Whether or not you like Rockstar's magnum opus and cash cow, the ground-breaking Grand Theft Auto series, it cannot be denied that GTA is one of the most influential and best selling games of all time. Part of it is due to Rockstar's devotion to crafting a humorous and immersive experience, and some of it is the undeniable appeal of its mature themes, while some people just love GTA's sandbox-styled, open world freedom. Ever since the announcement that GTA IV would grace both the Xbox 360 and the PS3, gamers everywhere have been rabid for screenshots, a game location, videos, characters, or any morsel of information about the game, all of which have been virtually nonexistent. With this taxing dearth of information, we have decided to speculate on some of the possible additions to GTA IV, as well as some things that we hope to see.
D'Marcus Beatty, Co Site-Director:
One thing that Rockstar is known for is their consistency across their different games. Each GTA has been subtly tied to one another, with cameos and references to other GTA characters in each game. Because of this adherence to an established world, most people speculate that GTA IV will take place in a location already mentioned in GTA, such as Manhunt's Carcer City. Some are expecting GTA IV to take place in a foreign country, such as Europe or Japan. However, Rockstar has always consistently added content with each iteration, adding size to Vice City then tripling it in San Andreas. My prediction is that GTA IV will take place across multiple locations on a scale that may even dwarf San Andreas's staggering map. GTA IV will have a number of different cities (or maybe even states like San Andreas if Rockstar really wants to be industrious) that the character can access through different means, much like the trains and airplanes in San Andreas. Each different locale will feel unique, creating an experience that stays fresh as the player progresses. Some of the locations may even be familiar, a next-gen update of Vice City, Liberty City, and San Andreas. Think about beginning the game in San Andreas and having to flee the country for some crime or another, so that the player has to spend the next part of the game in Japan or London while waiting for the heat to die down. Each area could be unveiled slowly, after certain prerequisite missions are completed until late in the game, where the player has access to an entire game world.
Another thing that Rockstar is known to do is to bring features from non-GTA games into GTA, like adding the shadow-creeping ability in Manhunt to San Andreas. We've already been told that we can expect the visuals to resemble the realistic graphics of "Rockstar Games presents Table Tennis", which should solve the constant complaint that GTA games are ugly and visually uninspired. However, are there any elements that GTA can borrow from the critically and commercially acclaimed Bully? One thing that we might see is a more interactive (and hopefully more fun) way of increasing the character's stats and abilities. San Andreas presented gamers with the ability to gain and lose weight by working out in a somewhat simple and boring button-pressing mini-game, and most other skills were upgraded through repeated use. The player was also able to gain new fighting abilities by defeating a sensei, although there were only three levels with three moves apiece. Bully showed us that it could be fun to increase character stats with a bunch of mini-games that were fun as well as profitable. Hopefully, this finds its way into GTA IV. Also, GTA's fighting has never been very deep and could definitely benefit from taking some tips from Bully's surprisingly deep but simple fighting engine, simplified from Rockstar's The Warriors, which used one attack button that altered attacks depending on how hard or long the player pressed the button. There was also a grapple button, which, when used in concert with the attack button, created a new form of fighting with the same mechanics. Although GTA has always primarily been a game about weapons, having solid fighting mechanics definitely couldn't hurt its popularity.
What is a definite no-brainer is the vast increase and improvement in the audio department. Although the GTA series is legendary for its soundtracks, especially being one of the first games that made having licensed music viable and cool, it has always been limited by its storage medium. With the leap to next-gen, we can expect the soundtracks to be immense. This might manifest in more radio stations, more varied songs per station, or hopefully both.
While GTA has also always improved upon itself, cramming more and more content in each iteration while increasing and tweaking everything they can, I think that this time we can expect them to improve upon the GTA formula and the improvements made by GTA's distant cousin, Saints Row. Saints Row had a number of elements that GTA lacked, most notably next-gen visuals, a free targeting reticule, an easily readable map with real-time GPS guidance, missions and cutscenes that can be replayed after completion, vehicles that can be restored after being destroyed, and online multiplayer. Don't be surprised to see these things in GTA IV, especially since Saints Row "borrowed" so heavily from San Andreas. Also, we can definitely expect to see some shots taken at Saints Row, with some derogatory but clever references to the city of Stilwater or the Third Street Saints.
One of the most anticipated additions to the GTA formula is the inclusion of some sort of online multiplayer. Multiplayer was hinted at with the scattered co-op missions in San Andreas and then became fully available in the PSP iterations (Liberty City Stories, Vice City Stories), so Rockstar is obviously experimenting with the idea. While some people have speculated that GTA IV would be a MMOG, that's doubtful. An MMOG would drastically change the gameplay and would exclude anyone who doesn't have access to broadband or doesn't play online games. If anything, the multiplayer would be a separate section of the game similar to Saints Row. There may be cooperative sections, but I believe that they would be limited as well, possibly another separate section or individual missions that can be played via online co-op. At its heart, GTA has always been a single-player experience, and to retain its wide appeal, it will have to remain that way. However, Rockstar will want to keep up with the Joneses, and will more than likely include some form of online multiplayer or co-op missions that are separate from the main storyline, but complementary in some fashion.
Adam Brown, Freelance Writer:
There are two things that I would really like to see in Grand Theft Auto (GTA) IV. The first is a create-a-player option. GTA: San Andreas gave players a chance to modify the main character in several ways during the game. This was a step in the right direction but I hope GTA IV will allow players to build their own unique main character from scratch. Everything including height, weight, race, facial features, hair, eye color, tattoos, and clothing should be customizable. And please Rockstar, no more trips to the virtual gym.
The second thing I want from GTA IV is an mp3 player. Rockstar has done a great job of getting outstanding soundtracks for the last few console GTAs. The only downside to this has been that you could only enjoy these excellent songs while driving. If the player were given an mp3 player with an FM tuner, they could listen to the game's radio channels or perhaps even create their own mixes. Rockstar could even have in-game music stores where players could download new music via Xbox Live or the PlayStation Store.