Right, after Red Dead Redemption II recently we got round to GTA V—both games are by Rockstar. From 2013, it’s still rather bloody enjoyable!
This is pretty much the biggest games franchise on the planet these days. GTA V remains the second best selling video game of all time.
In fact, the fifth installment smashed all sorts of records back in 2013 and garnered mass critical acclaim.
And we only played through it in June 2020. Huzzah! Well, was it worth the wait? Indeed it was, it’s a fun old daft violent thing. Packed full of satire and A Clockwork Orange style ultra-violence.
It was the first GTA since 2008’s Grand Theft Auto IV and advances the whole formula on a great deal. Which is generally to cause total carnage.
But the games are very plot driven. Like an interactive movie. And this time out (the last GTA game, for the moment) it was mighty ambitious.
At the start of the game, Michael Townley, Trevor Philips, and Brad Snider screw up a robbery. All three are presumed dead.
Nine years later we catch up with Townley living in the fictional US city of Los Santos. He’s sly but bumbling. Marginally well-meaning, yet ultimately a self-absorbed psychopath.
However, he now has money and a family and is in early retirement. He bumps into Franklin Clinton, a local petty thief, and begins to enlist him in increasingly dramatic heists.
Townley, drawn back into the crime world, then inadvertently gains the attention of Trevor Philips (living on the outskirts of Los Santos).
Philips is a complete lunatic and has all manner of psychological demons, but also a ready wit and occasionally simpering sensibilities.
Having believed his best friend Townley was dead, they reunite and maintain a frosty relationship. All while Franklin continues to up his crime game.
With Philips’ arrival, they begin to plan increasingly wild heists, get wrapped up with corrupt government agents, and generally cause havoc. All with the help of Lester Crest, a genius hacker.
And that, in simple form, is the plot! It’s surprisingly anti-capitalistic. The three main characters are vile lunatics, but their violent efforts are often geared towards a Robin Hood sense.
They’re intent on getting insanely, pointlessly rich. Yet, in contradictory fashion, rail against government corruption and big businesses hoarding wealth at the expense of the masses.
Developer Rockstar shifts player interactions between the three anti-hero criminals.
So, yes, you can play as Townley, Philips, and Franklin. You can shift between them at any time, at which point a rather cool camera tricks plays out.
The Grand Theft Auto games present a skewed version of reality. The games, essentially, let you run riot across society in a way a lot of people have no doubt fantasised about.
But can’t, otherwise you’d face long-term imprisonment.
The physics in the games is also rather pleasing, on an escapist front. You can crash cars in the most spectacular fashion and walk away unscathed.
The general aim is to advance the plot. There are missions you can complete, so you drive to certain map checkpoints. A cutscene will play out. And then you’ll have a set of tasks to do.
Between such missions, you have free reign over the open world. And in classic GTA fashion, that means you can run riot going on insane killing sprees.
That does draw in the attention of the police, but you can escape them with clever driving.
Obviously, the insane levels of violence are still highly controversial. In the GTA world, we find its so ridiculous and absurd it’s quite removed from reality.
Although the game mimics the real human world, it’s all so over the top we couldn’t connect with it on a lifelike level. Which helped desensitise the violence.
Whereas in Red Dead Redemption II, it’s the opposite. It is rather lifelike at times and some of the brutal violence we found genuinely disturbing. As we’re precious lefty snowflakes.
Anyway, the game is big. At the time, seven years back now, it was a pretty landmark achievement in its scope.
Various games have since bettered it on a technical front, not least with Rockstar’s Red Redemption II.
However, and crucially, GTA V is a bit more fun than that. It’s aware of how ridiculous it is and, with Rockstar’s legendary dark sense of humour, it plays out like an ultra-violent version of The Italian Job.
Your quest leads to one final major bank heist to secure a mass of wealth. Unoriginal, sure, but the characters are engaging—psychotically charismatic, as with Goodfellas.
And that’s why it’s so much fun. The missions are typically excellent and a blast to indulge in. The humour is always there. The voice acting is great. The dialogue sharp.
The way each time you swap character there’s a brief introductory moment. It shows us what the character you’re taking over has been up to whilst you were away.
In the case of Trevor Philips (a hard partying alcoholic), that’s all manner of strange antics. Often including him waking up in his underwear at precarious angles.
Plus, there’s the entire world around you to engage with. Over 600 vehicles in total, all of which you can drive from a POV perspective, if you choose. Including planes and helicopters.
So, in short, you’re dumped into this wild world and can run riot in it. With zero of the real-life consequences you’d face. And a free ticket to get yourself killed over and over.
It’s not a big surprise the series is such a hit. Although, despite that, we wouldn’t class the game as 10/10 fair. It’s great, but somewhat repetitive at times.
But as a crazy romp around a semi-realistic world, until GTA VI comes along we don’t think anyone will top its sense of bloodthirsty grandiosity.