I'd say that a lot of GTA fans are nostalgia-blinded [ .. ] it seems like since the HD universe started with IV, whatever Rockstar does isn't good enough for some fans
Its so convenient to say these criticisms are largely just pure and simple nostalgia, but my friend, Rockstar is the one playing with the nostalgia card here to make us think of the old days by re-using the same cities which offered some of the great experiences in the past. It feels closer in spirit to the original cities, and less of a complete reimagining. Its more rehashing of the old ones with a modern spin that'll still invoke a feeling of nostalgia for the 3D era long gone.
Those who have either never touched any of the old games because they are so engulfed into the MMO crap they just don't care about SP, or its been way too long since they last played them that they generally tend to accept whatever R* throws at them in the name of "single player" and wouldn't mind a rehash, can't see how much of LC and LS looks like a complete rip-off.
When I analyse the modern LC and LS and compare them with the old ones, then it becomes immediately obvious to me that there's too much reuse of the same stories, characters, features, dialogues, mission types, etc.
Sure the world looks really stunning with lots of details in them, but at the same time the formula these modern cities follow is just overcooked by this point. They do not greatly improve to differentiate them from the old ones which is why this topic exists.
How many more years should we tolerate without much freedom nor interesting ways to interact with the world, but just watch them play out in motion captured cutscenes?
Liberty city and Los Santos are pretty much repeating the same things we have been experiencing for over many years now.
The way Liberty city in GTA IV has been created is more like playing GTA III using a new engine. Rockstar's attempt to recreate the city that's photorealistic and feels like a modern New York urban environment is admirable.
But its not so much of "returning to Liberty city to originate and innovate for keeping things fresh" as it is "reusing Liberty city and then turning it into a more living, breathing city" that players can appreciate for all the details, and landmarks, but the city itself doesn't contain enough to interest me from content, and gameplay standpoint.
If they simply wanted to deliver a photorealistic copy of New York city to immerse myself with the overall architecture, and physics, then they could have simply released a remaster of same GTA III.
You can't expect me to be more "grateful" for even having a GTA game, if in terms of world building there's so much potential wasted in modern Liberty city, which they have simply created to make it "look" like a real city, but still suffers from many of the same design 'flaws' that completely break the realism and immersion the moment I try to interact in a meaningful way, and become more creative inside the world. They're hardly original even after re-using Liberty city for what? 4 games or so?
Similarly Los Santos looks great, but that's all there's to it. As a SP, there's not much to talk about the city that I didn't experience back in 2004.
I am not trying to downplay LC or LS, but want to highlight that these modern cities are poorly executed to match that level of improvements and additions in making them worth returning to stay interested in playing them longer than how much I still enjoy the old ones for months without any need for SP DLC and/or Online.
Just reusing old cities for fancy graphics with an excruciating amount of details, and better physics, does not make them effective, bevause they don't bother to expand upon the overall structure and gameplay design for giving more reasons to enjoy these cities. They have no depth and do not evolve the way Online has evolved over the past titles.
The challenge lies in when you consider a new city, and work hard in terms of creating something that "feels" better than their past offerings for us to analyse and judge their maturty and growth as a developer after spending so many years in the industry.
There's not so much of the baggage of past experiences in the players mind with a new city when it comes to its history, politics, organised criminal culture, people and general gaming knowledge, etc that comes from having already experienced a city before.