It’s not that I’ve been putting off this late review, but that I’d forgotten all about bothering to write it up. Basically this GTA 4 rip off didn’t just leave a lasting bad impression on me, but that it was also so boring that I failed to commit much of it to memory.
It’s been over a year since I played GTA 5, and have only finally gotten around to writing this review as I can’t let go about how much of a rip off this game was (and still is!). This game is the embodiment of why I’m The Late Gamer, and because of this game, will always be The Late Gamer.
As I’m sure most of you are aware, this game was originally released on the ass end of the last generation consoles, the PS3 and Xbox 360. Whilst most of my friends were playing this, I stayed well away, knowing full well a PC release was to happen, even though Rockstar are known to delay PC releases many years after original release. It took GTA 4 five years to get a PC port. Having said that, I did have a 5 minute play at a friend’s house at the time, and was disappointed then with the terrible graphics and the lack of objects on the street, with maybe one other car on the road at anytime, and 2 NPCs at the most walking down the street. So a year goes by, and I miss out on all the multiplayer activities that my friends have been engaged in this entire time, at which point, releases for the PS4 and XBone come out, whilst I’m still waiting on that PC release.
Another six months passes and the PC release finally comes out. Around this time, they’ve also dropped support for the “redundant” PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, to concentrate their efforts on optimising future updates for current gen. But, me being The Late Gamer, wait a further six months for the price to become more affordable than the £40 that they are asking for, which by the way, is for a game that has technically already been out for over a year and half at this point. So overall, two years go by from the original release, in which I finally succumb to my itchy fingers and decide that it’s time to buy this game, even though it’s still somehow a whopping £40!
Well the wait was finally over, I could now experience the hype that had been building unto this moment. Of course, none of my friends no longer played the game, but that’s alright, I’ve got no interest in multiplayer, as with all the previous GTA titles, my only purpose is to complete the well written action fuelled campaign. Well that didn’t go as planned.
As with most PC games, I spent the first two hours configuring the graphic options to make the most of my GTX 970. Then, it was onto the tutorial mission, which is set some time before the main campaign, and reveals the new game mechanic that everyone was so excited about, being able to change control between the main characters. I was initially impressed with the attention to detail of the level design, and the first 10 minutes of gameplay was alright, after which, something happens in the story, some betrayal or whatever and someone goes to jail, someone dies and someone runs off and then we fast forward by so many years until the “main” main protagonist is settled somewhere in a Hollywood knockoff in LA, with a great big mansion, a cheating wife and spoilt kids.
Now I can’t exactly remember everything that happens after this point, my recollection of events has become quite hazy, mainly due to the game being extremely bland and “satirically” based on real life, with action scenes, characters and jokes that are already ripe in modern society and media. I’m afraid this game doesn’t offer any fresh take on life, like San Andreas achieved with suppression in gangster life or GTA 4 and an immigrant’s struggle in the land of freedom. Even with three “distinct” protagonists, the most they resemble is having a condition of split personality disorder which is probably accurately reflective of our bubble lifestyles.
I get that the idea of the three way split was so that you could experience all the action in a scene from different perspectives, ie being the main man doing a drop, being the getaway driver and being the sniper located on the remote hill, but in terms of character development, you can’t truly connect to the characters in any stable format as you are constantly switching around and can’t develop any “relationships” or feelings for them, because as much as you want to feel that Franklin’s your pal and that you want to help protect him whilst playing from Micheal’s perspective, you also know that you are Franklin, and if Franklin is anything like you, then he should be able to look after himself. So yeah, a three way might work from a gameplay aspect, but fucks up any relationships, just like in real life.
Just to touch on each of the characters individually, the first character we come across, Micheal, is bored with living the rich highlife, and wants to feel the rush of committing crimes again, that and also he needs a few million squid to pay off some debt he somehow got into (I think it was his son’s…). Now, playing as a 50 year old white male, who is no longer in touch with the world, is no fun to play as. I don’t want to relate/play as my dad in a game, I’m a young hip guy and wanna be represented in such a way. Surely it would have made more sense to cast his son as the main character, who let’s say, wants to follow in his father’s step in a life of crime whilst standing on his own two feet, finding his place in the world. Maybe he even has to go up against his father at some point, or demands for revenge when his father gets screwed over in a deal. Basically, any of these is better than what the writers at Rockstar achieved with the 5 years they had to write/steal this story after moving on from GTA 4. I say steal in regards to Vice City, though I loved, was just a Scarface/Miami Vice rip off. Even Ubisoft is able to come up with better plots on a yearly basis in its steadily declining Assassin’s Creed series. The biggest crime committed by Rockstar though is having Jonah Hill voicing the son, doing nothing more than whinging throughout the entire game, what a waste.
Onto his colleague in crime, Franklin, a “black” guy who wants out of the hood and to live it big. I have to be rhetoric about the black, as having nothing more than a darkened texture in the game to signify this, he’s probably the most whitest character in the game, but gives the game a platform to exploit stereotyping amongst Franklin’s family. He’s the son Micheal always wanted, and Micheal is the father figure that’s been missing out of Franklin’s life, ie Franklin just follows Micheal around as his little lap dog. He doesn’t empower himself much, and most of his missions are absolutely boring to tackle, usually just driving his crazy family around the city, rather than just being able to tell them to fuck off. Again, would have made more sense if he’d been put on level ground with Micheal’s son rather than with Micheal.
Trevor. What a missed opportunity. An ex-partner in crime of Micheal’s, who’s returned from the dead and now imposes himself on Micheal and his lifestyle. He’s supposed to be this insane nut case, requiring very little to trigger his unstoppable violent benders, with no regard for himself or others. To be honest, he comes off as nothing more than a pussy, and even Brucie from GTA 4 was both tougher and quirkier, with his Bull shark testosterone pumped balls. I’m pretty sure the relationship between Micheal and Trevor and their appearances were stolen from Kane & Lynch, a much better game with “older” characters who actually have interesting back stories.
The single player campaign follows the usual GTA protocols of hijacking cars, shooting at bullet sponge enemies and nonchalant NPCs, completing missions for dosh, driving off ramps and travelling by land, sea and air. You work for many criminal syndicates, before going out on your own two feet etc. Having already composed many action scenes in the past, Rockstar are now scrapping the barrel with keeping the action fresh, resorting to more and more ridiculous scenarios. For dragging out 30 hours of campaign, it was hard to stay awake to take notice of what was commencing.
My next biggest complaint after the cost of the game, was the driving system. In GTA 4, they had nailed it and by nailed it, I mean they had made the driving amazingly realistic as possible. I admit, when I first played GTA 4, I hated the driving, it was incredibly difficult with its realistic steering and even realistic suspension, until I realised that just like in real life, before you take a corner, you’re supposed to brake as you come up to it to refrain from flipping your car. Once I learnt how it actually worked, I loved it. The driving was actually responsive, and made driving at top speed risky and adrenaline enticing. For GTA 5, due to people apparently complaining that the GTA 4 driving mechanics had been too difficult, Rockstar were only too happy to appease to the 10 year olds that played the 18+ game, and resorted the driving back to Mario Kart controls, with a “new” feature of being able to roll a car back onto its wheels when flipped over simply by just rocking the control stick, doesn’t feel at all like a cheat activated from the GTA 3 era.
I think one of the reasons why this game comes across as a bit of a gimmick as it was up against Saint’s Row, which had managed in between the releases of GTA 4 & 5, to become a game series that satirized the GTA franchise (which of course is a satire of real life). Whilst Saint’s Row didn’t take itself serious in its later iterations, allowing for crazy mechanics and characters, which I actually appreciated and think the developers integrated into the game really well, Rockstar were pissed that their cheat codes had been exploited and tried to take the crown back, which they probably have in a general consensus. They tried to go just as crazy, allowing for episodes of randomness that can’t be explained within the game apart from referring to “drug use”, but just felt cheap and tacked on.
I can’t remember how this game ends, something along the lines of a western shoot out. There is a part with a psychiatrist who’s been ripping you off that you can choose between murdering or letting off, I killed him as I wanted to get the most death out of my money, the whole reason why anyone buys this game. Some end game missions pop up that allow you to repeatedly collect infinite money, and you can also decide between uninstalling the game and moving on with your life or loading up the multiplayer, the game mode that even today, is pretty world renowned.
When the online multiplayer was released at a later date, servers were full with users, complaining that there wasn’t much to do but run around and shoot, very similar to the multiplayer of GTA 4, but with more players able to exist in the same world on a server. It took a few years of updates with the Heist update and Cunning Stunts race tracks before the multiplayer had enough structure to please its player base. When I logged in, there wasn’t much to do but online missions with complete strangers, not exactly the most compelling to invest anymore than half an hour in trying it out.
One of my peeves with the multiplayer scene was that there were players being banned for exploiting bugs in the game to obtain a tonne of money that was used to buy the best cars and weapons, devaluing the in-game currency that Rockstar sells at ridiculous rates in the real world. Not only were these players being banned who’ve paid the full price for this game, having used hacks that Rockstar were unfortunate to cover up, Rockstar were also threatening legal action. At this point, I found that an absolute joke, considering that since the game encourages committing criminal acts and that many years ago, Rockstar were appealing to the general public for help against the bemoaners saying that the game shouldn’t be sold due to the graphic content in the game which could be influencing crime amongst minors, are now using the law with their blood money to go after players in their bedrooms.
Not only is it ironic that they went after people who were stealing their in-game currency, Rockstar then turned round and stole the hard-work of the modding community. Modding the pc version of GTA games has been around for years, changing game mechanics, adding extra features and even boosting the graphic potential. This was most prevalent in GTA 4, with mods available for pretty much every aspect of the game. Someone even used the platform and mods to create an interesting, dark, hour and half machinima. As expected, the community moved onto GTA 5 and cracked on with making many entertaining mods that became the highlight of YouTube gaming videos and private multiplayer servers. Rockstar seeing that people were downloading cars rather than paying for them, brought the hammer down, banning many players using mods and then re-releasing these mods as updates in the game for users to buy. Many of the race tracks in the Cunning Stunts DLC are nothing but inspired by the original community that created them. These are just absolutely disgusting double standards of Rockstar, once the underdog, now The Man. I’m glad I never invested any of my time in this hypocrisy, feeling sorry for my friends who are caught up in it, sadly completing hour long missions for that few grand to contribute to buying that $7m car in-game with a purple metallic coating. CS:GO skins all over again.
We can’t ignore the fact that this game broke $1 billion in its three days of sales, a first in the gaming industry, nevermind the fact that the game was also re-released on next-gen consoles and pc and is still at its RRP of £40, with the only sales at £20 first and last seen in the previous winter sales, plus the pay to win scheme tied into the multiplayer currency. As of 7 February 2017, the game has shipped over 75 million copies across all platforms.
Most of this I believe was based on the strengths of Rockstar’s previous titles such as GTA 4 and Max Payne 3 that caused everyone to pre-order and go out and buy this game. The graphics of Max Payne alone convinced me that if these were replicated in GTA 5, it would have been the best game ever. Well even on a PC, the graphics looked no better than GTA 4 on an Xbox 360 from like 8 years ago. Maybe releasing this game originally on previous gen hardware meant that compromises had to be made, but textures are bland and more cartoony that realistic. I remember originally playing GTA 4 and being blown away by the step up from San Andreas, whilst GTA 5 had the complete opposite effect, it was disappointing and embarrassing.
I do watch streamers now and again playing GTA 5 Online, so I do keep up-to-date with the latest in-game updates and bullshit. Mostly they play on the Cunning Stunts races, which do look fun, but that’s mostly down to race circuit designs created by the community and the players your racing against. Cunning Stunts could basically be any other racing game already out, it just happened to be a by-product of GTA 5. The fact that you have to boot up GTA 5 to access the in-game races is just a waste of time having to load resources and textures that your never going to use.
I never wanted to hate GTA 5. I wanted to love it, from the day it was initially announced. I’ve always been a big fan of the GTA series, having played every version including the handhelds, and Rockstar in my eyes at that point, could never put a foot wrong. It all came crashing down around me when I finally played my copy of the game after waiting those two years. I’d been burned so badly, to the point that I didn’t want to talk about, and hardened my resolve to oust the bullshit that exists in the game industry. I believed the hype from the reviewers, as that 13 year old in me wanted to artificially wreck carnage and murder prostitutes, yet the disappointed 23 year old me highlighted the problems and asked, “Why do we need so much violence in games? There’s enough of it in real life.”