Grand Theft Auto 5 is here, and it has taken the video game world by storm. Within just three days Rockstar’s latest open world crime game has sold $1 billion worth of copies, namely due to the franchise’s built in hype machine and loyal following. GTA’s die hard fan base is something Rockstar earned thanks to the revolutionary GTA 3 and the subsequent entries, but unlike most every other gamer on the planet I’ve never really bought into its allure.
I’ve been an outsider looking in, wondering what I’ve been missing about the GTA franchise that every other gamer has found. I jumped on the GTA 4 bandwagon, appreciated its accomplishments, but never found it to be a compelling gameplay experience. Trust me, I’ve tried to get into this franchise, which once again has proven to be even more popular than Activision’s Call of Duty juggernaut. I wanted to be in the in-crowd. Unfortunately, GTA 4’s gameplay and lackluster main character just never captured my imagination, and the wonky driving mechanics combined with the unrefined Euphoria engine just left a bad taste in my mouth. I bailed before finishing, and vowed to not buy into the GTA hype ever again. The franchise just wasn’t for me, or so I thought.
In comes GTA 5, the latest entry in Rockstar’s storied crime drama. I held firm to my conviction that I wouldn’t buy into its hype machine like I did for GTA 4, and stuck to my guns until the weekend before GTA 5’s official release. By that time I had read and seen pretty much every thing about the game, and even dug up some leaked video to see what all the fuss was about. I decided to do the right thing as an Editor-in-Chief of a website for geeks, and bit the GTA 5 bullet. I lost out to the hype once again, but this is one particular battle that I’m starting to realize was a prime one to lose.
I’m only a few hours into GTA 5’s campaign, but I can already feel an attitude change taking place inside me. From the very first mission I instantly became hooked, not so much on the gameplay, but the narrative and its lead characters. GTA 5’s story feels more like a movie, and its script is on par with some of Hollywood’s most infamous crime dramas. In fact, Max Parker of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette summed up the feel of GTA 5’s story perfectly in a recent tweet:
GameGuyPGH – “GTA V feels like it was written by Quentin Tarantino, directed by Michael Mann, and produced by Martin Scorsese”
Watching the cutscenes is a treat, each and every sentence holds weight and adds authenticity to the Los Santos universe. The early conversations between Lamar and Franklin add more character and life to the game than I’ve previously experienced in other titles. They feel like real people living real lives and I’m the vehicle for progressing their adventure. The thought of doing so is what keeps me coming back with an excited feeling each moment I can sneak in some play time.
Rockstar’s decision to include three main characters has also swayed me to GTA 5’s greatness. It’s not so much an appreciation of variety, but more so how they weave the three narratives into an overarching tale. The transitions feel natural and help to tie the world together perfectly. The characters just feel more believable thanks to the intertwining interactions, and for the first time I have an appreciation for them and their lives. I actually want to see how their tales play out, which has never been a concern of mine in other GTA games.
The final piece of my “I think I really like GTA 5” puzzle is the fact that the gameplay itself feels vastly improved. It could be mental, but controlling the characters and the plethora of motor vehicles feels much tighter and responsive than even GTA 4. Character movements don’t feel like you’re controlling a drunk person, well, that’s if you stay out of the game’s many bars, but overall their movements feel both lifelike and tight.
The gameplay improvements are most realized in the driving mechanics, and the gunplay. GTA 5’s auto-aim system feels great, and shoot-outs no longer feel like a Chinese fire drill. Driving has always been the bane of my GTA existence, but Rockstar’s fifth entry in the franchise seems to have fixed the extremely touchy controls. It no longer feels like I’m driving on a sheet of perpetual ice, which has removed most of the frustrations I had with previous GTA titles.
Many hours still remain in my quest to complete GTA 5 (will be the first Grand Theft Auto title I’ve ever beat), but it’s already clear that I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. I’m slowly starting to realize why this franchise can make $1 billion in just three days time. I’ve never hated on the GTA brand, it just didn’t do it for me, but it’s becoming clear why it has such a loyal following. For the first time in my gaming career I can finally say that I’m loving a Grand Theft Auto game, and it feels good. Everyone has to pop their GTA cherry, mine was just holding out for the right partner.
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