Rockstar is one of the gaming industry's top-tier AAA developers and has maintained its place through many industry-defining titles. Although Red Dead Redemption, Bully, and Max Payne 3 earned them plenty of acclaim, it's their Grand Theft Auto series that brought them to the upper echelon of developers. Why is this? Well, for those who have played any installment in the series, the answer's obvious: each game offers its own engaging, superbly-polished experience.
Each game world is a massive, gorgeously-realized playground that offer its own level of intrigue. The utilization of different eras and cultures is well-done thanks to razor-sharp writing and an overall perfectly-suited tone. This also allows for strong variety in character personalities and (relatively) varied activities.
With the sheer amount of things done well throughout the series, looking over flaws and minor issues is made far easier. However, even with GTA's many pros, it undoubtedly has some cons that have to addressed, especially if fans want Grand Theft Auto VI to be everything it can be. And in the case of these flaws, they have yet to be fully fixed, proving that they need to be brought up sooner rather than later.
With that in mind, here are 15 Things Wrong With Grand Theft Auto We Choose To Ignore.
15 Melee combat's never been above average
Gunplay and chaos has always been one of multiple areas where the GTA series has thrived and consistently maintained a high standard for other games in the genre to meet. This is why it's only expected that in-game shootouts are tense and engaging. Unfortunately, this standard doesn't (and never has) carried over to the melee side of combat, leaving players with disappointingly static and unvaried hand-to-hand fights.
Each installment adds more weapons to use, yet never really adds any true variance in the actual execution of these fights.
Fights are mostly non-strategic boxing matches where the player simply has to mash the "hit" button until the NPC (usually just a random pedestrian) stays down. The experience never goes beyond this, making each fist fight a hollow experience.
This series may be known for its shootouts, but that doesn't mean its melee combat should be short-changed. Considering the amount of fun melee weapons increased over time, it's a shame the mechanics haven't evolved. Randomly punching people in the streets is always good for a bit of fun, but without any substance in the actual melee system, it's strictly momentary. This is one category where GTA consistently gets beaten by other titles that experiment more with melee and allow fist fights to be highlights rather than just a way to interact with NPCs.
14 Overall lack of strong female characters
It's something that the series has been criticized for consistently, especially since GTA V's release. While the protagonists had multiple layers and were effectively fleshed-out, none of the female personalities received that same treatment. With V, the most important female personalities (Tracey and Amanda De Santa), were forgettable characters with largely negative qualities and little else. Amanda is an openly-cheating wife who hypocritically chastises her husband for cheating and demands that Michael be the only one who fixes his flaws. Tracey is fame-obsessed and also chastises her dad, but for different reasons.
GTA IV also had a relatively weak amount of prominent female presences, with only Mallorie (Roman's girlfriend), Michelle (Niko's secretly-undercover girlfriend) and Kate McReary (Niko's 3rd-act girlfriend) standing out. Even then, they each felt like missed opportunities as there was potential for development that was never realized.
There's been a call for Rockstar to include a female protagonist in the next series installment and, while it'd be an interesting change, it's not the most important inclusion. Put simply, the next game simply needs to take the time to include strong female characters that both serve and enhance the story. Regardless of it being in a protagonist or NPC role, it's about time for GTA to include women that can really stick in players' minds.
13 Big open world, little real interaction
While the main campaign offers players a chance to interact with the interesting developer-created reality, there's little opportunities to do so outside of these story missions. You can't really talk with citizens (outside of a greeting or gesture), most interiors can't be entered, and the world is never really influenced through your personal decisions.
The last point fits into the traditional Rockstar world-design method of protagonists being treated like regular people, contrasting the "hero of legend" status most RPG main characters earn, helping the world feel authentic. The previous two, however, only end up hurting the game's otherwise-superb sense of immersion. With the development emphasis on the map being visuals over interactivity, most buildings and establishments are limited to only fill the map rather than serve the gameplay experience.
With only the occasional activity available throughout the vast explorable map, exploring never properly rewards committed explorers with anything but a random easter egg and (maybe) a side mission where you drive someone to a destination. Previous games in the series had plentiful interiors and entertaining side components, but later games in the series have started removing them in favor of heightened visuals. While strong visuals are always appreciated, they cannot adequately replace a world that offers actual engagement and places to go.
12 Protagonists must be psycho/sociopaths in order for story to work
This is one of those dilemmas where you start questioning if GTA protagonists have two separate personalities: one for the cutscenes and one during gameplay. While each game has progressively fleshed out its main characters more and more, this question of each one displaying psycho/sociopathic tendencies becomes increasingly relevant.
Throughout each given campaign, players are required to take out hundreds of enemies, with no other alternatives being offered.
While this is standard-fare for most campaigns, it's difficult to mentally bypass the extensive character-work done during cutscenes when mass-killing appears to be second-nature to each playable character. And it's not like Rockstar hasn't noticed this issue. Their latest title involved Michael, who openly acknowledges that he may be a sociopath, and Trevor, who displays clear psychopathic behavior. Both characters indicate their personal stance on their issues and players can easily understand it. However, the third playable character, Franklin, has accumulated no body count before meeting Michael, but is just as gung-ho about casually eliminating people as the rest of them once bullets start flying. The dissonance is also present in GTA IV where Niko Bellic is a former soldier who holds many personal demons after serving time in the army, yet still kills many people in droves many times through the story without hesitancy or regret. Same with CJ from San Andreas, who may be a criminal, but doesn't earn the same status until the campaign starts. It's a difficult trend to really remove in any sense, but one worth acknowledging.
11 Bring up controversial topics without taking a stance
Grand Theft Auto has never strayed from controversy, typically stirring up plenty of discussion and trouble with its subject matter and content. It doesn't matter if it's involving ladies of the night or interactive violent scenes, as the series has always known how to stir up the pot on social issues. While previous games had heavy substance-related storylines and components, from GTA III to San Andreas, recent titles have taken on more depth-filled topics like immigration and government issues, among others.
While it's always commendable to bring up these ugly topics and offer genuine discussions on them, the game doesn't typically take that extra step and offer a strong perspective for or against these topics. They usually include them and take a matter-of-fact approach with them. They're included as an acknowledgment of the controversial topics' existence, but mostly leave those topics to be discussed among players rather than in the game's writing.
Neutral perspectives are rare in major media and in-depth stories like this, but a discussion held among characters on the questionable events and actions taking place could provide for some interesting character dynamics. Instead, the story simply recognizes these topics and includes characters that stand on both sides of the issue. One side defends itself and the other group just leaves it be. Neutrality is understandable on most topics, but it would be more interesting to see true arguments had between these developed personalities on deep issues.
10 Series has likely already reached its ceiling
This is one of those unfortunate truths that is hopefully proven wrong, but is difficult to deny. Considering the massive heights the series has reached up until this point, with GTA V officially being the most successful piece of media ever, it's difficult seeing the series ever reaching greater heights than this. Grand Theft Auto V has hit every possible milestone that a developer aspires to achieve and serves as a standard-setter across the entire gaming industry. In all actuality, what's left to achieve then?
This point also references the creative side of development as it's unclear if there are truly original directions to take the series from here. They've gone to the '80s, '90s, and 2000/'10s, with the only exciting era left being the '70s. Once that era is taken care of (likely in the next installment), the series is somewhat limited in what it can do. Is there another idea brewing on-par with the multiple-protagonist system that can shake things up enough to remove any staleness? The answer's not immediately obvious, and that is a bit worrying.
Considering that the heads of Rockstar have expressed doubts that they'd ever bring another GTA game to Europe, an idea that could freshen up the series, it'll have to be seen if the creative minds of the Housers can continue offering up varied, record-setting crime games without getting too stale.
9 Overhype will always make every installment overrated
Hype is a dangerous thing. Too little of it and your game won't sell. Too much of it leads to unavoidable disappointment. The Grand Theft Auto series is no stranger to hype, as it receives its fair share of press from critical media outlets condemning it and enthusiastic gaming sites promoting it to the upteenth degree.
And that's just pre-release. Once the game releases, and it's received a fair share of perfect scores and "masterpiece" labelings, the hype train speeds on stronger than ever. This happened with both GTA IV and V, and like all things that receive an absurd amount of acclaim, it soon received the "overrated" label by a growing percentage of gamers. Typically not a huge blow for any game, but if the dramatic mentality-switch of GTA IV is any indication, major games with an abundance of praise can lose their "masterpiece" title and get an "overrated" one if enough gamers stand behind it.
In turn, every GTA may go through this cycle. Crazy levels of hype, great reviews and sales, then labelled "overrated" a year later.
Due to the issues of GTA Online and the natural passage of time, player perception of GTA V seems to have veered downward. Is every title in the series doomed to this cycle? Each installment having a great legacy that lasts a couple years, only to then lose its high standing? Let's hope this isn't a trend that remains.
8 Dull story missions are included for the sake of variety
Every game in this series has that mission that drives players crazy. There are those ones that are frustratingly difficult, like San Andreas's model plane mission and "Demolition Man" in Vice City. Then, there are the missions that just feel like filler in the worst kind of way. You know the ones. The "Follow this person without getting caught" type where there's very little entertainment value to be taken away from it. GTA V had the crane mission where you literally just operate a crane and take pictures of storage crates for far too long.
It's these second kinds of missions that usually fill up a higher percentage of the total mission count, and they're the worst kind. The biggest crime these missions offer is that players don't feel anything but boredom after playing them. They're not difficult enough to be frustrating or interesting enough to earn anyone's undivided attention. On repeat playthroughs, they become the missions you just have to get through in order to enjoy the rest of the game.
What continues to confuse is Rockstar's incessant need to include these mission types in every single installment. Story-wise, they do make sense. Gameplay-wise, they always leave something to be desired. The cons far outweigh the pros in this case. For future titles, hopefully they find a way to express necessary story beats and character moments without forcing players to slog through missions that drag down the otherwise-excellent experience.
7 The series tends to be a "jack of all trades, master of none"
As previously mentioned, Grand Theft Auto is always used as a measuring stick for other third-person shooters and open-world games. Because of this, other developers take note of the series' strengths and weaknesses, then find a way to make their game superior in some way. In turn, many of them end up superceding GTA in some sense, even if it's not in every way.
This is possible because in many cases, the GTA series has utilized the design method of an almost-perfect balance between all of its mechanics. This way, their game doesn't have any major negative gameplay mechanics as every element is designed to at least be good. The downside of this is that it only has certain things that it's really "best" at. Gunplay is satisfying and engaging, but other games have better shooting. Driving is well-designed and controllable, but is still bested by other games. Finally, there's the main story, which is perfectly enjoyable, but never the best of its kind as other open-world games offer up more satisfying campaigns (including Rockstar's own Red Dead Redemption).
The immersion factor, visuals, and writing are easily an industry-standard, but everything borders on either good or great, but rarely ever best. Certainly a first-world-problem from a developer perspective (Aw, your game's only good at everything? Wah"), it's the primary problem with this balanced approach. Your gameplay experience is well-balanced and the overall sum of its parts is excellent, but individual components, on their own, can be competed against, even beaten.
6 NPCs are only window dressing
While Rockstar's ability to create a living, breathing world is simply unparalleled, it's difficult not thinking about how little you can actually do with each of the random citizens that flood the city streets. Sure, you can greet them peacefully or even say something a bit more threatening, but there's nothing in terms of truly getting to know any one person. All of them typically blend together, with the only ones that stand out at all being the mission-giving types.
The crowds of citizens, all of whom are giving funny little bits of dialogue that help make them feel realer than NPCs in other open-world titles, have nothing to offer the player outside of someone to mess with or greet.
It's not like an RPG where every person, major or minor, is easily-defined thanks to dialogue systems and the ability to interact. Even if GTA should by no means adopt a dialogue system a la Fallout 3 or Mass Effect, it doesn't mean that these citizens and pedestrians should be left as just walking, talking decorations and nothing else.
From the sounds of a recent interview with Rockstar North co-director Rob Nelson (the studio also in charge of GTA V), Red Dead Redemption 2 sounds like it'll have plentiful options for interacting with NPCs that lead to dynamic exchanges. If this system works well in RDR2, then it'll undoubtedly be carried over to the next installment in the studio's flagship series.
5 The ratio of world size and things to do continually worsens
During those cross-country traveling missions in GTA V, you're reminded of just how big these open worlds have become. So many gorgeous sights to behold and admire. Dense forests, high mountaintops, and jam-packed cityscapes. It's just unfortunate that even with these interesting views ripe for screenshotting, there's not a ton to really do throughout these maps.
Sure, there are the occasional random side-missions that appear in specific areas, along with assorted activities like hunting, racing, among others. Yet, all of it is greatly spread out due to the map size, so it's a bit of a journey to take part in each specific activity, particularly in GTA V when you venture outside the Los Santos city limits. In previous games, with the activities largely being contained in the city limits and there not really being much nature to travel through, there was plenty to do in an easily-manageable map.
Now? If you want to do anything like bounty hunting or just normal hunting, it's going to be a decent 10 mile drive or a mandatory cab fast-travel. The map has increased in size tremendously, but the devs haven't distributed activities in a balanced manner, leading to long drives of nothing leading to your destination. There are the occasional random activities/people of interest that pop up, but they lack variety and only offer a quirky personality to talk to rather than an entertaining mission. GTA VI either needs to reduce the map size or include more distractions from place-to-place.
4 The downright annoying side characters
This series is full of immensely interesting and enjoyable characters, for sure. That said, each game also has its annoying characters, and unfortunately, they usually overstay their welcome. Roman Bellic in GTA IV had his good qualities, but his habit of calling to hang out a bit too much led him to getting on people's nerves. Big Smoke from San Andreas was a pain to deal with before and after his double-cross, and basically the entirety of Michael's family in GTA V was downright unbearable.
Considering the wide array of characters Rockstar puts in their game, it's inevitable that some will be grating for some. They're varied personality types and the developer ensures that nobody is too similar to anyone else. Yet, it just leads to plenty of frustration when one of the primary mission providers (or even just someone with a series of side missions) has an irritable personality with little positive qualities to latch onto.
The worst part is that the characters rarely improve or get better. The De Santa family only got a little more redeemable, Roman remained largely the same character throughout IV's campaign, and the best thing that Big Smoke ends up offering is a chance at some revenge. Including a plethora of characters, all unique in their own way, has its benefits. It also inevitably leads to these personalities, which don't have enough time to grow on you, but stick around just long enough to bother you.
3 Main stories are usually the least interesting component
It's tough to admit, but the central plot of a GTA game is rarely the main highlight. Much of the time, the world, setting, and characters is what stands out the most, with the story serving as a means to interact with that world. This isn't so much a knock on the writing of the series as it is praise for the in-game world and its exploration options. Campaigns offer stories with interesting twists and turns that keep you engaged, but it's the characters and crazy missions that brings it all together.
The finely-tuned gunplay, strong mission design, and the entertaining characters within all of it is what makes GTA so special. Every campaign offers an interesting story, typically full of twists, betrayals, amongst other things. However, it's when the game turns players loose and let them do things they want to do that the game becomes the much-beloved experience that players keep going back to.
This series is about freedom and is at its best when it turns gamers loose into the world Rockstar spent far too many hours developing, crafting, and perfecting. The open world, interesting personalities, and fun gameplay make up the foundation of Grand Theft Auto. The main storyline is simply icing on the cake.
2 Operating anything other than a car is frustrating
Getting to operate a helicopter or plane that you can take anywhere is enough to get any adventurous player salivating. However, it's once you hop in the cockpit and start flying that you realize how important smooth controls are to the experience of flying. Ever since the series went three-dimensional, flying has always been an option, whether it was with a plane or helicopter. Yet, even with all of the elapsed time between GTA III and V, the controls really haven't improved as much as they should've.
It's a greatly frustrating experience operating anything that isn't a car/motorcycle in this series due to wonky controls that never seem to work as they should.
Helicopters constantly wobbling in the air and don't allow for too many easy turns and adjustments. Planes suffer from similar issues as they're very stiff to handle and rarely offer that satisfying thrill you'd typically associate with flying. The issue stands out more due to the smooth-controlling driving that allows for skilled drivers to really show off, especially in online modes. That being said, the less said about shooting from vehicles the better, as it's the one aspect of driving that also proves to be more frustrating than satisfying.
1 The looming threat of microtransactions
What's the worst thing about GTA Online's microtransactions? How well they're selling. MarketWatch reports that GTA Online has pulled in over a billion dollars and it doesn't look to be stopping anytime soon. With consistent updates that bring in new content on a regular basis, the mode is still supported. In turn, people will continue spending.
Take-Two Interactive (publisher of GTA) CEO Strauss Zelnick mentioned in an interview that all titles published by Take-Two will have microtransactions included. The obviously-lucrative practice of including them far outweighs any negatives, especially when it seems that players show no sign of swearing them off. Unlike other titles like Shadow of War or Deus Ex: Mankind Divided which had these in-game payments that would alter single-player experiences, Take-Two has limited GTA's in-game DLC to strictly Online features. In turn, it doesn't look as bad to gamers and is seen as completely optional.
While you can't necessarily blame GTA Online for seizing a clear opportunity with players on this, it's a bit nerve-wracking to think about future Rockstar titles being saddled with in-game currencies and paid non-story DLCs. Rockstar doesn't seem like they'd allow their single-player experiences to be tainted (as it's what they're known best for), but if Take-Two showed anything with their handling of NBA 2K's microtransactions, it's that they aren't always the most forward-thinking.
If you have any issues with the GTA series that you feel are mostly ignored, vent out some of your frustrations/issues with the series in the comments.