Mini-Review: Grand Theft Auto V

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Grand Theft Auto V isn’t a bad game. Hell, I’d go so far as to call it good. I just don’t see what makes it the best game of our generation or anything of the sort.

GTA V expands on the previous game in the series in just about every conceivable way. The graphics are stunning — the sprawling city of Los Santos looks tremendous, the draw distance is great, etc. There are a ton of little nuances that some games wouldn’t even bother with, from the multitude of mini-games to the way little items like shoes and buckets have their own physics and detail. The cover system is improved and feels more responsive. The story is better, especially when you get to choose between three protagonists’ perspective.

The problem is, I still don’t think it’s very fun to play.

Los Santos might have more life to it than any of the characters within its sprawling city limits. That’s a testament to how damn good everything looks, but it’s also a condemnation on the same boring, plodding personalities we’ve come to expect at this point.

The biggest problem I have with the GTA series is the disconnect between your character in the open world and your character in the story. Niko Bellic, for example, started out doing tiny jobs about as low as you could get. This is supposed to help you feel a sense of progress as he works his way up the ladder to doing big heists. Instead, you spend your game under someone’s thumb the entire time — but when you tackle the game’s missions, you’re gunning down dozens of government officials/gang thugs/police officers/whatever and achieving the impossible. All three main characters in V suffer from the same syndrome; they successfully do illegal things, but doing so only gets them attention from someone more highly ranked but equally corrupt.

MILD SPOILER ALERT: Toward the end of the game, you essentially have the choice between three different paths you can take. This is a vast improvement over the two final missions in IV, where you selected which miserable existence Niko would end up with but the options weren’t really that different. This is the first time where you actually feel like you can be appropriately badass. Unfortunately, it comes after spending 90% of your time running errands for someone whose ass you could kick from one side of Los Santos to the other.

The only reason I’m this critical of Grand Theft Auto V is because of the expectations that have been heaped upon it. The scope that the game undertakes is nothing short of amazing — between the radio stations and all their songs, the activities, the small missions you can stumble upon, and much more, there’s a ton to do and it’s never boring. But the bottom line is I found myself playing through the game more for completion than because I was enjoying it, and that’s a troublesome sign to me.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


NOTE: Because of our internet situation, I wasn’t able to try out the online components, which was admittedly part of the reason I picked up the game in the first place. If that is fixed at some point, I may revisit this review.

2 thoughts on “Mini-Review: Grand Theft Auto V

  1. It’s funny you say you played more for completion than from enjoyment, because I’ve totally been there with games before. However, I didn’t think I’d like GTA V. it isn’t really “my style” of game. But I made myself pick it up and forced myself to play that first mission… and then I was hooked. I had soooo much fun with the game, I couldn’t put it down. Every time I walked in my apartment door, I wanted to go to my Xbox and start playing some more. I neglected hanging out with my roommate for a few weekends in a row. (Well, mostly…) So I feel kind of the opposite of you with this one! It does have a lot going for it to make it a “game of the generation” or whatever people may be calling it — as you mentioned, the open world, the level of detail, what I consider to be a great entertaining script, and a lot of depth — but in the end, I just love it because I had fun playing it.

    1. I can definitely see how people enjoyed it. Hell, there were times where I wondered if there was something wrong with me, because I just wasn’t feeling it. I got way more enjoyment out of playing Saints Row IV than I did GTA V, but some folks probably played SR4 and thought it sucked. Ultimately, I guess it’s just a difference in preference — and that’s a-ok.

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