Grand Theft Auto V Review
This is where GTA has fallen behind other open-world game like Saints Row IV. GTA's missions allow hardly any creative use of the wonderful environment they have built. Meanwhile, the non-mission stuff still doesn't feel like it matters all that much. Sure, you can play tennis, or go hunting, or get drunk and play in traffic, and the mechanics, animations, and environments for doing all those things in are amazing, but none of it has any sense of meaningfulness. When you go off-piste in Saints Row, you're still saving the world from aliens. When you go off-piste in GTA, you're kinda just messing around.
Having said all that, this doesn't stop the missions themselves from being highly entertaining and astonishingly varied. Despite its fairly strict adherence to physical realism, GTA manages to make almost every mission feel different, and never boring. Well, the mission that involved moving shipping crates around while scouting a potential heist location was pretty dull, but that was one mission in dozens, hundreds even. And of course, while Rockstar's missions aren't the most emergent, they are punctuated with cut-scenes featuring superb voice-acting and animation.
Sadly, the actual writing leaves a lot to be desired. It's not so much that the writing is bad, rather, it's decent writing which is then drowned in bad swearing. Sam Houser claimed that Rockstar North wanted to make a game about masculinity. What they've actually done is made a game about testosterone, which is a different thing. There's a ridiculous amount of chest-beating aggression, trading of petty insults and sexual denigration. The irony is that when GTA V stops yelling and cursing, and the characters actually start having a conversation, the writing is fine. Certain back-and-forths between Franklyn and insider-trader-cum-assassin Lester, and Michael and his psychiatrist, are often thoughtful and amusing. But when the writing descends to characters calling each other (and I quote) a "fucking fuck", well, that speaks for itself.
There have also been accusations that GTA V is misogynist, and it's true that the game doesn't exactly view women in the best of lights. Then again, it acts pretty hatefully toward humanity in general. It believes itself to be satirical, but the anger is too overt, and the humour too infrequent, so the tone ends up more in the vein of misanthropy rather than parody. Misogynist or no, creating a game with three main characters, and denying 51% of the population one character who they will have an easier time identifying with, is a very strange decision indeed.
GTA V is a hugely entertaining, astonishingly diverse game which unfortunately has a rather thick streak of bitterness through it that, regardless of it jumping up and down shouting "but it's SATIRE", slightly sours the whole experience. It's like an ageing A-list movie star, undeniably talented and inconceivably rich, that despite the extensive plastic surgery remains rather set in its ways, and occasionally says things you may find more than a little distasteful.
Then it goes and robs a bank just because it can, and despite yourself you kind of fall in love with it again.