The Future of Rockstar Games

For nearly 15 years, Rockstar Games has been wowing us and taking a bunch of our money with all their amazing games. I know this “Rockstar Appreciation Week” here at BWP has seemed like kind of a circle jerk, but if you’ve played even just a couple of games, then you know that any attention that they get is justified.

For these last fifteen years, Rockstar has consistently revolutionized how people look at and even make video games. We don’t have to go through their history again as we did the other day. All you really need to know is that they’re awesome.

But every few years, a interesting question keeps popping up. How do they maintain their level of awesomeness going into the future? When the next generation consoles came out, it might have actually been easy for them. Keep doing what you’re doing in terms of story, replayability and adding features, and improve gameplay mechanics and, more importantly, graphics to meet the new capabilities of the PS3 and Xbox 360.

And did they ever. GTA IV, Red Dead Redemption, and now L.A. Noire are three of the most beautiful and complete games you’ll find on the new systems. But now that they’ve released three epic games, how do they top that? The technology of gaming has sort of stagnated, at least for now, and Rockstar has to be careful not to “stagnate” themselves. They have to continue innovating, they have to continue making improvements and putting out games that make us blindly shell out $60 every time we hear their names.

So, what does the company have in store for us over the next couple of years?

As of this writing, Rockstar doesn’t have a single release date announced for the future. But we do know that they are hard at work on Max Payne 3, a CIA-style game called Agent, and rumours of Grand Theft Auto V are running rampant. With E3 just around the corner, people will no doubt be speculating heavily on whether Rockstar will have a presence at the event, and although that’s unlikely, it probably wouldn’t be surprising to hear from them for a release date on at least one of the following projects.

MAX PAYNE 3
One of the “looked over” franchises of Rockstar usually ends up being Max Payne. I mean, don’t get me wrong, they were awesome games, but let’s just say that they’re pretty far in all of our memories, and it’s usually not the games that people associate to the company. They actually didn’t even develop the first two games in the series. That honour went to Remedy Entertainment, a private company out of Finland best known these days for making Alan Wake. But the task of creating the third game in the series has switched hands, over to Rockstar Vancouver.

Max Payne 3 doesn’t have a release date yet, but plenty of details are known about the game, and it seems like the development process is nearing its end, so you shouldn’t be surprised to hear more about this game in the near future. As it seems like the company releases new info about the game every month these days, here is what we already know about the upcoming video game:

  • For the first time, the game will not take place in New York. Years after the events of the first two games, Max Payne travels to Brazil, where he takes a job in private security. When he is betrayed by his employer, he goes on a quest for revenge unlike we’ve ever seen in the past.
  • In what may seem weird for fans of the franchise, a lot of the game seems to take place outdoors. When you have a setting like Sao Paulo, you kind of have to take advantage of that. But it’s not what we’re used to seeing from the usually dark and dreary Max Payne
  • Even if the setting might be a little more colourful, the character certainly won’t. Even his pink flower design shirt looks dark and dreary. Max will be as cynical and weary as ever due to this latest betrayal, so much so that he apparently loses his hair mid game.
  • James McCaffrey, who voiced the character in the first two games, and who you may know from his recurring role on Rescue Me, will return to not only voice max Payne a third time, but also do full motion capture for the character.
  • The game has been described as “cinematic” and “linear”. The first word is common when talking about Rockstar, but the second is a little frightening.
  • The Max Payne elements that will be returning are the infamous Bullet Time, shoot-dodging, dual-wielding, and painkillers. How they will be designed and implemented, though, is anyone’s guess.
  • New mechanics of the game will include a cover system.

Other than that, there really isn’t much we can say about the game. What gameplay will be like, how in-game graphics will stand up against other recent Rockstar games, how the legendary “bullet time” will work so many years after it was revolutionized by Rockstar in the original game. What we can say is that there has been a fair bit of criticism and scepticism surrounding the game, because it doesn’t seem like “classic” Max Payne. That said, it’s Rockstar, and to me, Max Payne wasn’t about climbing the dark junkie-filled buildings of New York, but about the story of a man at his wit’s end. If they can recapture that, the setting, the language of the badguys, all of that doesn’t matter.

But the lack of information and long development process is, at the very least, disheartening. That said, we are looking forward to hearing and seeing more of the game. We didn’t think they could do it, but Rockstar did great with shooting mechanics in Red Dead Redemption, including the use of a “bullet time” like system, so we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt until we see some gameplay footage.

AGENT
As little as we know about Max Payne 3, we might know even less about their other announced project, the original title “Agent”.

In 2007, Rockstar announced an exclusive project for the PS3, which may sound weird in 2011 for the company. The project was a title simply known as “Agent”, which would be set in the Cold War era (yes, another period piece), and will deal with the world of “counter-intelligence, espionage and political assassinations". Kind of like a grand-scale version of Hitman. Other than the fact that it will take place in the late 70s and that it will have at least elements from the Sandbox genre, we know next to nothing about this game. Last month, Take-Two announced that the game was still in development, but offered no other details. Considering we haven’t heard anything about the game in two years, I would venture a guess that an announcement, if not a release date, could be on its way. That said, whether it will remain a PS3 exclusive is anyone’s guess, because as we all know, that’s exactly how L.A. Noire started, and while Sony did get the better version of that game, they did sort of get screwed out of an exclusive.

Bold prediction: If not at E3, many Agent details will be announced by the end of the summer.

GRAND THEFT AUTO V
Earlier this year, five websites were discovered and a casting call sheet was leaked that revealed details on several new and existing characters in the GTA universe.

We could do an entire separate blog on what we want for Grand Theft Auto V, so we won’t go into too many details here because, frankly, there would be too much to mention. But it is worth nothing that it looks as if GTA V could be a recreation of the California-San Andreas setting we all fell in love with on the PS2. Most people, however, are kind of hoping that Rockstar instead decides to recreate Vice City (based, of course, on Miami). There are plenty of possibilities, both in and out of the United States, but it seems as if Rockstar has unfinished business with their prior setting. They recreated an incredible looking city based on New York a couple of years ago with GTA IV, and they can definitely do it again with GTA V.

If I had a few requests for GTA V?

  • Make it more fun. GTA IV was too serious. LA Noire and Red Dead, as awesome as they were, were too serious. Vice City, San Andreas, while they obviously had serious story arcs and subject matter, they were light-hearted in such a way that the company hasn’t been able to recreate in their latest projects.
  • A new setting is risky. A lot of fans seem to want Rockstar to try their take on a new city. The possibilities are too great to mention, but as I said above, the company has unfinished business in San Andreas and Vice City. Obviously, San Andreas would include a Los Angeles-style setting that we just saw in LA Noire, but if they’re feeling ambitious, then they’ll do exactly what they for San Andreas and offer multiple cities for players to explore. Vice City would be a smaller setting but a familiar one and a fun one.
  • Despite what I said about, I kind of also want Rockstar to try new things with the GTA series. There are developments in in-game weather that I think would be neat for them to try out, including snow or possibly better water and beach layouts. And that’s only the beginning. There are so many potential settings, ones that we’ve seen and others that we probably haven’t even thought of, so I’ll leave everything else to your imagination.
  • No more period pieces. Red Dead was a period piece. LA Noire is a period piece. Agent will be a period piece. Most of the GTA games are period pieces. I’ll be happy with another GTA game set in present day, none of that GTA II retro-future crap.

Whatever they decide to do with GTA V, odds are it will be awesome, that there will be things we love about it and things we hate about it. So long as they stop teasing us and actually announce something soon, I know I’ll be satisfied.

THE REST
Agent ande Max Payne 3 are announced. Regardless of the company trying to hide it, Grand Theft Auto V is obviously in development. But what about the rest of Rockstar’s franchises?

  • Midnight Club: Rockstar hasn’t released a full-length original Midnight Club game since 2008. One would have to imagine with the latest innovations in the racing genre, they’d be close to starting work or announcing a new Midnight Club game in the near future.
  • Manhunt: These were two of the most controversial games of all time, yet alone from Rockstar alone. Whether people like it or not, it gives press to Rockstar and allows them to really explore the bad places in their psyche. While it’s unlikely we’re hear about the franchise anytime soon, it’s one to keep in your back pocket.
  • Red Dead: It’s only been a year since we all fell in love with Red Dead Redemption. The world is so immersive, there are so many things to do that it seemed like a complete experience. But there aren’t nearly enough proper wild west games out there, and I want more of the Red Dead universe. A sequel to this game, especially considering how popular the multiplayer for RDR was and frankly still is, a sequel seems inevitable
  • L.A. Noire: In a recent conference call, Take Two couldn’t say enough good things about LA Noire and about its potential as a new major franchise. New gameplay innovations, nearly perfect graphics and incredible storytelling makes everyone really excited about the potential future of this franchise. We already know that Rockstar is planning tons of DLC for the game throughout the summer, and I’ve theorized that more is likely on the way, but I can definitely see the franchise continuing with many other standalone games. Chicago Noire? New York Noire? Miami Noire? Detroit Noire? Philadelphia Noire? Ya, I thought so too.

We’ve talked about announced projects and many potential sequels. But what Rockstar could have in store for us in the coming years is really anyone’s guess. They’ve taken so many things and transformed them into open world games that really, the next step is almost unimaginable. Although we’ve seen in with games like inFAMOUS, imagine Rockstar’s take on a superhero-style game? Or a war game? The possibilities are always endless for this company, and we’ll be all over whatever they have for us next.

Stay tuned for our final Rockstar piece this week, our much anticipated review of L.A. Noire!