4 Years is a long time in games. In the last four, we’ve seen the rise of nostalgia-fuelled Kickstarters, the affirmation that Indie Games are here to stay and about a dozen different series by Telltale. I often find it useful and enjoyable to revisit games that came out a few years back, to see what I had forgotten about them, and recently I did this with the game that stole 2013, Grand Theft Auto V. Well, technically the PS4 remastered edition which came out in 2015, but that’s splitting hairs.
Most of us have probably played it, but for those who haven’t, GTAV is THE open world game. A distillation of almost two decades of design from the folks of Rockstar and the gold standard for the genre that many would claim still hasn’t been topped. This is a game that is still garnering headlines in 2017.
The story is that of three career criminals, from Franklin, an African-American Gangster who sees his hustling as a way to better himself. Michael, a professional Bank thief who until recently has been retired and Trevor, the physical embodiment of anger and frustration who hides his personal pain away under a penchant for shouting and killing.
The story then takes these three across the state, 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’m struck by how good the writing and dialogue of this game is. GTAV has the great advantage in that it has days worth of character dialogue to help flesh out each of its main characters, as well as a large cast of ancillary ones. With this room to breath, each character is fully believable, and understandable in many of their decisions. Of course, the fact that they live in a world where murder is a legitimate course of action 90% of the time can make them a little bit hard to empathise with at times.
Speaking of murder, the killing in GTA is just fine. For a game that, at it’s most basically level, is all about indulging your inner-spree shooter, the gunplay has never been that compelling. The game features a whole range of weapons to mow down cops and random goons but they all feel anaemic when the trigger is pulled as if I’m only pulling the trigger on a light gun. The game expects you to be doing much of your killing from the 3rd person perspective so maybe this lack of weapon “immersion” is understandable, but it still annoys me as a player who uses the first person mode a lot.
The driving works….. I hit fewer things than I don’t…. Mostly. I to am good to words.
Nah, but seriously. The driving experience shines best when you’re not on a mission but just cruising about, messing around while driving up the side of a mountain in an ice cream truck. To me personally, the driving in GTA was always there to facilitate me being a moron in one way or another. In many ways that define the best GTAV experience, you can have. I have a load of memories of playing the original GTAV on my mates Xbox, while three of us took turns to commit various atrocities. That couch experience was better than anything the game could script or plan. I feel the games multiplayer was designed to emulate this experience but unless I’m playing with people I know well, it just can’t hold a candle to the real thing.
GTA V was in many ways the swansong for the last generation of gaming hardware. The culmination of 8 years worth of trail and error. In many ways, the game has the feeling of being a self-congratulatory exercise from RockStar, with them nailing everything they’ve achieved from previous games and making it look effortless, throwing in all manner of bells and whistles to sweeten what was already one calorific pie (My food metaphor game is on point).