Grand. Theft. Auto. Those three words are perhaps the most powerful three in the video game industry. The release of a new GTA is not only a gaming event, but a cultural one. It's the one of the small handful of video games that everyone knows, no matter what. It's in a lot of ways the flagship video game, for better or for worse. I don't envy Rockstar. They need to constantly compete with themselves to top these Goliaths that they themselves create. it must be daunting. However, like the main characters of their games, they manage to somehow manage to crank out a bigger, better GTA every single time. Grand Theft Auto V is no exception. It's the best GTA game yet.
Rockstar have been known to draw heavily from cinema when building the groundwork for a GTA game. GTAs III and IV are very much inspired by The Godfather, Goodfellas, and any number of other New York crime movies. Vice City is a Scarface and Miami Vice-fueled 80s neon fever dream. San Andreas draws heavily from Menace II Society and Boyz in the Hood. Grand Theft Auto V is Rockstar's between Heat and an action-comedy buddy movie. The myriad criminal escapades of Michael, Trevor, and Franklin read like a lost Tony Scott film. While the type of films the game references were most prominent in the 80s and 90s, GTA V is firmly planted in the present. With things like financial malfeasance, celebrity worship, boredom with wealth, entitlement, identity theft, hillbillies, obsession with technology, juggalos, social networks, and recreational meth cooking popping up throughout the game its clear that Rockstar has a lot to say about whats going on in America in the Facebook era. Los Santos has changed a lot since the 90s, looking a lot more like modern Los Angeles than an Eazy E video these days.
We follow Michael the retired criminal asshole, Franklin the upwardly mobile gang banger, and Trevor the meth head gun runner and Michael's former partner-in-crime. when Michael becomes fed up with his boring life and shitty family, he takes Franklin under his wing and starts causing some ruckus around Los Santos. this brings Trevor back to town, and the three of them spend the rest of the game fucking shit up and being lovably horrible in that classic Grand Theft Auto way we all know and love. The stand-out element of the game for me is the chemistry between the three main characters. All three guys are incredibly well acted. I look forward to scenes when they get together and really play off each others personalities are almost as much as the centerpiece heist missions throughout the game. Each guy also has a handful of other associates who get thrown in the mix from time to time like Trevors adorable meth head juggalo whipping boy Wade or Franklin's fuck up "best friend" Lamar. Michael and Trevor's relationship is the main driving force behind the main storyline of the game, and Trevor is my favorite character of the year. The way they interact is simultaneously extremely antagonistic and full of love. They make the perfect duo for this kind of story. Franklin is sort of the odd man out, with most of his character conflict coming from him trying to better his lot in life, while his connections to his old neighborhood keep coming back to bite him in the ass.
Technically, the game is seriously impressive. I haven't been to LA myself, but anyone can tell the attention to detail that went into their surrogate city. Every neighborhood feels unique. The world also feels more alive, with police chases and gunfights happening without you once and a while and a decent variety of side activities for you to waste some time in. The character switching mechanic and the way it opened up the storytelling was completely revolutionary. I hope that it gets ripped off in other games in the future. It was the one thing that made the the most nervous about this game, and it ended up being one of my favorite parts. The shooting mechanic is vastly improved in GTA V. The shooting has never been this series' best feature, but i think they've finally nailed it. A lot of the shooting and cover stuff feels very similar to Red Dead Redemption, which is a good thing because the combat in that game was excellent. The Driving is also a lot tighter, thankfully. I know most people hated the way the cars handled in the last game, but i kind of dug how sloppy it was. It made everything feel like a big messy 70s style car chase. Customizing your dudes clothes is better as well, as you have a lot more variety than you did for Niko or CJ in their games. When seeing other people's guys, they never look the same as mine which is pretty cool.
I think this game is amazing, but there's still one little thing that bugs me about it. I think that the humor in the dialog is so much stronger than the humor that goes into things like the names of businesses and radio stations. I could never really put my finger on it until heard it brought up on a podcast. It almost feels like Rockstar isn't confident in letting GTA evolve past that stuff for some reason. Every other facet of the game is dripping in cool, down to things like the trailers and marketing that the sophomoric humor in the tertiary elements of the game is more of a distraction than anything else at this point.
Rockstar with this release have tapped into the things that resonate most with me when it comes to American action movies, threw them in a blender and poured out a bloody milkshake that impressed me with its nuanced flavor and smooth consistency. Okay, that milkshake analogy got gross, but you get what I'm saying. As if you had any doubt in your mind, Rockstar cranked out another near-perfect GTA game. If you're like me, and you love a good bit of good old-fashioned capital C Crime, This is the best video game from which to get your fix. It's the most well-rounded open-world crime game yet, and on top of that its got some of the best characters in action comedy history, video game or otherwise.