Is Grand Theft Auto 5 Overrated?
How it could've been better.
Grand Theft Auto. A gaming series that is both famous and infamous among the masses. Parents hate it, but gamers love it! It's been around since 1997 and we have had 16 GTA titles on almost every console from Xbox, PlayStation, PC and even Nintendo Switch! However the latest Grand Theft Auto title is GTA 5 which came out all the way back in 2013, and since then it has had countless re-releases. You'd think GTA 5 would be the magnum opus of the series, but after playing all of the major titles, I have to be honest; GTA 5 is lacking in a lot of areas. In this article I will be going through everything that the previous Grand Theft Auto games have done better than GTA 5. Although I still love the latest installment, you will see by the end of this article how GTA 5 could've been a lot better. Hopefully all of the details mentioned here are available in the upcoming GTA 6 that Rockstar Games recently announced this February.
Grand Theft Auto is a long series that has been going on for 25 years and it has had a lot of installments, plus Rockstar's other open world games like Red Dead and Bully. We've been introduced to a lot of unique mechanics in each entry and some of these have been universal staples in every Rockstar game, however there are many that are left behind and Grand Theft Auto 5 seemingly has a lot of these missing details. We would be here all day if I mentioned everything that Rockstar left out of GTA 5, but here are a few key features that could've made this game truly perfect!
Better hunting: Red Dead: Redemption from 2010 introduced to us the wild world of hunting, it was a simple mechanic where killing any animal would leave behind a animal hide, some feathers or meat that you could either sell, craft items & clothes, eat or even use as bait. Of course Red Dead is a cowboy game, so this idea makes sense in the wild west and not so much in a modern day crime game like Grand Theft Auto. Yet GTA 5 still gives the player the freedom to explore the countryside to hunt down animals, but only for fun... I guess? There are a few side missions with Trevor Philips where you hunt specific animals and send photos to earn money, but it's a short series of missions and outside of that; it's pretty much pointless as dead animals can't be looted. So hunting animals during free roam only helps towards leveling up your shooting skill, but target practice and random shooting sprees in Los Santos will level you up much faster anyway. Hunting in GTA 5 is very underwhelming and considering that the game came out 3 years after Red Dead: Redemption, I don't understand why we couldn't have at least sold animal hides to red necks, or even eat the meat for health.
Body Building: Maybe this was harder to pull of with HD character models from GTA 5 and it may have been a lot of work to give all 3 protagonists different body types in 2013, but still, this could've been a great addition. GTA San Andreas from 2004 gave us the ability to make CJ (Carl Johnson) fat, skinny or muscular by playing the game a certain way. If all you did was eat fast food and drive everywhere; CJ would soon gain a lot of weight. However if you ran everywhere and barely ate (or ate healthy food); CJ would remain scrawny. Of course if you hit the gym and ate a lot of protein; CJ would bulk up! Rockstar Games later re-introduced this mechanic somewhat in Red Dead :Redemption 2 from 2018 where Arthur and John could gain or lose weight (not muscle mass, but looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Red Dead would be kind of weird anyway, so am not too mad). Yet they left this detail out in GTA 5. You could still make all 3 characters in GTA 5 stronger (which meant they could run, throw punches and climb faster), but this had no physical appearance changes, apart from the characters sweating when working out.
Complex dating mechanics: Both Grand Theft Auto San Andreas and GTA 4 had superior dating mechanics compared to what we get in GTA 5 (if you can even call them that!). In GTA San Andreas; we had to meet women in the open world and many would be choosy, only dating CJ if he looked a certain way, some girls only liked fat, skinny or muscular CJ and others would date him no matter what. On top of that; you'd have to think carefully about the girl your dating as they would love or hate different things. A party girl wants to go clubbing, a fancy lady would like to go a classy restaurant and others may even prefer a good old Burgershot (Fast food restaurant in game). It was a very simple mechanic that was easy to master as all you had to do was stay the same (CJ's body build) and keep going their favorite places to go on dates to keep them happy. It was more about player choice than being a difficult dating simulator. However, GTA 4 evolved this and made it much harder to date women. As the only way you could do this was to message every girl (and there was a lot!) on Lovemeet (GTA's online dating site parody) until one would finally message you back for a date. Even the "free" girlfriends you got with the main story were a pain to impress, as every girl liked Niko wearing different clothes. They would judge him based upon the type of car you drove too and it wasn't so simple as to just wear a fancy suit or buy a sports car because the girls would like different things! Michelle weirdly loved a dirty scruffy looking Niko, who drove a banged up car and went to rundown restaurants/pubs (this was because she is a undercover cop who wants more dirt on Niko to crackdown on Liberty City's crime world). The moment you get "rich" and buy nice clothes and a sports car, she actually doesn't like it! Some girls want a classy guy, others want a gangster. You even had to respond to their emails or texts often to keep them interested. They even had gameplay bonuses that would unlock when you reach 100% romance with them; like health boosts, etc. Some were even clingy and would text you constantly! Others were much easier to date, but would sleep around. Ironically, Carmen was my favorite, she didn't want to marry and openly said she dated other men than you. Niko may have found Carmen's promiscuous nature to be upsetting, but I didn't care because it was only a video game and she was very funny and easy going. Now GTA 5 does give you some very simple romance options, but the closest you can get to a date is to take Michael's wife, Amanda, out for a drink or meal. Considering these two are inseparable due to the story, it's no different than hanging out with any of the other GTA 5 characters. You can flirt with strippers, but this only results in a booty call and a photo afterwards. There is only one girlfriend (that isn't Amanda) in the game named Ursula who lives in Blaine County, but just like the strippers, you only drive to her house to make love and that's it. None of them care or comment on your car or clothes, Amanda might, but like I said, she'll never dump Michael. I don't even think the game has the like or dislike feature that even the friends in GTA 4 had. I know dating in a Grand Theft Auto game sounds silly, but it was always such a deep and realistic mini game which both made GTA San Andreas & 4 feel so much more immersive than GTA 5.
Grand Theft Auto 4's realism: Ok, last one! Grand Theft Auto 4 may also lack a lot of mechanics from earlier entries too, like air planes, haircuts, body building and car customization. However, this fits the tone for GTA 4 as it is a dark crime thriller, rather than a over the top action game (Like most GTAs). Grand Theft Auto 4 replaced a lot of GTA's sillier details for realistic ones such as the vast in-game internet you can spend hours exploring (which may be even better in GTA 5 actually) and the improved details involved with realistic driving, character animations and rag doll physics. Even hats would fall off Niko if he got shot in the head or ran over by a car! Although most of these features are still present in GTA 5, a lot of them feel stripped down, as the driving feels arcade like, hats are glued onto the characters and nobody comments on how good or bad you dress in GTA 5 either! Trevor Philips is always seen as crazy and scary even if he's in a tailored made suit with a shaven head and no beard. NPCs actually get scared of every GTA 5 protagonist even if your just standing still doing nothing; they always freak out, run away or start a fight! (Try it for yourself). The rag doll physics are toned down too as you'll barely go flying from falling off a motorcycle, crashing through the wind screen or bailing out of a car. Niko in GTA 4 would scream loudly, kicking his legs wildly while being thrown around like a football after a fatal crash, even the screen would motion blur and it genuinely felt scary! Crashing in real life is horrifying (believe me) and Niko's cries of sheer terror were not only hilarious but terrifyingly accurate too! Even some taxi drivers would tell stories while you're in the car with them. Vigilante and taxi missions had to be done through somewhat complicated and realistic means too, as you would need to call Roman for a taxi job, then go collect a taxi at his company building. Vigilante missions had to be done by accessing the computer inside police cars and then you would have to select who you wanted to attack. GTA 5 cut out the vigilante missions and taxi drivers don't tell stories any more, to play the taxi driver side missions all you do is beep your horn like in the 3D era games on PlayStation 2. When it comes to realism: GTA 5 feels like a major step backwards compared to what we had in GTA 4, only the first person mode in 5 is a realistic improvement. Red Dead: Redemption 2 showed us that Rockstar Games are capable of making a game even more immersive and real than GTA 4, so here's hoping Grand Theft Auto 6 is truly grounded in reality!
Grand Theft Auto 5 might be lacking in some areas, but there certainly are some unique features that do make it stand out. GTA 5 was the first Rockstar game to introduce multiple protagonists (Franklin, Michael and Trevor). Each character felt different, it mixed up the game play a bit and was a god send whenever you got lost in the middle of the ocean or countryside, you no longer had to suffer through getting back to civilization (unless you wanted to) as now all you needed to do was simply swap character and you're back in the city as someone else within seconds! This game also has the biggest map in any of the Grand Theft Auto games, it took me months to fully discover the map! (Although I do feel like most of it is empty outside of Los Santos). Grand Theft Auto Online was really fun, exciting and revolutionary (before Shark cards) as they added a lot of content which wasn't in the single player, like full on character customization, more cars, garages, apartments, houses and many other properties were also available to buy too. I adore the first person mode (which was later introduced in the PC and 8th generation console versions of GTA 5), this new perspective really gives us a fresh look at the open world, which really adds to the immersion of Grand Theft Auto (If only 4 had this mode!). I mostly play GTA 5 in first person perspective to really role play as a San Andreas citizen doing taxi missions and other realistic activities outside of being a criminal. Exploring the desert near Blaine County is also a nice break from the main city and there is a lot to discover when deep diving in the oceans. Side missions are a lot more cinematic then they've ever been too and have really deep, interesting stories to get invested into (especially the Epsilon Cult side story). Many people forget about this; but GTA 5 is full of creepy Easter eggs and mysteries like the Mount Chiliad conspiracy, the Big Foot mission, the ghost girl of Blaine County (who only shows up at 11pm on top of Mount Gordo), the alien UFOs , the infinity killer and the Leonora Johnson murder mystery. There really is a lot to love about Grand Theft Auto 5, but the game could've been even more mind blowing if it also included all the missing features that I included within this article.
It's been 9 years since GTA 5 released and we still haven't gotten a single trailer or even one screenshot of the latest game! We don't know if it'll be in Vice City (most likely), Liberty City, Las Venturas, San Fierro, Carcer City, London or maybe somewhere entirely new and different! If Rockstar Games have been working on the game since the release of Red Dead: Redemption 2, then it's been in development for over 4 years (possibly longer). Considering how realistic graphics are getting and how perfect Red Dead: Redemption 2 was, I can only imagine how great Grand Theft Auto 6 is going to be! However if the definitive versions of the 3D trilogy are anything to go off; GTA 6 could equally be as great of a disaster as it could be a masterpiece. Only time will tell.
About the author
My name is Joseph Roy Wright, the British author of 5 Independent novels!
I like to write about movies, pop culture, fiction and horror! I review all the latest films (and classics), I also like to write short stories.