So, GTAV ya'll!
Now I had initially wanted to post this mudda days before, but... well, to be frank I am one shamefully lazy individual, and... that's all that really need be said. But I done did it, I finished it, I was able to translate my thoughts into words with just barely serviceable results. And now, I can finally share with the world my reasons for why I think GTAV is a sack of flaming turds.
...No, no, I actually really enjoyed my time with GTAV, and it's currently still my No.3 on my top ten of the years list. But, sometimes you have to lay on a little abuse to the things you love, just to show how much you truly love it. Right? That makes sense? Well, whatever, point is I'm criticising this son'bitch, because for as much as I enjoyed it, there was an awful lot of nagging going on in the back of my mind. Oh, why isn't this better, or why isn't this in here anymore, and so on. This is a long one, though, so... nobodies going to read it for one thing, but for the hypothetical readers, I must reiterate that I mostly enjoyed this game. But my oh my is there still a lot on my mind that I just have to share.
*Also, spoilers ahead!*
So, tough love initialising in 3... 2 ...
The lack of interactivity within the world.
This is the first thing that really dug into me as the game went on. Considering how GTA is slowly morphing into an ultra violent edition of The Sims, with the appeal of living life within their constructed worlds to be almost as appealing as the story/gameplay, I was disappointed with just how little there is to actually interact with. Watching the pedestrians go about their daily lives is still really interesting at least, and poking around to see how they'll react is one of many parts of what makes GTAV so impressive. I just wish there was more to it, though.
I wish I could actually just sit down on a bench, or give money to a homeless person as I'm walking by. There are dozens of shop displays you can physics with, but nothing you can actually buy. I'd love if they allowed you to customise the characters' home furnishings to some small degree, by buying a lot of useless junk you can dot around. There's a whole theme park as well, yet only two rides that you actually go on. I mean, it's still an improvement over GTAIV, with a theme park that was doomed to an eternity of nothingness, but even so. If you're going to allow me to ride a ferris wheel, let me also play whack-a-mole, or use a UFO catcher. Let me buy cotton candy as an alternative to a can of Sprunk to heal myself!
Each time I would uncover a little town in the wilderness of Blaine County, I should be excited to explore and see what stuff I can do in there. However, what it usually results in is the same selection of vehicle, gun, and clothing stores, only with a different set of surroundings.
There's an awful lot of buildings that you can't enter, either. Which even includes the burgershots and diners, despite being accessible even in GTAIV before it. And it's quite frankly pretty ridiculous that even the buildings you can eventually own are also just big blocks with textures. Of course, this could purely be a technical limitation... but it's something that would have gone a long way in helping Los Santos feel all the more alive.
Where ma side stuff at??
OK, so this is definitely down to, in-part, being spoiled by San Andreas. It's surprised how with each subsequent release of an open-world crime game, it only tends to make San Andreas seem all that impressive. I mean that thing is fucking packed. The world is obviously significantly smaller when put up against its contemporaries--which is also undoubtedly apart of what makes San Andreas appear ready to burst--but still, when you begin to list down the sheer variety of activities, it starts to look pretty fitting of the name Elder Scrolls: San Andreas more so than Grand Theft Auto.
What was especially jarring, though, was how all that stuff was all on the plate of one guy. GTAV with its generally superb three-character structure felt like the perfect opportunity to start stretching out the activity list and begin reintroducing the sorta stuff that naturally wouldn't have fit someone like Niko, or even CJ for that matter. Unfortunately, Trevor is the only one who has any notably characteristic activities; both Michael and Franklin have barely anything for them as unique characters to partake in. Michael in particular is also strangely devoid in the way of the Strangers & Freaks missions at that.
In any case, I was hoping that Franklin would allow for more of the rudimentary, more gangsta-inspired sorta stuff. Like getting involved in gang wars with Lamar, or playing Vigilante in a cop car ect. Michael could... I dunno, partake in some small bank missions on the side?
Once they start opening up the opportunity to buy properties, I was then expecting a whole set of unique missions ala Vice City and San Andreas. And while Franklin does at least have the occasional special taxi fare, and Trevor has his weapons smuggling, a lot of them of course are just a bunch of boring ''collect this truck'' or ''defend the building'' or whatever. There's no business management, nor (as far as I can tell) do you improve the business by completing the generic missions so you can get higher weekly payments or other possible benefits for example.
Now of course don't take this as me saying that GTAV is devoid of extra-curricular activities to get involved with, but again given the three character structure, I was expecting a little more in store to find within the world. There's not even any gambling, and while sure there's the stock market, it doesn't compare to the hours I enjoyed playing Texas Hold 'Em and Blackjack in RDR. Oh, and Flying School but no Driving/Boating to round it out? There's certainly enough races to undergo, even if they're all also incredibly easy...
In any case, coupling what I consider to be an... unsatisfactory amount of side junk with the general lack of interaction with the world, and it leaves Los Santos looking weirdly empty once the story's done and dusted.
Where's ma pool at??
I'm sure I'm likely in the minority here, but I really enjoyed the whole friends/dating feature in GTAIV. Now I must also add that I found it to be just as annoying whenever Roman would call you up for bowling bladdy lol ect. blah. But, the actual feature itself I thought was really neat, and it was a natural way for you to dig into some of the minigames while also learning more about the game's supporting cast.
While GTAV still gives you the option to hang out with your folks... there's fuck all to do with them! OK, that's a bit of an exaggeration to be fair, but what they have on offer this time isn't nearly as appealing. Rounding up the list of stuff on offer, I believe there's:
- Going to the cinema -- all the 'movies' are fucking awful, and borderline exhausting, to sit through. Plus for the longest time there's only the one available to watch.
- Golf -- Pretty fun.
- Darts -- just as easy and boring as it was in GTAIV.
- Getting drunk -- Bloody laaaame! Not only do you sober up so damn quickly, but the animations don't fall apart nearly as much as they did in GTAIV or RDR. In fact all the characters can hold their liquor pretty well apparently, considering how easy they find it to stay on their feet. The fun of getting drunk in GTAIV was watching everybody trip over each other, and there's zero of that sort of potential nonsense to be had in GTAV. The conversations are still pretty funny, as is the fact that you can potentially get the cops on your tail when 'drunk driving', even though you can drive as recklessly as you want when sober without fuss... so long as you don't run someone over.
- Strip club -- hehuhehuhehuhehuhehu... Nah, in all honesty it's quite frankly rather boring.
- Tennis -- Kinda crappy.
That's all I can recall as of now, and with certain characters like Jimmy, all you can basically do is play darts. It admittedly mostly comes down to the omission of pool, which was one of my favourite past times in GTAIV. Hell, what's even worse is that they still actually put in a pool table in that very same bar where you play darts! It's like Rockstar are actively taunting me, the rat bastards... I do think it's awesome how you can have all three main characters hang together and go cause havoc, though.
Also, why can't I hang out with Wade??? D=
Where's the point of Franklin at???
Franklin just... never felt like he truly fit in the grand scheme of things with GTAV. This was very clearly a game written around the uneasy relationship between Michael and Trevor, and Franklin as a result sometimes tends to come across as a third wheel, like he's just there; a thug who just so happens to share a friendship with Michael. This is most notably because he has the most uneventful singular stories going on in his own missions, and his relationship with Lamar in particular just tends to go in circles. They constantly keep bickering about how Lamar's an idiot, and how Franklin is abandoning his old lifestyle behind for his selfish ambitions, and... well, that's kinda it.
He's at least voiced just as well as the other two characters, but there was nothing especially distinctive about him. Despite being playable, he oddly enough felt like a supporting character more so than someone who's supposed to be on equal footing as Michael and Trevor.
And then there's Chop, who appears in I think one mission and then... well, that's him outta the way I guess! God, and I was so excited was you saw him sitting in the car alongside Franklin! I envisioned that he could help you out in combat, or at least would have a series of activities to play with him. But no, all you have is a tennis ball to play fetch with, and that's it. You can of course teach him tricks or whatever with a bloody iphone ap at least, but I unfortunately lack such a privilege.
One particularly awesome feature I thought up was how they treated the dog in Fable 2; specifically taking Chop with you and using him to find buried treasure or whatever around the map. Like, he'd start barking once you're near a new stash; fit it in as (yet another) collectable set! The least they could have done is allow him to tag along should you ever decide to hang out with Lamar. In fact isn't Chop supposed to be Lamar's dog in the first place??
Where's ma... The story.
/sigh... The story. I mean, what is it? I guess this time around it's much more focused on characters--even more so than usual--than an overarching narrative. Michael and Trevor's relationship in particular is what is supposed to steer this thing along. And in fact, the way they introduce both Michael & (especially) Trevor each are both perhaps some of my favourite story moments. But there are stretches in this game where... it feels like there's just no momentum, no reason to even keep going.
Part of it definitely comes down to no imposing antagonists. I guess the FIB guy comes close, but I was never... intimidated by him or feared for my character's safety, unlike when I had Tenpenny on my case in San Andreas, or Dimitri in GTAIV. The crew's quest for the almighty dollar works well enough, but there's also the annoying string of them all working for a bunch of people in the midst of it, and yet getting nothing out of it. The worst was that guy Devin; stealing all those cars, which I recall where pretty fun missions, only for him to leave you with nothing, and Franklin once again complaining about not getting paid and then doing nothing about it. Michael's family dynamic was also a lot of fun as well, only for them to disappear from the game for 2/3rd's of the whole thing.
The ending is also terribly anti-climatic and feels forced. Like, we've just done the Big One, oh but now everybody just suddenly starts getting antsy with one another because now we're also going to force Franklin to choose between killing Michael & Trevor, I guess. The way they present your choice just feels lazy and hackneyed... I mean the guy just shows up on your doorstep and then, welp, decision time!
So, naturally i went with Option C, because why wouldn't you? And then the mission plays out where you defend against the onslaught of Merryweather and co, which is a lot of riotous fun as I'm RPG'ing a PMC to death. But then, hey, how about we just brush away all those other antagonists that outright disappeared from the story in one fell swoop?
...Really? Considering the power and reach behind some of these folks, it not only feels pretty ridiculous regarding the ease it takes to off these guys, but the fact that there's no consequence for any of it is just... lame. Of course, the story had already gone on for long enough I suppose and they needed to wrap this thing up. But still, despite what is supposed to be the Happiest Ending Of All Time Yaaaaay, it ironically enough left me feeling a little down. Deflated, you could say. Like... that's it?
It's pretty undeveloped; even San Andreas allowed you more options at hand, and there's not even NOS. It's certainly an improvement from GTAIV, given that you couldn't even choose the colour of your damn vehicle, but again... San Andreas, ya'll! That happened, that exists!
Why can't I create my own custom outfits?? Considering how often the trio love to slip into something different, why in the Hell can't I set aside and save my own personally pieced together outfits?? Seriously, Rockstar.... seriously.
There's close to zero reward for actually collecting 'em! That, and there's still not even any sort of in-game assistance to locate them. I had actually decided to buckle up and collect the 50 letter scraps, but that involved me constantly darting between the computer in my living room, back into my bedroom over and over, and my reward? Fuck all. A mission involving a character that you've never met, with zero payoff besides your chance to kill him. I mean for fuck's sake, Rockstar. It's 2013!
There's no feasible way to victory by instead going on the offensive. Which is extra weird because Rockstar themselves implemented such a system in their DS debut with Chinatown Wars. I believe it involved you having to destroy so many cop cars and they'd eventually halt their advance; Sleeping Dogs also featured a similar system in play as well. Now while I do enjoy car chases involving the police, being able to actually fight back is something I've longed wished for in this sort of game. They wouldn't even have to disappear completely, either. So long as they could at least give you some time to breath, for them to stop their never-ending onslaught for a few minutes would be enough.
It would help give the police encounters a little more variety, and could allow you to at least consider fighting back instead of just staying on the lam. Otherwise, what's the point in fighting back at all? You're so fragile to begin, so knowing that it's just never going to end... it can make your last stand feel ultimately pointless, and knowing in the back of your mind that you could potentially push these bastards back would probably make it a lot more exciting.
The're borderline useless. So, hey, leveling up shit. Feels good, don't it? It certainly did in San Andreas! (echo echo echo...) It was one such feature that helped give the impression that CJ was truly (and even literally) growing as the story went along. Pretty much everything you did in that game had a skill attached, and each time you leveled it up, it had a noticeable effect. Some were minor, like car handling tightening up some, but others were more noticeable, such as now being able to dual-wield sawn-off shottys, or finally being able to move & shoot!...
Of course, they couldn't quite imitate how it was in San Andreas, because by the time CJ was at his max, a lot of his skills are what we consider the norm now. But nonetheless, that's no reason why they couldn't have implemented more skills, or at least give the base ones more immediate effects. Such as allowing you to throw people (realistically speaking; not Saints Row Olympics level) once your strength stat was high enough, or giving you the capability to take hostages once your shooting skill increased, and so on. In GTAV, they don't really have any truly noticeable effect, and most will have likely maxed out without you even realising it; they're pretty much the definition of superfluousness.
On their own, they at least help further distinguish the three characters, but if anything I probably would have preferred that they stayed at their current level. That way each character can forever feel like their own character, instead of all three eventually being a masterclass in shooting, driving, running, and being able to hold their breath long enough to swim to Atlantis and back.
OK, so... Rockstar at least learned of the error of their ways from GTAIV and brought back garages -- big ole thumbs up from moi. And yet, I'm often still so reluctant to take my own personal cars out for a spin from fear -- fear that I'll potentially lose it, including any money I may have invested in functional upgrades. They at least have the impount lot, so vehicles you've simply left elsewhere will (usually) show up in there, but why don't I have a personal somebody to bring me my car? Why can't give my cars insurance so I can use them as sticky-bomb'd rockets with no anxiety over losing it? Why would they implement these features in the Online yet omit from single player? Why Rockstar, why?! Oh why oh why oh why oh why oh w-
The outer-world Radio/Internet/TV Humour
It's bad. Like, really bad. There are barely even any jokes, just a lot of 'shock' humour that's meant to leave you roaring by how completely edgy and crude it is, maaaaaan. God, that America's Got Talent parody thing is quite possibly the worst of it all. It's all just so, so bad, and Rockstar should downright be ashamed of themselves for featuring such lazy, dumb, and utterly pathetic attempts at 'satire' within their game; even by GTA standards, this stuff is just... it's so bad.
The most frustrating thing about this is they can very clearly do a helluva lot better. A lot of the character interactions in the story are often really, really funny! Everything to do with Trevor in particular is fucking great! Frankly the Housers brothers need to lock up whomever writes that putrid garbage--preferably with their own material for extra punishment--and either hire someone else, or write it themselves. Because surely they're not the ones who also write everything around the side, right? Right?
Surely not... ?!
In a certain type of world, GTA V would go on to be a genuinely innovative open-world title, with Rockstar still at the top of their game with nobody who can even begin to match their brilliance. However, this is not that world; this is a world where Saints Row exists, where Sleeping Dogs exist, hell where even Mafia exists for that matter. And I'm not bringing them up to compare them all directly, I'm just pointing out that other games exist, and guess what? They actually pull off a thing or two better than GTAV! Saints Row has clothing & vehicle customisation nailed to the ground; Sleeping Dogs actually has collectables that are worth collecting; and if Rockstar would actually lay down the hubris for a few minutes and observe what else is happening in the industry, then they could start learning a thing or two from other developers. Nothing major, just.... why can't I create & save my own custom outfits GAWD. Of course, it's probably going to be tough to see anything over the giant fort made out of money they're living in.
Now this is once again the moment where I'm scheduled to reiterate that I still primarily enjoyed my time with GTAV. The driving is superb, there's a lot of truly memorables missions throughout the story (fireman heist mission; Blaine County bank robbery; chasing Molly through the airport), and the visual detail of the world is second to none. It's just that, like a lot of people, I happen to really like me some GTA, and I thusly hold this series to a particular standard. GTAIV was a little more forgiving because it branched off into a completely different direction, and I personally loved the story, so that made the removal of everything that we once associated with GTA much easier to swallow. GTAV on the other hand was very clearly attempting to bring things back to what they once where, to how GTA is more usually portrayed: a big, dumb power fantasy with oodles of shit to do. And it certainly nailed it to a certain extent, but... San Andreas, you guys.
While it's usually not the case and is often a blanket statement from people who are afraid of teh channnnnnge, this time I genuinely believe that more could have been done with GTAV had it not been for the resources & time spent with GTA Online. And although GTA Online is... oookaaaaay? I would have gladly exchanged all of that for more of what I remember loving so damn much back in ye olden days of your Vice Cities and San Andreaseseseseses. And on that note, whoo boy do I have a thing or two to rattle on about regarding GTA Online.