Grand Theft Auto V (2013)

I Gotta Go Meditate.  Or Masturbate.  Or Both.

Grand Theft Auto V (2013)The game I’m reviewing today is from a series I have liked.  LIKED!  But I’ve always had some level of irritation with the series because of everyone else’s reactions to the game.  Many people act like past entries in this series are some of the greatest video games of all times.  In fact, last I had heard one of these games overthrew one of the Zelda games to become the highest rated game of all time, a title I still staunchly oppose.  These games have all been typically fun, but I’ve never really found any value in the game beyond occasionally hopping back in to relieve stress by blowing up random things in a city.  But they’ve released another one, and it’s already saddened me by breaking world records and selling over $1 billion in the first three days.  …sigh…  Well, let’s see if it’s worth all this as I review Grand Theft Auto V, developed by Rockstar North, published by Rockstar Games, and including the voices of Shawn Fonteno, Ned Luke, Steven Ogg, Jay Klaitz, Gerald Johnson, Jonathan Walker, Vicki van Tassel, Michal Sinnott, Danny Tamberelli, Julian Gamble, Robert Bogue, David Mogentale, Matthew Maher, and Bryan Scott Johnson.

Nine years ago, a bank robbery went wrong, leaving Brad dead, Trevor Philips (Steven Ogg) on the run, and Michael Townley (Ned Luke) in witness protection.  Today, in Los Santos, San Andreas, Michael is living under the pseudonym of Michael De Santa with his wife Amanda and children Jimmy and Tracey.  Franklin Clinton (Shawn Fonteno) comes into the mix while working as a repo man for a car dealer that sells Jimmy a car as credit fraud and Michael goes down to straighten him out.  Franklin decides that he wants get out of small time crime and up his game a little bit, and he thinks mentoring under Michael is the best way to do that.  But Michael’s got problems of his own, including conflicts with a Mexican narcotics gang, working with the corrupt FIB (FBI), and the fact that Trevor is still alive and if he finds out that Michael’s still alive, some shit could go down.

I think the biggest problem I have with the GTA games is that I enjoy games that are some simple dumb fun, but I prefer games that help further video games as an art form by having a great story.  Some of those innovative and/or story driven games never get made because they will never be as successful as a GTA.  The reaction of other people also bothers me with these games, because I’ve never seen what the big deal is.  Everyone acts like the GTA games are the greatest games that have ever been released.  I don’t even think they’re the greatest games the Rockstar has made!  Give me a Red Dead Redemption any day.

That being said, we should go into the story of this game.  It’s unimpressive.  I’m sure anyone playing this game will have absolutely no problem with that either.  The overarching story of the game is just about some bank robbers that encounter some wacky things on their way to one big, last score.  Sounds like every bank robbery movie ever.  And a lot of times it seemed like the writers were trying to use this game to push their agendas.  Some of the most notable occasions of this were some pro-homosexual parts, some pro-legalization of marijuana parts, and pro-immigration parts.  I have nothing against those agendas, but this game doesn’t really seem like the place to make your political statements.  And then other side missions were just weird, even for a Grand Theft Auto game.  Like the section of the game that turns into Franklin’s ability to take on skydiving missions.  The game brings us to that section by having Franklin have a Lassie moment with a dog, where the dog is apparently talking to him and leading him to a skydiver caught in a tree.  If you’re going to do that, the least you could do is have Franklin get out of his car in a massive puff of marijuana smoke before he sees the dog talking to him.  But though it wasn’t a very creative story, there was a lot of creativity in the dialogue.  And there is hours upon hours of it to listen to.  That’s not a critique, as if to say that there’s too much of it.  I’m just saying I’m impressed by how much writing they would have had to do.  But perhaps do something a little bit more interesting with the story instead of spending so much time on that.

The characters weren’t entirely creative either, but you do get three of them.  Michael seemed like Al Bundy if he killed people instead of selling shoes.  Sex starved wife, slut daughter, and nerdy son.  And I knew they weren’t going to go this way, but I REALLY wanted his family to be taught a lesson by the end of this game.  I hated every one of them and I really would’ve preferred that they all ended up broke and out on the street by the end of the game.  Or at least that they would get off Michael’s case.  Not that I agreed with the things that Michael was doing, but I was playing as Michael, so they were getting on MY case.  Thusly, fuck those people.  Trevor was a pretty interesting character, but I never felt like I wanted to play as him.  I just don’t have much in common with a psychotic meth head that will fuck anything that walks past him.  I’ve always been more into cocaine than meth.  I preferred playing as Franklin, just because he was the nicest and most normal person I could use, but that also made him really boring.  Also, when he’s talking with Lamar those guys use the fuck out of the N-word.  It’s just about every other word.  Also, is this game trying to indicate that black people don’t know about convertibles?  When they get into them in the beginning, they seem completely shocked by them.  They even call them “robot roofs.”

The look of this game is so vastly improved from any other game Rockstar has made.  It’s hyper-realistic.  They captured the look and feel of Los Angeles extremely well.  Their map is also enormous, and varies the environment from rickety desert towns to industrial city to lush forests and even underwater expeditions.  It would be nice if that gigantic map would tell me which one of my three characters could purchase a property I was interested in though.  I don’t want to drive 15 minutes just to find out one of the other characters is the one allowed to purchase it.  And the environments also have a lot to do with the writing, like the funny company names and billboards, and the fact that someone put a Xenomorph in the ice in the Fargo-esque level you start in.  I was also a big fan of how they did switching between the characters.  The camera will zoom out overlooking the city and zoom down on the other character, like someone’s fucking around with Google maps.  And it’s made even better by the fact that the character you’re switching to isn’t just waiting around for you to jump back into him.  He’s living his life while you play as someone else.  Michael and Franklin weren’t usually doing anything interesting, but there was usually something fun to be witnessed by switching to Trevor.  He’s either waking up in the desert surrounded by dead bodies or waking up in bed with one of his male subordinates or stumbling drunk out of a strip club.  There were only two minor gripes I had with all of these things.  First: the size of the map made loading times to start playing a little ridiculous.  Why did I spend an hour installing this game just to spend 2 minutes waiting for it to start?  The second problem was with switching to characters.  Why the fuck do they have to change their clothes?  Why did I waste all that time getting them to look exactly the way I wanted them to look just so you could change it because I had to switch away for a little while?  That being said, $65 is still a great price for being able to make me grow a full beard in under a minute.

The gameplay in this was a little hit or miss for me.  A lot of it worked very well, and then there was the driving.  Most of the cars handled like shit.  I assume they were going for some super realistic thing.  I don’t have a basis for comparison because I don’t tend to drive like they do in this game, but I do know I don’t want to drive like this IN a game.  I’d rather be able to complete the races without hating life.  And I also don’t know how realistic I would consider it that I t-boned a car in a race and yet I was the one that spun out.  And the cars also take damage realistically, which is something that I also don’t want.  I don’t want my car rendered useless by the fact that I took a big jump and would’ve broken my axel in real life, or by pinning one of the wheels because I sideswiped a car a little too hard.  The planes were much more fun for me, but some of the flight school missions were just bullshit.  Mainly the one where they made me land on a bridge.  What kind of certified flight school would make their students practice an emergency landing on a bridge and not close the bridge off from traffic?  It’s not that much of a problem when the cars are small enough to drive under my wing, but when you let that semi-truck on so that it could tear the wing off of the plane, that’s just stupid.  Not just for making the mission more difficult, but I’m using YOUR plane.  And those missions that tell you that you must fly super low to the ground to avoid radar don’t make sense to me either.  You can say that flying super low keeps me off the radar all you want, but I think it’s slightly more suspicious that my landing gear are scraping rooftops.  A few people might call in about that.  You should really think this through more.  I also took a lot of issue with trying to lose the cops in this game.  Again, it’s probably more realistic, but it’s also very frustrating.  And shouldn’t diving underwater or being on the opposite side of a building make it impossible for them to see me?  And I liked the stuff underwater, and I agree that in real life there might be sharks down there, but if you’re going to put enemies underwater, might you be so kind as to make it possible to purchase a weapon that works underwater?  Spear guns DO exist in real life, y’know?

I also had a problem with the stupid iFruit app that I downloaded for my phone.  What part of the way most people play Grand Theft Auto made Rockstar think that the thing the fans wanted the most was an annoying Gigapet?  I already have pets that I am forced to feed every day.  I don’t need a new, fake one.

This game also has online content … or so I’m told.  All of my friends that play this game really want me to play it, but I just don’t feel that interested.  I played one race and left.  I’m sure the time will come for me to play the multiplayer on this game, and when I do perhaps I’ll review it separately if I have anything to say about it.  For now, we’ll just say, “I heard it was good.”

I also can’t arrive at any conclusions about the achievements.  I can say they’re terribly time-consuming to achieve, but I don’t think I’m interested enough in the game to dedicate that much time to getting them.

Grand Theft Auto 5 is definitely an achievement in gaming, and a record-setting success.  I’m not surprised as this series has always been extremely popular, but it’s never been that popular with me.  The story is lackluster, and I only enjoy playing it about half the time.  It seemed like the most recent Saint’s Row game and this game took exactly opposite stances on realism, and I didn’t care for either because of it.  I don’t want over-the-top, Matrix-like antics of Saint’s Row, and I don’t like annoyingly realistic Grand Theft Auto moments.  Grand Theft Auto IS a great game, but it won’t be making it into my good graces until it focuses a little more on story and has something more to contribute than mindless violence.  I do recommend this game, but I don’t need to.  I’m sure you’ve all already decided if you’re buying it or not.  Grand Theft Auto 5 gets “I’m rich, I’m miserable – I’m pretty average for this town” out of “You know, I’ve been in this game for a lot of years and I got out alive.  If you want my advice – give the shit up.”

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