Having begun my full first playthrough of Grand Theft Auto 5 (GTA 5) on PlayStation 5 recently, I’ve been having a great time with the story and characters - particularly the world of Los Santos - but I am having a rough time navigating it. In the most literal sense, GTA 5’s default control scheme sucks and Rockstar needs to abandon it for GTA 6.
Revisiting GTA in 2024 does really feel strange control-wise, particularly when it comes to the matchups between buttons and actions. This is bad from a more modern point of view, but also from an accessibility perspective, given that you can often need spider-like hands to use all the necessary controls.
As a result, Rockstar needs to rethink its default control scheme to drag it in line with largely accepted norms and also to ensure more folks can enjoy its next blockbuster adventure.
A bit of a reach
Heading it right off at the top: I know that such complaints can usually be offset by games offering alternative control schemes. And, of course, many modern games will let you remap every button individually to your own preferences, which is awesome. However, a default control scheme heavily implies that it's a developer-approved and recommended layout - and one that many players will stick with and learn how to use.
Starting more generally: who is advocating for tapping X (or A on Xbox controllers) repeatedly to have your character run? It’s not even a hold, or toggle - it’s an active control to keep engaging with, thus permanently tying up one digit. In the face of a simple push-down on the left thumbstick, I can’t believe that Rockstar has stuck by this method. In the same way, how was putting ‘change camera and perspective’ on the touchpad signed off on PS4 and PS5? Everyone knows the touchpad is for maps - GTA 5’s is buried in the options button.
Elsewhere, and from a slightly more accessibility-focused point of view, it gets really messy when it comes to driving and shooting. Having to accelerate with R2, cover the brakes on L2, while also trying to press L1 to aim and use R1 to shoot the gun, and manipulate both sticks to steer the car and move the camera felt incredibly unwieldy and busy. On the rare occasion where the inputs did go well (by accident), I felt like I was playing a Rachmaninoff piano concerto, with all the stress and complexity you might expect. In short, I simply couldn’t interact with all the necessary controls, so I ditched the shooting and just rammed the car I was chasing. After this, I had to change the control layout to a different non-GTA style, so to speak, to better enjoy the game.
I have talked about my own personal accessibility needs before, such as in my PlayStation Access controller review. It's button functions and layouts like this that are some of the most troublesome for folks like me. Reaching around the back of the controller is often the most tricky part of playing games, so demanding that all four rear buttons be used simultaneously is incredibly tough for those with deficiencies or even just smaller hands.
Not just a relic from the past
This deployment of multiple shoulder buttons all at once just about gets a pass in Red Dead Redemption 2 as it was used only for navigating menus, which I could just about manage. But for something as active as car chases and shooting simultaneously, it really is a horrible configuration.
Looking at Red Dead Redemption 2 does reveal more about Rockstar’s attachment to the control scheme - there’s some evolution of the layout by the time of Arthur Morgan’s Western adventure released in 2018, but a bunch of the same actions remain. This proves that GTA 5’s is not a relic of the past or because of any limitations of the PS3/Xbox 360 generation - it’s clearly something Rockstar sees value in and at least wanted to stick with over the past decade.
However, you can see that Rockstar didn’t necessarily agree that such controls were outdated, as Red Dead Redemption 2 featured some similarities: tapping X to sprint was still a thing as was clicking L3 to go into stealth/crouched mode, and so on.
Odd or irregular controls are not something exclusive to Rockstar. In one of my favorite series, The Last of Us, you have to hold L1 to sprint - far away from what many would consider default or natural (it’s L3 to sprint, by modern standards). We make exceptions such as this of course, but I’d wager a majority of folks will instinctively try L3 to sprint or X to jump whenever they start games.
While some ground needs to be ceded based on the demands of the game, surely there’s a means for Rockstar to make a new control scheme that's both more in line with modern arrangements and more accessible as a result. To go against the grain again when GTA 6 comes out in 2025 would be to fly in the face of what the vast majority of players are now used to and naturally gravitate toward. It'll force people to play a certain way, and there’s no need for such gatekeeping in the 2020s.
I’m aware that any control scheme Rockstar decides to implement for GTA 6 probably won’t matter much to most players, and it’ll largely be adopted with no questions asked. However, I do hope the developer is at least considering a more modernized default control scheme. This would be a huge win on the accessibility front while also taking many of the frustrations out of controlling a Rockstar protagonist.
Grand Theft Auto 6 is going to be one of the most anticipated PS5 games and Xbox Series X games of 2025, so ensure you have one of the best PS5 controllers or the best Xbox controllers to play it with.
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Rob is Deputy Editor of TechRadar Gaming, a video games journalist, critic, editor, and writer, and has years of experience gained from multiple publications. Prior to being TechRadar Gaming's Deputy Editor, he was a longstanding member of GamesRadar+, being the Commissioning Editor for Hardware there for years, while also squeezing in a short stint as Gaming Editor at WePC before joining TechRadar Gaming. He is also a freelance writer on tech, gaming hardware, video games, gardens, and landscapes and is crowdfunding a book on video game landscapes that you can back and pre-order now too.