For some reason, I felt compelled to do a write up!
My prior blog entry was a supposedly definitive top 10 games of the 7th generation. The list remains completely intact with the exception of the most recent entry: Grand Theft Auto V. It’s no longer in my top 10, 20, or 30. It was a game that I immensely enjoyed for the first while, but it has become of those cases where the more I play a game, the more I begin to dislike it and even become frustrated with it.
But of course, I wouldn’t be playing it continuously for almost three months if I had a strong hatred for it. The core game maintains to be enjoyable; the mechanics are the best in the series, as in they’re actually decent. San Andreas is beautifully designed, especially when you consider the hardware limitations Rockstar had to work with. The soundtrack is tits, and the dynamic between the three lead characters is enough reason to complete the story. It has enough good qualities to make you want to stay, just not necessarily enough to admire.
A truly great game is one where you consistently enjoy and marvel in its design, absorbing all the nooks and crannies it has to offer. In the case of GTA5, it’s specifically GTA Online, specifically free roam, specifically bounty hunting and fucking with other players for fun, driving around in my modded black Gauntlet like an angel of death. That’s it. That’s roughly a quarter of what the game has to offer.
In the single player; take a look at what’s available to you long after you’ve completed the story. You’ve got street races and off-road racing. Those can be fun, if a bit too easy. You’ve got base jumping, which is also enjoyable despite being completely the same as it was in Ballad of Gay Tony. How about yoga? Or did anyone actually do that voluntarily? How about those triathlons, where it’s all about tapping A to win? That’s a thing. Stocks too I guess.
Anybody else find it cool how you can go hunting in one particular location, hunting one particular animal? I think it’s awesome how I can’t enter the interior of the properties that I own, like say a movie theater or night club. I’m really glad Rockstar took full advantage of deep sea diving, doing things like collecting submarine parts, nuclear waste and... Well that’s about it, really. But of course, let’s not forget about the sea life you can interact with, like sharks, sharks, and even more sharks!
It’s very disappointing when all said and done. Was it too much to ask for the hunting system to be similar to Red Dead Redemption, a game Rockstar previously developed? Was it asking too much to enter the inside of purchasable properties, an aspect that was featured in Vice City, a 2002 GTA game? GTA5 gives you a bunch of these different gameplay options, yet the vast majority of these aspects are severely underdeveloped, serving as a poster child of the remainder of more not always being better.
Even more unfortunate are the different locations you can stumble upon and how they’re completely unutilized. Chances are you’ve dabbled in free roam, seen a casino, a race track, an amphitheater, among others. They all have one thing in common: They’re desolate. San Andreas had two different casinos you were able to enter and gamble in. San Andreas also had a betting shop where you were able to bet on horse races. It’s rather mind-boggling as to how GTA5 lacks aspects that were introduced years ago in previous entries. Initially I thought this was the most complete game in the series, but now I feel that the game itself is incomplete.
As for the main missions and storyline, it’s unfortunate that the heists were no more than glorified missions, and it’s even more unfortunate that those simple heist planning gigs counted as story missions. However, it’s not without some fine moments, and assuming you choose option C, the final mission is pretty damn fun. More often than not the main story missions are backed by some solid design and regularly consist of some exciting encounters and events. It’s also good there’s a solid checkpoint system. I don’t have much beef with it.
The story itself is weak, even by GTA standards. While their relationship is enjoyable, Trevor, Michael and Franklin are one note characters, not nearly as interesting as Niko or Luis from the GTA4 arcs. The history between Michael and Trevor is not developed well enough to serve as part of the central conflict, but it is. The other conflict is between the trio and some painfully uninteresting government officials and a very unmemorable billionaire. Devin Weston is no Sonny Forelli, he’s no Frank Tenpenny, and he’s no Dimitri Rascalov. He does not provide that looming threat, yet somehow he winds up being the main villain? Eventually you begin to wonder when the story is truly about to begin until you realize that this is it, and you feel underwhelmed.
GTA Online is the superior component, again because it’s very, very fun messing with other players, claiming bounties, and having bounties set on you. Modes like street and air races, survival and deathmatch can fun as well, assuming you’re able to find enough people to play. It’s also more in depth with character customization than the single player is, however the character creator in the game is nothing short of a joke, and the online missions feel very phoned in.
Free roam is where it shines. It’s an otherwise enjoyable mode that’s marred by a variety of glitches, and one of the most annoying, frustrating mechanics I’ve experienced in a very long time: The impound system. Seriously, fuck that system. The second you leave your car alone and there’s heat? It’s impounded. Die when the cops are around? Impounded. Then you have to go all the way to the impound lot and steal it back, again and again. Whoever thought this was a good idea shouldn’t be allowed to present ideas. It dampens the enjoyment and forces you to go out of your way to do something that’s just plain stupid. Paying a fee to the insurance company for destroying your car? That’s perfect. It penalizes the player without compromising fun. But the impound system? It’s a goddamn disgrace.
I’m also unsure as to what purpose crews serve aside from playing with your friends. Initially I figured it was for online heists, but the only robberies you can do are either on armored trucks or convenience stores. There’s very little take in those when you’re by yourself, let alone playing with a crew. There’s still a large chunk of GTA Online that feels unfinished and unpolished, and more than two months after its release it seems doubtful of interesting content coming into horizon.
Now, I’m not going to say that I didn’t get my money’s worth. I did, and then some. But I can’t help but think of what it could have been, or perhaps should have been. I still think it’s a good game all things considered.
But a great game? Nope.
Game of the year? No no.
Game of the generation? Fuck no.
Greatest of all time? You’re out of your goddamn mind.