Rockstar Games GTA 5 Edition is a Reminder that Great Driving

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Rockstar Games GTA 5 They don’t tell you this going in but, for the vast majority of its running time, Bullitt is pretty boring. The classic car chase movie was shot during the rise of New Hollywood when traditional notions of pacing and story payoff were going out of fashion, and largely follows Steve McQueen as he potters about an empty hospital looking for a sandwich.

But for ten blistering minutes in the middle, its wheels barely touch the ground. Maybe it’s down to the stimulatory deprivation of the scenes on either side, but the first time I watched McQueen take off in pursuit of two hitmen, riding their rear bumper all the way out of San Francisco, my arms were in the air—the same involuntary response induced by a rollercoaster.

The muscle cars, the free-rolling hubcaps, the chalkboard tire screech, and especially McQueen’s wild wheel-twisting as he weaves through traffic—all of it informed the first generation of open-world games three decades later. The scene effectively doubled as Driver’s design document, and Rockstar followed close behind: just as McQueen’s Mustang filled the rear-view mirror of his target’s Dodge Charger.

Bullitt established San Francisco—with its extreme verticality, tram tracks, and dense junctions—as the international city of car chases. It’s a distinction that eventually led to its recreation in three Ubisoft open-world driving games over just half a decade (Driver: San Francisco, Watch Dogs 2, and The Crew; full marks if you managed to name them all).

Today, though, the ground isn’t nearly so thick with car chase games. The driver is on ice. The Crew got distracted by a passing plane and decided that was its new thing. Numbered GTA releases are now so far apart they’re recorded in epochs, not years. And Watch Dogs committed to capturing the street plan of London, a city so notoriously bad for drivers that its locals were driven underground (please don’t check this with historians).

The upshot of all that genre stagnation and inactivity is that the classics haven’t been bettered. Those returning to GTA III with Rockstar’s Definitive Edition have found that, in stark contrast to its unrefined storytelling and shooting, the driving still stands up. Liberty City’s catalog of sedans, flatbeds, and ambulances remain twitchy and buoyant in a way that forces you to wrestle with them for control, making even the game’s many basic A to B missions engrossing.

Rockstar Games GTA 5

They don’t tell you this going in but, for the vast majority of its running time, Bullitt is pretty boring. The classic car chase movie was shot during the rise of New Hollywood when traditional notions of pacing and story payoff were going out of fashion, and largely follows Steve McQueen as he potters about an empty hospital looking for a sandwich.

But for ten blistering minutes in the middle, its wheels barely touch the ground. Maybe it’s down to the stimulatory deprivation of the scenes on either side, but the first time I watched McQueen take off in pursuit of two hitmen, riding their rear bumper all the way out of San Francisco, my arms were in the air—the same involuntary response induced by a rollercoaster.

The muscle cars, the free-rolling hubcaps, the chalkboard tire screech, and especially McQueen’s wild wheel-twisting as he weaves through traffic—all of it informed the first generation of open-world games three decades later. The scene effectively doubled as Driver’s design document, and Rockstar followed close behind: just as McQueen’s Mustang filled the rear-view mirror of his target’s Dodge Charger.

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