Rockstar Need to Learn From This Mistake for Grand Theft Auto 6

Please stop making us control fridges.

Grand Theft Auto 6
Grand Theft Auto 6

Let’s be real, Grand Theft Auto 6 will sell like gangbusters whenever it releases. It’s one of the most highly anticipated games of all time, and the first trailer alone has over 178 million views. Whether it’ll break the records set by Grand Theft Auto 5 is still up in the air, but short of the game releasing as an unmitigated buggy disaster, its general financial success is all but assured.

But that doesn’t mean developer Rockstar Games is content to rest on their laurels. Their projects have only grown more ambitious over time, with each new release amping up the production values and scope that much more. GTA 5 introduced three main protagonists to swap between on the fly and a massive online component that’s still getting new content updates to this day. Red Dead Redemption 2 doubled down on the minutiae, with features like Arthur growing out his hair and beard as time passes. This perfectionism has even reached the point where concerns have been raised over the studio’s culture and work practices over the years.

Even with their critical acclaim, however, GTA 5 and RDR 2 are not without their quirks and flaws. And with Rockstar’s penchant for constantly one-upping themselves, GTA 6 stands to learn a lot of valuable lessons from the developer’s prior projects. Building on their strengths and avoiding their pitfalls will be crucial in delivering a truly modern GTA experience for the current era.

And out of all of the pitfalls from past games to avoid, the controls are perhaps the most important. To truly modernize the series for its sixth main outing, Rockstar must seriously rethink how they handle control schemes.

Red Dead Redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption 2

For as much praise as I can give RDR 2 for its story, I sadly find little motivation to revisit the game due to how heavy and clunky the controls are. GTA 5 suffered somewhat from this issue as well, but Rockstar’s obsession with realism means that the open world western has it far worse.

For starters, many interactions and even aspects of menu navigation require the player to hold a button down. In some cases, this makes sense and works well enough — such as holding down the left trigger to focus on an NPC, at which point Arthur can greet or antagonize them. But in other cases, from picking up herbs, to skinning animals, to even setting up a tent at your own campsite, it feels utterly unnecessary.

Merely picking up items and looting corpses entails holding a button, and then watching Arthur actually bend down to pick stuff up. It’s more realistic, yes, but in a game that heavily depends on players gathering resources to craft various upgrades, it ultimately drags the pace down and makes things far more tedious than they ought to be. You never have to hold the button for that long in these types of interactions, but when combined with the elaborate and detailed animations, it adds a sense of delay to many basic things that you’ll finish almost instantly in other games.

Even fundamental things, like basic locomotion to combat, don’t feel great. In both GTA 5 and RDR 2, characters default to a relatively slow walking speed, and you’ll need to hold a button down to run. Sprinting, meanwhile, requires you to rapidly tap the run button — something that was also present in past Rockstar games. Few other games do this, and not only is this cumbersome, it could pose problems for players who physically can’t afford to button mash. RDR 2 at least allows you to toggle an option to simply press and hold the left thumbstick like in many other games, but only for on foot controls. Maintaining a full gallop on horseback again demands repeated button taps.

GTA game ranking
GTA game ranking

Despite tweaks to aiming sensitivity, combat just doesn’t feel responsive, especially early on. Combined with the slow, clunky movement, it can lead to a lot of deaths, particularly in ambushes out in the open world. Gunplay and the general feedback from combat across GTA 5 and RDR 2 merely feels adequate, and lacks the punch of their contemporaries.

Now, to be clear, no one can say for sure yet that GTA 6’s controls will be as heavy as RDR 2’s. After all, the two have vastly different settings, and it’s likely that GTA 6 will share very little of RDR 2’s core gameplay loop. In all likelihood, GTA 6’s controls will be more in line with GTA 5’s. But while GTA 5’s controls are better than RDR 2, they still don’t feel great due to sharing some similar problems, and an overfocus on realism could still result in GTA 6 repeating the same mistakes.

To be fair to Rockstar, however, what they achieved with RDR 2 is nothing short of incredible. The level of care in every corner of the world is stunning and unparalleled even over five years later. Improving the controls and overall feel of the game doesn’t need to come at the cost of this lavish attention to detail, and GTA 6 could potentially strike a good balance between this and the more streamlined experience players have come to expect from a modern release.

For one, a more robust options menu would be a great start. Give players more options to remap and tweak the controls to their liking; this would go beyond simply making the game less cumbersome and allow a wider audience to experience GTA 6. Adding more accessibility options will only help further with this. And if it does turn out that the game features a lot of detailed animations for interacting with objects like RDR 2, then toggles to turn off some of those animations would also be welcome. Guerilla Games’s Horizon Forbidden West added such a toggle in a post-launch update, so there’s precedent for this idea already in the industry.

GTA 6 is set to be the first mainline GTA in over a decade, and the first big Rockstar project in over six years. A lot has changed in the gaming landscape since the releases of GTA 5 and RDR 2, and expectations are suitably high. Rockstar has no doubt learned a lot of lessons from its time working on GTA 5 and RDR 2, and if the studio can address its past releases’ biggest flaws, then it’ll be primed to deliver the biggest game of the generation and what could possibly be the best GTA yet.

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