The “Grand Theft Auto” (or GTA) series has often credited itself as being the biggest, most immersive, and overall best open-world games, and for good reason. Previous releases in the series like “GTA: San Andreas”, “GTA III”, and “GTA: Vice City” are among the most influential games in the genre. Unfortunately, after the release of “GTA IV” in 2008, many were left disappointed. Although the game was critically acclaimed, many fans of the series were left with a bad taste in their mouth when the game didn’t live up to the precedent set by the previous games. So after “GTA V” was announced in October of 2011, gamers everywhere expected a game that would bring together everything that made the past games great, correct any mistakes made in previous titles, bring new concepts to the series, and set the bar high for future games to come.
After spending hours upon hours playing this game and doing everything from planning and executing complex and over-the-top heists, to playing a round of golf, to flying a crop duster into a cargo plane’s hold in midair, I can say without hesitation that this game has exceeded every expectation I’ve had.
The franchise’s writers have always taken a sharp, satiric tone towards various aspects of American life, be it the american dream in “GTA IV”, or the seedy, “Miami Vice”-esque lifestyle of 80’s Florida in “Vice City”, and “GTA V” is no different. This release targets the superficial aspects of America following the economic crisis, and emphasizes the lengths that people will go to make some dough. Nothing is safe from ridicule in this game. Both liberals and conservatives alike are made fun of, as are video games, celebrities, the rich and the poor, and “generation Z”. The lampooning of modern culture occurs throughout the game in many forms, from the hilariously crass in-game radio and TV shows to the interactions one may have with people on the city streets.
Each character is vastly different, and how the three characters’ stories are linked gives the game a varied and interesting storyline, and allows each character to specialize in certain types of missions based on their personality, lifestyle, and specialties. The game’s protagonists each represent an area found in Los Santos and the surrounding counties. Michael, who is a 40-year-old retired bank robber, represents the materialistic upper class neighborhood of Vinewood. Franklin represents the gang culture of Los Santos, while the crazed meth-selling Trevor stands in for the sparsely populated, biker-gang-filled rural area around the city. Although each character is very different, they are all brought together by their pursuit of money, and the heists they pull off to sate their hunger for riches.
Each character’s abilities complement each other as their personalities do, with Michael being a sneaky sharpshooter who can slow down time in order to line up shots; Trevor being a skilled pilot who can become extremely enraged and go into a berserker mode allowing him to take reduced damage and deal out more pain; and Franklin who is a skilled driver who can slow down time to weave in between cars while driving. These abilities allow them to work together seamlessly during heists and other levels.
The ability to switch between characters throughout the game and on certain missions is a very unique and gives the player the ability to play certain levels as different characters, and to explore the in game world as three drastically different people. The act of switching to another character itself is interesting, as it allows for players to have a little peek into each character’s life, like when Franklin is shown exiting a medical marijuana clinic, or when the deranged Trevor is shown holding a gang member over a highway by his shirt and dropping him into oncoming traffic. The little things like this really give the game an immersive feeling.
The game immerses you in other ways, giving you tons of side activities to do. I’ve taken many breaks from robbing banks or selling weapons, and played a round of in-game tennis or golf with a friend. The mini games hardly feel like a distraction, or like they were shoehorned in, as all of them are pretty fun and well made. These games make for fun distractions from the main missions in the game. Random encounters occur from time to time, with armored cars that can be robbed and purse snatchings that can be averted appearing as you wander the streets of Los Santos.
Overall, GTA V is an insanely fun and immersive game that can be played for hours upon hours, and never seem dull. It improved where the last game dropped the ball, and implemented many new features as well. The story gives an interesting look into what commonly motivates all people in this day and age, and satirizes it. The game also gives the player an enormous and extremely detailed environment to explore. I’d recommend this game to anyone who has $60, a game console, and over 100 hours of their life to spend.