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GTA 5: 2013′s most anticipated launch is a tall poppy

Tuesday, 17th September 2013 08:47 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Grand Theft Auto 5′s launch is the software event of the year; maybe of the generation. Is Rockstar’s epic already a victim of its own hype? Brenna rolls her eyes at the Internet’s inevitable tall poppy syndrome.

The suggestion that the GTA series is over-hyped and can’t live up to its own anticipation is a spurious one at best. It’s become fashionable, for some reason, to rag on Grand Theft Auto 4, a game which had to follow some of the best-loved titles of the proceeding generation, and more than succeeded.”

Grand Theft Auto 5 is now available in all major territories, having launched at midnight. I wandered down to the launch party at EBGames in World Square, Sydney, which by dint of timezone was one of the first in the world. The party upstairs had been washed out by serious rain, but by 2330 nobody cared – they were all downstairs, queueing in the (nice, dry) arcade leading to the store front, stretching all the way back to the escalators, much to the frustration of the security guards trying to enact crowd control.

I imagine the atmosphere was the same at most midnight launches around the world; near palpable impatience and excitement, rarely seen outside of game launches of this magnitude and, perhaps, One Direction concerts. Midnight launches both feed and feed off hype; to not have a midnight launch for something as feverishly anticipated as GTA 5 is unthinkable. There are few franchises as attention-grabbing as this one. Call of Duty’s annual launches, maybe, and certainly hardware releases; a new Halo might do it. But GTA is one of a select number of titans capable of provoking huge fluctuations of emotion; a half hour delay to the PSN version provoked outrage among East Coast US purchasers. When was the last time you drove yourself close to stroke because a movie or book was 30 minutes late?

GTA is a giant of our times and, perhaps inevitably, the backlash has begun. There is very little dissent in review scores, and even before the game was out in most territories, the Internet went to war over the fact that the majority of well-known games review outlets think the game is pretty great. A few people throwing around the good old “paid off by a publisher” chestnut around isn’t new, interesting, or specific to GTA 5, and nor is Mr Internet’s psychic ability to judge the quality of games without ever playing them (a common superpower apparently enjoyed by fans and detractors alike). The argument appearing in a small number of comments and blogs is quite particular: it’s that Grand Theft Auto 4 reviewed strongly, but turned out to be a disappointment, and that the same pattern is repeating now.

The suggestion that the GTA series is over-hyped and can’t live up to its own anticipation is a spurious one at best. It’s become fashionable, for some reason, to rag on Grand Theft Auto 4, a game which had to follow some of the best-loved titles of the proceeding generation, and more than succeeded. It sold over 25 million copies, and while that doesn’t guarantee 25 million happy customers, the long post-launch sales tail (2 million sales between March and September 2011; 3 million sales between September 2011 and the end of 2012) suggests hype can’t be the only sales motivator.

It’s not like people are buying this game just to decorate their shelves, either. In my mind, Grand Theft Auto 4′s multiplayer wasn’t the world’s most original or breathtaking, but it sure had staying power. It’s still one of the most-played Games for Windows Live titles, and regularly ranks highly in the Xbox Live Activity charts.

That’s not to say it’s universally loved. The criticisms of GTA 4 are so well-worn that we can practically recite them together – combat is clunky, the forced socialisation is annoying, and the story is somewhat too bleakly grimdark for many fans to stomach. That’s not a heck of a lot of complaints to level at what is probably going to be at least a 20 hour game for most players, and one immersed in one of the best virtual cities ever built, sprinkled with some of the medium’s best writing and liberally punctuated by its most entertaining action sequences. GTA 4 isn’t perfect, and there are games now, in 2013, which many of us probably like more, and which better capture the zeitgeist of advances in design trends and technical achievement. Despite that, we should be able to celebrate it, warts and all, and to acknowledge its success even if, looking back, it does not please us in as well as it did in 2008.

An aerial tour of Los Santos.

It’s quite probable that Grand Theft Auto has indeed produced so much hype that reviewers and players are both caught up in it, and may later feel suckered when the game does not turn out to give orgasms, make cruelty-free bacon sandwiches and shit gold in perpetuity – just about the only result that could live up to GTA’s tremendous reputation.

There is going to be disappointment. No game is perfect. Some people won’t enjoy themselves. And when emotions run this high, there will always be a small element of comedown; it’s like kids crying at birthday parties, worn out by the excitement, sugar rush and inability to accept that all good things must end (“only twenty hours?? I expect more for $60″, et cetera).

I’m not one to say “trust this developer because they have delivered before”, or “trust that no game in development for so long and at such cost can be bad”, because we’ve all been well burned there. I do think reviewer consensus is worth paying attention to, though, because I’m not a conspiracy theorist, even if the message you take away is “ah yes, universal opinion is that I personally won’t like this game” (let’s not even get started on the efficacy of reviews, shall we? There’re lots of reasons we don’t whack numbers on games around here, and one is we find that argument terribly boring).

Grand Theft Auto 5 is available now on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

[image - EBGames Australia]

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18 Comments

  1. AngryConsumer

    just give it a two week when everyone have stopped acting like a 10 year old girls on a sugar rush. then you will hear about the bad stuff.. the same thing happen with gta4, that was hyped to hell and back too.

    #1 12 months ago
  2. Sylrissa

    I’d like to know when did a near perfect score of 9/10 become a score to complain and rage about?, that is a FANTASTIC score. But nope people were all like “OMG HOW DARE SHE!, fire her now! end of the world /flip tables”

    I’ve watched the review in question, and she was praising how great the game was for most of it, only pointing out some very valid points in an otherwise incredible game.

    Makes me feel ashamed for the term gamer to be associated with them.

    #2 12 months ago
  3. mongbatstar

    #3 Spam link is spammy.

    #3 12 months ago
  4. Patrick Garratt

    Pack it in, wowtgp. Marked as spam. Next time you’re whacked.

    #4 12 months ago
  5. TheBlackHole

    “Mr Internet’s psychic ability to judge the quality of games without ever playing them (a common superpower apparently enjoyed by fans and detractors alike)”

    I’m sorry, but it’s actually not that difficult to determine the overall quality of a game without playing it, based on a series of well-proven factors:

    Developer history
    Publisher history
    Preview coverage sentiment
    Amount of advertising
    Time in development
    Prominence in first party discussions/shows

    And depending on the publication, you can look at their general opinion of similar titles, by genre, developer, etc.

    This is why ‘the EDGE game’ is one of the things we still do every month. ‘Guess the review score’ in the magazine is surprisingly easy. Very predictable. Eurogamer are the same, actually.

    #5 12 months ago
  6. wowtgp

    Okay Mr. Patrick. Won’t happen again.

    #6 12 months ago
  7. AngryConsumer

    pack it in wowtgp!!

    #7 12 months ago
  8. absolutezero

    What happens when your immune to the GTA hype machine and still have no interest in it what so ever? Even after the perfect scores and all the gushing?

    I’m sure its the Citizen Kane game of the generation one of a kind hyperbolic second coming of Christ. Yet it still does not interest me. What do I do?

    Help me. I’m dying.

    #8 12 months ago
  9. tenthousandgothsonacid

    Cruelty free bacon sandwiches ?

    I’m in ! :)

    #9 12 months ago
  10. Gheritt White

    The comments on Gamespot’s review are a sight to behold… its like a rancid pit of phobias and imbecility.

    #10 12 months ago
  11. mreko3230

    GTA IV was an awesome game and the 2 DLC packs were even better. Like with most games it’s easy to look back and see some of its flaws, but most of the time that’s because games have moved forward and you just can’t get away with some things now that you could then. That game is 5 years old now and the great scores it received then were deserved.

    #11 12 months ago
  12. orakaa

    I bought GTA IV with the surrounding hype and to be honest, I thought the game was overhyped as heck. The story was extremely dull (and I’m staying polite here) and uninteresting, the rhythm of the game was so slow that you really “felt” that you had to play for at least 20 hours. And let’s not even begin with the characters that are either not developed or plainly stupid, Niko Bellic taking the spotlight (doing whatever anyone will ask him to do, for no reason, even when being insulted, betrayed or mocked upon).

    Sure, there were some good ideas (like the heist mission for instance), and the city was big and lively (they did a great job on that)… but the rest was not that good.

    I love open world games, and GTA V definitely looks interesting, but I’m really cautious about the reviews who seem to praise GTA V “because it’s a new fucking GTA so of course it’s great”. It was exactly the same with GTA IV.
    I do think this game is different, and it seems genuinely good, but I’ll wait a little bit more before buying it

    #12 12 months ago
  13. AngryConsumer

    SAINT ROW4 IS THE MUCH BETTER GAME AND GTA5 SUCKS!

    #13 12 months ago
  14. DSB

    GTA IV was well written? “One of the medium’s best…” – What? I don’t.. I can’t even.. Please tell me you don’t seriously believe that.

    Have you actually played that game? It’s a bunch of boring people mostly talking about nothing. There’s no point, there’s no substance, it mostly has no relevance to the plot. It’s really just yapping.

    Whenever I’ve gone back to GTA IV I’ve made a point of skipping the cutscenes entirely, and it became a much much better game for it.

    Lost and the Damned was easily the worst. How you manage to infuse a biker gang with all the mindless banalities and motivations of a highschool cheerleading squad is beyond me.

    I didn’t mind Gay Tony so much, but I think it was helped by the fact that the characters were actually a bit different for once.

    #14 12 months ago
  15. Gheritt White

    DSB, I’m super digging your comments lately.

    #15 12 months ago
  16. Dragon246

    @Brenna,
    Agreed. GTA 4 was one of the BEST games of this generation, GTA5 IS JUST FUCKING AWESOME.
    I don’t really like Trevor though.

    #16 12 months ago
  17. Kuwabara

    Gta4 is one of the best games made this gen. The reason why many were let down is because they just played the campaign with high expectations and that was it. To get the most out of the game you have to explore every part of the city , do all the unique missions, unique stunts, find the flying rats , do the races etc doing all that leads to more exploration and appreciation that you would miss when focused on the campaign. i recommend everyone get a copy of the official guide as well.

    #17 12 months ago
  18. DSB

    “It’s not a bad game, you just played it wrong”

    … Because game design!

    #18 12 months ago

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