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Light & Shadow offers a different experience than other Grand Theft Auto games, but that's what makes it special.
Geoff Keighley
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Publisher
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Designer(s)
Writer(s)
Artist(s)
Composer(s)
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Release
15 July 2021
Fanon Author(s)
The owner of this page is Wiseman the Writer. According to policy, no other user, with the exception of admins, may edit this page without the owner's permission. If they do, they will be blocked.

Grand Theft Auto: Light & Shadow, commonly known simply as Light & Shadow or abbreviated as L&S, is a video game developed by collaborative effort between Rockstar Studios and Remedy Entertainment. The game serves as the eight main entry for Grand Theft Auto series. The single-player story sets in Vice City, based on Miami, and follows an intertwined conflict between three manipulative criminals.

The game's development began shortly after the release of Max Payne 3. Rockstar and Remedy spent three years for the narrative and worldbuilding, before starting the main production in 2015. The game uses a combination of RAGE and Northlight Engine. It was released for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Microsoft Windows in July 2021.

As one of the most anticipated games of 2021, Light & Shadow earned $700 million in its first day and $1 billion in its first week. The game met critical acclaim for its unique theme, gameplay improvements, and the return of crime-focused narrative. However, it also generated controversies for its depiction of psychological manipulation and satiristic commentary.

Synopsis

Settings

Light & Shadow marks the return of Vice City, based on Miami, as the main setting location. Alongside the mainland Vice City and the resort city of Vice Beach (Miami Beach), the game introduces new regions based on the Everglades and the Florida Keys. The majority of the story took place in the metropolitan area.

Corrupt politicians and law enforcers, syndicates, and local criminals have anonymously controlled parts of the city for years. The international black market network in Vice City – which connects the southern and northern part of America – allowing them to secure their power. The market’s primary commodities include narcotics from Central and South America, illegal firearms from the Caribbean and Africa, and human trafficking from Europe.

The story sets between late 2017 and summer 2018, during the verge of post-truth society evolution. In opposite to IV, the game's world explores the collapse of the American Dream and Western Civilizations, caused by political conflict, culture war, discrimination, and many other social issues. These themes and social issues are satirized in more subtle way and lesser extent than in V.

Characters

Light & Shadow is the second game in Grand Theft Auto series to feature three multiple playable protagonists: Thomas Kingston, a freelance conman and thief who recently moved to South Tequesta to escape a horrific incident in Nassau, and now aiming to recover his crime career; Maria Vinogradova, a gambler turns contract killer who looks for better life after leaving her father; and Andrea Acconcia, a crooked Drug Observation Agency (DOA) agent who grows dissatisfied with his honest job. All three share a trait of using various manipulation tactics in their jobs.

Following the backlash over the death of Johnny Klebitz in V, Rockstar decided to not bring back previous characters to the game.

Plot

Light & Shadow portrays the both sides of a colorful Vice City. Under the bright neon nightlife lies a darker reality, where everything is fake and manipulative. It is a place where everyone can get their glory easily through betrayals, lies, and cheats. Among these people are a deceitful conman, a distracting assassin, and a dirty government agent; all looking for a change in their life. However, not everyone can get an equal piece of a hegemony, and competition turns into deadly hide-and-seek game.
―Synopsis

Chapter I

The story starts with the three characters at their beginning of a new career. Thomas enters the city’s drug competition, possessing as a dealer from Nassau, and gains money from assisting drug dealer Leandro Gomez, into expanding his business. Maria finds work for a troubled client and contacts of Sandro Valladares, a Cuban hitman from Los Cabrones who guides her in her early days. Andrea decides to assist the Tacconi Family through an accomplice of his former peers, Fabio Genovese. Andrea's role is to cover up the family's drug operation, and in exchange, the family provides him with intel on the DOA ongoing investigation on the Céntricio Cartel.

While making names, the three meet each other on different occasions. Thomas first meets Maria when he is working for Jan Daniels, a tourist scammer and Leandro’s associate. Thomas takes interest in recruiting Maria for his future despite her refusal. Conversely, Maria crosses path with Andrea when the two are retrieving a stolen painting. Andrea himself is manipulated by Thomas to ignite the assassination of Tacconi's don, Maurice Tacconi.

Chapter II

When a failed con results in Leandro's demise, Thomas is forced to forge a new identity once more. He then works for Felipe Da Silva, the underboss of Da Silva Enterprises. Felipe provides Thomas opportunities of works related with his profession, one of them is to help Felipe overthrows his father, Francis, from the enterprises for his incompetence.

Meanwhile, members of the Russian Kirikov Bratva catches interest with hiring Maria. One of them is the Pakhan Nikolai Kirikov, who introduces her to more high-profile clients. Sandro warns Maria of possibility that someone in the Russian mobs had betrayed her father and is now looking after her. Maria has no interest in identifying the killer, but agree to remain cautious.

Around the same time, Cyrus Forsell, Thomas' old partner has tracked him from Nassau and hires Maria to collect him. During an important mission for Felipe, Maria knocks Thomas out and hands him to Cyrus. Afterwards, Felipe cuts his tie with Thomas in fear that his father will discover their plot, and Thomas ignores his argument with Cyrus, who questions Thomas' loyalty for leaving him in Nassau.

While continuing his work for the mafia, Andrea is pressured by his superior in the DOA, Charles Geffrard, who is growing suspicious for his activities. Andrea lies that he is currently blending in, and doing so will get him closer to Céntricio Cartel. Although Charles doubts him, he allows Andrea to continue his investigation on the cartel, especially after the news of incoming drug shipment from South America.

At the same time, a man named Edgar Fernandez meets Thomas, Maria, and Andrea. He reveals that the cartel's drug shipment was stolen from his old cartel, destroying his family and career. Edgar wants them to con the cartel and recover the shipment. All three are convinced to participate in Edgar's mission: Thomas is motivated to avenge Leandro's death, Maria is sympathized with his story, and Andrea does not want to miss the chance to complete Charles' mission.

Chapter III

Maria and Thomas when pulling Edgar's mission

The mission progresses smoothly at first, until Thomas believes that Maria was the one who brought him to Cyrus. Andrea, who also keeps an eye on Thomas and Maria, also discovers that the former was the cause of Maurice's assassination. The three maintain mutual respect on each other, but the sense of insecurity and distrust begins to spread between them too.

In the meantime, Thomas keeps convincing Cyrus to "leave the past" and move on, as they are employed by Hector Vera, an investor who is tricked to fund illicit activities in Vice City. Hector wants them to avenge his scammers, including Felipe.

Meanwhile, Maria is caught in a conflict between Nikolai and Ukrainian gangster Viktor Lubarsky. Members and associates of both sides were assassinated and disappeared mysteriously. Since Maria works for both sides, she fears that they will frame her for the killings. To find the true culprit, Maria investigates the city's contract-killing ring runs by a fixer nicknamed The Curator. Sandro assists her once again as he has gained The Curator's trust through his employee Brandon McCallan.

Andrea keeps helping the Tacconi Family when information about their drug operation is starting to surface at the DOA. Andrea discovers that the new don, Giuseppe Romagnoli, is planning to use him and Andrea as the family's scapegoats. Andrea immediately urges Fabio to leave the family, while he looks for bigger assistance from his DOA higher-ups. Andrea also blackmails Maria into eliminating a Tacconi family's informant in the Russian mob in attempt to stop his plan. Because of this, Nikolai soon believes that Maria has betrayed him and go after her.

Chapter IV

The con is finally about the enter the last stage, only to convince the cartel to transport the drug from Cayo Pontera, the southernmost point of America, to Cuba, where Edgar awaits them. However, their past conflicts are becoming clearer now. Thomas fears that Cyrus has specifically hired Maria so that she could kill him while working for Edgar. Then, Maria argues with Andrea for blackmailing her. Andrea is also mad at Thomas for his Tacconi's problem. The argument heats up as they meet in Cayo Pontera, where their meeting turns into a three-way Mexican standoff and an open fight. They escape each other after separately burning down the shipment, so that nobody will receive Edgar's payment.

While stranded in Tequesta Keys, the three lie to Edgar using different reasons about the disaster. Edgar becomes furious and has his hired goons to kill them. The three view that killing the others will not only resolve their problems, but open up the room for regaining Edgar's respect too.

Chapter V

Thomas persuading Sandro to turn against Maria for him.

Upon escaping the keys, Thomas prepares to sting Felipe for Hector with Laura Mortes, Felipe's ex from the Mexican Ocean Cartel. Thomas also continues his bond with Cyrus, who is torn between forgiving Thomas, or forming his own crew.

Maria reunites with Brandon, who is revealed as the person behind the Russian mob's killings. Brandon only follows the order of his clients and wants to spare Maria, but the circumstance forces him to betray her by placing more bounty on her head.

Meanwhile, Andrea gets into the DOA custody for his leaked crime record, but he gains the support from crooked VCPD deputy, Lawrence Ford. Andrea and Lawrence, along with Fabio then plan the destruction of the Tacconi Family without involving the legal system.

The three continued to clash with one other while completing their personal missions, where they attempt to kill each other. To make things worse, Edgar puts their friends in deadly situation, especially Sandro, whose Maria feels obliged to be helped. None of the three expect Edgar to be this violent, yet the three are still too indignant to settle their differences.

In sort, each protagonist has two main missions in this chapter:

  • Thomas must avenge Felipe for Hector and convince Cyrus to accept him.
  • Maria must find and kill Brandon, as well as helping Sandro.
  • Andrea must clean his name in the DOA, and end the Tacconi Family once for all.

Depending on player's choices in Chapter I-V, only one protagonist can successfully complete both of their missions. The other one can only complete one mission, and the last will fail in both.

Chapter VI

Regardless of the outcomes, Edgar eventually knows that Thomas, Maria, and Andrea are in heated argument, but he do not know that they have set aside their conflict to deal with Edgar for one last time.

Edgar lures them to Vice City Tower, which is closed due to incoming storm. Unknowingly to Edgar, the three already anticipate his ambush. Edgar and his men attack them at the tower, but end in defeat. During the fight, Edgar admits that he had manipulated them the whole time. The shipment was not from his family and he wants it purely to build his long-time dreamed crime empire. Moment before his execution at the rooftop, Thomas asks him if he would kill them if the mission is successful, and he answers that he will legitimately reward them. In fact, Edgar has been doing this method for years beforehand: hiding his true intention after deceiving his marks.

After finishing off Edgar, the three regroup before part ways. Maria suggests that hey should be more careful in doing con from now on, so they can avoid each other. Thomas agrees, believing that their carelessness could lead to another complication. Andrea hesitantly agrees too, but is remain skeptical at whether they can keep their words or not.

Gameplay Overview

Light & Shadow is an action-adventure game played from a first or third-person perspective. Player completes missions—linear scenarios with set objectives—to progress through the story. Many missions are designed to be open-ended, providing player more freedom to finish objectives. The game incorporates traditional driving/combat gameplay with cons mechanic. Player may perform con to manipulate any targets and can decide how the scheme will go on. Like in V,  the player controls three main characters: Thomas, Maria, and Andrea. Player can only switch between these characters while on free-roam.

The main story is divided into six chapters. Some missions are "crossovers", featuring two or three protagonists at the same time. Player can only choose one of the protagonists to play, while the others compete against/fight alongside the player. Furthermore, in some crossovers, only one may successfuly complete the task given. Player's controlled protagonist can fail a crossover, and the mission will still be counted as completed. Player's choices in missions and crossovers will alter the main story in minor or major scale, similar to player choices in IV.

As a replacement of V's special ability mechanics, each protagonist now have a distinct combat styles and attributes. Thomas masters driving the best and his stamina depletes at lowest rate, but he also has the poorest shooting and the shortest lung capacity. Maria benefits more in stealth and gunfight, but she is also the weakest in melee combat and has the lowest stamina. Andrea has the best brute strength and best lung capacity, but his driving and stealth are the worst of three. Since these attributes cannot be altered like in V, the player must adapt to each character well for best experience.

Outside of missions, player may freely roam the open world Vice City and its surrounding. Player can engage in various side missions, from helping strangers to hunt down criminals as vigilante. Side activities include video game arcade, shooting range, street racing, scuba diving, and many other. Each protagonist owns a smartphone for contacting friends, accessing an in-game Internet and taking photographs. As alternative source of income, the player can participate in an interactive trade of valuables trading, gunrunning, or drug dealing.

Player may run, jump, crouch, swim, or use vehicles to navigate the world. The game features _ vehicles, including helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, though the majority of the latter cannot be controlled directly by the player.

Combat

Screenshot of L&S gameplay. Player's statistics (including body condition, health, armor, and stamina/lung capacity) and radar are shown at the bottom left corner.

The combat, arsenal, and health mechanics were inspired by Max Payne 3. Player’s inventory now holds up fewer equipment, weapons, and ammunition. Player and NPCs can wield a variety of weapons, including environmental objects such as wood plank and brick, as melee or thrown weapon. Weapons and items now can be stored in car trunks and safehouse locker.

When the player attacks an enemy, the game's AI reactions and movements depend on where they hit. Similarly, player's controlled character reacts differently to injury on specific body parts (head, torso, arms, and legs). For example, if the player's right arm suffers continuous damages, it will be more difficult to aim firearm accurately. Bloodstain can be cleaned by taking a shower, but bullet holes/scars stay permanently until the injury heals completely. Injured body parts will heal naturally for 1-2 in-game days, and can be speed up by applying bandages. Alternatively, player can consume painkiller to temporary ignore any injuries, although it will halt the healing progress and blur player's vision.

Health point no longer regenerates when low. Consuming foods, drinks, and supplements will replenish player's health slowly rather than instantaneously.

Customization

It's almost a neccessity to have a vast customization option, to the level players can design their characters to relate with them on personal level. But still, we need to place practicality and rationality first, like, for instance, it makes no sense that you can attend a top-secret gang meeting while being shirtless, with short and flip-flops, or, like you can sprint with full speed with high heels. It needs to be relateable to the player, the personality of the character, and the environment of the game.
―Rockstar devs

Player can customize the characters with different outfits from clothing store, accessories from jewel store, and hairstyle at the barber shop. Unlike in V, the protagonist's clothing and haircut will persist permanently; their appearances no longer change when switching characters or initiating a mission. In some missions and activities, however, protagonists do change their appearance automatically to fulfill the prerequisites. The previously set appearance will be reverted once the corresponding mission or activity is completed or cancelled.

Outside of certain mission and activity, player cannot remove their top, bottom or shoes.

Multiplayer

_.

Development

Sam Lake

During the final development of Max Payne 3, Rockstar Games and Remedy Entertainment conceived a joint project in the future, which is the next Grand Theft Auto installment. Dan Houser began working with the story and worldbuilding with Sam Lake in 2012. The two wanted to make the next game to be "more mature and serious", and made an effort to avoid copying the style of Vice City and Vice City Stories. The game mainly focused on confidence tricks, and satirical comments in the game had been toned down due to current cultural climate.

During the pre-production, both developers sent a team to Miami and the surrounding area in Florida to collect references for modern recreation of Vice City. The game used the latest versions of Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (RAGE) and Euphoria physics engine that later used in Red Dead Redemption II. The game's technology for visual enhancements was borrowed from Remedy's Nortlight Engine, which provided better animation, visual, global illumination, and ray tracing for the game.

As of early 2013, the multiplayer section initially planned to be merged with GTA Online in a standalone title. However, the plan of GTA Online was shut down shortly after to accommodate more spaces on L&S development. The developer then shifted back to traditional multiplayer mode for multiplayer ofGTA V and L&S. In 2015, Rockstar announced that plans for GTA V single-player expansions were also cancelled as all resources moved to develop L&S and RDR II.

The main production itself started in late-2015 as Quantum Break reached its completion. In March 2020, Rockstar and Remedy began working the game from home due to COVID-19 pandemic, forcing the developers to delay the game indefinitely from its supposed fall 2020 releases. It was later announced in November that the game will launch on 15 July 2021, simultaneously between all platform including next-gen consoles and PC.

Music

With Woody Jackson occupied with RDR II, Michael Hunter was rehired in 2016 to compose the original score of L&S. The game features a more "minimalist" scores divided into three types based on its function: (1) Ambient, incidental musics that can be played while the player is free-roaming; (2) Background, musics played during missions, cutscenes, and credit; and (3) Gameplay, including music for the pause menu and short mission-completion jingles. Taking feedbacks from the implementation of scores in V, Rockstar added menu option to adjust score's volume and programmed the game to temporary disable music scores while radio station is played.

L&S features 24 radio stations, covering diverse music genres from popular 80's songs to Latin musics.

Reception

Whilst L&S met critical acclaim from fans, reviewers, and the game industry, it also generated controversies related to its theme and contents. The psychological manipulation focus of the game met polarized responses among critics. Some praised the game for successfully increasing awareness of real-life manipulation practices, while some condemned it for "promoting deceptive behavior" and "developing distrust trait among its players". The satire and humour in the game, despite already toned down, were also considered offensive by few journalists.

The introductions of Maria as female protagonist and Andrea as full-time lawman protagonist also generated minor controversies. Feminism and anti-police sentiment figures and movements had divided views on Maria and Andrea characters. Overall fans' reception on the two protagonists, however, remained positive.

Other Articles

Game Features

Extras

Trivia

  • L&S versions for older-gen, PC, and XBOX Series X feature additional files for balancing purposes. The files inflate the storage requirement for those versions up to 190 GB (PS5 and XBOX Series X versions size is 140 GB in comparison).
  • Time in L&S is longer as one in-game minute equals to three real-life seconds. This makes 1 in-game hour = 3 real-life minutes, and 1 in-game day = 72 real-life minutes.
  • L&S brings back the dynamic cinematic execution that will occur if the player chooses the "Execute" option when confronting their target.
  • The Wasted/Busted scene in L&S is more simplistic: the screen will fade to black without any "wasted/busted" messages. Unlike in EFLC, the screen will remain in-color and move in real time before it fades.
    • Failing a mission also prompts the same effect with addition of the failed condition displayed at the bottom of the screen.
  • L&S would initially feature a hair growth mechanic for all protagonists similar to RDR II. The feature was cut to accommodate more customization freedom for the player.
  • While random events exist in L&S in larger and less-scripted extent, they are not necessary for 100% completion.

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