After the tremendous success of Grand Theft Auto 3, open world games have quickly gone from novelty to cliche. Some developers rose above the fold by adding new things to this formula, so let’s look at some of them:
Saints Row 2
Voilition didn’t add anything huge to the Grand Theft Auto formula with Saints Row 2, but it did add a lot of little details that set it apart. Making the protagonist a gang boss opened up a few a new doors for gameplay on top of the extensive character, vehicle and interior customization, diverse combat and spraying of feces on government property. The release came at a great time too – Grand Theft Auto going all serious business with GTA 4 wasn’t welcomed by everyone with open arms.
Rico Rodriguez’s grappling hook and parachute (Just Cause 2)
With Just Cause 2, Avalanche studios invented a really fun way to get around. With the diverse landscape of Panau looking so great from bird’s eye view, gliding around on a re-deployable parachute is something you won’t experience in any other open world game. The addition of a grappling hook that Rico can slinghsot himself forward with while gliding makes for some very useful emergency transport. Plus, it’s always fun to grapple enemies into a fatal fall.
Wild West (Red Dead Redemption)
It’s very fair to call Red Dead Redemption Grand Theft Horse, but that is by no means a bad thing. Rockstar could have just churned out Grand Theft Auto after Grand Theft Auto, but instead they chose to experiment. RDR was the first time Rockstar Games really put their faith into something other than GTA, so it was only natural for them to stick with what works, while still trying to change up as much as possible. Despite the obvious similarities to Grand Theft Auto, it was that tried and tested engine combined with Rockstar’s storytelling, execution and ability to create immersion that delivered this truly awesome Wild West experience.
Kung Fu (Sleeping Dogs)
Carrying 10 guns in a magic pocket not only turns down the challenge of a game, but also kicks immersion in the gut, which is a huge no-no when Square – Enix does the publishing. Taking gun stores away in Sleeping Dogs and focusing the combat mainly on hand to hand not only helped set the much less gun-tolerant Hong Kong apart from the United States and add to immersion, it also made any gunplay much more exciting (especially with the partial bullet time) and made sure the combat stays challenging enough to be fun, even later in the game.
Biker gang (GTA 4: Lost and Damned)
If there’s anything you can’t fault Rockstar on, it’s experimenting and striving to take a winning formula to new heights. There are plenty of different games that feel the same, but taking the same game (GTA 4) and making it feel different with Lost & Damned is something that Rockstar deserves a standing ovation for. If you break it down, all they did was put GTA4 into another character’s perspective and have motorcycles as the primary mode of transportation, but the end result was something that goes well beyond DLC.