Grand Theft Trike

Recently, I’ve been playing GTA again. Actually, this is nothing unusual but there was a big new update recently -Bikers – so I’ve got some Opinions to Blog About!!

Conveniently, this thing right here is my blog so let’s proceed with the opinion unloading.

Bikers came with a whole heap of new stuff for the game. I won’t bore you by just copying the patch notes here, but it was biker-themed clothes, helmets, tattoos etc, some new bikes which range from the useful (one of them is the new fastest land vehicle in the game) to the daft (a motortrike. a motortrike!). The big draw though is the ability to buy a clubhouse and hoon around with some of your chums as a Motorcycle Club. Given that we’re talking about GTA, this leads to new and exciting ways to commit crimes for fun and profit, such as the new biker-gang exclusive contract missions found in the clubhouses.

The most interesting of the new club activities is the ability to own and run some less-than-legal businesses, which is of course a pretty cool idea that’s got a long history in the GTA series. Now, you too can have a coke distribution room straight out of American Gangster or a meth lab lifted wholesale from Breaking Bad (complete with a fly buzzing around!). There’s also a money counterfeiting place; a pretty common thing for on-screen mafia to be involved in although I can’t think of any particular media its referencing and a weed farm that looks just like the economy of British Colombia. Rounding out the list is a document forgery place that in action looks like…. a regular office. It doesn’t even have a red stapler in there somewhere. I don’t get that last one, but they can’t all be winners.

It’s weirdly hypnotising just watching your employees going about their business, or you can leave them be and go do other illegal activities while they make you drugs to sell later. That second part alone makes this update a big improvement over the previous business-focused update, which allowed you to be a CEO and stock up a warehouse and was basically a repetitive timesink a lot of players gave up on fairly fast. So, it’s nice they learned and iterated for Bikers, but it did raise some questions in my mind.

As it stands, we now have CEOs in their million dollar highrise office taking their luxury helicopters to…. run around stealing contraband from other criminals and basically acting as glorified delivery boys. Meanwhile, scuzzy biker gangers in their run-down clubhouse get actual enterprises that need a lot to set up but then more or less run themselves. I can’t say I mind particularly, as it’s much more fun riding around as a biker gang than as a rich jerk in a helicopter but thematically it’s completely backwards.

Personally, I wouldn’t have minded if they’d added the biker stuff without the businesses and focused a bit more on the Clubhouse contracts, mostly because they haven’t added any new co-op Contact missions to the game since it came out and these biker missions are a good substitute. They could then have added the business owning in later as an update for CEO mode.

Actually, now I think about it neglecting existing content is a continuing pattern with GTA. Take the adversary modes, which pit teams of players against each other. There’s a huge number of different types, some of which are amazing (Hunting Pack! Offence Defence!), a bunch that are just “a Deathmatch with a gimmick” that are entertaining a few times and then some which you wonder how anyone thought they were good enough to be released (Rhino Hunt, which is 3 tanks vs. 5 dune buggies. Guess which side always wins?). They never, ever go back and add more maps to the existing modes, preferring instead to add new modes.

Take the example of the armoured cars; the first two were added in the Heist update and, in retrospect are completely and utterly overpowered, to the point where you NEED to own both to effectively fight against other players: one, the Kuruma, is virtually immune to small arms fire, while the Insurgent is almost explosionproof. Obviously, they don’t make you invincible but Rockstar clearly decided they were a bad direction to go it, as every subsequent armoured car released has been both bullet and explosion-resistant rather than -proof. They’re a lot less ridiculously tough but still a nice increase in survivability over a normal car.

Ideally, if I was allowed to design the system then armouring up wouldn’t even need a special vehicle variant. Instead, it would just be an option you could apply in the existing vehicle customizer, eg upgrade your windows to bulletproof windows and upgrade the bodywork with anti-explosive plating. That way, you could pick your favourite vehicle to be your tough armoured one, rather than being forced to pick from a limited selection, two of which are clearly superior.

I understand why they’re reluctant to revisit older additions as people are very resistant to change, especially if you make an individual player’s options less powerful, but I can’t pretend it doesn’t irk me: if I can come up with these ways to improve the game then they can too, but they choose not to.

Similarly, I do get why they’d rather add new modes rather than expand existing ones- it gets better headlines and more attention- but it’s still kind of disappointing. Of course, this is the same company that said- even with their 700 million dollars in GTA revenue last year and some of the most talented employees in the business- that doing more Heist missions was “just too hard”. They don’t want to aim higher; what they’re doing works just fine- for them.

I could go on for a while, but this has turned into griping about honestly fairly minor improvements. GTA is still a fun and good game, and one that I’m going to go and play right now.

 

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