The release of a Grand Theft Auto game generally comes with a huge amount of hype, controversy and anticipation.
This has never been the case more than with Grand Theft Auto V and I am pleased to say that not only does the title comfortably deliver on its astronomical expectations, it goes further. It's got everything you'd expect the latest GTA to have in it, but it adds to that layers upon layers of well-planned and well-executed joy.
Every time I've had a GTA V session, which is several dozen at this point, I've played for longer than I intended to, and either laughed out loud, cheered or involuntarily jerked forward on my seat with my mouth wide open. Or all of the above. It constantly delivers gaming highs that make it hard to compare to most other games on the market, standing head and shoulders above them.
If you've ever played a GTA, you'll know that going on a rampage is one of the greatest things to do in it. You're in a huge, massively detailed and well-realised city environment, enjoying the subtleties and serenity for just a moment. Then, you steal the coolest-looking car nearby, giving the driver a bit of how's-your-father as you eject them from their seat. Driving off as fast as you can without crashing, you spray some innocent passersby with an Uzi before, inevitably, the fuzz start after you.
Then comes the real fun. Depending on what weapons you've amassed, you'll enjoy a prolonged battle against police that sees hundreds of bullets and rockets and grenades flying around the place, punctuated by further car chases and car smashes.
It may be a parent's worst nightmare, but by jingoes it's good fun. And that's just the rampages, which are arguably better than they've ever been in the series. They don't scratch the surface of the hundreds of hours of joy that this game contains - heck, the game's massive central storyline barely scratches that surface.
Set in a fictionalised modern day California, GTA V puts you in the shoes of three major characters. There's Michael, a retired mobster on the wrong side of 40 trying to live the quiet life with his family in the ritzy Rockford Hills. There's Franklin, boy-in-da-hood repo man for a dodgy car dealer. And then there's Trevor, an unholy force of nature redneck psychopath.
The game's main narrative sees these three characters brought together to join forces and make money through crime. Discovering more here about each character and what happens after they get together to cause trouble would be far less enjoyable than finding out in-game, but there's a lot to talk about with GTA V besides the characters and story.
A delightfully huge array of American culture is skewered with the funniest writing in the series since Vice City. Liberals and conservatives are mocked as always but here LA culture, over-ripe for ridicule, is satirised mercilessly. It's never mean-spirited, though - hell, even modern gamers have the mickey taken out of them in GTA V. Michael's son Jimmy is a ne'er-do-well whose vices include Righteous Slaughter 7, clearly a rip on the Call of Duty franchise, and his online gaming behaviour will be hilariously recognisable to pretty much anyone with a current-gen console and a headset.
As with previous GTA games there are playable videogames within this videogame, too, and seeing as you can smoke weed in the game pretty much whenever you want, you can get high and play videogames within this videogame.
Speaking of getting high, there are a couple of psychedelic sequences in Michael's story that are particularly enjoyable. In them, he takes narcotics and battles aliens, among other hallucinogenic things, all presented in some of the best trip-o-vision rendered since Gaspar Noé's Enter the Void.
At least for the first chunk of the game's main story, Michael is my favourite character. His difficulties as a father in a thoroughly modern family are hilarious and at times something like Al Bundy meets Larry David, only with a very GTA spin.
Franklin is the most affable of the three leads, although he is still a murderous villain in his own right. Some have criticised GTA V for being misogynistic, one of the reasons being that every single female character is represented negatively - that may very well be true, but the same can then definitely be said about every single male character, too. Everyone in this game is an a-hole, basically, and not just because it's set in LA.
Franklin's storyline echoes GTA: San Andreas early on, even having direct 'Grove Street' references even. His friend Lamar is hilarious and provides some of this very funny game's funniest moments.
As for Trevor, this guy is an absolute monster. He's constantly angry, high on meth and threatening to kill and/or rape the men around him. The player is also subjected to seeing him vomit, urinate, defecate, fornicate... you get the idea. But in addition to the gross-out humour in his cut-scenes, there is also some of developer Rockstar's nastiest stuff ever written into his storyline.
Trevor's introduction is pretty upsetting. It involves him murdering a man in a particularly brutal way, then taunting a grieving family member with some of the body's remains. Later in the game, the player controls him in a torture sequence that is extremely brutal.
I sincerely hope that parents take the R18 rating seriously on this one. It's about the most adult game I've ever played - torture, drug taking, strip club lap dances… it's all there. The prostitutes are back and yes, you can kill them, like you can anyone in the game, so that sore point is still going to be sore for some.
For a few players, the outrageousness might just be pushed a little too far in this title, even for seasoned GTA veterans. It gets pretty crazy. For the vast majority of us though, it's far too over-the-top to be taken seriously and can be easily laughed at and enjoyed.
There are some things about GTA V that aren't perfect and I don't like. It's far too easy to accidentally jump into a wall in it, which is sillier than it may sound, police have unimaginably good aim while shooting at you in a moving vehicle, the garage system for storing cars doesn't work properly… these are some very minor quibbles I have with it. None of them are significant.
The only issue I have with the game that is reasonably important is the main storyline. Each of the three main characters are fantastically realised and a lot of fun to play, but the storyline that draws them together and propels the game forward is not as incredible as other aspects of the game.
Later on, many of the cutscenes are comprised largely of Trevor and Michael bickering, which is a little tedious, especially when compared to the constantly hilarious scripted interactions between Franklin and Lamar, or Trevor and Cletus, as examples. The ultimate conclusion of the game's main storyline is particularly strong, however.
As a whole, the storyline is great, it's just not next-level amazing like most of the game is, or the story in The Last of Us (the only other major contender for Game of the Year at this point). While the game may have not been nearly as entertaining as a whole, I actually found the main story of GTA IV more compelling.
Grand Theft Auto titles aren't designed to focus on the storyline in the same way as something like The Last of Us, however. They're open-world games in the truest sense of the term, filled with countless incredible little moments of magic to discover every time you pop the game on.
Like what? Well you can get into a punch-up with a shark, skydive onto Hollywood Boulevard, find out what happens when you walk into the wrong part of town, fly a plane into another plane, find peace through yoga, work on your golf handicap, spend far too long deciding what mags to put on your sports car, go scuba-diving, play the stock markets, go mountain biking, hunt some wild elk, kill a satirised Mark Zuckerberg or Scientology leader character… the wonders are endless.
Grand Theft Auto V is a landmark title that has set the standard for modern gaming. Releasing just before the console generation changeover makes it seem almost unbelievable - this is how good gaming can be right now, and in a couple of months it has the potential to be so much better.
I'm awarding it five car-stealing, cop-shooting stars - here's hoping we don't have to wait another five years for Grand Theft Auto VI.
Grand Theft Auto V
:: Publisher: Rockstar Games
:: Developer: Rockstar North
:: Format: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
:: Rating: R18
source: newshub archive