Two of my favorite moments from Grand Theft Auto V are a summary of its extraordinary scope. The first is from a midgame mission where I flew a plane into a second plane, fought the crew and hijacked it. After that, I parachuted out to watch the plane crash into the ocean and escape death at the hands incoming military fighter planes. Another time, while driving in an off-road buggy I was distracted by what looked like a path up the San Andreas mountain. It was actually a path and I followed it for 15 minutes to the summit. I almost ran over several hikers. One of them shouted at me, “Typical!” as if he was about to be run over by an ATV on the top of a mountain every hike he takes.
This could go on for hours. GTA V is full of these moments, both small and large, which make San Andreas, the city of Los Santos, and the surrounding areas, feel like a living place where anything could happen. You have the freedom to explore a world that is amazingly well-constructed and it also tells a compelling, thrilling, and darkly comic story. This is a major leap in narrative sophistication and every mechanical aspect of Grand Theft Auto IV has been improved. The cover system is now more reliable and the auto aim less touchy. Although the cars feel less like buttery tires and stick better on the road, their exaggerated handling leaves plenty of room to cause spectacular crashes. Rockstar has finally defeated mission checkpointing, one of the most persistent evils in Rockstar’s history. This means that you will never have to drive six times if you fail a mission again.
Grand Theft Auto V also offers an intelligent, hilarious, and incisive commentary on the post-economic crisis America. It drips satire on everything: celebrities, celebrities, middle class, the far right, left, middle class, and the media. Rockstar’s sharp tongue is a danger to everything, even modern video games. A prominent supporting character is seen spending most of his time in his bedroom shouting sexual threats at people through a headset while playing Righteous Slaughter, a first-person shooter. Grand Theft Auto’s San Andreas may be a fantasy but the things it mocks – corruption, greed, hypocrisy and the abuse of power, are very real. GTA V is a direct assassination attempt on the American dream. GTA IV was GTA IV. Its satire is also a result of the attention to detail that goes into making this world feel real and believable.
Grand Theft Auto V’s plot is a happy compromise between plausibility and absurdity. It sends you to ride dirt bikes on top of trains, hijack military planes, and engage with cops in bizarre shootouts. But its three main characters keep it relatable, even at its extremes. Their interplay is well-written and performed. I found the most moving and heartfelt moments and laughed out loud. The way they developed their relationships and how my opinions of them changed over the course of the story was what gave it its power. They are people, even though they are extremely f***ed up.
Michael, a retired conman in his 40s, is filling out around his middle as he drinks by the pool in Vinewood with a layabout daughter, an air-headed son, a serially unfaithful spouse, and a very expensive therapist. All of whom hate him. Franklin, a young man living in downtown Los Santos, laments the stereotype of gang-bangers while being reluctantly seduced with the promise of a larger score. Trevor is a career criminal with volatile motives who lives in the desert selling drug and killing rednecks. He’s a psychopath whose bloodthirsty lunacy was fuelled by methamphetamines and a very messed up childhood.
Each mission has its own story and a larger plotline. It’s due to GTA V’s versatility and universality that each character has his fair share of memorable missions. I felt different things about each character as their stories developed. They are not all the archetypes they appear to be.
The three-character structure not only allows for great pacing and a variety in the storyline but also allows Rockstar’s to separate different aspects of Grand Theft Auto. It avoids the troubled disconnect that resulted from Niko Bellic’s abrupt switch between violent philosophising in GTA IV and sociopathic murder sprees, more information here. Many of Michael’s missions are centered around his family. Franklin is often on call for vehicular chaos, while Trevor is responsible for extreme murderous rampages. Each person has a unique ability that is suited to their skills. Franklin, for instance, can slow down time while driving. This gives them an extra touch. It’s effective. Even off-mission, I found myself acting in character as Michael, Trevor, and Franklin. When Franklin was finally able to make some money, I bought him an amazing car because that’s what I thought he would want.
Trevor is a Rockstar’s “get-out-of jail-free” card. He provides an outlet for all his preposterous antics, murderous behavior and other bizarre antics that might not be in line with GTA V’s narrative goals. His violent madness was a bit excessive and tiresome for me at first. It’s quite effective as far as get-out clauses are concerned, and Trevor’s outrageous missions are some of GTA V’s most action-packed highlights. This is a great way to solve a problem in open-world games. It helps you avoid tension between the story the writers want to tell and the story you make within the systems and worlds. Grand Theft Auto V manages to accommodate both and allows neither to be undermined.
Switching between them gives you a glimpse into their lives and habits. It’s a natural and unique way to flesh out your personality. The camera zooms in over San Andreas, focusing back on the character you choose. Michael could be watching TV at home or driving along the motorway listening to ’80s music or smoking at the club. Franklin might be out walking at a strip bar or arguing with his girlfriend; Trevor might be lying naked on a beach, surrounded by dead bodies, or even drunk in a stolen helicopter.
You could do almost anything because there are so many things to do in San Andreas: tennis, yoga and hiking, racing on land and sea, flying planes and golfing, cycling and diving, hunting and much more. These missions can be used as a guide to San Andreas’ locations, and their activities. They will show you the map and encourage you to explore it on your own. San Andreas is presented in a natural way. The map is open at the beginning, which gives the impression that it is a real place that you can explore. San Andreas is like GTA IV’s Liberty City, which feels like a live city. As I jet-skied by, I saw people walking their dogs along the coast in the country. They were also arguing outside of a Los Santos cinema. I was also able to see them camping overnight on Mount Chiliad with tents and all the rest before getting up and going on a hike the next morning. It is amazing.
The atmosphere changes depending on where you’re located. Trevor’s trailer in Blaine County is a stark contrast to downtown Los Santos and Vespucci Beach. The full extent of it was only apparent when I flew out of the city over the mountains that I had been cycling through just a few hours earlier. It pushes the Xbox 360 further than it should, and it looks amazing. The character animation is the most impressive improvement since Grand Theft Auto IV. However, the world is much larger, more detailed, and more populous. Framerate drops and texture pop-ins are a price we have to pay, but they never detract from our experience. It’s a huge and flexible world, but it’s also extremely bug-free. I only encountered three minor issues during my first playthrough. None of them caused me to fail any mission.
The extraordinary sense of place that San Andreas has is enhanced by the fact it’s not on the map. It’s much easier to discover things on your own than following a map. Once, I stole a passenger plane from the airport and parachuted onto Los Santos’ tallest building. (I jumped from the top of the building and died accidentally. I forgot that I had used the parachute. I don’t usually mention that. While driving through the country, I saw a man wearing women’s underwear tied to a telephone pole. I was chased by criminals who stole purses from the streets. I also came across gunbattles between police officers and miscreants. These events add an extra sense of normalcy and remind me that things aren’t always perfect. I purchased a mountain bike for a very high price and enjoyed the views while riding in the hills. These moments can be captured with your phone camera, which can take amazing selfies. There are several photos of Trevor smiling in his underwear while he climbed a mountain.
GTA V’s missions tell a story, and it takes full advantage of the variety that comes with driving and shooting. However, driving and shooting are still very enjoyable. There are so many wonderful moments in it. I raced Michael’s lazy son across Vespucci Beach in one misguided attempt at father-son bonding. We are no longer stuck in a cycle of “drive here”, “find this guy, shoot him” and “drive there”. Even missions that might otherwise seem boring is made exciting by the possibility to play them from three perspectives. For example, Trevor could be firing RPGs from a rooftop while Michael and Franklin can flank the enemy on the ground.
Grand Theft Auto V’s most impressive and successful moments are the heists, which are multi-stage, large-scale events that take place on multiple stages. There are two options: one that is more involved and stealthier, which will hopefully attract less heat; and the other that is more chaotic and explosively chaotic. You can also choose what crew you want to bring along on the job. GTA V’s missions can be replayed at any time. This allows you to relive your favorite moments and try another approach. These optional objectives are similar to Assassin’s Creed’s synchronization challenge, but they are not visible the first time you play missions, so they don’t distract from your ability to do things your way.
Sometimes, your way will not be the same as the designers intended. Grand Theft Auto V can bend around you when this happens. However, it was prepared for my own brand of chaos on a few occasions. It will speed through traffic like magic if you overtake a car it isn’t supposed to. Even with the new stealth mechanics, enemies can still see you even if they are not supposed to. Sometimes Mission Failed is when you kill someone before they’re supposed to. Most of the scripting is invisible. But, when it is, it’s noticeable.
Some of the most clever writing is still heard on the in-game radio, which plays behind all the exploration and mayhem. One of the ads claims that there is nothing more American, more successful, or more masculine than a large wad of cash. We know that times can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be hard for you. Are you still able to access liquidity from your home? You are insane? A dynamic soundtrack can really build tension during heists, even if the radio isn’t playing.
Modern life is integrated into the game’s world to enhance the satire. Every character is dependent on their smartphone. They use it to trade stocks, call friends for a meet-up or send emails. Life Invader is a Facebook spoof that can be found on Interne. It has the slogan “Where your personal information becomes a marketing profile (that we can sell)”. Advertisements for absurd TV shows you can watch at home while enjoying a snort will be heard. Although it might not feel real, it is authentic.
GTA V is pushing the boundaries in sex, drug, and violence. Hot Coffee is a hot topic for moral panic. It is deliciously subversive and tongue in cheek… but it occasionally pushes the limits of taste. One scene is a torture scene where you are forced to participate. It’s an egregious moment that will be a source of controversy, even though it criticizes the US government’s use of torture after 9/11. It reminds me of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’s No Russian mission. Only worse. Other stuff, such as prostitution and numerous strip club minigames feel like they’re there because it can, rather than because they have anything to say.
Rockstar has a purpose. They want to create an over-exaggerated version of America, which is suffused by crime, violence, and sleaze. There’s nothing in San Andreas that doesn’t fit that purpose. GTA V is filled with sociopaths, criminals, lunatics, lunatics, sadists, cheats, liars, and layabouts. Even a man who is paid a lot to kill Los Santos’ most corrupt corporate leaders can still use the stock market to his advantage. It’s easy to see why violence is often the first option in a world like that. All the pieces fit together.
Grand Theft Auto V has a lot to offer. It’s a hilarious video game and a sharp-tongued, intelligent satire on contemporary America. It is a refinement and expansion of what GTA IV brought to this table five years ago. It is technically more advanced in all possible ways, but it is also extremely ambitious in its own right. It is the largest world in videogames, in terms of size and scope. There is also a sharp intelligence behind its sense of humor and gift for mayhem. It tells an engaging, unpredictable, and provocative story, but never lets it stop you from having your own adventures through San Andreas. It is one of the most outstanding video games ever created.