GTA Online, from its inception, was all about being over the top. Random street criminals could own military hardware like tanks and attack-helicopters, murder hundreds and lose the cops just by hiding for a few minutes. Deathmatches saw several heavily armed street criminals murdering one another in high-profile areas without law enforcement interference. So called CEOs rack up millions through illegal trade without having to bribe a single IRS agent.
Let’s face it, GTA hasn’t ever really gotten the whole realism thing down. But hey, it isn’t supposed, it’s a game. When video games try to achieve realism, it is in the graphics department. In gameplay, they want to be grounded in realism while allowing players to do fun things that they can’t in the real world. Unless you’re rich or happen to have zero regard for your own comfort, real life cannot offer the thrills of a fictional world because it’s realistic.
GTA has always been known as a franchise grounded in realism. Sure, it is a satirical alternate-universe USA (sometimes UK) with invented location and company names, but it is supposed to represent our world. It never deviates wildly from reality, only in situations where the gameplay mechanics demand it. I mean, you still get away with assault, murder, theft, arson and worse with a small fine, but it’s not like you have superpowers or something.
Then the Cunning Stunts update was released which took the whole idea of being grounded in reality, and tossed it off a massive flaming loop suspended thousands of feet in the air. Cunning Stunts features several Stunt Race courses that challenge players with extremely dangerous stunts. These are usually winding around the top floors of Los Santos’ skyscrapers, and involve all kinds of obstacles like spinning bar traps, flame rings, crushing walls and jumps so long that they can only be cleared with booster pads.
This is probably the greatest blatant deviation from reality that ever appeared in a GTA game – but could it be the herald of more such updates to come? Major DLCs in the past year or so seemed to be trend-setters. After Lowriders was released, we were still getting additional cars to be upgraded at Benny’s for a good half year.
Executives and Other Criminals gained immense praise from the community, leading to the recent follow-up, Further Adventures in Finance and Felony. If these are anything to go by, Cunning Stunts is likely to be succeeded by another over-the-top update.
But what prompted this bold shedding of of the GTA status quo? Online continues to be one of the most popular multiplayer games in the world. Shark Cards are bringing in massive amounts of cash. The game is still moving copies, in spite of having launched back in 2013. If the run-of-the-mill crime-themed updates worked until now, why did Rockstar toss realism off the table?
Cunning Stunts is certainly one of the most unique and original updates GTA Online has received. It is also among the most loved by the community. Stunt Races have added a new measure of variety to the game, while also satisfying the quiet but numerous core racing-community.
What could the future hold, now that the mundane shackles of realism no longer bind GTA? A wacky air-show DLC with all kinds of planes racing through hovering obstacle courses? Vertical gunfights using jetpacks? Deathmatches with more classic FPS power-ups? Insane weapons?
Thematic DLCs have been pretty common (though that Biker DLC everyone wants is still missing), so maybe we’ll get to heavily arm our Yachts, drive them freely and act as pirates, broadsiding another “pirate yacht”? The truth is, the possibilities now seem much less limited than before.
Outrageous DLC concepts were all unlikely to happen in the past because some measure of realism was always maintained. The fact that Cunning Stunts exists effectively blew the whole speculation bubble wide open, making completely trippy ideas plausible.
The Stunt Race Creator is slated for launch on the 2nd of August with at least one more mini update between now and then. We likely won’t hear any news on what the next big DLC might be until a few weeks after the 2nd. Speculation has already begun across the community. Many are still asking for the Biker DLC, while others have delved into new venues of brainstorming.
Either way, hopefully the departure from form that the Cunning Stunts update represents will be a returning theme in upcoming GTA Online updates. There is plenty of semi-serious content that is still grounded in reality already. A bit of Saints Row-esque game design wouldn’t run amiss in this game.
Now, naturally this doesn’t mean we’ll be battling trans-dimensional rainbow-dragons on lazer-infused gryphons in the skies above Los Santos while our Associates are cleaning out a goblin infestation on the ground with magic swords, but hey, baby steps?
How would you feel about GTA Online getting progressively less realistic content over time?