Well, as promised, when I haven't been working -- which is admittedly not very often -- I've been knee-deep in Grand Theft Auto V. After a few days of semi-steady play I guess it's finally time to give you a few thoughts on it. Some you'll expect; some you may not.
1. You know how every fireworks display ends with a grand finale, one last burst of pure, glorious, spectacular chaos, where they throw everything they've got at you? That's what Grand Theft Auto V is for this generation of gaming consoles. It's the crescendo. The last hurrah that pushes everything that's come before it to its very limits, and the result is something that's flat-out breathtaking. Quite frankly, there's never been a game like GTA V, both in sheer scope and in dazzling imagination. It takes almost ten minutes just to load the install disc for it, which is really such a perfect indication of what's to come once the living, breathing world of Los Santos finally opens up in front of you. It is an immersive experience in every possible way and the level of detail is nothing short of astonishing. Interestingly, the forefather of the game isn't just the parts of the specific series that came before it, the awesome Grand Theft Auto IV being the most recent previous installment, it's everything Rockstar Games has learned during its evolution as a maker of interactive entertainment. The heart and soul of Red Read Redemption and L.A. Noire beat within GTA V, and it's so much the better for that.
Call of Duty: Ghosts is admittedly still to come on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, before the new-gen consoles take over, but make no mistake: while admittedly a different kind of game, it won't even compare to GTA V. This is the last, and best thing, video gaming has brought us in its history and sets the stage perfectly for what's to come.
2.Grand Theft Auto IV provided a pretty pitch-black storyline as a backbone. I liked that a lot; some people didn't. While that last game still had a lot of humor and certainly a lot of satire -- its parodying of a terrified post-9/11 America was merciless -- the story at the center of it was tragic and the main character of Niko Bellic was, while vengeful, mostly filled with regret and wound up ultimately disillusioned and heartbroken. GTA V brings the humor back front-and-center. In addition to once again holding a funhouse mirror up to both Los Angeles and American culture in general, none of the three playable characters is someone you'd consider solemn or contemplative. They're all anti-heroes in the cable drama vein, sometimes tortured, yes, but not to the point where you actually worry about them. Maybe this is a step back from GTA IV, who knows. One of them, Trevor, is an outright sociopath. I have a feeling he was included in the mix specifically because it was difficult to imagine Niko Bellic taking pleasure in killing innocent people. This time around, Rockstar Games has given players their own id. I find myself being at least somewhat cautious and discerning about doling out wanton violence as the other two characters, Michael and Franklin; as Trevor, fuck it, all bets are off. He's a one-man wrecking crew.
3. On that note, Trevor's behavior is so reprehensible -- unavoidably so -- that there are moments within the game where I not only hate him, I actually don't like playing him and resent that in doing so I'm forced to live by his code. Spoiler: as Trevor, you're forced to torture someone. And I mean torture. You choose your torture device and go at it, and the only way to skip over it, I think, is to blow the entire mission and choose to move past it but to be honest I'm not even sure you can do that. ( Needless to say, the game is now the subject of a shitload of outrage over this sequence.) It's disturbing to have to do what Trevor does sometimes. Not gonna make me or anyone else suddenly decide that torture is awesome and being psychotic beats being a decent human being, but it is disturbing. Also, the game has ratcheted up the sexual content practically to porn levels. There's now actual nudity and those little encounters with hookers that are such an entertaining part of the game are much more explicit, complete with dirty-talk that would make Sasha Grey nod in approval. Bottom line: this is absolutely an adult game.
4. The best things so far for me:
I personally live in Los Angeles, so, yes, I'm enjoying the fact that I finally have a home in the Hollywood Hills and drive an Audi R8; I'm living the life I always dreamed of living in L.A., it just happens to be in a videogame, unfortunately.
Stealing the submersible is just a jaw-dropping moment.
Doing yoga. You can do yoga. Thank God I can get some exercise.
I love that the politics within it are both far-left and far-right. "Weasel News" parodies Fox perfectly and "Republican Space Rangers" is back from the last game; on the other side, the new TV show "Impotent Rage: The Liberal Superhero" is the ultimate skewering of limousine liberals.
The fact that I had to close the windows in my apartment while playing out of fear my neighbors would come banging on the door over all the profanity and racial epithets.
The aliens. The fucking aliens during Michael's insane and insanely brilliant drug trip. (Adding: AND THE CLOWNS!)
The fact that it made a billion dollars in just three days.
Anyway, back to the game.