Grand Theft Auto V
A Huge Game With A Huge Flaw

Playing Grand Theft Auto has never felt so pointless. Let me explain.

Grand Theft Auto V is perhaps the most technically ambitious game I have ever played. The game not only stretches the ability of this dying generation’s consoles, but also the expectations of the players themselves. Just when you think the game won’t grant you a certain feature, it goes ahead and offers it to you with far more options than you could possibly conceive. Wanna go ahead and actually play 18 holes of golf, instead of the GTA-golf-standard picking up a hooker from a golf cart and driving it off a cliff? Well, you can do that, with surprisingly tight controls and customization options that rival golf games themselves.

And yet while all these expanded features are immediately available right from the start of the game, it presents an important quandary that often gets overlooked when gamers review this game: “Why am I doing this?”

In previous games of the series, Grand Theft Auto presented a world in which the possibilities were endless, but with a caveat: you had to work your way up to those endless possibilities. You’d start with 1 safehouse, a broken down house or an apartment room no bigger than a walk in closet, with nothing but the clothes on your back and the money you beat out of a random pedestrian on your way to your first mission. You’d see the mansion you can eventually get out of the corner of your eye-- the one with the storage room for your weapons and the garage big enough for that military tank you’re totally going to steal. These goals would be tantalizing, just out of your reach, but they’d be motivation: motivation for beating up that random pedestrian; motivation for stealing those cars; motivation for causing the random chaos that Grand Theft Auto so readily prescribes.

Without that motivation, Grand Theft Auto V is a hodgepodge of GTA innovations without any true purpose. It is a celebration of technical prowess without any viable reason to experience it other than the notion of, “Well, because you can.” Grand Theft Auto, which is starting to become the Madden series of exploding shit, is a game with tons of additional flair that provides no actual growth for the series itself.

That’s not to say that GTA V doesn’t TRY to give you that motivation. It’s just its means for doing so are inherently flawed and hopelessly stuck in the past. Instead of prescribing the aforementioned future mayhem as a motivator, GTA V does something new by attempting to motivate players with a more complex storyline. The problem with that storyline is that remains painfully grounded in pubescent boy predilections. While dialogue itself is brilliant, from Franklin’s Todd-from-Breaking-Bad-level enthusiasm to begin his life of crime to Trevor's Gus Fring-level murders in actual meth labs, the subject material surrounding the dialogue never evolves past the notion of, “Oh SHIT. We gotta kill that hooker!” Rockstar’s take on a criminalistic world remains painfully collegiate, as mature ideas that are brought up in the story (Michael’s growing pains between his own desires and the necessities of his family) often are sidelined for more EXPLOSIONS and SEX and MURDER and stuff! Side characters are still offensive stereotypes. And yes-- I’ve yet to run into a single, intelligent woman in a GTA game.

It probably sounds like I’m saying this game is total garbage, and not worth getting. And while I’d argue there’s no reason to get this game over past GTA iterations, GTA V is still a great game. It builds on the known GTA formula with an intriguing instant-switch between 3 protagonists. It refines the clunkier gameplay mechanics of past iterations and makes shooting things actually feel smooth and intuitive. It features a TON of mini-games, including golf, tennis, even purchasing real estate. And those incredible radio stations put every single playlist I’ve created in my life to shame.

Missions are constructed well, with a ton of alternatives for how you want to play them. The beauty of this iteration of GTA is that every mission builds to something, as each objective gets integral components for pulling off those perfect multipart heists. The instant-switch mechanic allows players to instantly switch between the main characters key roles, from driver to shooter to infiltrator and more.

On top of this, the incredibly hyped online multiplayer component really lives up to its expectations. Customization of your characters is absurdly deep, to the point where you’re actually asked to manage a personal schedule right down to the “how much time do they spend sitting on the couch” trait. While there are missions that you’re SUPPOSED to pull off as a group, the true pull of the multiplayer lies in the incredible abundance of havoc you can cause to the game and to other online players. It gets chaotic quickly, and you’ll soon crave a way to work up to a rocket launcher just to blow up those other assholes that rocket launched you up to that point.

In the end, Grand Theft Auto V is a game whose technical capability will probably overshadow the fatal flaw that the game itself creates—no reason to drive through the content. If you’ve got past iterations of the series and aren’t a diehard fan, then this iteration is more of the same. It’s a LOT more of the same, but still more of the same, with no real push to play it.

Grade: B

Stray Thoughts:

-The story’s actually quite good for one thing: quick and dirty stupid humor. That’s because…

-When you switch from protagonist to protagonist, the other two you aren’t playing still go about their lives, and have set paths and actions they do offscreen. So when you switch back to the other protagonist, hilarity can ensue. The best character for this is Trevor. I have never seen a bloodied man wear so many dresses before.

-The new police system is kinda B.S. The problem is that the means for evading police isn’t nearly as frenetic or exciting as previous iterations. Pay ‘n Spray shops are gone. Now, the only way to evade police is to hide from their viewsite until your star pursuit rating gradually drops back down to zero. Long story short, it’s a lot more fun to escape cops by driving high speed into a Pay ‘n Spray booth than it is to hide in a bush for 5 minutes. It makes less sense, but it’s a hell of a lot more fun.

-NAILED that Breaking Bad reference! I HAD to get at least one in there.

-The customization in this game is insane. Not only can you change the appearance of all 3 characters, but you can pimp out your car, your separate rooms, your computer-controlled posse you roll with, the food you eat, the drink you drink…

-Apologies on the lack of updates—a more consistent flow is coming. Next up, we’ll have retrospective reviews for the 2 games I feel have the greatest shot for claiming Game of the Year, followed by Beyond: Two Souls, and an in-depth analysis for which of the three I feel will claim Game of the Year

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