Monday, January 21

Grand Theft Auto V Review

The version played for review: PC
Available on: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC
The price I paid: £13
Other Notes: I have finished the main story on the PS3 and PS4 in the past but seeing as I got it cheap in the steam summer sale I played the PC version for this review. Also, I will review GTA online one day but not today, this review will only focus on the single-player side of GTA 5.

The Grand Theft Auto games and I have an interesting relationship. During my teenage years, this series meant a lot to me. Just driving around or playing online with my friends gave me a way to escape from all my troubles. Thing is, as I grew up and started to look at the media I consumed with a more critical eye I found it less enjoyable than before. When I did enjoy the series I was a closeted teenager. Due to this, I found it easy to ignore the sexism, racism, homophobia and transphobia throughout the series. Then I came out as gay, then trans and along the way got to know a lot of women, non-white and LGBT friends. This opened my eyes to just how horrible this series is. After this facade was broken I found that the gameplay and world building was just as hollow. Now no review is free from bias, whether intentional or otherwise outside influences will affect how you process media. By telling you my history with the GTA series I want to be upfront and open about my bias. At one point GTA 3 used to be my favourite game but after over a decade of life experience as an LGBT person, I can’t stand it. I will point blank admit this is because of the horrible use of slurs, stereotypes and flat-out misinformation in relation to my community. For me playing almost any GTA game feels all too similar to the times I was attacked for my appearance, sexuality and/or gender. There, now you know my history with Grand Theft Auto, so let us move on.

Every game in this series since GTA 3 has used the same basic structure for all its characters. They start out as a small-time criminal with a violent and selfish personality. The entire point of the game is to simply go from small-time thug to big-time crime lord. Grand Theft Auto 5 tries to break this tired character mould by introducing 3 playable characters. Sadly all 3 characters still fall into the same mould and as such fail to feel even a little interesting. First off you have Franklin who is my favourite but only by a process of elimination. Franklin is your typical self-interested criminal more or less forced into crime similar to Vic Vance or Carl Johnson from previous games. Then you have Michael, the retired self-interested criminal who is forced back into crime. This character has been seen in Liberty City stories and GTA4 among others. Lastly, you have a favourite of Rockstar’s, Trevor the straight up psychopath. This take on the GTA protagonist has been previously seen in GTA 2 & 3 as well as Vice City. To say Rockstar lacks decent characters in the Grand Theft Auto games is an understatement and putting 3 in one game doesn’t help.

Then we have GTA 5’s attempt at satire of the modern tech-obsessed world that comes off more as old men moaning about kids these days. You have the dreadful radio hosts, reality TV shows and celebrities all mocked in a way that shows next to no understanding of any of it. All it amounts to is showing a really silly straw-man parody of something then having the characters say it’s stupid. This makes no sense seeing as the actual real-life version of what you’re mocking is nothing like your parody. Let’s look at GTA’s Call of Duty spoof Righteous Slaughter for an example. We hear Michael’s son Jimmy shouting sexual and obscene things at other players. Now, this could say something important about how hostile the online gaming scene is for anyone, not a cishet guy. Many people outside of that demographic are forced to hide their identity when playing online or just avoid it altogether because of this harassment. But that’s not the point of the parody or of Jimmy’s character. Instead, all it amounts to is moaning about how spoiled all the kids are nowadays hiding in their dark rooms never going outside. Which is absolutely pointless commentary that doesn’t even match up to real life unless your a middle-aged person completely misunderstanding the modern youth.

Well if the characters and writing are awful is the gameplay any good? For a while it’s fun. In combat, you can take cover to blind fire or lean out for more precise shots. This is obversely better with the mouse as with most shooting but the lock on makes using a controller more than possible. The driving is less weight based than Grand Theft Auto 4 giving you a nice balance between realism and fun. Vehicles tend to take less visible damage than in GTA 4 but do take on more realistic mechanical problems. It’s possible to leak fuel, set the radiator on fire and so on. I don’t really think the driving and damage is any better or worse than GTA 4 as the differences will most likely come down to personal preference. If you want your cars to look more damaged then GTA 4 is for you but if you like them feeling more messed up then you will wanna play GTA 5. Then you have the planes and helicopters. While a lot of these do start feeling the same as each other they are good to have access to. I’ve spent a lot of time just flying around this map both on and offline. While it’s not perfect with cover feeling a bit too sticky at times as well as combat coming off a little mindless due to the lock-on when using a controller the gameplay is still plenty enjoyable.

All of this gameplay is in service to a massive world with lots of little details. You’re able to get taxi’s to anywhere on the map, play the stock market, browse the in-game internet and more. The depth that you can dive into this world is very impressive and throughout the story, your actions feel permanent. Any characters that die in the plot will remain dead and character relationships will drastically change. That is except when they don’t. During a bank robbery, you shoot down a helicopter that then smashes into and damages a nearby building that remains damaged forever after this mission. But then lots of other missions will have you shooting down police choppers that don’t even mark the buildings they crash into. Outside of missions, you are not able to leave any impact at all on the world. You can ring a character up to hang out then set them on fire. This should have some impact on the relationship between the characters but it doesn’t. You can shoot up the queue to a nightclub sending all the people in the area running off screaming. However, you can drive around the block and come back only to find the club operating as normal again. It’s this lack of any real change that ultimately makes GTA 5 feel shallow and false when you really look at it. While it’s illusion of depth and realism is impressive at first glance it’s still only an illusion and one that shatters when you look too closely at it. Of course, this is the curse of most open-world games but I’d argue other similar games do it better.

See the thing is having characters that take visible damage or a working in-game stock market is all very impressive on paper but really it adds nothing. If we compare this game to Watch_Dogs 2 then we see that Watch Dogs includes details that add to the world and gameplay. The collectables are famous locations you can take selfies at using the ScoutX app. This takes you to most of the interesting places on the map and adds depth to the characters by having them all comment on your pics. Grand Theft Auto, on the other hand, mocks Facebook with the LifeInvader app but never allows you to use it. The collectables meanwhile are non-interactive pieces of a UFO. Finding these does next to nothing, no characters mention the existence of alien life and the world remains the same. Yes GTA5 is a very impressive game but sadly I find it’s only in the ways that don’t matter. When I play Watch_Dogs 2 I find myself invested in finding all the ScoutX landmarks just to get more interaction with the amazing cast. When I’m not photobombing tourist spots I’m on the Driver San Francisco app taking passengers on adventures. Listening to the well-written dialogue that tells me more about the world and backstory. Then we look at GTA 5 and after you’ve finished the main story it’s just the same cycle of going on a rampage, dying then doing it again. You can steal a taxi and drive people around but they never offer any interesting stories or world building. They barely even talk to you. The PC version of the game has mods which help a lot with the post-story longevity but only so much.

I’ve put this game down a lot in this review but this is just how I feel. Now I’m not a fool, lots of people love this game and I’m not here to tell you that you’re wrong. Continue to love this game and this series but please don’t make the same mistakes I made as a teen. This series is not perfect and it’s not above criticism. For me, Watch_Dogs 2, Saint Row 2 and even Retro City Rampage have bested the Grand Theft Auto series at its own game. I find GTA 5 dull with very little to offer. Now with a 97 on Metacritic, I know my score will feel low but it’s my honest opinion. I don’t think that Grand Theft Auto V is a good game and it’s far from a great one. At best it’s fun to mod but that’s about all I use it for now. I doubt I will ever play the PS3 or PS4 versions again as they offer me nothing that I can’t get in a higher quality elsewhere.

Recommendation Rating: 4 out of 10

1 comment:

  1. Grand Theft Auto V may very well be the greatest game ever created. This open world game will take you through a city of San Andreas, in which you’ll be able to perform many different missions, some of which will require you to break the law. Here you can check to learn and manage your constructions. The story will pull you along in each and every step of the journey. At the end of it all, you’ll be able to say that you’ve done something great.