Posted on November 9, 2012 AT 09:18am
[Tempered Expectations is a series of opinion articles where Daniel Campbell takes a look at a highly anticipated game and points out it potential design flaws and short comings using the available media on the game]
It’s more than acceptable to assume that Grand Theft Auto 5 will be a commercial success. That assumption being made, does the series really deserve the (sometimes irrational) adoration it receives from gamers and critics alike? Join me as we take a look at the design conventions of recent Rockstar games and why GTA5 may not be the magnum opus everyone seems to think.
We’ve seen the reports from various sites highlighting just how huge the game world of GTA 5 will be. Maybe it’s a comment on their “short comings”, but too many games equate size with quality. The length or size of a game rarely has an impact on the overall quality of a game. You can build an amazingly large game world, but unless that world is filled with engaging activities, it’s nothing more than a giant room that’s a pain in the ass to navigate. Some people could claim that it entices players to explore the world and discover its secrets. When the secrets are few and lacking in value it’s not a worthwhile trade-off. Take Red Dead Redemption or GTA: San Andreas for instance. While good games, there was an exorbitant amount of time spent navigating from one place to another due to the huge game world. While games need lulls in their action to control pacing, these traversal sections proved to be a bore and artificially added hours to the game’s completion time rather than its fun time.
It’s also important to keep in mind that Rockstar seems to struggle with crafting quality side missions. I could simply point to “taking your cousin bowling” but I’ll elaborate a little more. Side missions have come to mean “busy work” in the land of video games. The consequences of these missions aren’t usually felt beyond their own scope and that can leave the player wondering why they bothered to do them in the first place. To be effective, a side mission needs hooks into the main story and game world. Games at their base are about learning and the side missions in Rockstar games don’t leave the player feeling enlightened or fulfilled. While it seems like I’m picking specifically on Rockstar here, they’re not the only offenders, as this appears to be a disturbing trend in today’s game development paradigm.
There’s simply not enough information to make an attempt to assess the quality of GTA 5. For now, we simply have to look at the developer’s history and hope they have learned their mistakes. I’ve always felt GTA was a quality franchise, but it’s over appreciated by gamers and overrated by critics. Before you bring out your pitchforks and torches, think about this; GTA 4 (which I consider the worst in the series due to poor controls, design and writing) is currently the 4th highest rated game in history*. Think about that for a moment. GTA 4, a game where you have to spend hours doing mundane tasks and struggling with clunky controls, is rated higher than the Half-life series, Final Fantasy series, Mass Effect series, the Uncharted series, Chrono Trigger, etc. If that’s not overrated, I’m not sure what is.
Games are a subjective medium. If you like a game that everyone else hates, that’s great. If you love spending your time harvesting vegetables on a virtual farm while your friends eradicate grunts in Halo, you should rejoice that diversity. All I ask is that you take a step back and look at a game for what it is. Don’t listen to what a marketing department tells you, or what your friends tell you (unless you REALLY trust their opinion). Forge your own stance on a game. You’re an individual and you should look at your games in an individual light.
*CURRENT game history. No doubt one day a game will be rated higher. Ranking from gamerankings.com
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