Image: Courtesy Rockstar Games
Today marks the debut of Grand Theft Auto V, which is quickly building a reputation as the most audacious video game in history. Its budget is rumored to be somewhere in the ballpark of $270 million, which rivals the cost Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End and Titanic. Its scope entailed creating an sprawling, obsessively detailed world that completely outstrips everything the GTA franchise has done before. Its plot sounds like Michael Mann teamed up with Bret Easton Ellis. To put it succinctly, The Daily Mirror breathlessly wrote, "GTA V isn’t just the greatest entry in one of its great series, it’s also one of the entire medium’s most accomplished and amazing achievements to date."
GTA V pivots from the franchise's previous structure, this time featuring three playable main characters instead of just one. Players can instantly switch in and out of controlling each of these career criminals, all with their own set of advantages and disadvantages: Franklin, the street-savvy gangbanger; Michael, a family man and the brains of the operation; and Trevor, the meth-cooking trailer park lunatic.
The trio must embark on a half-dozen complex heists, the elements of players also control, which not-too-infrequently end in balls-out firefights. Like any Rockstar Games title, it's not without an excess of violence. Critics have touched upon one particularly disturbing mission, in which the characters slowly and graphically torture a man. If that sounds a little like Reservoir Dogs, so will much of the dialogue, which is heavy on pop-culture references of a very Tarantino stripe.
And like every past iteration of GTA, the machismo is thick and representation of women is thin in this latest game. "Women are, once again, relegated to supporting roles as unfaithful wives, hookers and weirdos," notes the Guardian. "It's fine to parody the idiotic misogyny of violent men, but how about doing it by providing their opposite?" Gamespot's Carolyn Petit, meanwhile, criticized the game's "unnecessary strain of misogynistic nastiness," but praises it has having "one of the most beautiful, lively, diverse and stimulating worlds ever seen in a game." Ironically enough, her 9-out-of-10-star review made Petit herself a victim of sexist commenters and Internet trolls.
If players are able to put the game's sexism aside, however — quite a lot to ask, to be sure — they'll still find satire in spades. Petit concluded, "Your time in Los Santos may leave you with a few psychological scars, but you shouldn’t let that stop you from visiting." Other reviewers have praised its new combat mechanics and self-recharging health bar, but most of all its capacity to create a verisimilitudinous world that both mirrors and mocks our own. The people of this simulacrum of Southern California are obsessed with reality TV and plastic surgery, play tennis, cycle, and strike very sexy yoga poses — and you can join them if you want. Players can spend the winnings of their heists on everything from tattoos to stocks and real estate, and they can surf the GTA world's Internet to shop and post on a social media site unsubtly called Lifeinvader.
At the end of the day, the Guardian writes, "Grand Theft Auto V is not really a game about story or mechanics, even if it wants to be – it is a game about spectacle and experience." We can only hope it gains a little maturity when GTA VI rolls around. (The Guardian)