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Fisher raves about grand theft auto five

The early evening sky is painted in strokes of magenta and orange, but the equally alluring aura of the city lights creeps into my peripheral vision. As the sun rapidly sets, I can’t help but wonder what the pulse of Los Santos will be like tonight. Perhaps the winding streets of Rockford Hills will be filled with LSPD squad cars chasing down another drunken Vinewood celebrity-of-the-week, running to or from tabloid stardom. Or maybe a beachside condo-owner will file a noise complaint due to the stoned partiers blaring FIDLAR from their boombox. Sanitation trucks might begin making their rounds, construction crews might pack up their gear and drive home, and a man with a guitar just might start serenading passersby.

As the last of the sun dies along the horizon, I wonder about the “might”, the “maybe”, the “what if.” All the situations that lie ahead, despite their variability, comfort me as I know they will occur with or without my direct involvement. Los Santos and the surrounding countryside of San Andreas undoubtedly lives and breathes on its own.
And that is perhaps the greatest accomplishment of Grand Theft Auto V, Rockstar Games’ newest entry into their long-running series. After nearly four years of development and a reported budget of $256 million, the publisher/developer team – most famous for its ability to craft massive open world games including past GTA titles as well as other popular games such as Red Dead Redemption – has effectively delivered an experience that feels not only vast, but also organic in every possible way.

Grand Theft Auto V continues the tradition of setting players in an alternate, satirical portion of the U.S., where the underlying corruption, absurdity, and misanthropy found within our own reality is projected in an (slightly) exaggerated fashion. Whereas GTA IV chose to parody New York City, transforming it into Liberty City, GTA V introduces gamers to their version of Los Angeles…Los Santos. Hollywood becomes Vinewood, Beverly Hills becomes Rockford Hills, One California Plaza becomes the FIB Building. Each element, down to the design of the realty signs that populate lawns, echoes and twists something about American culture. Each detail leads you to believe that the creators of this world wholeheartedly encourage exploration, and when you first begin the game, you’ll find yourself seduced, perhaps overwhelmed, by the size and density of Los Santos. But don’t worry, you’ll see all of it in due time with the help of the three protagonists that drive the story along.

A new move for the series, GTA V allows players to control three different characters virtually at any point in the game (except for specific moments in missions). First, there’s Michael De Santa, an ex-bank robber who now lives in Rockford Hills with his wife and two children. The second main protagonist, Franklin Clinton, is attempting to escape from the suffocating gang life of Los Santos in order to become legitimate. Then there’s Trevor Phillips. Trevor, once Michael’s partner in crime, represents the true id of the GTA universe…he lives a reclusive life but when the mood strikes, he acts out in total, unhinged abandon, dishing out relentless chaos, only to follow up with a tasteless joke and a cold can of Logger beer.

Having three characters at your disposal makes the game much more diverse and multifaceted, but it’s also amazing how synergistic the experience becomes when the three begin to interact together. Each character has a particular strength: Michael has the ability to slow down time during a firefight, Franklin can slow down time while driving, and Trevor goes into a kind of rage mode where he inflicts fifty percent more damage while also taking less damage himself. Each of these unique abilities is not simply for show; they represent a certain aspect of the characters’ personality. For instance, Michael’s bullet time is derived from his obsession with 80s action films. You don’t find yourself using these as much as you would think, but it’s easy to tell that they expertly and thoughtfully designed and…well, complete.

And upon reaching the game’s conclusion, that’s the feeling I’m left with. There’s a tremendous sense of completion, not only in terms of spending nearly 48 hours (mind you, this is referring merely to the time it takes to complete the story portion) of my life with these characters, doing missions, playing golf, flying airplanes, swimming next to sharks (briefly), but everything in the game suggests that a full uncompromising vision on Rockstar Games’ part was brought to fruition and executed marvelously.
GTA V represents the very best that videogames has to offer, technically, graphically, and artistically, furthering the argument that these bits of code aren’t just products designed for the mindless, lowest common denominator. With an experience this rich and vast, you know that you’re in the hands of masterful storytellers that truly respect the intelligence of both diehard fans and newcomers alike.
Take a trip to Los Santos. You might find the American Dream there, if it hasn’t become a nightmare yet. Either way, it’s yours for the taking.

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