GTAV - Improved Driving Physics Bring Back Old School Cruising
Driving has always been a critical part of Grand Theft Auto. However, it has also always seemed like Rockstar wanted the driving physics to be imprecise so that you couldn't help but occasionally run over a pedestrian (or twelve). I know people who drive very well in GTA, but it has always felt like a bit of luck, mixed with hubris, mixed with the ability to just say "screw it" since it is a game.
Driving in GTA is not all about the physics though. The road layouts, traffic and AI behavior all play into it. The pinnacle, up until now, of driving in Grand Theft Auto was GTA: Vice City. You had long roads, well situated traffic and could go on long high-speed cruises with near misses but keep yourself going. Then, the squirrely physics would come into play and you would crash out of nowhere. It was fun, but still imprecise.
GTA IV - The Low Point
Grand Theft Auto IV seemed like the worst of all worlds. There were odd driving behaviors. Your brakes felt like they were made of swiss cheese at times, even at low-speed. And traffic... many the roads were narrow, the traffic heavy, and the layout meant that getting a long, sustained, high-speed cruise was very dependent on luck. I realize this is subjective, and someone will comment that they thought the traffic was light and that high-speed cruising was awesome in GTA IV. I just don't think that was the common experience.
How many times did your high-speed cruise in GTA IV get interrupted by a demand to go bowling?
Let's be honest here, how many times did your high-speed cruise in GTA IV get interrupted by a demand to go bowling? Then, if you were not there in 30 seconds, you would not be their friend any more. Yes, that puts a nail in the fun of high-speed cruising.
GTA V - Driving is Fun Again!
Now, we come to GTAV. High speed cruising is back! The traffic is well done, the AI is awesome for the NPC drivers (they don't all have death wishes) and the driving physics are passable. In fact, it seems like Rockstar took a very hard look at all of their "mini game" controls and made them better--and driving is one of the major mini games that benefitted the most. The video above shows a sample long cruise. I'm not claiming this is the pinnacle of driving in GTAV, or trying to show off, but this is an example drive that shows a lot of the new driving behavior: AI being smart, traffic being workable, your brakes work and the car physics, while simplified, are believable at these speeds (most, the curb jumping is a bit silly, but we don't want it too realistic!).
All in all, driving in GTAV is another example of Rockstar really hitting the right notes. Lessons learned from previous games are coming together in this one in a very compelling mix.