GTA 5: Why It-s Already The Best Game Ever Made
Well, with a headline like that, and a single trailer that lasts for just 1 minute and 24 seconds, I’m going to have my work cut out trying to justify this.
Let’s start here: GTA 5 is actually about something.
Think about it. There aren’t many games that are actually about something. Y’know, something real, something that we can relate to.
BioShock is about something: its backdrop is a society in which science has been allowed to run wild with no moral rudder; its ‘would you kindly’ theme is one of the notion of control in videogames. It is self-referential in a way that we, as gamers, can all relate to.
There are other games too that are about something but they are few and far between. Ico, Deus Ex, Metal Gear Solid: three games that have something to say beyond their station.
Modern Warfare isn’t about anything of worth. It’s a silly, war fantasy straight out of the pages of Warrior. And before you start, the World War 2-set Call Of Dutys don’t have anything to say about war either. They just have quotes in-between levels. Congratulations, someone has access to www.warquotes.com.
The other big releases this winter aren’t about much, either.
Skyrim is a silly dragon fantasy; Batman: Arkham City is little more than a comic book brought to life; Assassin’s Creed: Revelations… well, just don’t get me started on the nonsense that passes for that game’s Dan Brown-esque story and its horribly-contrived game mechanics.
Literary substance: it’s not something these toys have.
GTA 5’s trailer shows us that it is about something real or, at the very least, it takes place in a game world that’s grounded in the real one. The trailer juxtaposes images of extreme wealth with those of extreme poverty – shantytowns living in the shadow of the high-rise financial institutions*, the homeless and the mega-rich living side-by-side.
It’s a true reflection of the real-world Los Angeles and the perfect setting for a Grand Theft Auto game that purports to tell the story of an ex-con going straight only to be forced to return to a life of crime because of the financial crisis.
But there’s more to the trailer that just images of wealth and poverty though. There’s an environmental theme as well – oil wells and wind turbines. Again, the real world Los Angeles is well represented here too. A lot of the US’s oil is drilled for here, yet California is a centre for the environmental movement too. Contradiction and irony: it’s a good place to start if you’ve got something to say about something. Especially given how important oil is to the world’s economy.
I have no idea what Rockstar will have to say about the financial crisis but I do know that GTA 5 will be satirical. Every other GTA game has been this: a satire on the American Dream, and I see this one as doing the same but in a much more focussed manner this time.
I don’t even care about the jetpacks, and jetplanes, middle-aged men base-jumping from the top of the US Bank Tower, insane stunt bonuses, and finding a hundred drug packages. I’ll leave all the talk of making GTA ‘fun again’ to other people.
In fact, I see many of these things as a step backwards for the series. GTA, like all game types and the games industry, needs to grow and evolve if it’s not to become stale.
I’m interested in how GTA 5, I hope, will take interactive storytelling to a new and unheard of level, one for other developers to aspire to. But I fear that neither the artistic desire nor financial incentives are there in this industry.
GTA is the only game, Rockstar the only developer with the balls (or the financial clout and artistic freedom) that could dream of making a piece of videogame entertainment that isn’t an escapist fantasy.
Fingers crossed that the team at Rockstar North can deliver. If it does, I believe, it’ll have created a landmark in the genre and the best videogame ever made.
*Come to think of it, a lot of Modern Warfare 3’s action takes place in the financial districts of the world’s major cities. But that’s about as political as MW3 could probably ever get. Let’s blow up the banks!