Grand Theft Auto V Review
I feel I must preface this review with a personal confession: I had never played a Grand Theft Auto game before "V." I played the hell out of Red Dead Redemption, and generally believe that game to be the only reason why I purchased GTA V. I adored what Rockstar did with RDR, and now consider myself a bit of a dunce for not jumping on the GTA bandwagon a while ago. Well, I'm here now, my fellow gamers; fashionably late and straight cheesin' over the greatness that is Grand Theft Auto V.
There is a place for simple, straight-forward storytelling. Within this space lies the character that tends to be rather static, but bold in their chosen persona. GTA V stands firmly apart from this form.
The three main characters that comprise the meat of the story in GTA V are rich and dynamic. They all come with ancillary characters attached to them, and these "side" characters are constantly challenging Franklin, Michael, and Trevor. In usual Rockstar fashion, each of them represent some of the more extreme characteristics of American society, bringing to task the uglier parts of our nature.
GTA V is an incredibly biting commentary on the current state of our so-called culture, IF you are willing to pay attention. If you picked the game up for love of wanton violence, strip clubs, and high-class hookers, by all means enjoy yourself. But if you are looking for an intellectual joyride through the basest of human instincts, strap in my friends, 'cause s#$t gets real.
GTA V is breathtakingly gorgeous. The characters that occupy this game-space may be less than desirable, but the spectacle of Blaine County is game design at its finest. Not since Skyrim have I spent so much time marveling at the care taken to craft such a meticulously beautiful world.
From the urban sprawl of Los Santos to the Northern Cali vibe of Blaine County, every pixel is honed with OCD perfection by Rockstar North. When I was first let loose by the game, I jumped into my car in the anticipation of driving to the start of the next mission. I found, a good two hours later, that I was still driving around Los Santos. Traversing the different districts within the city is an absolute pleasure, due to the subtle changes in both major and minor detail; everything is taken into account, from architectural differences to the quality of the road.
If the city isn't your cup of GTA tea, the remaining mountainous sprawl of Blaine County is guaranteed to tickle your outdoor fancy. I don't believe I've ever had so many moments where I stopped to slow-clap at the pure scope of the GTA V map and its organic beauty. Even if the rest of the game sucked (which it doesn't), the beauty and freedom to explore this world would more than make up for any failings.
If the visual glory that is contained within GTA V could be considered the bulk of what makes the game an aesthetically delicious cake, the audio is a badass cream cheese frosting. As always, GTA serves as an assault on the senses, constantly throwing visual and auditory stimuli at you throughout a play-session.
GTA V sports an excellent voice acting cast that truly brings this world to life with their over-the-top conversation pieces and natural delivery. I was convinced by each character from the first moment I was introduced; this speaks volumes about both the actors and the script. There can be some repetitive lines uttered by both NPC's and the main characters, but that is to be expected when similar events happen so often during exploration.
The classic GTA radio is back, sporting a rather basic selection of music, devoid of anything spectacular and full of the pop mediocrity our world so desires. I can't blame Rockstar for this, it's not their fault most Americans lack any real musical taste.
I never truly understood why GTA was such a cultural phenomenon, until now. There is no real protagonist to be found in these stories, no true hero. Every character is just as despicable as the next. Sure, you could make the argument that they are all just doing what they can to survive, but I think we all know how much BS that excuse is. GTA V is chock full of terrible human beings, but therein lies the genius of what Rockstar has created.
Because we all understand, going into the GTA experience, that none of these characters truly possess any real nobility that needs to be preserved, our inhibitions and general moral compass tend not to exist in the gamespace; effectively relieving us from moral qualms and a sense of right and wrong. Traditionally, when given the role of a noble hero, the choice to go rogue has some weight attached to it. Yeah...that's not a problem in GTA V.
This utter lack of morality is what makes the game so damn exciting. If I want to destroy every life form in Blaine County, I can (and will, eventually). This freedom on its own is liberating, but when combined with some of the best physics in the industry, you are let off the proverbial gamer-chain.
I first realized the absolute beauty of said physics when I was speeding along the water on a jet-ski and I side-swiped a speed boat. The character I was currently occupying (Michael) behaved properly! The impact jarred him in the correct direction, snapped his head back, launched him in the air a distance proportional to velocity, and skimmed him across the water to a rather brutal end. It's hard for me to describe how absolutely fantastic it is to see a developer take the time to make that happen.
That same excellence is applied to the rest of the game as well. Gunplay is most excellent. Mission structure is both intriguing and exhilarating. Flying is a bit jenky, but rarely is it ever done well. The five years Rockstar North took to craft these mechanics were well worth the wait.
I fully recognize that support for current-gen consoles will go on well into 2016, but I find it hard not to see GTA V as the swan song for both the Xbox 360 and the PS3. Not only does the game push both consoles to the very limit, but it combines some of the greatest attributes known to gaming (thus far) into one hell of an opus.
There is not doubt in my mind that GTA V, despite it becoming the new scapegoat for American stupidity, will be a Game of the Year candidate. I would go so far as to say it will be a shoe-in, but Last of Us was most excellent.