Grand Theft Auto V Review: A stunning triumph, one of the greatest games ever made
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Marrying gameplay brilliance to compelling characters and a world matched only in size by the number of things you can do in it, Grand Theft Auto V is a masterpiece--one of the greatest games ever made.
- Enthralling gameplay, with refined shooting and driving
- Breathtaking world with hundreds of ways to occupy hundreds of hours
- Thrilling story, with memorable characters and performances
- No custom music playback
- One particularly gratuitous scene
I'm grateful for the breadth of content in this world, but I'm more excited by the story Rockstar tells. Grand Theft Auto V is a game by adults, for adults: profanity, nudity, and gore abound. Political humor and cultural satire--funnier and more poignant than ever--give way to dark commentary on torture, murder, and betrayal. By and large, relevant plot beats and depictions are handled tastefully, with the intelligence the game's adult audience deserves. The line of comfort is thoroughly crossed in only one instance, when the player is made complicit in a heinous act that reflects post-9/11 paranoia. It's disgusting, but it's supposed to be, as both a scathing critique of groupthink and a sympathetic look at the otherwise good people made helpless by it.
Character depth and best-in-class writing support Michael, Trevor, and Franklin during thematically charged moments like this. Most of the game is less emotionally intense, but nuanced characterization and dialogue consistently impress. More than any series entry before it, Grand Theft Auto V is a story about the intersection of lives, the value of relationships, and the fallout of the choices we make. The plot drags just a bit during the middle hours, when clear antagonists have yet to be established, but this is still one of modern gaming's greatest tales.
It's also a hell of a lot of fun, thanks to refined shooting and driving controls and faster, more organic movement between and over cover. Grand Theft Auto IV's divisive sticky targeting is now an option, not the rule. I found much greater comfort with Assisted Aiming, which apes modern first-person shooters with a blend of snap-to-target and free aim. Stealth mechanics are back from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, where they were loosely applied to a few necessary instances. Here, they're executed better. Thinning an enemy crowd with suppressed shots and stealth kills (or avoiding conflict altogether) is a viable, though less obvious, approach to many situations. Meanwhile, cars and vehicles of all shapes and sizes handle beautifully, with noticeably unique traction, braking, and acceleration. There's just enough slip to encourage attentive driving, but bless Rockstar for bringing Grand Theft Auto closer to the days when you could get from Point A to Point B without two or three colossal wrecks on the way.