Time to add a new entry to the ever growing list of AAA games that were moderately or heavily inspired by GTA 5, Rockstar’s hit open-world crime game. The massively popular title has been released on five platforms, has sold over 65 million copies not counting digital sales and continues to turn a massive profit – damn right other games want to match its success.
Among others, Fallout 4 is known to have taken inspiration from GTA 5 in terms of player freedom, allowing gamers to explore and experience the game world with little to no restriction, while also giving them a wide range of interaction options with other characters and objects.
GTA 5 was also an obvious inspiration for Ubisoft’s open-world vigilante hacking adventure, Watch_Dogs, which was released in 2014. The game was set in and around a liberal interpretation of a large American city; it had a heavy emphasis on stealing vehicles and driving; it was a third person shooter-adventure hybrid; it focused on the player doing illegal things and finally had tons of side missions and collectibles strewn about the game world.
While the massive hype around Watch_Dogs had people decree it the “GTA Killer” everyone was waiting for, in the end it fell flat. While most reviewers enjoyed the game, they called it out on a few flaws. The public response was even less favorable, with the community crying foul on the graphical downgrade. Even so, the game had solid sales and if it counts for anything, we loved the thing in spite of the issues.
Ubisoft never hid the fact that they wanted Watch_Dogs to be a long-running franchise. They did plenty of setting-up in the first game, with tons of backstory, a cliffhanger ending and official confirmation that it and Assassin’s Creed occur in the same fictional universe.
Now that Watch_Dogs 2 has been officially unveiled at E3, players were shown a game that, while still obviously inspired by GTA, was a tad more unique. Even so, the connection with Rockstar’s hit franchise is too prominent for even the developers to avoid mentioning. Jonathan Morin, the Creative Director on Watch_Dogs 2 addressed the comparisons.
The way I see it – many movies are shot in New York, we shouldn’t stop making movies in New York just because it’s been done. So for me, making games in cities, we only scratched the surface. GTA does a great job at what it does, us, we’re all about hacking, everything has to be for that fantasy.
Morin also goes on to state that when two games are of the same basic genre, some points of similarity are inevitable. Even so, no two open-world games are truly the same and there will be plenty in Watch_Dogs 2 to set it apart from GTA.
You can’t be in a city and not be able to get into a car, it needs those things, but in the same way shooters can go faster these days because people are used to the mechanics, we benefit from having players who understand the base but then you have to have your own elements to bring to the simulation.
Its clear that while GTA has its fair share of satire and over-the-top exaggeration, Watch_Dogs is going for an approach less grounded in reality. It is set in the near future where entire cities are controlled by a single operating systems, people can basically hack anything with one press on a smart-phone and hacker-x-gangsters wear sunglasses with LCD screens for lenses that display emoticons based on the situation. Yeah.
GTA’s far-reaching influence can be attributed to a number of factors. It is one of the longest running franchises still active in AAA gaming today and with age comes respect. GTA has also achieved a kind of mainstream appeal rivaled only by sports games, Battlefield and Call of Duty.
Plus, there is the game’s massive popularity. GTA Online still has at least 8 million unique players every week, making it the most-played multiplayer mode in AAA games after free-to-play titles. The microtransactions in the game, called Shark Cards, have also turned half a billion dollars in profit. Even though it is three years old, the game continues to out-sell anticipated new releases.
While Rockstar has been quizzically MIA during E3 this year in spite of Take-Two’s statements, there were plenty of games shown off similar to GTA. Other than Watch_Dogs 2, Mafia 3 was also showcased. The franchise, developed by 2K which also happens to be under the Take-Two umbrella, was always considered a rival to Rockstar’s flagship IP.
Some journalists have even likened the upcoming Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands to GTA, despite massive differences in theme and setting. Instead of a city, Wildlands sends players to the Bolivian wilderness. True, the whole drug-cartel thing fits with GTA’s MO, but controlling a highly trained military unit with sci-fi tech and abilities sticks out. Journalists cited the open-world freedom as the main point of comparison.
Players have been speculating what Rockstar could be up to and what the reason for their absence is. We know that the company is working on some new games and that Take-Two was relying on these reveals to help them “win” E3. Some suspect that alongside a new game (probably Red Dead 3), Rockstar might announce some major update to GTA Online, or even a spin-off game – this, however, is not likely.
Did any of the games at E3 catch your attention? Will you be resting GTA Online to play any of them, or are you unable to go without your fix?