply not fun. So far the strength building, the barber shop trip, and other shopping hasn’t been too bad. It’s a break in the action at random times, so I didn’t mind doing it. If I have to keep reporting back to a gym or drive thru, just to keep playing, I will be annoyed by it – it’s a bit too much like real life.
And that’s a classic blunder, this more-like-real-life bit. I think it’s great that your character can get really strong and fat or bony and fast. However, if it takes extra time or more work to get to that condition, I think it will suck. Also, as a matter of concern, you now have to use the analog joystick to move – the “d-pad” is used for communicating with characters, which is a major difference from 3 and 4. Just an FYI.
It’s still early into the game though. I’m still in the LA-type city, and that only after two hours. I think things will continue to get interesting as casinos and other types of things are set up – it’s just too soon to know.
The question I have is, how much of this game will I get to before November 9th?