In an episode during the last season of the PWNcast (which if you don’t listen to makes you a bad person and should be punished with a £10 fine) we reflected on the official unveiling of Grand Theft Auto V. Precious few details were given, but we got to see the game engine showing off some perfectly produced sequences around an (at the time) unknown location whilst giving us a first look at one of the protagonists. In usual Rockstar style, it was slickly produced, teased us with enough action to draw us in, and created enough hype to lay the foundation for one of gaming’s most infamous series back into the limelight.
Those of you who did listen to our thoughts will know that, while I felt it looked graphically impressive, I was purposefully stopping myself from getting excited, and with the release of today's new trailers those feelings have somewhat returned. It's an opinion that was met with some bemusement by some of our regulars the last time they were voiced. After all, how can you not get excited at the prospect of another Grand Theft Auto game?
Well, after the initial reception of Grand Theft Auto IV, I feel I have fair reason to be reserved.
Much like how Rockstar are occasionally dropping trailers and screenshots for the upcoming instalment, its fourth main iteration was teased to us all via slickly produced trailers, choreographed down to the finest detail to show the detail of Liberty City’s streets, along with demonstrating just how cinematic the action could be. The problem is, by the time we all got our hands on the game we had no idea that the driving mechanics had been weighted completely differently to previous games, that the interactivity of the world was nowhere near the levels we thought it might be, and that protagonist Niko Bellic was an utterly dislikeable character. It wasn’t a bad game by any means – in fact I ended up enjoying it more than a number of my friends – but I can’t help but remember how initially disappointed I was. More to the point, I remember how the promotional material had suckered me in, not by lying to me but by showing enough to get me excited without actually showing me the game.
And here’s the thing – I’m seeing the same pattern all over again for Grand Theft Auto V, so I am treading very carefully this time.
That said, I think it’s worth clarifying a few points. First of all, Rockstar know exactly how to build up the hype train for their games. They’ve proven it time and time again to the point where it is almost flawless, and for that I must commend them. Secondly, I in no way feel that GTA V will be a bad game. My issue is that, beside a few details that have been hidden away in the few preview articles out there, we know nothing of how it will play once we get in-game and the latest trailer has done nothing to enlighten us on that front (besides licensing apt music for the on-screen shenanigans.) We know that there will be three main characters, we know we will be returning to Los Santos, and we know that heists will be a main focus of the game (thanks to the overwhelmingly positive feedback of their inclusion in GTA IV) but we have yet to see any gameplay of any sort in action.
We have no idea how switching between characters works in gameplay terms, we have no idea if the driving mechanics are more towards the fun side of the scale this time around, and we have true confirmation that the open world will be more interactive. Sure, we have preview articles insisting things will be better, but I want to be shown it - I want to be shown that my scepticism has been premature. We’ve been told that Crews, a clan feature introduced in Max Payne 3, will be integral to the Multiplayer, but much like with GTA IV’s slow reveal we have absolutely no idea how it will be integrated into the online side of things. Yet here we are, being asked to put money down on a pre-order copy for a game we know absolutely nothing about in gameplay terms.
Excitement is already bubbling over on the various forums across the internet with the Michael. Franklin. Trevor. trailers, and in many respects rightly so. Rockstar appear to have produced yet another high quality product for its release this September, but with the footage shown being mostly cutscenes I can’t justify getting excited and, for once, a cooler head has prevailed. After all, Hollywood-esque levels of production are great to have, but will Grand Theft Auto V be a fun and addictive game to play?
Because from what we’ve seen, I have absolutely no idea. At least it looks nice, though (and that Trevor seems craaaaazy.)