Grand Theft Auto’s legacy is paved with film references, sharp writing, controversy and a loyal community willing to stand for hours at midnight to get their copy the minute it releases.
Grand Theft Auto and its ability to indulge in our most sociopathic tendencies and thoughts has captivated the minds of gamers for decades. Since the release of “Grand Theft Auto IV” (GTA V) in 2008, and the mixed fan reception of its realistic gameplay and tone, the developer has released critical darlings and mediocre games every year since then.
The fifth iteration of Grand Theft Auto arrived in stores Sept. 17, and it promises the biggest Grand Theft Auto game yet. So, does the legacy of Grand Theft Auto continue, or has it been crushed under the weight of its own ambition?
Rockstar North, GTA V’s developer, has seemingly done the impossible and created a game that cohesively approaches a game narrative that features three playable protagonists.
The game begins in fictionalized Los Angeles with Franklin and his aspirations to accrue enough money to leave his working class lifestyle in the ghetto. Michael, a former bank robber, is in the upper echelon of income. He exemplifies the nuclear family gone awry, as they are victims of the postmodern world and its frailties. Trevor, one of Michael’s past demons, is as unpredictable and short-fused as a mental patient.
The player is able to switch between the characters at will, as long as they aren’t being chased by the police or the mission isn’t restricting it, and it makes the game’s pacing that much more quick and immediate. Each aforementioned character acts independently of the player’s actions, so when you switch to another protagonist, they may be sitting on a rooftop having a beer, or perhaps stopping a fight from breaking out.
The swapping mechanic also sheds light on the narrative and the characters as one event takes place, and the swap allows each character to say their piece on how they feel about it.
The map of GTA V is the largest map of any other Rockstar game, and those moments create an emotionally grander world.
The tone of GTA V remains to be an exaggerated realism as cars and people move just as they would in the real world. The violence on display is less “Scarface” and more “Goodfellas,” where the violence reveals aspects and qualities about characters. In addition, driving has been drastically improved since GTA IV, as they have become much more loose and flowing. The vehicles, guns and three protagonists are customizable to suit the player’s preferences, and while it isn’t as extensive as it was in “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,” it is a step-up from the previous iteration.
There is a wealth of activities that the player can participate in GTA V, including tennis, golf, biking, riding a roller coaster, or seeing a short film. There are also side missions that range from getting photos for paparazzi, making deals with investors and even starting a drug empire. There is almost an overabundance of side-activities to complete in GTA V, and each mission has a rating system that awards bronze, silver and gold medals.
For a game that prides itself on unexpected player actions to create “movie moments,” it’s concerning to see a rating system to which it is recommended players adhere. Also, the absence of a reload mission makes for poor design for those that wish to get gold on all of the GTA V missions.
Much of GTA V’s gameplay remains the same. The same button gets you in the car, the same button shoots from said car and the same button locks onto a target. The addition of a weapon wheel, influenced by “Red Dead: Redemption,” allows for much quicker weapon selection. The different protagonists have their own special ability that usually amounts to slowing down time while shooting or driving. They are underlying mechanics that can be used in a pinch or a moment of intensity. However, the D-pad has multiple functions depending on what weapon you’re using and what car your driving, and the result can be frustrating when you’re trying to detonate a bomb and you instead bring up radio stations.
GTA V is a culmination of gameplay and narrative design that demonstrates just how far, visually, the current generation of consoles can be pushed. Rockstar North deserves all of the praise for “Grand Theft Auto V,” and it is certainly a game of the year contender alongside “Bioshock: Infinite” and “The Last of Us.” Check back in early October for the “Grand Theft Auto Online” review.
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