Rockstar's tantalizing (and clearly purposeful taunting) of gamers with last week's screenshots did a wonderful job of suddenly putting the much-hyped but mysterious Grand Theft Auto V back on the agenda. Aside from the initial launch trailer, which did a wonderful job of telling not much while hinting a whole bunch, gamers have been left to ponder about the who, what, where, when, why and how of the return to Los Santos, with minimal actual information to go on. Basically, we've had to survive the past nine months with conjecture and analysis, just as Rockstar's dynamic elites sit perched, looking down on gamers that jump around anything and everything related to the game.
I've made a brief return to the Liberty City of Grand Theft Auto IV, familiarising myself with Niko and the world that his fascinating story takes place in. I loved GTA IV, but I can't help but think that maybe it was a little too far removed from the mindless fun that helped define other games in the series.
So what am I hoping to see (or not see) in Grand Theft Auto V?
Lots Of Planes, Please
I never thought I'd have missed the accessibility of aircraft available in San Andreas. GTA IV just wasn't the same type of flying experience: the helicopters were cool, I guess, and the use of them in The Ballad Of Gay Tony was better than anything similar available in Niko's adventure. Perhaps Rockstar was cautious after the events of 9/11? Part of the charm of San Andreas was being able to (break into) the airport, choose from a number of awesome aircraft, and fly across arguably one of the best maps in game history. Hopefully we can do that again in GTA V.
San Andreas also allowed you to take commercial flights to other cities in the state, which was cool, although understandably omitted from Liberty City considering it was only one city. GTA V will have Los Santos, so I guess the prospect of commercial flights is out of the question. But what would a mock Hollywood be like without chartered flights for the rich and famous?
I found the ability to visit the gym and improve CJ's fighting skills somewhat therapeutic, and certainly satisfying once he eventually reached a skill level peak. This wasn't really possible in GTA IV, an Niko's physical attributes were less of a focus (replaced by an obvious infatuation with relationships). I'd like to be able to take the character to the gym, or not, and shape their appearance that way. It was a simple touch in San Andreas that gave each player a more personal experience, one that wasn't possibly considering Niko's inability to gain or lose weight.
GTA IV got this right to a degree, with many clothing options available. However, it wasn't anywhere near the level available in San Andreas. You could turn CJ into a hardened gangsta, a nerdy hipster or even a cross-dressing street thug, which made for some interesting cutscenes in between missions. The ability to alter hairstyles and tattoos were also a lot of fun, and added even more of a personal touch to the experience, something GTA IV couldn't really offer.
Less Focus On Relationship
It's not that the relationship focus in GTA IV was bad. Rather, it felt like it was trying to compensate the lack of gamer influence on the skills and appearance of the main character. It would be great to have girlfriends, friends and the like in GTA V, but ditch the drinking sessions. Relationships eventually felt like a bit of a chore in GTA IV, and made the experience feel a little too forced, especially when a certain level of friendship with a character was required to progress and unlock new missions.
Although this was a pretty small part of the San Andreas experience, it was still fun pimping a classic Cadillac into an all-out gangsta vehicle. Saints Row had a fantastic car modding system, one that carried through the series, and it actually made for one of the more enjoyable aspects of that experience. What would driving through Los Santos be like if you couldn't do it in a shiny, pimped-out car? It's an absolute necessity.
Ah, The Serenity!
One of the best attributes of San Andreas was the diversity of the landscape. One second you'd be in downtown Los Santos, the next you're driving through the countryside on your way to San Fierro. It was a brilliant game with many surprising features, and while GTA IV's Liberty City is absolutely stunning, it lacked the charm of San Andreas, and even Vice City. It's really a concrete jungle at the end of the day, but we should hope for some diverse environments if the screenshots and trailer are anything to go by.
The Return Of Vigilante Missions
Admittedly, GTA IV had a great number of side-missions. The "Most Wanted" missions were fun, although not especially challenging, while the car theft missions allowed you to drive the best vehicles in the city. The Assassin and police cruiser missions were great too, but they didn't quite have the same spontaneity and excitement of the vigilante missions in the original GTA trilogy. I'd be happy to see all of GTA IV's side missions return, as well as ambulance, taxi, police, and, of course, tank vigilante missions (am I asking for too much?)
Let Me Cheat My Arse Off
The cheats in GTA IV were fun, but not quite of the range available in the original trilogy. It was as if Rockstar really, REALLY wanted you to finish the game without the use of cheats (although, complete 100% wasn't possible if you accessed one), while other games seemed to invite you to use them, but not without a subtle little reminder that you could affect your saved game. Maybe it was that Liberty City didn't quite feel as inviting and open to mindless mayhem that would call for the use of outrageous cheats? I even wonder if I'd have used them to the extent that I did in Vice City and San Andreas, seeing as though I hardly used the available cheats in GTA IV anyway. Anyway, I want to be able to access a tank, a plane, a hovercraft and a jetpack all at once. Just 'cause.
What features from the original GTA trilogy would you like to see reintroduced in GTA V?
By Gaetano Prestia