Grand Theft Auto used to be one of a kind - a frontier city, lawless and free. Nowadays, though, the open world genre is almost as populous and prosperous as the FPS. Everybody, his uncle and his uncle's dog wants a crack, whether it's superheroic gadding about, sweaty tussles in the African underbrush or a murderous whistlestop tour of 15th century Rome.
GTA's star remains untarnished - the fourth game is still probably the finest urban open-worlder on Xbox 360, despite the raucous success of THQ's Saints Row. But four years post-release, other games have overtaken it in key respects. Rockstar would do well to heed the example of the below games in particular.
1. Batman: Arkham City
Side content with structure
Arkham City does a lot of things extraordinarily well, but what I most like about it as that it doesn't compromise on sophistication for the sake of breadth. When the shift to true-blue open worldliness was announced, I feared that removing the Asylum's walls would cost the game depth in terms of peripheral tasks and objectives. I feared that Batman's abilities and gizmos would be smeared across a personality-lite roster of collectables, punch-ups and bitty encounters. Miraculously, the game remains as dense with challenge as its predecessor - denser, in fact, thanks to an expanded Riddler sidestory and puzzles. Grand Theft Auto 5 probably won't beat Batman for gadgets, but I hope it'll similarly craft meaty scenarios around tangential goals.
2. Saints Row: The Third
A taste for idiocy
In Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, you get to chainsaw traitorous mafia stooges and guzzle slow-motion pills which bestow the strength to punch innocent/not-so-innocent bystanders over buildings. The fourth game offers a decent amount of comedy, but it's comedy of the drier, less wantonly slapstick sort, and tickled as we are, we can't help missing the absurdities of older games. Saints Row has filled that particular niche - filled it with party poppers, sewage and dildos. Time to take toilet humour back.