Grand Theft Auto V, crass comedy in a crazy world

GTA V final overall impressions just okay

Grand Theft Auto V is the first game in Rockstar’s entire hooker-killing franchise that I’ve actually completed, and by that I mean I successfully played all of its main story missions, picked my A, B, or C choice for the finale, and watched the lengthy end credits–over thirty-five minutes long–scroll by as I pondered my collective time and experience as three unsavory souls stuck in Los Santos. And…exhale. Considering I still can’t even get past the second mission in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, this is a real, genuine accomplishment, a feat worth featuring.

To be honest, I don’t think much overall about GTA V. Now, please be sure to read that sentence a second time before you blow a blood vessel; I did not say “I don’t think much overall of GTA V,” but rather about. It’s kind of everything I expected it to be based on past experiences with the franchise, and I feel like it went through all the motions, and I went with it, a mute player. If you must know, I enjoyed what I played of Grand Theft Auto III, really dug Vice City for its vibe and tunes, and never got too far in San Andreas. Also, Chinatown Wars is a surprisingly good time, but quite a different beast from its bigger siblings. Truthfully, Saints Row: The Third is more my kind of freedom.

The story in GTA V revolves around three men: former bank robber Michael Townley, repo man Franklin Clinton, and uncontrollable psychopath Trevor Philips. They have their own personal stories to see unfold, but they also eventually all get mixed up in the same nefarious business, which involves running a bunch of heists and making some serious moolah. It’s clearly a videogame story, as things happen so that the player can take part in extravagant setups and scenarios and leap from tall buildings and blow up important locations and all that. A few missions feel like they just came up with some third part to play, spur of the moment, so all three protagonists could be there, even if there was absolutely no need to bring the greenhorn Franklin along. Of the three main characters, I was most disappointed in Franklin’s overall journey, as it seemed like the whole “other guy got the girl” subplot fizzled within the game’s first hour. Michael has heavy family stuff that gets resolved, but not in a way that fills me with confidence. And Trevor…well, he’s pure crazy, a lot of fun to watch, but just walking insanity, and GTA V would actually be a lesser game without him to keep everyone on their toes.

The open-world gameplay in GTA V is everything you’d come to expect from the company that certainly had a big hand in creating the genre. When you’re not accepting main story missions as either of the three gruff dudes, you can drive around the sprawling city and its outskirts, play a round of golf or tennis, do some yoga, get a haircut, shop for new clothes, invest in buildings, visit the strip club, surf the Internet, watch TV or a movie, take the dog for a walk, and so on and so on. There’s quite a lot of miscellaneous, nontrivial time-wasters for those wanting just a bite of action, as well as larger side missions in the forms of Strangers and Freaks. Random events like “Stop that purse snatcher!” occur from time to time, and you can also just stand still and watch the world go by or sit in your car listening to your favorite station. I found a lot of the side stuff more interesting than the main missions, as they are clearly trying to be big and bombastic, and there’s always an excuse for a gunfight, no matter what the scenario. Thankfully, thanks to a rather easy auto-aim feature, shooting down gang member after gang member is no big thing, and probably the biggest aid I had for completing this game next to Franklin’s bullet time mode when driving.

Let me talk briefly about the collectibles scattered around and outside of Los Santos, as I only stumbled across one during my entire criminal career. Which is very similar to my experience in finding those golden film reels in L.A. Noire. Either they are extremely well-hidden or I’m going blind, a likely case. According to the Internet, there’s a ton of things to find: Spaceship Parts, Stunt Jumps, Letter Scraps, Hidden Packages, and more. I found a single Letter Scrap, which ties into the Mystery of Leonora Johnson side quest–and that’s it. I started the missions that opened up the ability to find Spaceship Parts, but never came across them, and I felt like I did a lot of “off the path” exploring, mostly because I was trying to hide from cops, and changing elevation is a vital tactic.

A lot of material in GTA V is extremely off-putting, and for good reason. Rockstar’s treatment and regard of women is abysmal. If they aren’t there to either have sex with the main characters or sex with someone else to anger the main characters, then they are on their way. Take Michael’s family. He has a wife and a daughter. His wife is sleeping with her yoga instructor, and his daughter wants to get into porn. Take Trevor. Past the early intro scenes, you first truly meet him as he’s having sex with meth head Ashley, who never plays a further part in the game. Later, he kidnaps a man’s wife and begins to have a relationship with her. And lastly, take Franklin. He lives with his aunt, who self-describes herself as a “new age feminist,” and the two are constantly bickering. I don’t recall a single time that I returned home as Franklin that she wasn’t whining or complaining loudly from the other room. He has a childhood friend Tonya Wiggins, who is a crack addict. At first, it seems like he’s a man all about winning back his ex-girlfriend Tanisha Jackson, but that plot fizzles very quickly, so much that her sudden appearance near the game’s end was befuddling. Aside from these, there’s a few other women that stand out: Devin Weston’s lawyer Molly Schultz, the athletic MaryAnne Quinn, and celebrity-crazy old Mrs. Thornhill. In short, why couldn’t there have been a female gang leader or a woman working closely with Michael to keep his identity better hidden? Or some role more involved. Because to Rockstar, men do the ruling.

Early on, I actually watched some in-game TV, something I never even attempted before in Grand Theft Auto IV, despite a lot of people going gaga over the fact that such a large and completely skippable thing existed way back then. I ended up watching “Gordon Moorehead”, an animated detective drama radio show that looks innocent enough, that is until anyone starts speaking. I don’t recall the specifics of the episode’s story, just the constant degradation of Gordon Moorehead’s assistant Molly Malmstein, who Moorehead constantly treating her as a woman of little intelligence, often slapping her. I think the show is trying to to poke fun at sexism and misogyny, but actually just reinforces it all the way. It’s extremely disappointing; you literally can’t go anywhere in Los Santos without some knock against women.

I dunno. Looking back over this post, maybe I do think a lot about GTA V, just nothing too great. It’s got its problems, but it also felt very routine and predictable and crass for no good reason. The use of crude language, especially. I played a single post-credits mission, but haven’t really gone back to do any further exploring or money spending, and I just don’t really see myself getting back into the swing of things. I guess I’ve had my fill.

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