Grand Theft Auto V Review
I’m back at it this week and you should start to see a host of new content hitting the blog. I’m going to start out the week by giving you my thoughts on the game that everybody is talking about. Grand Theft Auto V.
First let me say that Grand Theft Auto V is hands down the most impressive technical achievement we have or will see on the current generation of consoles. I think that having the mandatory 8 GB install helps some of the magic happen but it happens none the less. Los Santos is a dense place with something happening at all times at nearly every location. This game is a must play simply to experience the city itself. It’s a great location and I never got tired of revisiting familiar places or exploring new areas.
The game is packed with content. I mainly did story missions and that still clocked in at 30 hours plus. Side missions can add even more time to the play clock. This game truly gives you the option of how deep you want to immerse yourself in the setting without punishing you for wanting to stick to the story. I must add that the tennis game itself is a joy to play. I would argue that the tennis mini-game found in GTA V is just as good if not better than some game actually devoted just to tennis. You can tell a tremendous amount of work went into nearly every aspect of the title.
The game features three main characters. All three are generally likable but ultimately terrible people. Trevor is a young African American looking for a way out of gang life at any cost. Michael is a retired bank robber that is utterly miserable with his family life. Trevor is an unhinged meth dealer and was one of Michael’s former partners. The three make an odd group and one that is compelling to watch when they are on screen. Trevor in particular is the best new character I’ve seen in any medium this year. Things tend to get very interesting and at times very disgusting when he is on screen. You never know what Trevor is going to do or say next and part of the fun in playing the game was finding out what he was going to get into next.
I would add that I ultimately I didn’t any of these characters truly likable. These are bad guys doing bad things for most of the game. The overall story is dark, unenjoyable and ultimately depressing. Most of what you see is a very angry satire of California and America as a whole and it is something that may need to be played in smaller doses.
A lot has been written about the negative portrayal of women in this game and I found that to be a valid complaint. Women in this game are not portrayed in a positive light. I wouldn’t call it misogynistic in my opinion because I don’t think the male characters are portrayed any better. There are no role models in this game. The male characters are just as unlikable as the women you just see more of the men. Obviously I’m a male and may be a little biased on this issue. I don’t think the men in the game were bastions of virtue and light though. Every character has a serious flaw that made them ultimately unlikable to me. Trevor falls into that category as well. He is a great character but I didn’t find him likable. He does some truly disgusting things and he isn’t a guy I would want to hang out with let alone meet. Every single character in the game is a terrible person.
I’m surprised that the portrayal of women was more of an issue than some of the language in the game. Franklin and his friend Lamar drop racial slurs by the bucket load. I was a little surprised at the frequency that one particular word was used and it made me uncomfortable. Rockstar did use former and in some cases current gang members to record the dialogue so I have no doubt it is authentic. It’s just another thing to be aware of in deciding if this game is for you. I did find it off putting.
The gameplay itself is what I found to be the weakest component of the game. Driving is better and less floaty than it was in GTA IV. It wasn’t nearly as fun to drive around the world as it was in Saints Row The Third or Sleeping Dogs though. I would say the GTA driving mechanics are more of a sim mechanic than an arcade mechanic so it comes down to preference ultimately. I didn’t have trouble navigating the world so it didn’t take away from the experience. It just wasn’t exciting.
The flight controls are another matter entirely. I think if they do another game they should overhaul this area next. I never really felt like I was in total control of the various helicopters or airplanes in the game. The controls seemed to be needlessly complex. It’s a little easier than controlling air vehicles than it is in the Battlefield series but it is in the same ballpark. That isn’t a good ballpark to be in. Also some missions require you to land on what seems like an incredibly tiny area. It seems to demand a degree of precision that I found difficult to obtain with the controls I was given. The forgiving mission check point system made the controls less of an issue.
Gunplay feels good generally. I was surprised how little guns were used overall. There are several firearms you can buy but I found little difference (except for the fully automatic pistol) in how the different weapons in a class handled. The targeting system generally snaps to every enemy in the area so using the weapons is a breeze. It feels similar to Max Payne 3 (especially when using Michael’s ability to slow down time during gun fights) and is good enough to get the job done. The mechanics are starting to feel somewhat dated though.
I do have to note that I found police chases incredibly annoying. You now escape police by escaping their line of sight. That sounds fine except for the fact that cops continue to spawn throughout the chase no matter how far away from the original area of the crime you are. Later story missions tested my patience.
I would also like to add that although the heists were memorable and well executed I found myself having very little fun by time the game ended. I was just tired of everything and wanted to be done. This isn’t a title I would pull off the shelf to play again unless there was some type of DLC available for it. It was a memorable experience, I’m glad I played it but at the same time I’m over it. The last five-to-seven missions became a real chore. It’s just a very dark commentary that burned me out near the end with how relentlessly bleak it is. The game is funny but the humor is generally very dark and their isn’t a lot of relief from the story which ramps up the intensity with each completed quest. The amount of content provided in just the single player portion of the game is well worth the price tag though.
Grand Theft Auto Online also comes with the package although I hear it isn’t working so well right now. Rockstar will get that ironed out eventually. That is really the cherry on top of the sundae. I don’t have many friends that are into Grand Theft Auto and I won’t play it much or at all most likely but I could see it being a big draw for a group of friends.
Now comes the time to give the game a score. Despite all of the things I’ve stated I don’t like about the game I believe that Grand Theft Auto V is a 10-out-of-10. It is a stunning technical achievement on what will soon be eight-year-old hardware. The story is gripping and Trevor is a tremendous character. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience for me. I’m going to remember the story and the setting but I’m going to forget the gameplay. I don’t know how this game is going to hold up long term but for right now it is one of the most ambitious and best games of the year. It won’t always be fun but I think you’ll find it memorable.
I’d also like to make a plea to parents everywhere not to buy this title for your children. This game earns every bit of its M (17 +) rating. Letting your child play this game for 30 hours would be akin to letting them watch Goodfellas on a loop. This is a decidedly adult game and should be treated as such. Check back soon for my thoughts on the Battlefield 4 beta.