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GTA V has production-values up the ass, so I can say my problems with with this game are deliberate creative choices instead of any technical shortcomings.
I played the campaign as a strict action game which I will give it a 3/5 but as a sandbox crime sim it is painfully unfulfilling.
To keep my sanity I never engaged with the asinine mission scoring. It makes the full-sync from Assassin's Creed look reasonable.
There is no major arc or any good antagonists, just a jumble of boring unrelated subplots. Watching two middle-aged men bicker for 20 hours does not make a compelling story. The ending is the dumbest nonsense possible because it's when our trio of career-criminals realises they can kill their enemies at any time without consequence. The most frustrating part is when a villain doesn't pay you for your hard work, and you don't get to kill him for another 30 missions.
The heist-system is only the germ of a good idea. It's too limited, as you can't change your plan beforehand, and there's too few heists with any real input by the player.
I found the writing teeth-grating as it attempts satire, but satire does not work in the hands of the wealthy. It never rises above mean-spirited dreck that's noticably dated to 2013.
On beating the campaign you get tens of millions of dollars but nothing to spends it on. There are sidequests but they all involve meeting the rancid one-note people of Los Santos. I called it quits because there was really nothing more worth my time. Games this long need real character-progession, a grander more cohesive-story, a world-map that isn't 70% mountain, and a tone that doesn't resent the people playing it.
I don't have many complaints from a technical standpoint. The environment is pure Scenery Porn, the mocap is uncanny, the driving controls have been vastly improved since IV, and the heists are a lot of fun, not just to execute, but also to plan. Also, there are checkpoints. And There Was Much Rejoicing. Although...did we really need airplanes? Or if we did, did we really have to land them on hard-to-spot runways?
In regards to the story, the protagonists are something of a mixed bag. Michael is realistically flawed, Franklin feels a bit flat (though not unbearably so; he at least gets some well-placed snark in), and Trevor is, well…while admittedly he can be hilarious, here's the problem I have with him:
I don't mind playing as murderous criminals; I enjoy it. But I do tend to mind playing as assholes, and that's what Trevor is most of the time, especially early in the game when he's first introduced. If they were seriously intending to make Trevor sympathetic, the writers could not have picked a worse way to let me get a feel for his character. Johnny Klebitz was actually my least favorite protagonist from the IV era, but his murder at Trevor's hands isn't over-the-top or black comedy, it's just gratuitous, and because Trevor was the one in the wrong to begin with, you can't even say he provoked it. Trevor's abuse of the mentally retarded Wade is likewise more disturbing than funny, and the Character Shilling brings him into borderline Villain Sue territory.
There's also not much menace from the antagonists. Steve Haines at least has enough power behind him to be intimidating, but I barely remembered who Stretch was on my first playthrough, and Wei Cheng appeared in person what, once? And while Devin Weston sending Merryweather to kill Michael's family is plenty bad, there's nothing threatening about him whatsoever, and in the ending most likely to be canon, he's the only antagonist to get a proper Coup de Grâce Cutscene.
A more minor complaint is that the final mission just seems all wrong in how it's set up. "Hi, I'm mildly annoying douche Devin Weston and I just randomly jogged over to tell you to kill Michael, bye." MAKE YOUR CHOICE RIGHT NOW.
But these flaws don't ruin the game for me, and the story is fairly solid in spite of it all. I recommend picking it up.
Having played the GTA franchise of games since GTA III, I have seen the games take a few chances, and set some new standards in the open world action genre they essentially created (I know there were a few other examples before GTA, but GTA brought the genre into the main stream of gaming). That said, GTA IV was a bit of a disappointment. It did not have a very compelling story, and the removal of many features made the game's replay very low. Aside from a very good mechanical upgrade in the engine, they game felt like a lot less than the previous installment. But this is not a review of the fourth numbered game.
GTA V was a vast improvement on both the franchise as a whole and the entire open world action genre (or whatever the genre that GTA games fall into is called). The most enjoyable addition to the franchise is the heists. Fun to carry out and somewhat enjoyable to plan, the only downside is that there are so few of them. At least, there are few that make you any actual money in game. The character switching mechanic was a most interesting addition to the genre, giving you glimpses into the lives of the three main characters. Those glimpses are rarely explained, but they provide a "real-ness" to the characters that allows you to enjoy playing each one even more.
Graphically it is a very good looking game, and the biggest improvement over any game to date is the water. The water mechanically, as well visually looks and reacts just like real water. There are tides and appropriate waves in appropriate areas of the coasts. The sea foam looks like it should and there is even random pieces of wood and seaweed growing up in places. And the looks do not just stay on the surface, travel under with a scuba tank or a sub, and each area has just the right amount of clear or murky depending on your location. And light disappears just right as you go down deeper.
Unfortunately it all breaks down after about the half way point in doing the missions. They become more and more linear and the scenes make less and less sense from a perspective of the characters as they were shown previously. In the end it feels like less of a cohesive whole of one story told from three perspectives and more like a dozen stories strung together using three characters. There is also an inordinate amount of chase missions.
Once they are all done, the game is good again tho!
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