Why i love… driv­ing legally in games

How a rel­a­tively new, late-bloom­ing mo­torist came to love obey­ing the rules of the road in Grand Theft Auto V

XBox: The Official Magazine - - CONTENTS - Dave Meik­le­ham

Pub­lisher Rock­star / De­vel­oper Rock­star North / for­mat Xbox 360, Xbox One / re­lease date Septem­ber 2013

About 18 months ago, I passed my driv­ing test at the grand old age of 32. While that may not sound like a Her­culean achieve­ment, it made me ap­pre­ci­ate how hard it is to learn a new skill in your 30s. Com­pared to my teenaged sponge of a brain, my cur­rent sludgy grey mat­ter is a big ol’ sink – some­thing that made learn­ing to drive tough. It’s also had the bonus ef­fect of mak­ing me take an en­tirely dif­fer­ent ap­proach to speed­ing around Grand Theft Auto V’s crim­i­nal city.

Ac­tu­ally, there’s ab­so­lutely zero speed­ing in­volved. I re­cently took the plunge back into GTA On­line af­ter its re­cent Di­a­mond Casino up­date, yet it’s not the vir­tual slots that have me hooked. In­stead, I’m re­vis­it­ing Los San­tos as an all-new kind of up-and-com­ing crim­i­nal – one who re­spects the stick­ling re­stric­tions of the mod­ern day High­way Code.

Af­ter a year of pon­der­ous three­p­oint turns, roughly 138 failed at­tempts to par­al­lel park and be­ing con­stantly shouted at for edg­ing into the wrong lane on spi­ral round­abouts, I have a new­found ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the ex­act­ing me­chan­ics of real-world driv­ing. Like mas­ter­ing a pun­ish­ing slice-and-dice ac­tion af­fair – see this year’s Sekiro: Shad­ows Die Twice – driv­ing an ac­tual car de­mands acute aware­ness and sharp in­stincts.

In real life, your av­er­age fam­ily hatch­back is a com­plex mesh of deftly bal­anced machin­ery and so­phis­ti­cated en­gi­neer­ing; a del­i­cate mar­riage in­volv­ing all man­ner of finely tuned springs, coils, oil lev­els and some­times the oc­ca­sional furry dice. In games, though? Pfft, all you have to worry about is bash­ing RT to go and jam­ming LT to stop. When it comes to most sand­box ti­tles, cars han­dle with all the com­plex­ity of a souped-up dodgem.

Still, that doesn’t mean my new or­derly in­ner driver can’t be ac­com­mo­dated on GTAV’s labyrinthi­ne net­work of roads. In­deed, Los San­tos and its sur­round­ing high­ways ac­tu­ally ad­here to strict traf­fic guide­lines that en­sure most NPC mo­torists drive like ex­ceed­ingly care­ful pen­sion­ers. Oh sure, your av­er­age fel­low driver still toots the ever-lov­ing crap out of their horn should Trevor and co or your on­line avatar cut them off or switch lanes at the last sec­ond. Yet for most of their time end­lessly loop­ing around the roads of Blaine County, NPCs re­spect the rules of the road.

Lighten the road

Af­ter los­ing count­less chips play­ing roulette in GTA On­line’s lav­ishly pro­duced lat­est edi­tion, I de­cided it was high time I re­turned to what I still con­sider to be per­haps the great­est game ever made. The sin­gle-player por­tion of GTAV is not only a near-peer­less sand­box mas­ter­piece, it also al­lows you to drive around its streets and high­ways in re­al­is­tic, safety-first fash­ion. Whether you’re trav­el­ling from Rock­ford Hills to Ve­spucci Beach while work­ing on Michael’s tan in a pricey con­vert­ible, or turn­ing on Span­ish Av­enue to hit Mad Wayne Thun­der Drive, traf­fic lights are every­where. Ev­ery junc­tion in Los San­tos is cov­ered by th­ese blink­ing timers, and, other than Rock­star’s crim­i­nal trio, al­most ev­ery sin­gle other per­son in the world stops when said lights switch from am­ber to red. A wild con­cept, I know.

Hon­our­ing the slow de­vel­op­ing mo­torist in me, for the past few weeks I’ve started to obey the same traf­fic rules as ev­ery NPC in GTAV. Al­right, some­times I’ll put pedal to the felo­nious metal dur­ing the more hec­tic, mur­der-y parts of the cam­paign – when those drive-bys go down, there’s no time for proper in­di­ca­tion eti­quette. But in between mis­sions, I’m all too con­tent (and weirdly re­laxed by) stop­ping when the lights turn red.

Driv­ing un­der ‘must past my test’ con­di­tions ex­tends be­yond mere halt­ing for colours. It also in­volves mak­ing sure you’re in the right lane for that next cor­ner; you can’t switch between lanes in the game with­out get­ting a thor­ough honk­ing – you can’t con­trol your in­di­ca­tors, af­ter all. En­sur­ing you’re in the right lane be­fore that next turn of­ten takes half a block of plan­ning in part­ner­ship with the game’s GPS, so early aware­ness is re­quired. Dear lord, I’m sad.

While stop­ping for lights and driv­ing in real-world fash­ion has slowed most of my crim­i­nal A to B jour­neys to a crawl, it’s also made me ap­pre­ci­ate GTAV’s still su­perb han­dling model. It may not be glam­orous, but ad­her­ing to real-life road rules has im­pressed the road-le­gal adult in me more than I could have ever imag­ined. Just make sure the rest of you all dampen that need for speed, you hear?

“For the past few weeks I’ve started to obey the same traf­fic rules as ev­ery NPC in GTAV ”

Rac­ing around in a su­per­car is fun and all, but what about traf­fic lights? right

Above Karmi­cally, re­spect­ing your fel­low Los San­tos mo­torists make all that mur­der a bit more palat­able.

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