I have never played “Grand Theft Auto.” I have absolutely no experience with the games aside from my impressions upon seeing the box art and watching some of the gameplay on YouTube. The only thing I know for sure about the wildly popular game franchise is that it involves breaking the law in a major way and driving cars. Lots of cars.
The name itself gives you a hint into what the whole game is about, right? You go around driving through the streets of Los Angeles, or what have you, stealing cars and wreaking chaos and just generally being a crazy person.
It is this craziness that I have a problem with.
I’m the kind of person that feels bad when I knock over a light post during an in-game high-speed car chase. I wonder at the damage I’m causing, the potential harm I’m inflicting on nearby NPC’s and how much money it will cost to clean up the mess I’ve made with my horrible video game driving skills.
My personal anxieties aside, it seems more and more games are experimenting with in-game driving capabilities. While some of the foundations for driving-related mechanics have existed in games since their beginnings, new games are incorporating an increasing number of driving levels to appeal to an audience used to “Grand Theft Auto” and its car-heavy gameplay.
You don’t need to look far to see examples of what I’m talking about.
Rocksteady added a driving feature in “Batman: Arkham Knight” with a high tech Batmobile capable of Gotham street-warfare.
Ubisoft included a horse and buggy with “Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate” along with several new levels and loyalty missions to incorporate this new capability.
The foundation of the “Mad Max” game and franchise is built entirely on the use of cars to beat back the post-apocalyptic crazies in a world where water and oil are your most precious resources.
Now I’m not saying driving mechanics are a bad thing. If done correctly, I think including a driving capability can expand the game and open up a new experience for players.
However, it is important that driving mechanics are implemented correctly.
As much as I loved the next-gen Arkham, I think the Batmobile was hard to drive and difficult to incorporate. While its battle mode was certainly interesting and even fun at some times, it was hard to justify the car’s use in Arkham Knight versus Asylum or City.
Also, like I mentioned before, it was hard for me to drive around Gotham causing the kind of damage that massive tank of a machine wreaked just by existing.
I understand that nobody but criminals and militiamen were in the city by the time of the game’s beginning. I understand that Rocksteady included animation of criminals jumping out of the way of the Batmobile just in time so they wouldn’t be run over and Batman wouldn’t kill anyone, even accidentally.
And I understand that the use of the Batmobile was 100% justifiable according to Batman canon. It even makes sense because nearly all Batman movies include some sort of Batmobile vehicle, so why shouldn’t the video game?
All I’m saying is that I could not park the car without inflicting some pretty massive damage on the city of Gotham. I could barely move it one foot before there was something getting knocked down in my way. If it wasn’t a street sign or a part of a barbed wire fence it was the glass storefront next to the street or even the concrete corner of an office building.
“Forbes” contributor Erik Kain said it all in his article “Batmobile Blues” when he described the Batmobile as the game’s “second protagonist” and that the game itself could have gone a lot farther with a toned down version of the Batmobile mechanics.
And for those of you who have played the game, don’t even get me started on the Riddler and his racing quests. Or on what Jason did to the city’s underground after he plowed through the dirt with that monstrous digging machine.
I mean, what justifies that kind of incredible force? I love you Jason Todd, but seriously? How? And WHY?
But that’s an issue for another blog.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, I would be interested in seeing if Bethesda would ever include a driving capability in their Fallout series. While navigating the post apocalyptic wasteland would be difficult in the bulky nuclear powered cars of 2077, it would be cool to see if the player character could use car parts to hotwire a motorcycle or another smaller mode of transportation.
What other games could benefit from a few driving levels? What games have you played that could have done without them? Leave a comment or send me a message on Twitter (@lydmcinnes).
If you have a game you want me to talk about, or a specific question you want to ask, hit me up and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.
Drive on, speed demons, and let the power of Lara Croft be with you.
And while all these cars look fly as hell, the in-game destruction they leave in their wake is anything but.
Image source (clockwise from top left): Batman.wikia.com , Player-zone.com, Gamespot.com, Gta5car.com