This week, one title towers over all other videogame releaess. Don’t be surprised if people you know mysteriously go absent from work and miss major social obligations for the next couple of days.
Grand Theft Auto V (360, PS3)
Despite not appearing on the PC, Xbox One or PS4 anytime soon, ‘Grand Theft Auto V‘ is poised to be biggest game of year. It may also be a definitive title for the late era of this console generation. In a busy month and at the beginning of the packed part of the release calendar, the decks have been cleared because no one wants to compete for sales with this juggernaut. For the past 100 days, the two versions of the game have dominated Amazon’s sales charts. Regardless of the inevitable post-release backlash, the game will be a big seller for a long time to come.
In a first for the series, ‘GTA V’ stars three protagonists: Michael, Franklin and Trevor. In Los Santos (the game’s massive fictionalization of L.A.) and surrounding areas, the three characters look to get paid, and take on an escalating series of heists for various personal and petty reasons. Players can switch on the fly between the three characters, and can jump into their daily lives or control each of them during the planning and execution of said heists. Their stories are of minor importance when compared with the vast possibilities presented by the game’s open, mini-game-filled, living world. Unlike previous entries, the world is open from the very start, and a large percentage of players may never even attempt the main missions and story.
Of course, that doesn’t account for the multiplayer mode. ‘Grand Theft Auto Online’, which will not be available to play until October 1st, is Rockstar’s big ambition. The developer wants a game that people will play and buy for a long, long time. While the title will have traditional Versus modes as well as a world to just run around in with friends, ‘GTA Online’ is about two things: having a crew and building reputation. By crewing up with others, heists become the online way to build a virtual empire that’s tabulated through Reputation Points. Essentially, the multiplayer should be as chaotically appealing as anything in memory. Rockstar seems geared up to keep it updated, and keep the hardcore types who normally grind in online games playing for months on end.
All that said, if you haven’t traditionally enjoyed the ‘Grand Theft Auto’ series, it’s hard to make a case for the new one. This is especially true for the single player mode. The concepts of the first ‘GTA’ and ‘GTA III’ are still at this sequel’s core. The game aims for satire while still allowing players to drive, shoot and punch their way through the original sandbox title.
For me, the first ‘GTA’ was really fun a few hours. So were ‘GTA: London’ and ‘GTA 2’, if less fresh. But ‘GTA III’ was the leap forward that made the lengthy game a stunner, and spawned a dozen-plus imitators. ‘GTA: Vice City’ upped the ante with an actual lead character and a setting that was hard to beat. ‘San Andreas’ lost me, and I think it’s great that the new game’s “Los Santos” is kept distinct and separate from that game. ‘GTA IV’ was a stunner, and practically made its lead character Niko Bellic a household name.
But that’s the rub. Many ‘San Andreas’ fans couldn’t get into ‘GTA IV’ and vice versa, despite the really fun multiplayer found in ‘IV’.
Then there’s ‘Red Dead Redemption’, which is like a cousin of ‘GTA IV’. Even with its own story that’s likely too serious for most ‘GTA IV’ detractors, the combat in ‘Red Dead Redemption’ was a vast improvement over ‘GTA IV’, as was its multiplayer. ‘GTA V’ promises a jump in scale and refinement of mechanics, along with a new mission structure and massive online presence.
Again, if ‘Grand Theft Auto’ has disgusted and consistently bored you in the past, expect more of the same here. But heck, if you play games at all, isn’t it worth checking out ‘GTA V‘ for yourself?