Grand Theft Auto V: A Masterpiece

The Review
The launch of Grand Theft Auto V (GTA V) has come at the end of a console generation spanning over eight years. Consequently, Rockstar’s latest title feels like an all-encompassing recap of everything players have loved about the last era in gaming. From bank heists to car thefts and smuggling jobs, the game lives up to high expectations of crime, while introducing enough alternative content to last hundreds of hours. Be prepared to sink a lot of time into this one.

GTA V differs from previous titles in that there are three protagonists, though it’s hard to think of them that way. Franklin the car thief, Michael the retired con man and Trevor the full-time criminal are each despicable in their own right, and together they set a dark tone for the game. This trio lives in Los Santos and the surrounding San Andreas area, a parody of modern day Los Angeles. The game itself is a satirical and cynical commentary on a post-recession America, and GTA V nails both the humor and realistic nature of such an environment. The city of Los Santos feels alive, from swearing pedestrians diving out of the way as cars race by, to billboards advertising fake items based on those in today’s America. Most of the time I spent in the game was merely in free roam, admiring the intricate details woven into each asset of Los Santos. Car dealerships, gun ranges, landing strips and other properties can be purchased and function as additional activities in their own right. There is even a function on the in-game cell phone to take “selfies.”

While the setting itself provides ample character and substance, the game looks gorgeous and feels vastly improved over 2008’s GTA IV. Shooting mechanics feel smoother and more natural, and driving has an incredibly tangible grip which makes even a short commute to the ammo store an adventure (wipeout included). The best part of GTA V, however, is the high quality and quantity of content. From side activities like yoga and golf to scuba diving and piloting military jets, GTA V constantly introduces fresh activities while letting all players reach them at their own pace. There are innumerable ways to invest time into Los Santos, not even including the online portion of the game, which releases on October 1. The missions themselves are high-octane heists and shootouts, which take full advantage of the three playable characters to diversify the combat. Each member of the trio serves his own function, and becoming familiar with their specialities makes what would otherwise feel like overexaggerated stunts seem conceivable and just plain awesome.

One minor issue stood out, if only because the rest of the game feels like such a complete, tight package. The tone oscillates wildly between realistic and overtly violent. One minute Franklin engages in a massive shootout with gangs, and the next he is sitting down for a haircut. The quick transitions in tone pull the player out of an otherwise incredibly realistic experience. This issue can easily be overlooked, however, because each activity is so solid in the first place. After a while, this contradiction simply fades into the background.

The Verdict
Grand Theft Auto V offers incredible content, from massive jewel heists to triathlons and street races. Not only does Los Santos incentivise players to return time and time again, it does so with flair, humor and a substantial message about the materialism of society. Just be prepared — violence and vulgarity are aplenty. Somehow, however, GTA V manages to make that a part of its charm.