GTA: Lost Sainthood

I found this post from last year that I couldn’t believe wasn’t uploaded. It was barely topical for the saturation of GTAV-related coverage at the time, and even less relevant now that the only people I know who still play this games are the people of /r/trees. I guess that makes it more ridiculous to post it now, but god damn it, I think this needs to be said. For as much as I loved this game, well… let’s just take a trip back to October of yesteryear:

I finished Grand Theft Auto V last night which means that preparations begin today on cordoning off Midosuji Boulevard to hold a parade in my honor. You’ll see me on the Bethesda float playing Fallout: New Vegas again.

I’ve been meaning to think about meaning to talk about this game because it was on the horizon when last I preached. It’s not like there aren’t 5,000 reviews out there or that you haven’t played it for yourself, but I don’t keep a diary and yet want to preserve the memory of what will certainly be remembered as a major title in the history of video gamery.

It’s pretty good. Which is surprising, because my instinct is to enshrine anything that I devote 100+ hours to as epic by nature of my attention. However, I could not get anywhere near as excited about playing this one compared to other GTA titles, and I have to tell you, it made me a little sad.

As far as controls, gameplay, and environment go, GTAV was probably the greatest achievement of Rockstar Games, and I commend them. If you like driving around and taking in the scenery or causing wanton chaos in the street, there is no better way to do it than by playing this game. It’s just wonderful and we should stand in awe of the designers. If you’ve ever spent more than 24 hours building something in Minecraft, you can really appreciate that the amount of work that went into the state of San Andreas was fucking colossal.

That being said, the game does a surprisingly bad job of creating the illusion of immersion, which has more or less been a key strength of GTA games where players believe that the insane freedom granted to the characters is actually theirs. From the very beginning of the game, I was not impressed that San Andreas is actually an island. Look at the map: it’s a fucking goddamn island. And yet, there are highways and byways and all of these long-distance hauling vehicles going where, exactly? 10 miles across the state? Because that’s about as far as you’re going to get on land from any point to the next. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

If Los Santos is meant to be a mirror-version of Los Angeles, there are some serious gaps in geography, especially considering that when Carl C.J. Johnson was in charge, the same landmass was shared by no less than three major cities. So what happened? Did San Fiero and Los Venturas sink into the sea? A tragedy like that would be a major part of the culture, and yet the events of September 11th are referenced on popular Los Santos radio stations, as if that could still be relevant in a time where 75% of a single state suddenly disafuckingpeared into the god damned fucking ocean.

I don’t know why it makes me mad, but it does. Border the state with mountains or something. Create a fucking probation bracelet that explodes if you try to cross any borders out of the game’s playable area. But don’t fucking tell me that San Andreas is a 100 square mile island, because I won’t buy it. Oahu is an island. Does it look like fucking Los Angeles? Hell no, it doesn’t! The weight of the highway system alone would force it underwater. God damn it, so I hate the island thing and now we all get it let’s move on.

Other instances of bullshit that ensures you will not feel immersed are things like having a back door to your home which cannot be opened (come on), and a bottle of beer sitting on your counter that one: you would ever think to drink out of, and two: that you can drink out of forever. You can actually get blind drunk by taking hundreds of sips out of a 12 oz. goddamned beer bottle. Now you can get just as drunk drinking out of the never ending whiskey bottle, too. And yet, no matter how smashed you are, you’ll be sober enough to pilot Air Force One in less than ten minutes, or about two hours in game time. As an alcoholic, I have a major problem suspending disbelief about these kinds of things, and think that if they were smart enough to take out the eating thing, they probably should have completely removed the drinking thing, too. Taking bong rips is a little more interesting, but still just a silly distraction. Maybe if I were a kid who wasn’t supposed to be playing this game like 50% of the players out there are, I’d find it more amusing.

Never mind the fact that out of the thousands of buildings placed around the state, only a couple dozen have any actual interiors and the rest are static exteriors. I’m hoping that future DLC will open some of them up, and I’ll wait to see if it does.

Now if that wasn’t harsh enough, here’s something nobody wants to admit in print: the story is probably the weakest of all GTA games, and that includes the top-down versions of 1 and 2, which had you playing as a fast-driving hustler for hire, no questions asked. Not a bad technique, especially for the arcade-style gameplay it featured. GTA games didn’t really get dramatic and plot driven until 3, but 3 took an anonymous character and put him into incredible circumstances that made you feel that it was what you had to do. Vice City gave you a character with a back story, also thrown into a wild situation out of which he clawed tooth and nail to the top of the game. Are you seeing a pattern here? These characters lived out their lives of crime as a survival mechanism, and it brought them varying degrees of success and victory. GTA V features not one, but three fuck-ups who are all at heart, just opportunists who are greedy and bored and nihilistic enough to try their hand at something big. Not an intriguing setup, and the implications portend further worship of aimless, preposterous, unmerited success for all who buy into the story. Fuck that shit. The dialogue is terrible, too. “I’m getting too old for this nonsense,” is the literally last line of the game, and the cliche couldn’t have less of an impact even if it wasn’t cribbed from the script of the Lethal Weapon movies. It’s a story, yes, I get it, but it’s only compelling if you care about the characters, which you don’t, so I don’t feel bad about spoiling anything, because this fruit was rotten to begin with.

There, harsh enough? Because I actually liked playing the game quite a bit. The expectations ran just a little bit too high this time, that’s all. It’s a big legacy to live up to, and they created something monumental without a doubt. But if you want my honest assessment, GTAV bears all the hallmarks of a Star Wars prequel: beautiful, big-budget gorilla shit. I purchased it, hell I pre-ordered it with money, and I don’t have a lot, so I don’t feel bad in telling you this game gives a lot of head, but few epic blowjobs.




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