Grand Theft Auto 5 review: Return to Rockstar’s open-world epic

Any discussion of Auto grand theft 5 must start with the scale. Not the size of its world, or the weapons, vehicles, and people in it, but with sales data: Since its initial release in 2013, across all platforms, GTA 5 has sold something in the realm of 165 million copies worldwide. This is a difficult number to grasp. Just under 40 million people live in California. If copies of GTA 5 were people, the total number of copies sold would be proportional to the population of Bangladesh. The game is puzzle big in its impact and scope.

This number will only continue to climb now that Auto grand theft 5 was launched on the latest game consoles (and now that new details about GTA 6 would have emerged). I’ve spent the past two months slowly playing the game on my Xbox Series X to figure out exactly where this 2013 artifact lands nearly a decade later.

After all, he is an artifact. The Grand Theft Auto franchise has always functioned as a commentary, speaking directly to elements of mass culture, borrowing liberally from plots from different crime genre films and eras, trading in heroic melodrama, and peppering these worlds with a wacky violence. city ​​of vice played up early 2000s nostalgia for the coke-fueled party scene of the 1980s and its visual and musical industries. grand theft auto 4 followed the story of an immigrant into a deeply commercial culture of swindlers and schemers. They each spoke about both their time and place in specific ways, parodying the mass culture of those times while become mainstream mass culture of the early 2000s.

Image: Rockstar Games

We are a long way from 2013, and it is clear by now that Auto grand theft 5 was struggling with this paradox: what does it mean to stick it to the man when you’re the man? How do you keep flipping the bird to monoculture when you’re the marker against which all other open-world action games are measured?

The solution that GTA 5 came to solve this problem, and which I think has something to do with its ten-year endurance as a single and multiplayer game, was to create an extremely robust driving and shooting game skeleton and the dress up with any interesting ideas that came to mind. What is striking about playing GTA 5 in 2022 is how blurry it is, how ready the game is to take a player on a strange road of heists, train carriage abductions, cargo plane takedowns and a mini – complete torture game (more on this shortly). In its online and story-driven multiplayer modes, that willingness to go to any random idea is always guaranteed by the game’s willingness to return to that safe and solid core. A player knows that there is always something in the center waiting to catch him, that the “30 second loop” of the AAA game of driving and shooting under new circumstances will eventually return. Everything is resolved by killing to get out of a sticky situation, fleeing in a vehicle and blowing up the people chasing you. The game can get as weird as it wants because we all know where it’s going.

That tight shooting and driving core is remarkably solid on Xbox Series X. I didn’t think there was much room to impress or surprise me in this edition of the game, given that I played the game on the two previous console generations. To my surprise, the higher graphical fidelity and improved frame rates really did something for me in the sense that there was a whole transformed world to browse. Launching the game in Performance mode and racing around the world at 60fps while randomly fighting all the enemies that crossed my path legitimately watched and play better than I thought possible. It was quite strange to play this game so soon after finishing Cyberpunk 2077if only because Auto grand theft 5 continues to feel like an inhabited world, full of people with their places and things. It’s positively lush with Things compared to Cyberpunk 2077‘s Night City. Neighborhoods and their inhabitants seem to fully exist in GTA 5. It still kind of remains the standard for a true sense of place and space, even in the face of games like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla who were trying to achieve similar goals.

Trevor and Michael in a helicopter in GTA 5 on PS5 and Xbox Series X

Image: Rockstar Games

That said, although the appearance of the world of GTA 5 are remarkable and hold up impressively, the context in which it was all produced and the commentary it contains on the world of 2013 takes on a bizarre tone in 2022.

The main actors of Michael, Franklin and Trevor live in an eternal world of early concerns: the Great Recession, the meth epidemic, the problem of getting your foot in the door. american idol is parodied, the hypocrisy of liberal governments dependent on the War on Terror is castigated, and social media in Los Santos is just a feature of life rather than an all-consuming desire.

It all seems quaint and everyday, especially considering how soft and uncynic the game is about these three main characters. They are adrift in capitalism, each trying to find their way in the world. They gather families, mentors, or friends as they go, all of whom are engrossed in an ever-more convoluted story that drives corrupt government agencies, private military companies, and wellness gurus. Sometimes we zoom out to global historical conditions. Sometimes we have to do yoga. It’s all handled the same way: no more bullshit for these characters to go through in their quest for success and self-expression. Back when the game was originally released, I called it conservative in that it yearned for the good old days and actively pilloried all parts of life that didn’t adhere to and respect the value of the old methods. Now I would call it out of touch – even for the time it was released.

What was revolutionary Auto grand theft 5 was its commitment to great shared open-world gameplay in the form of GTA Online, which is so robust at this point that it’s its own separate game which just happens to be sold with 5. In the few hours I’ve been online, I’ve found it harder to get into than it was about five years ago when I played it regularly on my Xbox One. The online game still opens with the bunker-based gameplay of 2017’s Gunrunning update, which hooks into smuggling missions that I didn’t find very interesting, then lets you into a world quite complex activities. As with many live games, the new player experience seems almost entirely dependent on identifying external sources such as Reddit or Discords feeds that can help steer you towards what you might want to do in the space. as many things as possible.

GTA Online characters on PS5 and Xbox Series X

Image: Rockstar Games

Notably, in the previous console generation, it was pretty straightforward to get into a playlist of wacky things people had done in-game, but layers of gameplay additions seemed to make that more opaque – even though. There’s a huge amount of stuff you can do once you figure it out. It seems online certainly drove some of those millions in game sales, it’s also moved into gaming communities that aren’t as publicly accessible as they once were, and really dig into online gaming with some others takes more than a little work on the part of the player.

It is also interesting to play this game after-Red Dead Redemption 2which is driven by many of the same ideas as Auto grand theft 5, but does not grapple with cynicism or an inherently frictional attitude toward mass culture. RDR2 simply leans wholeheartedly into the Western genre and its emotional pitfalls, never blinking at the melodrama or showing any kind of creepy attitude towards how this genre takes itself too seriously; however, even GTA 5the most engaging portions feel like they are very cool To commit.

The oft-discussed torture scene, for example, in which players act as Trevor torturing someone at the behest of the infamous FIB, plays jokingly on camera, trying to divide a tone between earnest meditation on what Trevor is able to do and the clumsy way he goes about it. He seems to be aiming for a Mr. Blonde impression, but he doesn’t have the guts to do what reservoir dogs done by giving us a man who is so comfortable with torture that he will happily do it. Instead, we’re sold a touching scene of Trevor taking the torture victim to the airport and dumping her, showing that our player-character has a heart of gold over the feds who told him to settle. All the problems. . And, by the way, the whole mission takes place alongside another mission where our other protagonist assassinates a civilian at the behest of the agency.

A car wash at night in GTA 5 on PS5 and Xbox Series X

Image: Rockstar Games

Here, nearly a decade later GTA 5of life, it is a meticulously mapped object. We know what we’re going to get, and its ability to produce novelty or wonder in its systems or narrative is now minimal. Instead, it’s a time capsule that changes in slow motion, delivering 2013 to us through each incremental console update that tells the single player story at higher levels of fidelity and urban density. Along with this we have the constant expansion of Online and its ever-growing festival of weirdness, a kind of side-show that has become the main attraction for hundreds of thousands of players.

GTA 5 feels like an infrastructural flavor to the game at this point, delivering the same driving and shooting action, showing up to comfort you wherever you might want to play it. When novelty pops up, like when I was driving all night and Burial’s “Hiders” playing on the in-game radio, apparently added in 2017, it really stands out. But play GTA 5 today is generally not an exercise in a new experience for millions of us. It’s a return to the familiar, a known entity, and these new-gen versions of the game give us a repeat with slight differences. If that’s what you’re looking to squeeze out of your time in 2022, GTA 5 is there for you.

Auto grand theft 5 was re-released on March 15 on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. The game was reviewed on Xbox Series X using a download code provided by Rockstar Games. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find additional information on Polygon’s ethics policy here.

About Sara Rodriquez

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