Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How Will GTA First Person Change Your Game Habits?

I'm going to skip over the fact that I have a Let's Play obsession right now. The phenom of watching others game and create commentary will not die down anytime soon. But a recent video release from the Rooster Teeth/Achievement Hunter (RT) crew is prompting me to rethink not only Let's Play videos but gaming in general.

Monday's video release focused on Grand Theft Auto V for the XBox One. As mentioned in a post last week, one of the newest features of the game for the One and PS4 is first person mode. While this seems normal for most FPS games, GTA has never gone down this path...well outside of a lap dance at a strip club at least. The game play in GTA has been a top down view or third person. While in a car you can utilize different camera angles - cinematic, dashboard, and the odd driver side tires - but anytime you walk, run, or jump as your avatar, you are in third person. You could do a very weird variation of first person by using the camera phone, but even that requires some effort that isn't feasible for progressing in the game through missions. It only works when you want to take a photo since your avatar can't take a picture and drive a car at the same time.

Now, I'm not fortunate enough to have either next-gen system. I also have a tight budget and real world responsibilities, so a PS4 is not on the top of my "to get" list at the moment. But watching RT play through GTA Online last night in first person initiated 2 responses:

This is like a whole new game.

This is brutal.

Sentiments that mirrored the players involved. It's one thing to experience stealing a car from third person or top-down. It's another when you are looking through the eyes of the avatar. You can see the dashboard and the speedometer, which DOES work in time with your actions while handling the car and shifting gears as you speed away from the pursuing police vehicles. Watching them made me want to do the simplest of actions from my avatar's point of view so I can experience it. From jumping off of a bridge, to jumping off a building, to...jumping out of a helicopter and parachuting down. Okay most of it does involve tumbling to my avatar's doom but dude! It looks so good!

And unlike first person shooters, when you do dodge rolls or get punched in the face, your character's point of view changes. Instead of keeping the camera forward while the avatar 'stumbles' from a hit, the camera maintains that first person perspective and moves with the character. Your vision becomes distorted. The person in front of you vanishes as your head whips around and now your target is lost. It's just like real life. But in GTA's environment.

I am ready to see more tumbling of cars off Mount Chiliad, possibly the Faggio.

At the same time, the realism can be disturbing. Because your point of view is more interactive, the way you punch and shoot a weapon has also changed. Swinging your fist can cause you, the gamer, to lose balance as the camera shifts and moves with the avatar. Many times in the RT video you'll see this happen as the men and lady test out the camera's limitations against each other. Seeing the way an avatar punches, the fact that the camera is still moving with you as his or her head bops around can be jarring. It's the level of you think you're in a real fight. You can see your foot stomping on the body of a pedestrian on the ground. You can hear the dialogue of by-standards as you steal a car in a clarity that wasn't there before.

Which also makes the violence a little more apparent. Explosions are much cooler in first person. Shooting and punching people in the face? Not so much. While the RT gangs level of destruction was par for the course, as the video goes on you'll notice that the type of mayhem dials down. It goes from normal GTA antics to tumbling in cars, helicopters, and planes, or shooting off rocket launchers. More explosions, less blood and carnage. I think they too found the first person mode a bit real that they could only stomach smaller quantities of the fisticuffs. At least with a grenade or sticky bomb everything blows up with little blood and hand to hand work.

My scholastic senses are tingling. I'd be curious to find out how gamers change their habits based on this revelation. Are people going to dial down the GTA-esque hand and gun violence in the game now that first person is out? Will their method of game play change? Or will they find ways to adapt to the camera without changing their style?


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