Like the rest of you I’ve been following every morsel of information that has come from the many previews of that “GTA:V” demo, and like many of you, I’ve started to form my own impressions based on what has been shown so far.
While my overall impression is that I really need to start scheduling some serious free time come September, more specifically I’ve noticed at least five things from all of those previews that really excite me…and at least one that does not.
Five things I’m Excited For…
The Fun is Back
“GTA:IV” had a lot of things going for it, but one aspect that irked me the longer I played is how much Rockstar veered from the wild, anything goes, comically deranged world of previous “Grand Theft Auto” games and instead aimed for something more grounded, and serious.
“GTA:V” looks to be a glorious return to those old ways, but also has clearly retained an aspect or two from its immediate predecessor. So while the trailers show things like deranged rednecks highjacking helicopters in flannel, cars chasing planes while pulling off insane maneuvers, and the glorious return of miniguns, it also takes a moment to reflect on the serious motivations that drive each of the three main characters, and to show that Rockstar is crafting a world every bit as jaw dropping as “GTA: IV’s” Liberty City.
In other words, it’s looks the way “GTA” should. A wildly fun game that’s not afraid to get serious.
“GTA’s” combat has been steadily improving over the years, but it still feels clunky for a game where there is a lot of it. It’s good to know that Rockstar looks to be making a concentrated effort to provide full coverage to the series Achilles heel, especially in a game that is already adding ambition to the system thanks to the three man system.
Which actually segues nicely to…
The Three Man Band
The subject of who will be the next main character in “Grand Theft Auto” is always a hot one, as it usually sets the tone for the rest of the game.
When Rockstar first announced that there would be three main characters who can all be controlled at any time, it was hard not to think of it as gimmicky, and a bit of a reach. The more that’s revealed about it though, the easier it is to see that this is indeed the most exciting change to come to the series, possibly ever.
From unique but intersecting plot lines, to the ability for characters to “do their own thing” while not being under control, to the amazing way that combat and heist scenarios make use of every character individually, this sounds like the first “Grand Theft Auto” in a while that is going to have people re-thinking how they play the series.
In a misstep so big I still question if it was an error by the designers, money in “GTA:IV” was more or less useless. It didn’t take long to acquire enough dough to keep you rolling in suits and guns for the rest of your days, and even though money was always brought up as a plot point (more on that later) you always ended up with too much of it, and nothing to do about it.
Rockstar must have been aware of this, as they have confirmed that “GTA:V” will require you to have a constant cash flow in order to purchase all of the clothing, vehicles, and (most importantly) properties the title has to offer.
That means that no longer will you be able to buy a $3000 suit you already own just because the store is closer than your closet, and I for one am excited to start earning with purpose again.
A Driven Story
If I sound like I’m hating on “GTA:IV” here, it’s because I am. While by no means a bad game, it is by far the most overrated game of this console generation, and a big part of that is due to a meandering story that dragged on and on without any real focus, or compelling reasons to keep pushing ahead besides the satisfaction of beating it.
“GTA: V” seems to be resolving this by focusing the majority of its story on a series of high profile heists. The mission highlight of “GTA:IV” is, of course, the brilliant bank job in three leaf clover, and it’s clear that Rockstar thought so too, as this time many missions will revolve around prepping for, or executing, heists as part of your three man crew.
It’s not a guarantee for a greater plot, but it sounds a lot more promising than working for a series of cardboard cutout thugs with vague notions of revenge and some superfluous cash being your only driving force.
…And the One I’m Not
You Can’t Shoot the Paparazzi
See during the IGN rundown of the demo it was brought up that there is a side mission where you escort a spoiled starlet and try to escape the paparazzi. When the questions was brought up if you could just kill them instead of escaping them, the answer was a surprising “no” as that causes you to fail.
I understand that Rockstar is aiming for a much more cinematic experience than before, but I’m really bummed out that in something so minor as a simple side mission, the game will limit your options for the benefits of that goal.
Games like “The Walking Dead” show that choice can be a huge benefit to storytelling, while titles like “Saint’s Row The Third” exemplify how creating a truly open world lends so much more to sandbox games. I just hope that in a game that promises to be the series biggest and boldest yet, there aren’t a series of similar limits that keep it from reaching that lofty height.
While previews are upcoming for the game itself, we’ve been teased with screenshots for months, and we’ve already been treated to the debut trailer for the game, if you think about it we know surprisingly little about what looks to be the biggest title of 2013.
However, if the previous second trailers for the series are any indication, that should all change by the 14th. In fact, in viewing the second trailers for the last few “GTA” games (of which both the “GTA: Vice City” and “GTA: San Andreas” trailers are phenomenal if you need a refresher) there are a few things we can expect to see on Nov. 14th.
A Major Music Track From the Game:
It may be obvious, but Rockstar loves to show off their incredible video editing skills by using a big name track from the game set against their typically awesome previews. Hopefully they will do the same here and give us some idea of the type of soundtrack we can expect (or at least one major track they’e acquired) , even if it will be typically diverse. I always felt that “GTA: IV” had the weakest soundtrack of the series, so I’ll be particularly interested in this part to really hype me up.
Important Characters in Minor Parts:
The first “GTA: V” trailer had a lot of people in it, but it was hard to tell which of them were actually relevant, and which were just there. This should change with trailer #2 as you can expect a barrage of clearly important characters, even if they do not have speaking roles. By the end of the trailer, we should all have a better idea of what sordid types we’ll be working for, and against, in “GTA: V.”
This one is a little more debatable, but since the second trailers tend to be more action packed, expect to see a greater variety of weapons then has previously been revealed. The real question here is will Rockstar go closer to the insane weapon range of “San Andreas,” or stick to something more grounded as in “GTA: IV?”
Another major aspect missing in “GTA: IV” from “San Andreas” was the customization options for your main character. Looking back at the early previews of “San Andreas,” you could tell differences in the main character’s clothing and hairstyles, hinting the expansion of this aspect. Considering how much this has been talked about, I believe Rockstar may do something similar here.
So we know the game will take place in the pseudo-LA city of Lost Santos and, based on the country side moments from the first trailer, the surrounding areas. The question is, what surrounding areas? The best idea I’ve heard in relation to this is the theory that we will be exploring various counties in the area. The easiest way to tell this would be to look out for changes in weather, or general geography of the areas shown. Perhaps with a little help from eagle eyed Californians, we should have an idea of the layout.
The main character…s?:
I’m fairly certain I’ve heard every theory regarding who the main character was from the first “GTA: V” trailer, and I’m confident that I don’t want to hear anymore. I will say that the one that does intrigue me the most is the idea of multiple main characters. While this could prove tricky in an open world game, it would certainly be a new direction for Rockstar in a game that is a true “GTA” sequel. Nevertheless, we should soon know the answer to this.
Keep an very sharp eye out for this one. “GTA: IV” hinted at giving you choices in the game via some very minor decisions. If the series gameplay is going to expand, I’d look for this to be the first place it does so. Look for a careful line of dialogue, or a visual of two people at gunpoint, or anything that might just give away if the game that revolutionized open gameplay truly gives players real options. If Rockstar does go this way, they may be tempted to tease it here.
Maybe the most important, but sure to be most overlooked, aspect of the new trailer will be the tone of it. It was hard to figure out for sure from the first trailer, but looking back on the old “GTA” previews, it’s easy to see in retrospect that we could tell a lot from the tone of them. This particularly applies to “GTA: IV” where the darker, grittier vibe was immediately apparent. Will Rockstar stick to that same style, go back to the more lighthearted nature of the originals, or give us something in-between?
Usually by trailer number two we are left with little doubt about the overall game. The first trailer gave a pretty big hint to this in what would appear to be a criminal trying to retire, so what we should look for here are the circumstances. In other words, the who, what, when, where, and why. With “GTA: V” drawing ever closer, we should expect these large points to be covered.
We end with what should hopefully be the biggest given for this trailer, the gameplay. Considering how beautiful “GTA:IV” is and was, you couldn’t easily tell what was real gameplay from the first “GTA: V” trailer and what wasn’t. We probably won’t see what the game looks like during the actual gameplay, but I would be shocked if we don’t get snippets of missions, distractions, or something equally tantalizing that will actually show us the most important part of the game…the game itself.
I’m sure Game Informer editor in chief Andy McNamara is a good guy. Hard working, clean nosed, beloved by friends and small animals, etc.
But today he’s also a real bastard.
According to McNamara’s Twitter account, he is in New York today ready to sit down with a playable version of GTA:V at the invitation of Rockstar. Also according to the feed, this is in preparation for Game Informer’s upcoming December issue where they will most likely blow the lid off of the game with the first real details including, fingers crossed, a possible release date.
GTA is one of those series that has the rare “Beatles” effect where it enjoys the luxury of being both one of the most artistically impressive entrants in its field, as well as one of the most popular. It’s not hard to make the case that it is the definitive game of this generation, and every morsel we’ve gotten about the newest entrant into the series (including those incredible screenshots) has been more tantalizing than the ones that came before it. To think that we will soon know hard information on the game is really giving me that kid at Christmas feeling.
I feel like the most consistently underrated element of video game design is level design. Whether you call them levels, segments, missions, or whatever, the parts of our favorite video games that make up our favorite video games deserve the proper recognition, and it’s the purpose of this column to make sure they get that.
And since the recently released “GTA V” screens have got me reminiscing about the last time the “GTA” series paid a visit to the west coast, I’ve decided to start with my favorite entry in the “Grand Theft Auto” series for this column, by looking back at the best missions from “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.”
One of the great thrills of the GTA series is how it allows you to live out all of those great crime fantasies that film and possibly literature has instilled in you. In “GTA: III” is was planting a bomb on a car mob style. In “GTA: Vice City” it was intercepting a coke deal with a speed boat like Crocket and Tubbs on “Miami Vice.”
Since “San Andreas” was inspired by the west coast gangta films, like “Boys in the Hood,” one of the great thrills is living out inner-ghetto turf wars, and any good inner-ghetto turf war needs a drive-by. Drive-by’s are so common in “GTA” that there is a feature on the control for it, but here is the only place where you get to roll up on enemy gangs with your friends and rain ammunition on them while listening to N.W.A. just like most of us modern suburbanites figured happened all the time in the early 90’s. It’s as simple as a mission in “GTA gets,” but it’s so satisfying.
9. Fender Ketchup
So you’re working for the Triads and the Italian mafia has been messing with their operations in the “San Andreas” equivalent of Las Vegas, Las Venturas. One of the thugs have been caught, and to make him talk your friends decide to strap him onto a car which you are to drive at top speed until he gets scared enough to figuratively spill his guts ( or not and literally do so).
Driving around in a convertible at night on the Venturas strip is always a fun experience, but doing so in the most reckless way at your disposal so that a mob thug will rat his gang out makes it all the sweeter. Much like Drive-By this is one of those missions that takes a simple gangland pleasure and lets you run wild with it.
8. Amphibious Assault
When most non-stealth games try to have stealth sections, they tend to suck almost without exception. Of course, this being “GTA,” it’s not like other games and therefore enjoys the distinct advantage of defying normal conventions.
Of course to be fair, this isn’t a strict stealth mission as you are tasked with infiltrating a boat, planting a bug, and making your way off, but are free to kill at will as long as you do it quietly. However, the atmosphere the mission sets is just perfect, and the approach to the boat itself is very dramatic. The “GTA” series has always had an incredible sense of scale, and the ship makes for this perfectly ominous opposing figure in the distance, that makes this mission feel like a true accomplishment for having finished. Read the rest of this entry »
News is slowly pouring in today that two of the biggest developers on “Bioshock: Infinite“ are leaving Irrational Games.
Director of product development Tim Gerritsen and art director (and designer of the series’ iconic Big Daddies) Nate Wells have both updated their LinkedIn profiles to indicate that their employment with Irrational Games is now done. While no further official announcement has been made, Nate Wells also made a Twitter post earlier that read “New Job…Details to follow.” That tweet has since been removed. For those who don’t remember, “Bioshock: Infinite” was also delayed earlier this year until 2013, in order to give it “specific tweaks and improvements” that would make the game “into something even more extraordinary,” according to lead designer and Irrational founding member Ken Levine.
Now some sites are already panicking about this pretty hard. I’m not quite there yet myself. For one thing, it’s a sad but true fact that developers at all levels will often leave a studio before a project is completed. Moves of this nature traditionally have no bearing on the quality of the final product on any consistent level.
No the real news here is that there is no real news. Ever since the delay of “Bioshock: Infinite” was announced, updates on on the game have gone ice cold. This is okay if you’re a title like “Grand Theft Auto V” (another Take-Two production). It’s “GTA”, and everyone knows there’s going to be a lot of secrecy involved leading up to the release. But “Bioshock: Infinite” didn’t even bother to poke its head in at E3 this year. Plus, even though “Bioshock” was possibly the game of the decade, the fact that the only news on its true successor in the last year has been a delay and the departure of your manager of content creators (Gerritsen) and a 13-year veteran of your studio (Wells), makes even the most level headed gamer start to wonder what’s really going on at Irrational.
Ultimately, “Bioshock: Infinite” will still sell millions, and I don’t believe that its overall quality will have anything to do with these departures. However, I’m curious how Irrational addresses this news. Do they remain silent and let speculation rule, or do they make a move as bold and innovative as “Bioshock” itself and actually shed some light on this situation, beyond the typical PR release?
Simply put, if there’s no fire to report, then why fan the flames?
Yes, yes it is. With as much that’s changed in the world of video games over the years, its somehow comforting to know that E3 is still around to exhibit the best of the industry in a big atmosphere way. Unfortunatley the age is starting to show on the old gal, and the show hasn’t been as captivating the last couple of years as it probably should have been. While this years was more of the same, there was still enough on exhibit to be worth talking about. It’s not quite done yet, but I’ve seen enough to start naming the best, worst, and most memorable of E3 2012.
Best Presentation – Sony
This is more of a choice made out of necessity than something I absolutely fell in love with. While there was very little mind blowing here, Sony managed to put together a tight presentation that was loaded with games that people actually came to see. While the storybook segment was a complete bomb, in the end Sony managed to show better than any other company that they have plenty of sure fire greatness ready for their fans. If only “The Last Guardian” had made a surprise appearance, this one might have been more memorable.
Worst Presentation – Microsoft
Poor Microsoft. Sure their market share an income is absurdly large, but they cannot seem to put together an E3 presentation that doesn’t make their fans feel awkward. While this years showing wasn’t as bad as last years Kinect centric, child actor filled disaster, it’s scarily close. Bad celebrity appearances, uninspiring game footage, and boring presentations more at home at lame board meetings than the world’s most extravagant trade show for your industry were the unfortunate highlights of this years Xbox showing.
Biggest Surefire Hit – “Assasins Creed 3″
“Assassins Creed” has been a money in the bank franchise since the series second installment. So far it looks like there is absolutely no reason to suspect any less out of the “Assassin’s Creed III”. What I love most about it is that Ubisoft has found a perfect way to make the franchise feel fresh again, by changing the time period and location to the rarely explored American Revolution, they also seem intent on really making everything that was great about the series perform at its absolute best. The jaw dropping E3 footage only confirms that this will most likely be the smoothest and most exciting “Assassin’s Creed” yet. Unlike the British troops in the game, this one isn’t likely to miss.
Biggest Surprise – “Watch Dogs”
Ubisoft strikes again. Garnering no real press prior to the event, the demo for Ubisoft’s “Watch Dogs” showcased something truly intriguing. You play as a man who has an incredible array of technological abilities that essentially give him super powers over the modern gadget obsessed world. The idea is cool enough, but the way that it seems to be implemented creates so much potential for amazing moments. The world of the game is also absolutely gorgeous, and begs you to re-watch the demo several times to gather all the little details. There is nothing like a fresh idea from an established developer, and Ubisoft seems to have exactly that.