"Grand Theft Auto IV" video game boxes are displayed on a rack inside a GameStop store in New York prior to midnight release of the video game (Photo : Reuters)
GTA V could learn a thing or two from Batman: Arkham City. While the talented team at Rockstar Games sparked the open world phenomenon that defined the last generation of consoles, refinements made by other development studios provide GTA's creators with the opportunity to perfect open-world gaming.
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Substance over Size
A common criticism of open-world games is that large map sizes create a sparse playground for gamers. When scope overshadows focus, open-world games suffer. Even GTA IV, which scored an average of 97/100 from critics, was not immune to this problem. Liberty City was beautifully rendered and filled with content for the player to experience, yet the majority of the game's buildings were off limits. In short, the environment lacked character and density.
Red Dead Redemption, the studio's latest release, largely skirted this issue due to its setting. The game's fictitious take on the Wild West hosted a large map punctuated by small, colorful towns. If you stick to the main roads, you will often pass by fellow travelers going about their daily business. By the virtue of its era, Rockstar did not need to figure out how to enliven a metropolis filled with endless skyscrapers.
Developer Rocksteady's Arkham City introduced an open-world that managed to infuse character and meaning into the players surroundings. As Batman glides around Gotham, graffiti tags can be spied on the sides of buildings, villains' territories can be understood through the costumes their henchmen wear, and AI consistently spouts dialogue that acknowledges the players' input. Although a number of buildings are not open to the player, the illusion that people inhabit them keeps the navigation from feeling repetitive. The team behind Batman: Arkham City crafted an environment that speaks to its players, a lesson that GTA could benefit from.