Four Years is a long time in Video Games. In the last four, we’ve seen the rise of nostalgia-fuelled Kickstarters, Indie Games have emerged as a force to be taken seriously. Too often I find myself moving from new release to new release, never going back to revisit favourites from the recent past. With an urge to revisit old favourites I decided to jump back into a game that in truth hasn’t left us at all: Grand Theft Auto V.
Let’s be honest, we’ve all played GTAV, if not at its initial release then with its current-gen remaster for the PS4 and Xbox One. GTAV is a game that refuses to leave us alone. With an epic story, engaging (if silly) writing, a massive open world to explore and regularly updated online multiplayer, this is a game that could have been bought on Day 1 and is still worth exploring all these years later.
The story is that of three career criminals, including Franklin, a man who sees his hustling as a way to better himself. Michael, a professional thief who until recently has been retired and Trevor, the human personification of the phrase “raw nerve”. The story then takes these three across the huge map of Los Santos, planning heists, assassinating people for the government and occasionally operating heavy machinery for their friend’s brother-in-law.
As I replay the story, I find myself empathising more and more with these deranged murderers. GTAV has a great advantage in that it has days worth of character dialogue to help flesh out each of its main characters. Drives between missions are enlivened with snappy dialogue that behind the jokes and coarse language reveals some real emotional depth. Of course, the fact that they live in a world where murder is a legitimate course of action 90 per cent of the time can make some of the game’s story points a little bizarre. After all, why can’t Micheal just slaughter his way through the people he owes money to? He probably killed more on his drive over anyway.
The world itself is a joy to explore, with a variety of locals from the dense, metropolitan Los Santos, the sparse deserts of Blaine country and even a hint of the Pacific Northwest at Paleto Bay. My go-to on a listless afternoon of play is to take a pedal bike up to the game’s highest peak (avoiding murderous cougars) and then hurl myself down cliffs and ravines I have no chance of surviving. It’s the fun you make yourself that’s the most memorable.
Grand Theft Auto V has more to it on its own than some entire game series. The online component alone has grown into its very own, hugely successful beast. Where else in video games can I spawn on a random street and be immediately blown up by a passing fighter jet?
GTA V was in many ways the swansong for the last generation of gaming hardware, and the culmination of decades worth of trial and error. It’s hard not to see the game as a victory lap for a company at the peak of its powers.