The Grand Theft Auto (GTA) series has been around since the late 90s and has been scandalizing critics with its depiction of violence and criminal activity. The stories usually involve recently released prisoners trying to make their way back up the criminal food chain in order to enact revenge on the people who put them in prison in the first place.
The last game to come out was Grand Theft Auto IV, which was first released in 2008. It sold more than 18 million copies worldwide on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. It was considered a commercial and critical success.
Though critics fawned over the game, I consider it a step back in the series. The game was a much more story driven experience. It featured a better narrative than previous games, but followed the same revenge motif as other GTA games. This time focusing on an immigrant coming to the fictional Liberty City trying to find the man who betrayed his homeland army troop.
However, I don't play games for great stories; I read books or watch movies for those. I play games to shoot people in the face. A good story is fine in a video game, but not at the sacrifice of gameplay mechanics, and that is exactly what GTA IV did.
I consider Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas to be the pinnacle of the series, which was the installment before GTA IV. It features a large fictional recreation of California that felt vibrant and alive. San Andreas featured a great many better features that were excluded from GTA IV.
In San Andreas the distractions from the main quests were fun and plentiful. Players could level up their running or biking stats, work out at the gym or even get fat if they ate too much fast food. Players could even hunt for a triathlon to participate in. There were also turf wars with rival gangs to play. These distractions were present yet non-intrusive, unlike GTA IV.
In the latter installment mini-games were annoying and intrusive. This was due to the game's social system that features non-player characters calling the main character on his cell phone to hang out. Most of the quests were not fun, and being called constantly was annoying. What is worse, the game even punished players who didn't pay attention to their in-game friends.
Though my biggest grip with GTA IV was how the economics of the game worked. In San Andreas players could purchase multiple homes giving them something to work for. But in GTA IV housing was given as quest rewards. This made money almost worthless in GTA IV when player would receive more money than they could ever use mid-way through the game.
In the next GTA V Rockstar needs to focus on the game rather than the story. It should include many of the features it left out in GTA IV, fix the money system and drop the social interaction sim that made the game so annoying. We'll see how the new game fares when we see the trailer Nov.2.