Grand Theft Auto V is unashamedly a game which in a period where games are attack from outside as well as within for being vulgar, uncultured and uncouth is startlingly refreshing. While the likes of David Cage are making ‘games’ as if actual game play elements were something to be actively ashamed Rockstar have instead cranked out a game that manages to be hilariously fun while also incredibly well detailed and with some genuine scathing satire to boot.
The key mechanic driving the game and what differentiates it from every other GTA game is the inclusion of three main protagonists that both the story and key elements of the game mechanics revolve around. The story slowly introduces us to each character, straight man Franklin who most closely resembles past GTA characters as he attempts to claw his way from rags to riches. Michael whose already clawed himself from rags to riches but is morbidly depressed and bored as a result, resembling a GTA character after the credits roll. Then there’s Trevor who most closely resembles your typical GTA player who most often views the story as an amusing interlude between setting hookers on fire then throwing sticky bombs on the ambulances sent to help them.
Each character is gradually introduced and you’re eventually able to freely switch between all of them delving into their personal stories as well as the unfolding story of the trio engaging in a series of heists to relive their former glories and gain even more wealth. GTA has needed missions with actual choice and consequences behind them for a long time and these heists seem at first glance to fit the bill perfectly. The first , a jewellery store robbery shows this off perfectly. You have choice over what approach you make whether that be stealthy or violently and can pick a crew all with their own skills that you have to weigh against the percentage cut they get of the loot with the better skilled members getting more money. This can lead to things going hilariously bad when your shoddier members inevitably cock everything up and leave you to pick up the pieces . I found it was even possible during the mission to ‘accidentally’ off some of your crew members to gain an even bigger cut since dead men can’t claim cash which was frankly awesome.
The issue is that rather than these missions escalating and getting even more involved with even more branching choices and consequences they hardly feature in the game at all and when they do they’re even more limited than the first mission which is about as good as the heists ever get. This is a real shame as it was an element that I felt was finally injecting the same level of openness you find exploring the GTA world into the missions themselves which make you feel like a mouse trapped in a particularly complex rude Goldberg machine. Not to say the story is bad as a result, it’s of the same high quality as any of the previous titles and the inclusion of multiple characters keeps things constantly fresh although it feels there just wasn’t quite enough time to properly flesh out all of the characters making some especially Michael and Franklin feel undeveloped. Even in the missions themselves characters like Franklin who is designated as ‘the driver’ find themselves instead relegated to a back up shooter while somebody else drives which just feels jarring
Waxing lyrically about the story and missions in the game is all well and good but I think the real achievement Rockstar have made is in creating a huge, vibrant, visually striking living world for the player to cause infinite amounts of mayhem within. Beyond it’s artistic merit as a cracking good satire of the modern age with it poking fun at everything from apple to America’s policy on torture. The real reason a lot of people are going to be playing and importantly coming back to GTA V after its completion is that it’s a brilliant anti-social behaviour simulator pushed to an extreme level. Perhaps it’s something missing from commentary on the game in an effort to shield it from it being somewhat the poster child of those who would snatch violent video games from our hands in hopes to protect the precious children from Rockstar literally inventing violence and have adults sit indoors watching reruns of the Walton’s.
Perhaps I’m just particularly anti-social but there’s something viscerally satisfying about swerving your truck in hordes pedestrians minding their own businesses and watching them crack and fly over as you liberally throw grenades backwards into the now screaming crowd leaving a trail of exploded car wreckage and corpses behind you and this is just the tip of the iceberg in the type of fun you can have rampaging through the world.
You’d think it would get dull but the vastness and vibrancy Rockstar have injected into the tapestry they’ve created keeps it fresh. The map is now huge consisting of the entirety of Los Santos along with wide expanses of wilderness in Blaine county from dense forests to mountain ranges, not to mention multiple underwater areas. There’s an exhaustive list of things to do as a result from hunting, to tennis, to delivering hitch-hikers to hideous violent cults and as always there’s the constant threat of the police force chasing you down in an ever escalating series of wanted cars that eventually has armoured swat cars and helicopters hunting you down through the city or wilderness. The key to making this all work and feel right is the mixture of lavish attention to detail mixed with the potential for insanity. Little things like cars you steal having radio stations suited to whatever particular neighborhood you stole it from or the little conversations you catch people having make you feel that much more immersed into the experience while the over the top mixture of planes, guns and auto-mobiles gives you free roam to explore and cause major havoc.
Overall GTA V the most complete Grand Theft Auto game yet, while it doesn’t do enough to innovate in terms of its storyline it’s still incredibly well put together and the living breathing world it throws at you is a constant joy to explore far making up it.