Grand Theft Auto V (GTAV) is in a strange place for me. I’ve put a lot of hours into the game – mostly playing around in the sandbox and doing a few side missions. I suspect I’ve spent maybe 5% of those hours on the main story missions. If that. In fact, I’ve yet to finish the main storyline. Truthfully, I’m not sure when (or if) I will.
I’ve mentioned before that with these types of games I alternate between playing in the sandbox and doing the missions. However much fun I’m having with the sandbox, it’s the lure of the story missions that tends to keep my interest high. If my interest in the missions begins to wane, as it did with Red Dead Redemption (RDR), then I’ll slowly stop playing the game. If I get a new game to play, then I’ll probably never go back to the original one.
GTAV is in that place for me. I was having a lot of fun with the world and side missions. Every now and again I’d do a main mission, but most of my time was spent screwing around in the world.
Thief came along, and so the GTAV disc is now back in its case, and I’m finding I have very little urge to go back and play it.
With Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (GTA:SA) even when the plot went off the rails, I found the situations and characters engaging. So much so that it became my default game for quite a few years. The same happened with Grand Theft Auto IV (GTAIV). For the most part when the story stumbled, the characters kept me going, but on the whole I also enjoyed the main story arc.
In GTAV I’m not finding so much to care about. The story seems to slosh all over the place, with less cohesion than either GTA:SA or GTAIV and I can frankly take or leave most of the characters.
Trevor is the most fun character probably because he’s pretty much a psychopath, which fits in well with the GTA sandbox ethos. Here and there we do get hints of what goes on inside him (beyond rage), but those are few and far between and he reverts to type almost as quickly. After a while he becomes a single note character.
Francis is an ‘ok’ character, but with his passive nature really needs someone else to react with and to in order to be interesting. So really if he’s not interacting with Michael, Trevor or one of his ‘old crew’, he’s bland.
Michael is a harder character to get a grip on. I find it hard to empathise with him, because often it seems what he feels is what’s required for him to feel for that particular part of the story. Instead of his character apparently driving the story, it seems to be the other way around.
Actually, that impression surrounds a lot of the Trevor/Michael interactions. A lot of their relationship just doesn’t ring true. In fact in many cases it seems like the writers have deliberately stopped situations escalating so we don’t hit any climax too soon. The problem is, it feels far too clunky to really work.
The story itself also feels far looser and more directionless than earlier GTAs I’ve enjoyed. I think perhaps the issue is that there are too many threads running at once. In previous games you had one main thread, around which other threads spawned. Even as you were participating in these other mini stories, the main one was there in the background.
In GTAV it feels like there are a mass of threads all flapping around and tangling without a main one to get back to. Now, one could argue that the Michael/Trevor thread is supposed to be main one, but it doesn’t really have the strength for that, and tends to get lost in the mix.
I think the breaking point (if you can call it that) for me was the ‘resolution’ of Michael’s issues with his family. There was little to no foreshadowing and it just seemed to happen. It didn’t tie up the loose ends so much as just chop them off. It was hard enough to be invested in Michael’s story before that, but now it feels that one of his few driving forces has been removed from the plot.
So, like RDR, GTAV isn’t a bad game. It’s given me a lot of hours of fun, and I can’t complain about that. On the other hand, it’s the glimpses of what it could have been that are bugging me. I’m missing out on content because I can’t be bothered.
Perhaps one day I’ll go back to play in its sandbox. I’m not sure I’ll ever finish the ‘story’.