Now that the dust has somewhat settled on the gaming landmark which was Grand Theft Auto V, the scale of its impact has become apparent. For so many months, GTA V covered every inch of video gaming space and culture like an uncontrollable fungus, spreading at an alarming rate until it simply consumed all available attention. Explaining this phenomenon isn’t as simple as analyzing Grand Theft Auto’s latest venture, but rather the source material all together.
Ever since the historic landmark known as Grand Theft Auto 3 perplexed minds with its grand ingenuity, the Grand Theft Auto series has pushed the boundaries within video games. This creative evolution of the industry has persisted throughout numerous console cycles, and has become a defining trademark for the entire franchise.
For some perspective, lets examine the opening sales figures for its most recent installment. Grand Theft Auto V sold an absurd $300 million worth of copies on release day, and a staggering total of $1 billion in just the first three days.
It is ridiculous to consider that the game, hypothetically, made the enormous cost of development back on pre-orders alone, with an estimated 7 million units sold worldwide.
In light of these figures, an integral question arises, how could this video game possibly generate so much attention and anticipation with so little revealed during the lead up? From the outside it seems, quite simply, preposterous. In actuality, it all boils down to the reputation Rockstar has attained through its reinvigoration of the video game industry, and deservedly so. Rockstar have continuously proved themselves capable of creating inspired works of art, and this is reflected in these crazy sales figures.
From Grand Theft Auto 3 onwards, the series has surpassed the apparent impossible, as far as limitations on games are concerned. Since the early 2000′s, Rockstar has become the undeniable personification of trend setting in the video game industry. Their titles sprout from an uncompromising creative vision, which ignores any supposed constraints of that particular time period, and Rockstar turn this idea into a reality by pushing the hardware to it’s absolute limit.
Take for instance, the genre defining GTA 3 released in the early millennia. The now common prospect of a action adventure game with an open world, in 3D no less, was unheard of back in 2001. This premise, coupled with sound shooting and driving mechanics, was considered eye popping originality in its purest form. As a result of this revelation, the “sandbox” genre was born, and Rockstar can take full credit for sparking the creation of numerous games, with a similar gameplay premise, that wouldn’t exist otherwise.
That was the first example of Rockstar’s ingenuity, now let’s fast forward past the release of Vice City, which presented an idea akin to era time traveling (to Miami in the 80′s in this case). Keep going through San Andreas, a title that really defined the idea of a ‘large’ game, in both content and literal size for previous generation consoles. Past GTA IV, which provided the feel of a living and breathing city to roam, one that seemed to live on without your influence. Until finally we reach Grand Theft Auto V, where Rockstar are still pushing our perception of plausibility. This time, it comes in the form of fusion, a seamless combination of massive size and detail. Sure there may PERHAPS be more detailed games out there, and maybe even some maps with rival size to roam within. However can these games boast a map bigger than 3 of their past releases combined? And then completely fill that world with insurmountable detail?
In fact, GTA V feels like a culmination of Rockstar’s past games combined. This uniting of aspects is especially relevant to the aforementioned titles which together can’t match GTA V’s size: the urban jungle of GTA IV, the open landscape of Red Dead Redemption, and the playful, vibrant nature of San Andreas. Grand Theft Auto has consistently build upon its GTA 3 foundations, and I believe the classic feel those following games provide is a testament to that. It’s incredible to consider a game so vast like GTA V features so many noticeable details; like beautifully intricate urban jungles and desolate wastelands, and small simple features such as characters checking the rear view mirror or cops commandeering civilian vehicles.
The prospect of one of the largest maps in history, containing minuscule features like the crunch of glass under feet, is completely mind-boggling. But much like the other titles in the franchise, GTA V sets the mark for where future video games are beginning to head. In this case, the framework for these titles appears to be the very effective inclusion of as many features as possible.
It’s quite fitting that the creators of the “sandbox” genre set themselves apart with GTA V from those who borrow the series’ likeness. In 2001 we first witnessed Rockstar’s imaginative capabilities, and it seems 12 years later they are still pushing the boundaries of video games. The company seems to ooze that ‘wow’ factor, a trait now shared with the majority of their titles. It’s crazy to ponder what the forthcoming consoles are capable of in Rockstar’s inventive hands.
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This article was first posted on October 16, 2013