Since the day it was released, GTA 4 has had to contend with allegations that it simply isn't fun. Or, As Fun As It Used To Be. Gone were the jetpacks and dildos. In was bowling and keeping up relationships. No planes, no parachutes, no shenanigans.

It makes sense in the context of the game - Rockstar was trying to tell a far more restrained tale than in previous efforts. While we're happy that GTA 5 might be getting more outrageous, there's one element of part 4's more serious approach that should be kept the same: the handling of the cars.

In previous GTA games, navigating corners was simple - you pretty much just pressed left or right at the intersection, swinging round with minimal fuss. In GTA 4, it felt closer to a racing game: under and oversteer were big(ger) considerations; angle of approach, speed and deceleration were all important. It had to be learned.

This, obviously, did not go down well with many, as years of muscle memory worked against players, causing frustration and the sort of swearing that would make Malcolm Tucker proud (I can't wait to see the comments section later).

The fact is that, in the long run, being skilled at driving (or having a skilled driver) made for some outstanding chases in the the single-player. In multiplayer, it elevated what could have been a cool side feature into something else entirely.

The most obvious example is the excellent Cops 'n' Crooks mode, which pits one team as escaping mobsters, the other as chasing cops. A semi-random extraction point is set, and all the don's men had to do was get away.

Which was easier said than done. Choosing the right vehicle was all-important - the crooks start on foot, with the ever-closing sounds of sirens indicating how close the cops were getting. It's risk/reward, and at first seems horribly skewed towards the police.

Get a good driver, however, and it turns into one of the best multiplayer experiences of this generation. Weaving in and out of rush hour traffic while three passengers fire indiscriminately at the cops on their tail is better than pretty much any mission in the main game, and correctly picking your route to extraction - or failure - with another player setting the waypoints is still addictive to this day. It's an overused comparison, but this really was as close to that scene in Heat as you were going to get.

One escape point is set in a house that belongs to a character from the main story. There's a helipad in the garden of his Alderney-based property: to get there, however, you need to make a call. Take the quicker, yet more dangerous subway, or power up through the highway and enter from the north? Or, if you were a true show-off, navigate the traffic - and construction work - of downtown and the financial district?

Either way, it led to a series of - shudder - emergent stories, as escapes were thwarted at the last, choppers tore into the night sky carrying barely rescued crooks, and cars piled up in the streets. What made those successes and failures so thrilling was that you had to fight for them.

This is why it would be such a shame if Rockstar chose to reduce the level of skill needed to successfully throw one of these things around a corner. Adjustments are fine, of course - certain cars did feel like they were turning akin to a boat.

But to reduce it to a level where it's too easy to navigate Los Santos' streets would be a huge disappointment. So many excellent multiplayer moments have been born out of the need to put a bit of effort into driving the cars - anything else would feel too basic in comparison.

With GTA 5 featuring a far bigger - and more diverse - play area, the handling will be of even more importance in those multiplayer matches. Liberty City was a marvel, but its topography doesn't really change, aside from the odd ill-advised jaunt onto grass.

Los Santos, with its urban and rural areas, is going to be a lot trickier - and as such more rewarding - to blaze across. I'm already looking forward to racing out of the city, up to the top of a mountain, before flinging my car off the top. Cops 'n' Crooks is already excellent: by keeping the handling model broadly as it is it will only get better in GTA 5.

That is, if Rockstar brings it back at all. We'll find out more in the coming months, as Rockstar unveils its suite of online modes.