The Many Buttons of GTA5

I’ve been working through the PS4 version of Grand Theft Auto 5 recently. It’s something like the 7th game in the series (after GTA3 added a number of sequels labeled GTA3 but were fully-fledged titles), and at this point the open-city gameplay formula is well-established.

Each successive game builds on the framework established by the previous one:

  • Better, more detailed graphics
  • Bigger, more expansive cities with multiple distinct regions
  • More sidequests and extra activities
  • More elaborate quest gameplay

It’s really the expansion of the variety of activity that really makes GTA5 feel like so much game. That translates to a fairly complicated control scheme to try to deal with all the things that the player can do at any time, full of modal interfaces that are difficult to use. I mean, just look at the controls for just two modes:

And there are plenty more, from flying to skydiving/parachuting to driving all sorts of vehicles to specific activities like tennis or yoga. I count at least 20 distinct buttons directly used by the game without accounting for the analog controls.

Not that far off from a keyboard.

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