Grand Theft Auto V Review: A Triple Dose of Satirical Fun - HotHardware

Grand Theft Auto V Review: A Triple Dose of Satirical Fun

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Lost Santos and Its Characters

Grand Theft Auto V takes place in San Andreas, a fictional representation of southern California, with much of the action focused on Los Santos County, a satirical representation of Los Angeles and its surrounding areas, such as Hollywood (Vinewood) and Venice Beach (Vespucci Beach).

There are miles of terrain to explore and several different ways of travel. The game encourages you to at least spend some time trying out each mode of transportation. Not only might you be required to fly an airplane in one mission and outrun the police in a getaway car in another, you're also rewarded through a basic leveling up system. The more you put the pedal to the metal and race along the highways, for example, the better your character's driving skill. Should you decide to go for a jog or play some tennis, you'll increase your character's stamina, which in turn allows him to run longer without losing breath (and health). Trust me that having high stamina will come in handy at some point, usually when the police pin your car against an obstacle forcing you to abandon the vehicle and run like you stole something (which you probably did). The list of skills you can level up include Special, Stamina, Shooting, Strength, Stealth, Flying, Driving, and Lung Capacity.

Even with the provided paper map that comes with the game, memorizing the entire landscape would be a daunting task, so there's a mini-map in the lower left corner. As with previous titles, without it the game would be hopelessly overwhelming in scope. It won't take too long before you start to recognize frequent areas and routes of travel, but when you're off the beaten path or playing out a mission that takes you to a new area, the mini-map is a critical component, especially since you can lose a mission by letting your target speed too far ahead and out of sight.

You can zoom out of the mini-map for a larger view of the local area by pressing down on the D-pad. Also of interest on the mini-map are random events that happen around you. As you're traveling around Los Santos County, you're apt to stumble upon an event that you can choose to ignore or intervene, such as running down a purse snatcher or recovering a stolen bicycle. Didn't sign up for that? Don't worry, not all random events cast you as a knight in shining armor. Armored trucks are fair game, and if you manage to hijack one without getting yourself killed, you'll be rewarded with lots of loot. Alternately, it's up to you whether to return a stolen purse to its owner or keep it for yourself.

The mini-map also provides information about your vitals. There are three colored bars that run across the bottom representing your health (green bar), armor (blue bar), and special ability (yellow bar). Each of the three playable characters has a unique skill. Franklin, the first character you control in GTA V, is skilled behind the wheel. Initiating his special ability slows down time when he's driving any vehicle, allowing you to pull off razor sharp turns that would otherwise have you careening into telephone poles and buildings. Michael, the second character you control, can slow down time during gunfights, making it easier to mow down multiple targets and rack up head shots, which in turn increases your shooting skill further. Trevor, the last character you get introduced to, goes into a rage that allows him to deal double the damage to enemies while taking half as much damage when getting hit.

For a larger view of the world, the main map can be found in the Start menu. It's somewhat interactive, in that you're allowed to pin markers at desired locations and then be guided how to get to them on the mini map.


As mentioned, GTA V features three protagonist and eventually you'll be able to switch between the three of them at any given point in time (except when a character might be laying low, such as after a major robbery). You start off by controlling Franklin, a hood rat who aspires for bigger scores than the ones you can get as a two-bit gangster. He begins as a repo man for a luxury car dealership, and though he's capable of doing some awful things -- as all the characters are -- there's a softer side to him that would be content to go legit, if he could carve out a comfortable living doing so. At the same time, he holds a romanticized view of criminal world, hence why he's so easily drawn into Michael's world.


Michael is the second character you control. He's struggling to enjoy a miserable life as a retired bank robber in his forties, and he would be except that everyone around him resents him for one reason or another. On the outside, he has a mansion, plenty of money, and more time than he knows what to do with with. However, he's also living with an unfaithful wife, a disrespectful son who spends most of his time playing video games, and a teenage daughter who seeks out attention from those who are only interested in exploiting her sexuality. He's also in a witness protection program of sorts, having faked his death and left behind his old friends.


After you've spent some completing missions, you'll eventually unlock Trevor, a character from Michael's past who for the past several years thought his best friend was dead. Trevor is your typical white-trash character with a temper the size of Texas, though like the other two protagonists, he's a complicated being. He lives in a dingy trailer in the desert and runs a methamphetamine business. Out of the three characters, his has the lowest moral standard and is the most cruel to those around him, but after a couple of missions, you'll find that he starts to grow on you, kind of like a wart.

The three-character system is a brilliant way of identifying with gamers of different ages and personalities. Younger gamers in their teens and twenties will probably find more in common with Franklin than either of the other two, while being in my mid-thirties, I found elements of Michael's situation somewhat easier to sympathize with.

Rockstar Games also gives itself a way of presenting different styles of game play while maintaining a sense of believability. By introducing Trevor, the developer is able to make missions featuring extreme mayham and cold-blooded antics without interrupting the suspension of disbelief, which is strong throughout the game. The alternative is to feature a single protagonist, but as with previous titles in the franchise, there would be certain scenarios that seem too far fetched, given what you know about the character's personality. That isn't a problem in GTA V.

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Great review, Paul. This isn't my sort of title (console controllers especially) but I can see why the title is so popular.

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Fair, balanced review. I only disagree wit your inclusion of the torture scene in the NOT category. I didn't mind not skipping the torture scene, I just wish we were given a better understanding of why we tortured him. It seemed unnecessary since the guy was eager to talk before the torture and claimed to be an american citizen. I saw it as a satire of the revised national defense authorization act of 2012. Any american can be held indefinitely and have no trial if they are allegedly connected to "terrorism". I felt more of a connection with the victim than Trevor in that scene, but I still enjoyed torturing the sh*t out of him.

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See, that's the difference. You "enjoyed" torturing (at least virtually) in the game. Some folks, and I'd dare say a lot of folks, including me, would be disturbed by it. When you consider edgy stuff like that, it's best to give players and option to skip or even a setting for extreme situational game play. Then you've got both player types covered.

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Side note, KOwen, I respect your right to virtually torture of course. ;-)

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I agree with you Dave, but at the same time, you have to respect that fact that most people bought GTA V, to play GTA V.

We all know the GTA title is mainly that game where you can run around the streets of a virtual world, shoot people, gun down police, steal cars, everything, without any real consequence. The kind of people that bought the game, knew that the majority of the game was going to revolve around those general concepts of crime without consequence, and as a result I would think we have to look at the torture scene in context. If it was in a game less centered around maximum carnage and violence, I can see it being a bit more of an issue, but to be perfectly honest, I think it was expected to be seen in GTA, and anyone even remotely unsettled by the act of virtually torturing someone should also probably be unsettled by the rest of the murders, beatings, and other crimes that go on in the game, and shouldn't have even bought the game in the first place, but that's just my opinion.

I'm still on your side, I think it is always best to give them an option to skip the scene, much like what was seen in that airport level in Call of Duty Modern warfare 2. It's easier to implement a system to skip that than deal with all the hate.

Sorry for ranting, just trying to verbally understand both sides of the argument here. :)

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I've recently purchased a ps3 controller for use for my PC gaming needs - routing an hdmi cable through my wall so I can play on the couch but I too, am waiting for a PC release. I even own an xbox and am waiting for a pc release because my hardware outstrips the capability of the xbox. That makes me sound snobbish but I, like you, have been spoiled by crazy HD graphics.

Your review provides a good breakdown and some very good thoughts for someone who hasn't picked up the game yet - which is awesome. I'm also glad there is some controversy over the torture scene - it sparks some good discussion (in this forum even) which serves to fetter out some of the problems with parts of games like this. I think that regardless of your stance on the scene or the game as a whole, active discussion is healthy. It seems that so many in the gaming community are prepared to shut down any discussion about things like this from the traditional "girls in games" discussion to things like this.

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This is the best GTA game bar none.

My favorite character is easily Trevor because my inner demon comes out when I play as him. It's pretty funny how he is taking a crap behind a dumpster in one scene...LOL. But, I do like Michael and Trevor too. Pretty cool how you can switch from character to character. The story is much better than the last 4 games and I had a lot of fun seeing how everything came together. I like using chop to attack cops and other guys. But, I don't have a problem with the torture scenes. I mean GTA isn't a game that you should allow your 4 year old to play.

I do like the online play a lot. But, sadly I have been seeing a lot of people that are just using some hacks to get an endless amount of money. What are your thoughts on the online gameplay?

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"I don't have a problem with the torture scenes. I mean GTA isn't a game that you should allow your 4 year old to play."

Granted, nobody's going to argue that GTA V isn't suitable for children, but that's not the issue. The problem with the torture scene isn't its inclusion, but that Rockstar doesn't give you the option of skipping it even though it's pretty damn graphic and controversial.

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