Grand Theft Auto V
Developer: Rockstar North
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Genre: Action-Adventure Open World
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360
Basically: It's as incredible as a video game as it is a work of storytelling and pop art. The most viscerally disturbing game we've ever played, the most important video game of the year, and the last truly important cross-console game of the 360/PS3 generation. And one that lives up to the hype.
Reason To Cop It: You play video games. You have the money to do so.
Reason to Not Cop It: You're mentally unstable, or you're 16.
Bottom Line: Despite being nothing new, or innovative, it is one of the most perfect video games you will ever play.
I am watching TV.
I am hitting the bong.
I am smoking a joint.
I'm playing on my cell phone. I'm switching the radio. I'm playing tennis. I'm going for a walk. I'm going for a bike ride. I'm having a beer. I'm hitting the bong. I'm watching TV and playing on my cell phone. I'm going to the gun store. I'm going to the shrink. I'm going to the gun store and wondering if I can kill my shrink. I'm taking a selfie. I'm putting the top down. I'm driving and checking my phone and trading stocks on it.
I am black and in the hood. I am white and upper middle class. I'm a balding methhead in the desert killing bikers. I am on the come up. I am finally feeling alive again. I am chasing the ghosts of my past in a tragicomic psychotic rage. I am the game. I am self aware. I fucking hate you.
My daughter is bulimic. My son is a fuckup. My mother is a waste of life. My wife is fucking the tennis instructor. She doesn't love me anymore. I'm in my 50s and my life is already over. I'm in my 20s and my life is already over. My friends are crackheads or methheads or white-collar criminals. I need new friends. I need new hobbies.
I'm going for a drive and stealing someone else's car. I'm getting blown by a stripper I spent too much money on. I'm going for drive in someone's stolen ATV and driving to the top of a mountain and dying and doing it again. I am saying the N word over and over and over again. I am laughing at startups. I'm laughing at social networking. I'm laughing at video games. I'm laughing at the people who play video games. I'm laughing at TV. I'm laughing at movies and video games and criminals and cops, and we make fun of all these things, we do it together. We got arrested together. We kill people together. We will rescue that woman who's getting robbed, give her back her purse, and then run her over with our daughter's compact car. We will randomly beat people up on the street together. We will torture, maim, invest, kill, rob, cheat, steal, smoke, snort, fuck, destroy, and run errands. We will thrive. It will be fun. We will chase the missions down. Maybe we'll just take a cab, though. Maybe we'll trade stocks in the back of that cab. Maybe we'll just enjoy the ride. We do it for thrills. We do it for fun.
1. Grand Theft Auto V is incredible. It's an achievement in every sense of the word, and may be Rockstar's finest hour. It's the greatest sandbox action-adventure game ever. It is perfect. It has an epic story and its gameplay fits it, seamlessly. It's a beautiful game to look at and play. It's a massive game—it makes video games of generations before it, in which you explore worlds, even universes, look absolutely tiny by comparison. The city of Los Santos is as close to a pulsing, living metropolis as you'll ever find in a video game. The action sequences are dizzyingly fun. The characters are thrilling. This is a game where you can spend hours just as you do in real life: Doing nothing. But there's a price to pay for all that grandeur and splendor, and it's a lot steeper than whatever you're going to pay for it in cash: Opening up what's undoubtedly one of the most disturbing games you'll ever play.
2. The gameplay is nothing revolutionary so much as it is perfect. If you've played a Grand Theft Auto game, you know what to expect. Where GTA IV introduced players to bigger ideas about what one can and can't do in a video game, GTA V simply sharpens and crystallizes those ideas. The game is fundamentally a duck-and-cover shooter on a sandbox map filled with missions, combined with driving and side-quests, driven by storytelling and a deft sense of satire.
There's a price to pay for all that grandeur and splendor: This is undoubtedly also one of the most disturbing games you will ever play.
That said, almost everything has been perfected: The duck-and-cover shooting system isn't going to get much better. The driving mechanic strikes a perfect balance of arcade-style madcap fun and simulation-style physics: The cartoonish tricks you've pulled before are less possible now, but more rewarding when you can manage them. The range of weapons you can use and vehicles you can steal—from cars to planes to helicopters to tanks and more—is bigger than anything we've ever seen. For example: One heist combines a personal submarine and a military chopper. It doesn't even come halfway through the game.
3. The new additions and tweaks to the gameplay combine the best of Rockstar's ideas. About those heists: They aren't just typically run-and-gun missions, oh no. These are elaborate schemes and set pieces, and ones that begin with options. Do you want to go in stealth, or no? Do you want to rob a jewlery store guns blazing, Reservoir Dogs-style? Or by quietly dropping gas canisters into the air vents, and knocking everyone out, Oceans 11-like? You can give your getaway driver, your hacker, and your gunman a bigger or smaller cut of the steal, but skimp on them at your own risk, as they might let you down, and cause the entire operation a larger net loss of cash.
This is the first GTA game that also includes multiple characters—you can choose from three, and switch between them seamlessly—and leveling up. The switching is flawless and beautiful—just hit down on the D-pad, and select a character. The map pans out over the throbbing veins of Los Santos streets, and lands you in a new body, in a new place, in a new mindset. Sometimes you'll switch between characters during the missions themselves, playing the crucial role each part of the operation fulfills.
Each character has different attributes that make them better suited for different missions. You can level them up by playing side-quests. Your characters also each have a respective special power: One has bullet-time for driving, one for fighting, and the other goes into berzerker mode, and can't be hurt while the power is activated. Think Red Dead Redemption's Dead Eye targeting, but smarter, more effective, and more playable.
The missions range from utterly mundane to utterly insane. After all, in what game will you spend hours towing cars and taking your son out for a bike ride? But they soon become white-knuckle stuff. One mission has you assassinating four jurors in ten minutes. Another has you raiding a military base on a four-star wanted level, armed with only what you have on you. Another has you waking up in a morgue, leaping off of a medical exam table. And then another, of course, has you working a blue collar dock job. Each is distinct, few are painful in repetition.