Grand Theft Auto V has hit stores, adding another chapter in the historic GTA franchise developed by Rockstar Games. Starting as a top-down, open-world pseudo-3d action shooter in 1997, the series progressed into full-blown 3D graphics in 2001’s Grand Theft Auto III and has continued forward in visual prowess and player interactivity ever since.
GTA V continues this tradition of progress, offering a further advanced graphics engine that renders a spectacular and expansive landscape for gamers to traverse. It also offers a narrative featuring three separate protagonists, whose lives can be jumped into by the player at nearly any time. In 1980, arcade game Defender created a world where events transpired outside of the player’s immediate view, giving just a hint of being inside an actual place where things are happening elsewhere and you better do something about it. The appeal of open-world games such as GTA hinges on the complexity and verisimilitude of the worlds they construct, but none have succeeded in crafting such a living clockwork like GTA V. There is something truly wondrous about flipping back to a character you had left at one location and finding them somewhere else on the map and involved in some other bit of chicanery. It truly feels like Los Santos is alive. The GTA games have always lent themselves to hilarious situations that players report about the crazy goings on in their various cities. In GTA V… well, to paraphrase the opening of an old TV drama, there are a million stories in the city of Los Santos.
Such stories abound in the overwhelmingly positive critic’s reviews the game has received. As of this writing, the Xbox 360 version of the game is the highest ranked game ever on the Metacritic review aggregate site, with a score of 98. You only need to play for a short while to know all the perfect scores are not being thrown around lightly. It’s not a perfect game… I don’t know that such a thing could even exist. There’s still some weirdness to the controls, a lack of precision that has persisted all the way from the original GTA III. This is especially accentuated in GTA V, which has multiple actions mapped to the limited set of buttons and keys that consoles can offer. However, it’s nothing that you don’t quickly get used to as you ravenously consume this incredible feast that Rockstar has provided. “A living, breathing world” is a phrase often bandied about concerning open-world games. In GTA V, it’s enough to take your breath away.
Another amazing story is how the GTA series, one of the most successful video game franchises of all time, almost never got out of the gate. It is related in this video from The Guardian, here. Of course, The Onion has to chime in too. I’ll close with this compilation of all the trailers for the game: