And So It Begins
I have a confession to make: I’ve waited an embarrassingly long time to play any of the Grand Theft Auto series. Despite over two decades of gaming experience, the first time I played any GTA game was when I started GTA IV three weeks ago.
AND IT WAS TERRIBLE.
The character’s personalities fluctuated constantly, the missions were unimaginative, and the whole game had a weird obsession with realism at the cost of enjoyment of the game. After gritting my teeth through five hours of gameplay, I finally put the controller down when my new best buddy Roman informed me that I could not use the game’s fast travel feature because he had run out of cabs.
Yup. Computer generated and controlled cabs were apparently in short supply.
As I wrote about my dislike of the game, I felt I was being unfair. After all, GTA IV came out five years ago and hadn’t games evolved since then? Reviewers and friends both singled out GTA V as a great experience so I decided it was unfair to judge a five year old game by modern standards. Instead, I purchased GTA V and will now embark on a reviewing diary of it. The idea is that I’ll play during the week and sum up my experience on the weekend. This is the first of those entries.
GTA V starts off with a neatly conceived tutorial mission. The player starts off as part of a group of bank robbers mid-heist with the aspects of the robbery serving as impetus to teach controls and concepts. It also unfortunately serves as an introduction to GTA V’s love affair with the word “fuck”. I generally don’t mind cussing in games, but it seems that the characters can’t get a sentence off without jamming fuck, shit, or crap in. Rather than feel organic and part of the characters, the repeated cussing just feels forced to convince the player that the characters are hardcore. This shit has a place, and it’s not every fucking sentence.
After the heist concludes, the player takes control of Franklin. Franklin is a young, black street tough who’s got dreams of making it big. Joining him in the stereotype parade is Lamar, Franklin’s ambitious and hotheaded childhood friend. Together, they “repossess” cars for Simeon, a slimy Eastern European car dealer. I noted that poor characters were one of my issues with GTA IV and that comes roaring back here. Both major and minor characters seem ripped straight from the stereotype handbook with little attempt to do anything interesting in them. In the brief time I have played, I’ve also seen: the whiny feminist, the gangbanging street thug, and the vaguely Jewish psychologist who is more interested in running out the clock than helping his patient. To that we can add the bratty teenagers and the nagging wife. I’ve seen all these characters before.
I will say that the one character aspect that GTA V does innovate on is suggestibility. Franklin will do anything anyone tells him. Need someone to drive a tow truck? Franklin will do it. Just met Franklin and now want him to help you stalk celebrities? No problem! Need a third for a kidnapping? Franklin doesn’t even mind that you didn’t give him five minute’s notice. It’s ridiculous how quickly Franklin signs on for stupid plans with high danger and low reward. Franklin is willing to do just about anything, and the game portrays him as the smart one. I’d hate to think what playing Lamar would be like.
Next up – Realism!