It was early on in “Grand Theft Auto V” that I found myself cruising down one of Los Santos’ interstate highways. Out my right window was a series of towering skyscrapers and to my left was the Pacific Ocean. Seconds later I scaled a hill only to be met by a vast desert-forest region. It was in that moment that I realized how massive this world was, and how high Rockstar Games was aiming with “Grand Theft Auto V.”
At its core, “Grand Theft Auto V” is just another entry in Rockstar’s blockbuster series. It’s provocative, edgy and extremely violent. However, it’s also bigger and more ambitious than ever before. It’s a story of family, friends and enemies, and the treacherous behavior that ties them all together. It’s absolutely enthralling.
The game follows the story of three similar, yet vastly different characters, Michael De Santa, Franklin Clinton and Trevor Philips. De Santa is a retired con artist in his 40s who goes about his days cooped up in a mansion with a wife that doesn’t love him, an air-headed, promiscuous daughter and a son who has the word “entitled” tattooed on his neck. Clinton is a stereotypical, young gangbanger looking to score bigger than life petty car repos. And then there’s Philips, a psychopathic meth dealer that at any time might argue moral boundaries in a shirt drenched in blood.
De Santa and Philips are former criminal partners that are reunited after a series of unfortunate events. It’s here that the plot is fused together, along with the introduction of Clinton. Rockstar has done a brilliant job at entwining all three characters into one main storyline, while also establishing separate, personal subplots that deal with issues such as divorce, materialism and, yes, even guilt.
The personal attachment you gain with each character is vital, as “Grand Theft Auto V” operates on the line of plausibility throughout its 69 story missions. At any time, you’ll find yourself flying a crop duster into the back of a cargo plane, waking up to aliens after a yoga session or even collecting a nuclear bomb underwater in a submarine. These outlandish missions are grounded, though, by an emotional plot that goes far beyond the antics of hookers and thoughtless murder, in a world that’s breathtakingly beautiful.
The inclusion of three main characters isn’t fully realized until you’re thrown into “Grand Theft Auto V’s” gameplay. It’s here that you’re granted the ability to switch between De Santo, Clinton and Philips at any moment, piggybacking on their special abilities. This addition makes combat much more suspenseful than the usual “drive to Point A, kill marked person and lose your wanted level” formula that the “Grand Theft Auto” series has so deeply relied on.
Missions are also boosted by a number of gameplay upgrades. Long gone are the days of unforgivable cover antics and checkpoints. You can now swap into and out of cover at a moments notice, and if you die during a mission you’ll no longer be forced to redo the entire thing. These fixes generate a better combat experience, as guns are now more responsive to your control and missions are less tedious. And if that’s not enough, Rockstar has completely overhauled the driving mechanic, erasing the physics that would blow up vehicles because of minor wrecks.
Though “Grand Theft Auto V” doesn’t suffer from a disconnect that it did in its predecessor in terms of storytelling and thoughtless killing, the game does shamefully suffer from a level of misogyny that seems to be highlighted even more in this installment.
You’ll also run into a hiccup in story pacing where you find yourself working for someone and then, without notice, your time doing missions for that person is over. These incidents seem like premature plot endings to what seem to be promising gameplay opportunities.
Gripes aside, Los Santos is filled to the brim with activities. There’s tennis and golf to play, property to buy, races to win and so much more. Oh, there’s also a virtual stock market contingent on story outcomes that players can earn money in. Rockstar will also soon be cutting the ribbon on “Grand Theft Auto Online,” which will bring hundreds of hours of content to the table.
There are few times in any console generation that a game comes along with such hype and surpasses any and all of it. But “Grand Theft Auto V” has done just that. There’s no such thing as a “perfect game,” but this game is a masterpiece that will influence game design for years to come. It is absolutely deserving of a five out of five star rating.
Tate Steinlage is a sophomore in journalism and mass communication. Please send all comments to [email protected]