Gamers and fans of simulated wanton destruction had been eagerly awaiting Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V (GTA 5) for years. This colourful parody of the real world follows the lives of Michael De Santa, Franklin Clinton, and Trevor Philips: The Hollywood millionaire, the gangbanger, and the psychotic hillbilly, respectively. The three thieves each possess a unique special ability. Michael can enter a bullet-time mode in combat, Franklin does the same but with vehicles, and Trevor becomes nearly invulnerable whilst being able to deal incredible damage.
These are all arguably useful abilities to have during heists, a feature around which the entire story revolves. Each heist is planned and executed through multiple story missions with you being able to choose who you bring along from a list of encountered NPCs (with the exception of the three main characters).
Heists are generally something to look forward to. You can choose to be creative, stealthy and calculating (an option that GTA 5 greatly encourages) or reckless and loud. Either way, the ability to switch between the three main characters mid-mission (and beyond) makes for a truly exciting experience.
Beyond the heists, however, GTA 5 tends to feel disjointed and uninterested in making you feel empathetic toward any of the characters. Michael is a former criminal going through a mid-life crisis with a dysfunctional family. Trevor is a sociopath who acts purely out of desire or hatred. Franklin is the most relatable character in that he’s clambering toward his aspirations. The issue with all three is that there isn’t much to their characters. There’s never any meaningful catharsis or change, just the embodiment of the criminal element, which is fine. No one has ever entered the Grand Theft Auto series with expectations of witnessing simulated human nobility, all the same, it’s disappointing to be playing through three different protagonists and not a single one to really like.
It must be said, however, that while all three actors (Ned Luke as Michael, Shawn Fonteno as Franklin and Steven Ogg as Trevor) give phenomenal performances through voice acting and motion capture, Steven Ogg/Trevor stands out. mostly because he embodies the psychotic persona that players take on in open-world games. A desire for pointless destruction is completely within the realms of his personality which aids greatly in player immersion and in a way, offers freedom without the cost of being inconsistent with the character, a flaw so many open-world games possess.
It is a grand world to be immersed in. With such a departure from the gritty world of Liberty City, Los Santos and Blaine County has everything you could ever want in an open world game. If you’ve always wanted to visit Los Angeles but couldn’t afford it, then Los Santos is for you. GTA 5’s actual game world outside of story missions is where Grand Theft Auto V shines. You can browse the internet (a parody of it), buy and sell stocks, hike, sail, fly, rob banks, punch people, steal military vehicles and invest in real estate or you could just drive (following traffic laws if you’re really that bored) and visit the hundreds of stunning locations in Los Santos and Blaine County while listening to the various radio stations. The game even lets you use the characters’ phones to take selfies. It’s the little details like that that gives Grand Theft Auto V a modern, ironically sophisticated feel…unlike the vehicles.
Playing as the characters themselves sometimes feel sluggish and you’d generally expect gameplay to feel smoother once you enter the car you’ve just stolen from some poor, possibly bruised Vinewood big-shot-turned-pedestrian. Whilst you should note that cars have improved greatly since Grand Theft Auto IV and can now speed down highways like a car and not as though its centre of gravity suddenly shifted to the front bumper, they may still frustrate you, though not as much as the helicopters and planes will. Anything you try to fly will feel as though it’s fighting against you as if the game misinterpreted Newton’s laws of motion. It gets better throughout the game however as you upgrade your characters and train them to become better pilots, drivers, and combatants, just not to the extent you’d want.
Not that GTA 5 necessarily cares about your enjoyment. It holds no punches in its mockery and criticism of the modern world, from not-so-subtle jabs at people who play video games all day and leech off of their parents (so 50% of their demographic) to surprisingly insightful criticism of various governments’ uses of torture. It’s welcome critique to be sure, but when coupled with the insane amount of violence and over-the-top depiction of sexuality and objectification, it almost seems as though the game was made purely out of a desire to offend people. Mission accomplished, and in this day and age where people are simultaneously jaded and deeply offended by everything, offensive may be a bold and welcome theme.
Overall, the positives outweigh its faults and like a submissive seeking the approval of your dominatrix/master, you’ll find yourself going back for more from GTA 5 and its colourful cast. Even (especially) when the story is over and you’re free to roam Los Santos and Blaine County, racking up hundreds of thousands if not millions in property damage and possibly a body count, as you go through the various side-missions or clamber toward your own personal epic ending by breaking into the military base, stealing a military chopper and flying/wobbling off into the sunset with the cool breeze in your hair and the gunfire of an entire army at your back.
• Ability to switch between characters mid-mission.
• Complete freedom.
• Breathtakingly large and populated map.
• Successfully parodies modern life.
• Thrilling heist-missions.
• Immersive in-game world.
• Thinly written characters.
• Disjointed overall plot.
• Vehicles do not handle well.
• Abundance of bland missions.