Grand Theft Auto V: Review – The Sum of all Peers.

The hulking monolith that is Grand Theft Auto V is out! As all other games squirm under rocks and into the shadows, refusing to even exist in the same space I have made it my duty to take it head on and try my best to put into words how it makes me feel the feels.  Oh boy does it make me feel something, in fact many things, maybe even all the things.  In fact the feelings I feel are so feely I can barely contain them! I must release them in a concentrated burst of sounds and grunts.  Then I must put them into words on the tippy tappy keyboard.  This I have done.

Absolute nonsense aside Grand theft auto V will be referred to as V to save space.  V is good, V is god, Bow to V, V is you master… Ugh Sorry I lost it for a minute.  Yes Grand Theft Auto 5 is an incredible experience; I have waited in the long nights for this game to grace us with its presence.  I loved GTA 4, I loved Red Dead Redemption, I loved Max Payne 3, I am a Rockstar fan to say the least.  Red Dead is probably my favorite game of this gaming generation (and still is, sorry GTA 5, but more on that).  GTA 5 is a great game, in fact it is also one of the best games of this generation, in fact one could argue it is the best game of this generation.

Where to begin? Never have I played something so massive; that spans across so many genres, successfully dabbling in so much content but also remaining so cohesive and focused.  GTA 5 is a biting satire, putting its eye of Sauron-like gaze on the glitz and glam of Los Angeles and Hollywood.  It is rarely subtle but remains humorous and of the utmost quality throughout.  It takes on Hollywood, Star worship, Hipsters, the current state of video games and more throughout its 30+ hours it took to finish just the main story.  I have already put upwards of 60 to 70 hours playing around in the world and completing side content.  The world is huge, larger even than Skyrim, Red Dead or any of Rockstars previous efforts.  On top of this Los Santos is more beautiful than any of these aforementioned games with almost no noticeable glitches and zero loading except upon player death.

The story remains strong throughout the entire length of it and comes to an appropriate head.  Ultimately I felt the story was actually the weakest element of the game.  I say this tentatively and with my hands up to shield my face from the coming storm of rotten food stuffs.  The story is not weak; the characters are great with strong personalities behind each of them, the dialogue is written perfectly and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute.  It was the weakest element for me because I felt they lost some of the maturity that they gained in Red Dead and GTA 4.  I felt Red Dead was not only a peak for Rockstar as a studio but also a peak for video game storytelling in general.  In this sense GTA V feels like a step back, it is still darkly comic but retains many more of the shallow almost caricatured characters of the past.  There are serious tones but the three main protagonists almost turn the story into more of a dark buddy comedy.   The game has multiple endings but only one seems right, the others by comparison are oddly macabre within the games tone and make the post-story much less enjoyable.

Despite the issues with the story telling Trevor, Michael, and Franklin are some of Rockstars best protagonists.  Franklin an up and coming repo man living in the hood represents the classic GTA character from rags to riches arc.  Michael is exactly the opposite, rich and middle-aged he is bored and depressed with a terrible family life and nothing to do but drink and watch old movies.  Trevor, Trevor is something else entirely.  He is a sort of cop-out for Rockstar but also absolutely ingenious.  Able to remove the typical ludonarrative dissonance involved with a game like GTA Trevor is a maniac. Normally you have a character like John Marston who resents his position but still ends up killing left and right, civilians and outlaws alike.  It makes it seem that despite what the story is telling you the gameplay is doing the opposite.  In Trevor’s case he is a madman, he loves mayhem, sex, murder and everything in between.  He is the player’s gateway to doing whatever they want.  His missions end up being the craziest and most fun as a result and he ended up being my favorite of the 3 characters.  Trevor is a lunatic but he is hilarious, incredibly intelligent and the one most in tune with who is within the game world.

The story missions themselves are the best they have ever been in a GTA game.  Not one repeated itself and each felt unique and re-playable.  Gone are the drive here, cut-scene, drive to another place, shoot people, chase guy, kill guy, missions.  On top of this Rockstar has added mid mission checkpoints, which alleviate 99% of any frustration that was inherent in past GTA’s.  Missions can range from riding dirt-bikes across moving trains to rappelling down office buildings to rescue hostages.  The highly touted heists work well but ultimately don’t allow for the choice Rockstar hinted at.  There are usually two ways to go about each heist, you can choose your crew and it does have a direct effect on the heists themselves but I felt myself wanting more.  There are many heist missions but for many reasons in the story few are actually straight up bank jobs.  These missions are the best the game has to offer but I always wanted more which itself was a testament to their quality.

The ability to switch between the 3 protagonists is ingenious for so many reasons; it makes the gameplay, missions and general tomfoolery more interesting.  If you don’t want to drive across the huge world just switch characters, if you want to fly planes out in the desert just switch to Trevor, if you want save quickly switch to Franklin who is usually hanging out in a safe-house.   The game pulls the camera out in a “Google-earth” style view when a player switches characters.  Then, it zooms in on whomever you switch to while they are doing something.  What is genius is each has their own AI and will be doing quite possible anything while you are playing as someone else.  Each character acts according to their personality, Michael may be arguing with his family, Franklin may be leaving a smoke shop or Trevor may be wearing a dress, wasted, in the middle of the desert.  It changes every time and as a result switching characters is fun just to see what the protagonists are doing.

Los Santos is huge and looks incredible, the character models are well animated, the physics are great and the cars look beautiful but it is the world that steals the show.  The city is huge and varied, making for an uncanny representation of Los Angeles.  The surrounding countryside is the star as riding mountain bikes, flying planes and deep sea diving are a treat.  There are triathlons, tennis, golf, darts, racing, shooting ranges, parachuting, hunting and nearly anything you can think of doing is available to the player from the onset.  The real technical feat is that the world lacks no small details despite its size.  Los Santos is not only huge but also diverse and interesting and is ultimately easy to get lost in and makes the player never want to leave.

Shooting and driving have been re-tooled drawing from both Max Payne 3 and Midnight Club.  The gameplay for the first time matches the quality of the world and the story; which in turn makes for the most cohesive and fun GTA yet.  Each character is differentiated by individual skills and special abilities making switching important to gameplay.  Players can enhance character skills at shooting ranges, flight school or taking part in triathlons.  Skills also accrue naturally over time as the player shoots, drives and runs around the world more and more.

There are so many things to talk about, buying property, dabbling in stock markets, watching TV, using the internet and so on that I haven’t even mentioned.  In the end you just need to play the game and find out for yourself.  So much of the fun is discovering all the little things this game has to offer.  With GTA V out it seems that next-gen can wait a little while longer as there are no experiences ahead or behind that can quite compare.






+Character Swap


+Los Santos


-Buddy comedy elements

-Some of the endings

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