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Grand Theft Auto 5 Review: More than tits and violence

Matt-liebl-profile

Posted by: Matt Liebl

Gamezone Review Rating 10.0 Epic

Grand Theft Auto prides itself on being an open world sandbox where you're free to do whatever you want, whenever you want. Want to steal a car and go on a joyride? You can do that. Want to play tennis? You can do that too. Want to get a lapdance from two girls at once at the local strip club? Heck, you can do that also (just don't let the bouncers catch you touching them).

Grand Theft Auto V, Rockstar Games' latest installment in the longstanding franchise, still offers you all those freedoms, but with a particular emphasis on storytelling and character development.

See, Grand Theft Auto V isn't just tits. It isn't just violence. Yes, those are very much parts of the game, but beneath the surface is a much deeper story about three drastically different characters who, despite being terrible people, offer their own unique perspective on the harsh realities of life in a city that parodies modern society.

A first for the series, GTA V allows you to play as three individual characters: Michael, a formal successful bank robber now in retirement and forced to live under the witness protection after a failed heiest; Franklin, a young, up-and-coming gangbanger looking to get out of the projects; and Trevor, a sociopathic meth dealer who has no qualms about killing. Each of these characters is tied to an overarching plot, and it's their individual tendencies and personalities that make Grand Theft Auto V an entertaining joyride.

GTA V

Along the main narrative, you're free to switch between any of the three main protagonists. Doing so allows you to take in Los Santos through the eyes of three very different people. There's an overarching storyline, but in between the narrative are side missions that further flesh out each of the three characters, turning these monsters into people that you actually feel for. They're despicable people, but they're also complex and nuanced.

Gameplay, at its core, is a variation of one main theme: drive to a location, perform some violent task (usually shooting someone), lose the cops, and drive back. Mission architecture can feel a bit generic; however, it's experiencing these tasks as the individual personalities that make them more exciting. It's the story behind these tasks that make them worthwhile. And while the overall format is repetitive, there are more than enough over-the-top action sequences to keep you entertained throughout.

Even the subtlest of tasks are enthralling for the simple fact that they are setting you up for something much larger. In between the big heists are mini-prep missions that involve you acquiring the necessary equipment to perform a job. For as menial as they may seem, they all build to a much bigger mission and knowing that will keep you progressing.

GTA V

Heists are by the far the big climax in the mission structure, giving the filler missions a sense of purpose. Prior to each one, you'll be given a number of choices: who to hire, how to break in, how to get away, and so on. Each of these decisions will have an impact on the overall mission. Hiring a lesser experienced thug may cost less, but you get what you pay for. The good news is that crew members gain experience each time you bring them on a heist, so while their abilities increase, their cost stays the same.

Taking advantage of the whole multiple protagonist idea, heists require you to swap between characters on-the-fly, allowing you to experience all aspects of the heist.  From sniper to rappelling down a building, you'll perform all of the crucial tasks, cranking up the pressure.

For as much as character swapping brings to the table, GTA is still very much an open world game. And to that end, Rockstar's presentation of Los Santos is flawless. Sheer massiveness aside, the city is filled with minute details that bring it to life. And I'm not even talking about the environment. I'm talking about the sweat that forms on the back of Michael's back when you run for too long in the heat. I'm talking about the unique cell phones that each of the characters uses to receive texts, emails, and phone calls, (or take selfies with). You can even ride the rollercoaster or Ferris wheel at the boardwalk.

There's plenty to do in between the generic missions. There are properties to buy, strip clubs to visit, hookers to "rent," cars to customize, and even an entire Internet where you can play the stock market meta-game. I've yet to master stock trading, but there are plenty of online resources where you can learn how to make a quick buck. Each of the characters also has his own set of stats you can upgrade throughout the game. And if all else fails, you can always go on a massive killing spree.

GTA V

Or you can simply admire the satire Rockstar has placed within the game. From the radio station talk shows to the in-game Easter eggs to the actual missions, Grand Theft Auto V is loaded with satire aimed at American culture. The game pokes fun at politics, social networking, Apple, hipsters, race, gender, and sexuality; nothing is off limits. But for as funny as some of the bits can be, it can also result in some awkward, uncomfortable experiences.

I had a very hard time playing as Franklin, for example. His particular story is loaded with racial slurs that made me extremely uncomfortable. Almost every other sentence contains the N-word. While that could very well be an accurate depiction of that lifestyle, it's something I'm not used to and it resulted in an experience that was both eye-opening and extremely awkward. For that reason, I played as him least of all. What's odd is that I didn't find the game's bland, sexualized portrayal of women to be nearly as offensive, despite the female roles in the game being regulated to prostitutes, strippers, and other mundane roles. Perhaps I wasn't as offended because tits and violence have been so much more prevalent in the industry. It's probably worthy of some more analysis in another article.

Grand Theft Auto V is a hell of a ride. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll be uncomfortable at parts. But in the end, you'll have a damn good time.

Tags: Grand Theft Auto V, Grand Theft Auto 5, GTA 5, GTA V

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