There is no doubt that Rockstar achieved great things with Grand Theft Auto IV. Setting aside the records for sales it broke, when looking at the game itself it provided superb gameplay and showed gamers exactly what was possible with such sandbox titles on the current generation consoles. Now, with the first downloadable content having been released some time ago – The Lost and The Damned – and with the second and final episodic content ‘The Ballad of Gay Tony’ to be released later this year, I began thinking about the future of this franchise. In the same year that GTA IV made its way to the shelves of game stores, developers Volition released Saints Row 2, a title which showed that perfection needn’t be achieved with superb graphics and that absurd gameplay wasn’t forgotten and left in the last generation. But what impact could the release of SR2 have on the future of the GTA franchise? Here is what I would like to see in the next title of this great series …
Location is a important factor when it comes to open-world sandbox titles like Grand Theft Auto – there must be that sense of a well designed city, but even more than that, I feel there needs to be some reasoning behind the selection of the place to base the game. In a future title, I believe only three locations would be appropriate – Melbourne (Australia), London (England) and Shanghai (China). Now, those three locations have not been selected for no reason – each has a strong connection to one vital element of all GTA titles … crime, and if not crime, uniqueness.
The first location I recommended, Melbourne, comes about due to the series of events which have unfolded in Australia over the past decade. It has been this city that has hosted one of Australia’s most notorious and internationally-known periods of crime. Even to this date, gang activity remains prevalent as a result of a pivotal event which took place some four years ago between three men. Without going into too much detail, it is clear why this isn’t such a absurd idea.
Now the next location recommended was Britain and this was due to the latter of the recommended reasons – uniqueness. New York has been almost used to death by this franchise, and a nice change to Europe would not be meet with much negativity. The landscape of London – the metropolitan it is, would be extremely well-fitting for a future GTA IV title. Factor in a change of scenery, I needn’t continue further with this explanation.
Now, this brings me to my final recommendation – Shanghai. This, similar to that of Melbourne is fitting for its links to crime. When I thought of crime, I thought Triads – and where better to locate a future GTA game than in the city which originated one of the most well-known yet secretive gangs in the history of mankind. An oriental-theme would also be a nice change. The architecture is quite different to that seen by western civilisation and much creativity is to be had with using the culture and environments with a future game. Of all three, I find this to be probably one people would like the most.
Physics – Realism or Ridiculous?
The matter of ‘theme’ was a great area of debate between fans of GTA IV and SR2. Personally, I would like to see Rockstar continue with the direction that IV introduced and keep the physics more ‘realistic’. The level of detail that the last game brought to the table really would have been to waste should the physics of Saints Row had been used – it just wouldn’t have worked. That said, there is room for improvement. I would like the sports bike physics to be a little more forgiving and not as stiff – it just didn’t make riding them fun. In addition, I would have liked to see the physics of helicopters become a little easier to handle – I found Saints Row 2 did a great job here and it is something Rockstar should look into. Otherwise, little should be done to change the handling-side of future GTA titles.
To say that customisation was present in GTA IV would be a lie … as a matter of fact, customisation went as far as a few clothing options for Niko and the ability to choose your online character from some preset people. With respect to vehicle detailing, I wouldn’t expect a Midnight Club-level of customisation, but something to properly rival Saints Row 2. It needn’t be confusing or elaborate, but having a list of bumpers, rims, spoilers, paint and decals to choose from wouldn’t hurt. Interior design like that seen in SR2 is suffice – again, it’s a nice addition which could go a long way. And with that said, there needs to be a more ‘secure’ garage system … the car lot system in the last game was utterly pathetic – especially seeing how some gamers complained about losing extremely rare vehicles outside certain homes.
In terms of character customisation though, I would only like to see an increase in clothing options. GTA IV was quite limited and to have some more shops with greater ranges would be fantastic. I don’t believe the option to change how our characters look (in terms of skin colour, facial features and body composure) is important and I wouldn’t like it to be included. If we have done without it before, it won’t be hard to continue to trend.
Without a doubt, the last game feel short in this department. The option to be an assassin for nine targets and delivering some vehicles isn’t exactly what I, nor other gamers, would consider extraordinary. I don’t believe we need to see absurdity like Saints Row with septic tanks firing faecal matter onto houses and property – but have something that exists within the real world of crime – have more assassinations, include a fight club, collect money for loan sharks, make more lucrative deals, plant bugs, follow targets and traffic different goods – including stolen property. There is heaps of room for improvement here without turning to unrealistic situations.
Easter Eggs and Secrets
I would like to see more Easter Eggs and areas to be discovered. It wasn’t that GTA IV didn’t include them, there just wasn’t enough given the size of the map. Have more secret areas to be discovered, include little caverns with hidden items and writings held within. When it comes to replicating real cities like was done with New York in IV, a whole lot more could have been done and should be in future titles.
Something which I would like to see in the next title is more ‘built’ character – that is, something like Brucie less the steroids – and ideally, this would work well with a European or Asian protagonist. I don’t think we need to see a complete muscle-fanatic, but someone who still has that appeal of Niko Bellic without the gut. I just feel that this would add to the crime nature of the next title – throw in an angry/heartless attitude and you’ve got yourself a seriously dangerous character for GTA V.
Things to Remain the Same
With all that said, there are some things which I would like to remain same. Future titles should stick with the realism approach – and not return to how previous GTA titles were played. Do without jet-packs or absurd physics that allow us to rip around corners at unrealistic speeds – as stated, it just doesn’t fit the graphics anymore. Another is the soundtrack … which can only be described as excellent – which still seems like an understatement. The variety was solid and especially for the Rap station, it enforced that mob feeling which radiated throughout the gameplay of GTA IV. The only thing I would ask for is more music, more talk back and more commercials.
There should also be a greater range of entertainment to please us outside the main course of the game. Saints Row 2 did well here in that each advertisement in the game was mirrored with a real product or store … and this should have been the case in GTA IV. For the next instalment, having more shows, more stores to enter and more television programs would be the strawberry on the cake that already has icing on it – in short, improving on greatness.
The mission line was great, some will complain about it being bland but I find it suitable for the nature of the game. I like the moral and ethical choices along the way and more of these in the next game would be gladly welcome. Additional killing cut-scenes would also be great – but rather than just using a pistol – include items like the shotgun and SMG for variety.
If Rockstar followed what they introduced with GTA IV, the next title will be superb. There will always be those who long for a GTA-Stupid with the absurd gameplay that was last seen in San Andreas, but that gameplay is far better suited for something in Saints Row and to see it again in GTA would seem a waste of resources. If we get more elements of true crime replicated in the next title, yes, it will be met with great controversy by parent groups and whingers in the real-world, but this is Grand Theft Auto … the king of the action/shooter sandbox title, we have seen what is possible – now they need to push that bar further.