5 Things Rockstar Should Leave Out Of Grand Theft Auto V

Yesterday, I listed 5 things that Rockstar should carry over from Max Payne 3 into Grand Theft Auto V. Today, I'll list 5 things that I hope they leave behind forever.

Some of these things are new to Max Payne 3, some are bad habits that have developed over time. A couple are story-related, a couple are gameplay-related. But if Rockstar is going to continue to make games that are at the cutting edge of both pop culture and gaming, all of them have gotta go.

Here now, 5 bad habits that Rockstar should leave behind forever.

1. Cinematic Style Over Cinematic Substance

There's always been a discrepancy between the cutscene snippets that we see in Rockstar's trailers and the actual cutscenes in their games. The trailers are all hyper-edited, super exciting, with bouncing music and lots of quick-cut one-liners. The cutscenes in the games themselves are much more traditionally composed, consisting of carefully framed or slowly tracking shots that keep the action and dialogue clear and in focus.

This is a good thing. But Max Payne 3 ditches that approach, and the game's hyper-stylish cinematics feel more like a trailer than they do a game. The early scenes hold promise — their portrayal of a man silently drinking himself to death are intense and troubling. But it all starts to feel self-indulgent with remarkable quickness — by the third or fourth cutscene, I was already tired of the splashing text, the forced double-vision, the extreme camera angles. Rockstar wears its cinematic ambitions on its sleeve, but Max Payne 3 is, all things considered, an overindulgence in the shallower end of that ambition.

Grand Theft Auto V most likely won't adopt Max Payne 3's melodramatic flavour. But I do worry that as it becomes technologically easier for the Housers to create more elaborate, showy cinematics, their work will become shallower despite the fact that I don't believe them to be shallow storytellers.

2. Goons, Bullies, and Deluded Psychos

(We usually meet them at a party, and they're usually doing cocaine.)

This one's a broader complaint, but in Max Payne 3 I believe that I finally reached my quota for Rockstar's favourite archetype — the deluded cokefiend, specifically. It's something we've seen in most if not all of their games — these doofy guys (and occasionally gals) who upon introduction appear to be lord of their tiny fiefdom. (We usually meet them at a party, and they're usually doing cocaine.) They welcome the taciturn protagonist, and give him a job. Eventually, they are revealed to be a sad phony, and they usually end up dead.

This archetype is fine on its own, but I felt as though Grand Theft Auto IV more or less hit all of the riff's possible variations. We had Brucie, we had Playboy; we had Ray and Manny, Elizabeta and Derrick, Faustin and Vlad. In Max Payne 3, we got another variation in the Branco family, but most of those characters weren't explored any more meaningfully than the smallest sidequest-givers in GTA IV.

It's certainly not beyond the Housers and their writing team's ability to create distinctive, interesting characters. The opening act of Red Dead Redemption was populated almost entirely with real-feeling folk (with the exception of Irish), and it was also the best extended bit of storytelling that a Rockstar game has managed. Driven largely by its setting and the age of its protagonists, the fabulous high-school-based game Bully had nothing but interesting characters. The archetype was almost non-existant in the (largely not-Rockstar-written) L.A. Noire and in the GTA IV episodes, both partner/antagonists Billy Grey and Gay Tony were nuanced and ambiguous.

But none of the characters in Max Payne 3 fresh or interesting, including Max himself. This is at least in part because they were working with an established character — but if that's the case, why did I feel like I got to know Max better in the earlier games? For all the talking Max does in the new game, we gain almost no insight into his character or history over the course of the game. Given how diverse Rockstar's casts tend to be, it's frustrating that they're still able to make a game this shallow. Hopefully Grand Theft Auto V will show them pushing in the other direction, eschewing their over-reliance on entertaining but ultimately shallow character archetypes.

3. Extreme Gore

With Max Payne 3, Rockstar seems to have made huge leaps in the field of ghastly bullet-wound technology. Shooting an enemy in the game leads to all manner of disgusting, pulpy entry wounds and juicy exit wounds as mouths are eviscerated, torsos perforated, and neck-wounds blast arterial spray in every direction.

It's a choice with cinematic influences — we've seen violence like this in the gritty action films from which Max Payne draws inspiration. And violence can be just fine, or even welcomely shocking — heck, just this week, we saw some thrilling ultraviolence in the medieval TV show Game of Thrones. If that was cool enough to post Gifs, why isn't it cool in Max Payne 3?

Games suffer from a "repetition factor" that films and TV shows don't. Something that we see once or twice in a film we'll see dozens of times in a game, and the effect is therefore dramatically different. (This same thing happens with dialogue, see Arkham City and Splinter Cell's Fisher-Fest 2010.)

When playing Max Payne 3, I see new, horrific blasts of violence every few seconds. After a while, I can't help but start to feel weird about it — how much extreme blood-spray can a guy watch before the whole thing starts to feel a bit psychotic?

It seems unlikely that this level of gore will make its way into Grand Theft Auto V, mainly because it will be more mainstream-oriented. All the same, I want to voice the hope that GTA V chooses to focus more on great action and storytelling and less on realistically depicting the effect of a hollow-point on a jawbone.

4. Over-Reliance on Cover

As much as Rockstar has tweaked and improved their cover-based third-person shooting over the years, it has a fundamental problem — it often feels less cover-based and more cover — locked.

This feels especially true in the back half of Max Payne 3, where most encounters wind up playing out just like action sequences in Red Dead Redemption or GTA IV. You run into a new room, take cover, and shoot guys from that cover until they're all dead. Max Payne 3 doesn't have any good options for rushing from cover to cover or cornering, meaning that you're generally even more rooted.

It would be great to play a game that gave players reason to exit cover and engage in combat that felt a bit less constipated.

Going back to Max Payne 2 on PC, it's remarkable how much has been changed. That game had no cover system, and as a result Max was propelled forwards. Each room becake something of a fast-paced physics puzzle:

I need to leap to the right to get that pillar between me and the two guys over there, while shooting the guy who still has a line on me. Then, once I land, leap back to the left and take out the other two guys...

I'm in Max Payne 3's 12th act, and I no longer use shoot-dodging at all. I relish the odd moment when I'm running through an open space and two guys burst out from the side — finally, I can do some acrobatics! That is what Max Payne is all about for me — leaping through the air and blowing away bad guys. It's not really about crouching behind a pillar and leaning out to take potshots. For this reason, I do look forward to playing Max Payne 3 on the PC, with a mouse and keyboard and free-aiming enabled, but I also think the game could have freed things up a little regardless of the player's control scheme.

Every game Rockstar has made since GTA IV has featured more or less the same heavy, slow-moving cover-based combat. It seems highly unlikely that GTA V will deviate from that. All the same, it would be great to play a game that gave players reason to exit cover and engage in combat that felt a bit less constipated.

The cover issue, however, is directly tied to Max Payne 3's biggest problem, something that I truly hope GTA V can remedy...

5. Maddening Difficulty Issues

Max Payne 3 has a number of problems with difficulty and balance. The issues tend to stack on top of one another, and one problem leads to multiple problematic player-side situations, at least for me. For example:

  • Enemies are bullet-sponges who can take a half-dozen bullets and keep on ticking >> Max can't shoot-dodge into a room because it's impossible to kill even one enemy in a single leap, therefore shoot-dodging is suicidal >> Players stick to cover in order to proceed.
  • The game has no quicksave and checkpoints are punishing >> Players are forced to be more conservative in order to survive the lengthy, multi-stage shootouts >> Players do less experimentation and, again, tend to stick to cover.
  • The "soft-lock" auto-aim still feels a bit rough, and scoped weapons in particular tend to lock onto unintended enemies >> Some sections of the game are much more difficult than they would be in another third-person shooter >> Players don't want to use some of the game's better weapons, and feel like the game is fighting them.
  • Enemies don't drop painkillers like they did in the first games >> A players' first priority after each fight is doing a slow pick-over of each room looking for precious health >> The game's pacing and flow feel stagnated, despite the fact that characters are regularly yelling at you to hurry things up.

The issues continue: Bullet-sponge "boss" enemies are placed at the ends of combat sections, sometimes with no checkpoint before them. Not fun. Enemies are allowed to use grenades, but Max isn't. (Why?)

The best bullet-time moments are scripted, with an unlimited-ammo Max leaping from a building or a higher level while firing down on enemies below. The difference between these moments and the rare times when you recreate them on your own is quite large. Particularly in an open-world game like GTA, I want to make more of my own cinema and rely less on setpieces to really wow me.

Despite all that, Rockstar's combat system is largely fine, usually fun and occasionally even truly great. Its feel can be supremely satisfying, and as I talked about yesterday, Max Payne 3 contains some brilliant touches that I hope to see in future Rockstar games.

But its flaws still feel frustrating, and I would love to see a Rockstar game finally feel as good to play as Gears of War or Vanquish or hell, the recently-released Ghost Recon: Future Soldier.

In GTA IV and Red Dead, I found myself saying "It's this huge open world game and the combat is decent!" In Max Payne 3, the open world is removed, but the combat isn't as fine-tuned as I would have expected. Would've it be lovely if GTA V could have it all?

I get the sense that we'll see more of GTA V in the near future, and hopefully begin to discern whether Rockstar has made a riff on their already grand open-world formula or decided to blow things wide open yet again. Here's hoping it's the latter.

5 Things Grand Theft Auto V Should Lift From Max Payne 3

It can be difficult to view Max Payne 3 on its own terms. It's a fine game in its own right, but it will always exist at least partly in the shadow of Rockstar's other, much bigger looming release-Grand Theft Auto V.

Since Rockstar released GTA IV four years ago, both Red Dead Redemption and... More »


Comments

    I feel games aren't violent enough these days. I miss the showers of (Unrealistic) blood.

    Maybe there is something wrong with me but I really like how in L4D a grenade will shower blood and bits everywhere.

    (I don't feel this way in real life and I cant even look at an open wound without feeling faint)

    I still say number 1 is "No Local Only search function".

    Srsly?? i thought the gore in max payne 3 was awesome, and i hope they bring it to GTAV

      Absolutely. The gore in MP3 wasn't overdone? It was great. There were no limbs flying anywhere, just bulletholes. Get a grip Kirk.

        agreed, finally some realistic violence, I'm sorry kirk but shooting someone with a machine gun isn't pretty. If you don't like violence don't play violent games or harden up?

          The reason I'm not buying this game is due to the violence. I can admit that I can't handle it. I would definitely prefer it toned down.

            So the argument should really be to have a no-gore option, it's certainly not a new thing to gaming. But calling for the removal of a feature entirely just because a handful of people would prefer the game without it has never been a good idea.

              There also are rumors that GTA Vice City is next to be preotd on Android and iPhone! It's understandable, both gta3 and Vice City are low on system requirements, and it should work just fine as a proprietary format on modern phones with 1 GHz processors! The only thing is Rockstar to make it available!

    Still waiting for my PC copy of MP3 to show up in the mail. Very excited.

    I'm interested to see how the cover system feels. I thought cover was really well implemented in Stranglehold, so it definitely can work for this style of game. Not sure why everyone seems down on it in MP3.

    WTF is with this article? It's like you want a PG13 version of GTA... if you dont like violence, cinematic sequences, goons bullies psychos and innovative third-person shooter mechanics then why even play a game like this?

      Why get so defensive? You've mis-interpretted everything he said. The gist is that although gory deaths are cool, they can be overdone, and cinematic sequences should be on-par with unscripted moments ... and yeah I'm also a bit tired of seeing characters snorting huge lines and screaming with paranoia. That too can be over-done.

      You've completely missed the point, Rev. Here's a point-by-point:

      Kirk is fine with violence, but posits that GTA doesn't need the same level of gore that Max Payne 3 has.
      He didn't say he had a problem with cinematic sequences, but that Max Payne 3 OVERINDULGES in 'hyper-stylish' cinematics, to the detriment of the product (which I also agree with; compare the difference in the cinematic experience between Max Payne 1/2 and Max Payne 3 to see what I'm talking about).
      He doesn't have a problem with "goons, bullies, and deluded psychos". He has an issue with them all being the exact same tired archetype we've seen everywhere else. The guys at Rockstar are capable of creating memorable, unique characters that aren't just 'paint-by-numbers' archetypes copied-and-pasted from elsewhere, and Max Payne 3 was severely lacking in this department.
      And finally, the last one can be taken in two ways. If you're referring to his fourth point ("Over-reliance on Cover" ), it certainly isn't innovative. Cover mechanics have been around since the PS2 era, and their introduction to the Max Payne series is arguably detrimental to the gameplay experience. If you're referring to his final point ("Maddening Difficulty Issues"), then his comment wasn't against innovative third-person shooter mechanics at all. His issue is both that the design of the game has limited what was a major gameplay component of previous games (shoot dodging) to something that is (in most cases) extremely ineffective when compared to things like taking pot shots from cover, as well as the points that he made in list form that you seem to have skipped over.

        nah. I disagreed with pretty much everything he said in this article. The violence wasn't extreme, its realistic, when you shoot someone in the face with a shotgun it gets messy, i want my games to be realistic and thats exactly what MP3 did. I thought the cutscenes were fantastic, the pacing was great, the writing was edgy and in comparison with MP1/2 writing were you have ridiculous metaphors and anecdotes constantly thrown in your face it was a breath of fresh air (dont get me wrong loved MP1/2 number 3 was just superior in every possible way). Also the cover system just grounded the thing in a little bit more realism for me, I try to imagine a guy jumping from side to side in a room to avoid bullets like the first 2 Max Payne's and its hard not to giggle a little. All in all the article is just an opinion piece which by the looks of it me and Rev both disagreed with.

          We're definitely all entitled to our own opinions (I personally enjoyed Max Payne 3, despite what I believe to be certain faults and issues), but the point I was making is that TheRev decided to completely misinterpret what Kirk has said then put forward a strawman argument that had no relevance to what Kirk had written in the article. While I don't necessarily share the same viewpoint as you in regards to Max Payne 3, you've chosen to discuss what was written in the article like most of the other posters here. It's all good and well to discuss what somebody has written, but attempting to argue with a viewpoint that the author never had is idiotic and a waste of time.

    I pretty much agree with what he said, bar one: I used bullet-time constantly. Having said that, I only played it on normal, and pretty much everyone I shot in the head died from that one shot.
    The difficulty spikes were annoying, and sometimes the checkpoints were unfair, but they didn't stop me playing.
    They all happened in the last part of the game anyway, and the last parts of games are supposed to be difficult.Grin and bear it - there's more Max Payne does right, than wrong.

    I found the cover system in GTA4 was incredibly clunky & slow. Also the aiming was too heavy & thus slow. It improved in RDR, but when compared to Uncharted & Gears of War it still feels quite cumbersome. I hope they fix that for GTA5 & if they don't I will still buy it!

    What does 'becake' mean?

      it's a zen cooking technique

      You don't mean bukkake do you hahaha

    "3. Extreme Gore"
    Well, in Australia, we'll probably still get a censored one anyway, unless the rating system finally changes for it.

    Re: bullet sponges.
    The baddies are now wearing body armour, a handy invention intended to STOP BULLETS.
    Shoot them in the head for much, much faster kill times.

      but that takes time, and people move around a lot, and it's not like i have some sort of ability to slow down time..

      oh wait...

    About the only thing I agree with here is the reliance on cover.

    I choose not to elaborate any further.

    ^^My thought exactly. I was going to post exactly the same thing regarding the over-reliance on cover. It's really the only things I wouldn't want in GTAV. Everything else is great.

    I say let Remedy/Sam Lake do a GTA game and see if people defend their changes to that series. :-P

    Max Payne 3 was pretty good, actually. But I agree that too many characters in GTA IV are so bat-shit crazy that instead of being memorable, are just irritating to deal with. Roman would have been okay if he didn't want to go fucking bowling all the time.

    I feel that this guy complaining doesnt apprieciate the gift of gore in games.........dude wake up gamers of today think that games are boring because THERE isnt any GORE!!!! people that play shooters want gore like woh!!!! did you see that SH!T it makes it alot more fun any people that get crazy and start killing other people just because they played a gory game.......Theres a special place for those people "Asylums" :)

    WHAT??? no gore?? come on Kirk, if anything they need more gore. though MP3 was good enough, i think GTA should also have bullet holes and the same kind of head wounds MP3 has but they should also make it so if a guy gets hit with a grenade his legs should blow off and stuff like that. also if i go up to a guy close range and shoot him in the face with a shotgun, it shouldnt just make bullet holes, it should blow most of his head off!! im not crazy and i dont think things like this in real life, but games are different storys. they let people do things like that and let them see gory curiousitys. Lets face it, people now days like gore in games. the more the better. iff you dont like it, then why in the world are you playing games like MP3 and GTA?

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