You know how every time a new story about Grand Theft Auto V’s massive sales numbers somehow increase again – it recently surpassed 160 million copies sold – somebody makes the joke, “Who the hell hasn’t played this game yet?” Yeah…It’s me. I’m the person who hasn’t played the game yet, or at least, I was until Monday. Now, roughly 10 hours into Grand Theft Auto V on PlayStation 5, I feel like a fool.
Grand Theft Auto V absolutely lives up to the hype, despite my belief that there was no way an open-world game with so many systems and mechanics, now almost a decade old, would hold up this well in 2022. I’ve always known GTA to be the series of crude jokes, vulgarity galore, and more along those lines. And to be clear, Grand Theft Auto V is very much that, but somehow, it all works. I laugh as I type this because I imagine 99-percent of people reading this are like, “Yeah dude, duh,” but if you’re someone who still hasn’t played this game, let me tell you: play it.
When I booted up the story mode for the first time and saw the visuals, I chuckled. In no way should Rockstar Games be charging for this new-gen version of the game. It should have been an update because, at best, it’s simply a 4K/60 FPS patch that makes things look a little better. Despite improved textures and lighting, Grand Theft Auto V still very much looks like a game from 2013. After shaking off the feeling that this enhanced edition should have been free, though, I was able to play a game I can already feel shaping up to be a new favorite.
One thing I found particularly striking in Grand Theft Auto V is how immediately authentic these characters feel. Michael, Trevor, and Brad all react and speak to each other how I imagine they would if they were real humans in a world robbing a bank in some remote snowy town. Fast forward to meeting Franklin and his friends, and I find myself constantly laughing out loud at their conversations. They’re hilarious and highly engaging. I’ve already turned down the in-game music’s volume a touch to ensure I hear every interaction when driving through Los Santos and I love hearing phone calls come out of my DualSense controller’s speaker.
Above all of that, though, the conversations between characters in this game just feel so real. Franklin and his friends relentlessly (and lovingly) give each other crap the same way my friends and I do. Michael’s nihilism fits in perfectly with the setup of Rockstar’s Los Santos, and while I’ve only just met Trevor, I’m already floored by Steven Ogg’s unhinged characterization. Trevor is nuts, and Ogg plays into that so well.
For me, the dialogue is the driving force of this game. It varies from real and well-written to absolutely off-the-wall, but not in a bad way – the more zany dialogue feels right at home in this glamorized, centralized version of Hollywood. One minute, I’m having a real conversation as Franklin while talking to Jimmy about the faults of his dad. Another minute, I’m playing as Michael listening to a salesman pitch me a new strain of weed that gets Michael so high he goes on a machine-gun fueled rampage to murder dozens of aliens. Every corner I turn, I find something else in Los Santos that catches my attention, be it a new Strangers and Freaks mission, a billboard with an advertisement that makes me cackle, or a street reminiscent of my trip to Los Angeles in 2019.
I’ve played past GTA games, and I adore both Red Dead Redemption and Red Dead Redemption II, but I figured a 2013 Rockstar game wouldn’t deliver an open world designed as well as the latter one, and yet, I’m in love with Los Santos. It’s impressive how much Rockstar was able to cram into this city and the surrounding desert a decade ago, and my brain hurts to think about just how big Grand Theft Auto VI is going to be.
Grand Theft Auto V also has some impressively smart writing. For example, as Michael, I walked in on my wife sleeping with her tennis coach. Enraged, Michael decides to get revenge on the coach. He informs Franklin about the situation, and the pair head over to a Malibu-esque cliffside house in a pickup truck. The two tie the truck’s tow line to beams holding the coach’s house up on the cliff. When they drive away, the beams and most of the house fall down the hill.
I loved this scene, but I was thinking to myself the entire time, “This is funny but there’s no way a tennis coach owns a house like this.” And sure enough, 30 seconds later, Michael gets a phone call from the coach saying it’s not his house. In fact, it’s the house of another would-be tennis player the coach is sleeping with. I was so satisfied by this twist because Rockstar swiftly and comically answered a question I was asking myself. That level of smart writing has been present throughout my 10 hours in Grand Theft Auto V thus far, and I can’t wait to find out what else awaits me in Los Santos.
Does the gameplay, especially the gunplay, feel like 2013? Oh yeah. Are the visual and performance improvements worth the price Rockstar is charging? Nah. Does Grand Theft Auto V hold up extremely well? Yes, very much so.
Perhaps it’s silly that I’m surprised – Grand Theft Auto V is the best-selling game of all time and one of the most successful entertainment properties ever, after all – but this game’s really, really good. I only wished I had played it years and years ago.
Anybody else playing Grand Theft Auto V for the first time? Let me know I’m not alone in the comments below!