GTA 5 Review: Damn it Feels Good (& Bad) to Be a Gangsta

Grand Theft Auto V is a remarkable achievement. Fun, challenging, satisfying and morally complex, it’s also proof of the ability of games to tackle mature subjects while still being enjoyable diversions, all in service to great characters and a gritty story. No, it’s not a revolution by any step – it’s more the stable government established once the revolution is over. It perhaps relies too heavily on successes from the series’ past. And in a couple of ways, it really represents a step backward away from progress the gaming industry desperately needs to make. But it’s by far among the best games of the current generation.

I’ll be spending a lot of time in Los Santos. And just like in LA, I’ll probably love it even when I hate it. It’s hard to argue with that.

Pros:

  • Varied gameplay ranging from tactical combat, to simple messing around. It’s not a revolutionary step forward, but perhaps is the most complete experience in the series
  • Expert combination of numerous recent gameplay innovations
  • Gameplay between the three protagonists balanced almost perfectly
  • Excellent graphics, beautiful environments and a spot-on parody of Southern California
  • Vast improvements over GTA IV
  • Perhaps the best licensed soundtrack in series history, plus a wonderful original score
  • Great performances from voice cast
  • Surprising moral complexity, nuanced storytelling that grapples with mature themes without losing the sense of fun
  • Excellent script with distinct, well written protagonists

Cons:

  • Satirical elements rely heavily on old jokes, played out references, a shallow understanding of the objects of satire, and ultimately aren’t funny. It feels out of touch, especially compared to the main story
  • Too few safe houses turns mundane gameplay tasks into chores
  • Certain side missions confusing or unclear
  • The scarcity of women characters, and a related mini game, is an example of the game’s limitations when it comes to creating a living virtual world
  • slight performance issues

Final Score: 93/100


Game Front employs a 100-point scale when reviewing games to be as accurate about the experience as possible. Read the full rundown of what our review scores mean.


Read more of Ross Lincoln’s work here, and follow him and Game Front on Twitter: @rossalincoln and @gamefrontcom.

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8 Comments on GTA 5 Review: Damn it Feels Good (& Bad) to Be a Gangsta

Isaac

On September 23, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Best soundtrack of them all? No just no the radio stations are all awful and repeat everything way too often. The score is good but the radios are laughable.

Greyson

On September 24, 2013 at 8:51 am

He wasn’t talking about just the radio stations…

No More Liberalist BS

On September 24, 2013 at 9:19 am

Stop whinging about the lack of female characters. It’s in your head. There’s loads of female characters in the game (Amanda, Tracey, Denise, Patricia, Diane, Molly, Franklin’s girlfriend and several others who are available for side missions). Your ideology continues to blind your judgement.

Ed

On September 24, 2013 at 10:47 am

Excellent review. Pleased to see the game’s flaws being acknowledged while not ignoring just how damn incredible the overall product is.

@No More Liberalist BS *rolls eyes* – I think the one-dimensional nature of the female characters is the problem. They’re basically just boobs with names that whine about stuff. It’s a problem when the satire in the game isn’t funny or particularly well thought out and in particular when it seemingly tries to make fun of sexism while not simultaneously presenting female characters that show how ridiculous those prejudices are.

Dan Miller

On September 24, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Great review overall, but I’ll of course show up to nitpick a few points you mention (though which have been widely noted so you are hardly alone). I haven’t been a huge GTA fan historically (never played San Andreas) and I think the criticisms of the game are huge stretches.

First, it’s not satire. GTA has never been satire. Satire is a hugely misused word in game criticism today. Satire has a goal of societal improvement through it’s depictions… GTA is better described as camp, presenting an exaggerated picture of life in America in 2013, from Wall Street to hookers to violent video games. It’s self aware in a way that most satire is not, in that it doesn’t try to push an agenda – it portrays everything as ridiculous. It’s much closer to Spring Breakers than it is to Candide, and it’s only sensible to attack the political ideology of the latter.

Second, the criticism that there are no strong females feels contrived. I haven’t read a similar criticism of a video game ever. Is it progressive? Sure, and I’m all for that. But to start demanding females with agency for the first time, of a game that is otherwise largely perfect, seems overly reactionary to the sexual content of the game itself. Female protagonists is a macro issue in video gaming, not specific to GTA. If your problem is with the stereotypes of women presented, GTA is regurgitating popular tropes right back at us. We are a shallow society when it comes to gender and GTA is just reminding us. It would be compromising to its own vision to do otherwise. A deep, likeable character with strong moral guidance of any gender would stand out in this environment.

I’m about 10 hours in and this game has a remarkable scope, with a specific and well-executed artistic vision, without giving up a minute of fun to achieve it. Its a very, very short list of games that hit those marks. Having lived in LA for 7 years, the detailed recreation in the game is remarkable and adds tremendously to the experience. On a lot of metrics, I think GTA V is the best game I’ve ever played.

raiden

On September 25, 2013 at 2:46 am

i want to play gta games

max

On September 25, 2013 at 12:18 pm

am i the only one on earth who realized you could have tire flat on a tank ??????????????? and the tank seem to be as light as a Feather, when ur cannon is blocked in a wall or tree, and u try to keep turning it, its ur tank that is moving as if it was full of Air. the tank look like a reskinned truck……… SO LAME..

Micheal

On September 28, 2013 at 12:45 pm

This game is badass

But was killed when they put Miley Cyrus in it…