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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Grand Theft Auto 5.

Transcript Edit

Couldn't keep away from this game forever, could we? Certainly fucking can't in the city I live in! The entire place is practically gift-wrapped in adverts and posters for the thing; they almost outnumber the blokes in singlets and flip-flops calling each other "cant." I had to go down to Melbourne for a bit, and I was faintly relieved at not seeing any there until one of the trams rolled by absolutely plastered with the logos, like it had gone at full speed through the last EB games convention.

You know what I noticed, though? A lot of the posters I've seen consist only of the head and shoulders of one of the characters, with no attempt to sell the game or make any reference to its content; just the title underneath 'cause they figure that's all they need. "Here it is", they announced, grandly throwing the sheet off the swill trough and jumping back as the pigs all thundered madly towards it. Yeah, I see what you were getting at now, Amnesia!

So, GTAV, then. The fifth Grand Theft Auto, after 1, 2, III, Vice City, San Andreas, IV, Chinatown Wars, and all the other ones; adding up not being one of Rockstar's strong points. GTAIV was, of course, the game that taught the world that gritty realism and tragic character drama have their places, and that place is not the same place as the place where you can pile up all your dead prostitutes on the side of the road and then ramp off them into a big fire. I know you aspire to write stories with some complexity, Rockstar, and that players insisting on selfishly trying to have fun in your game must be very frustrating, but you kind of brought this on yourself when you decided that "Tw@" would be a funny name for an internet café.

GTAV tries to cunningly hedge its bets by constantly swapping between three different protagonists in the hope you'll like at least one of them. But that smacks of gambler's fallacy to me; it's entirely possible to toss three coins and have them all come up tails, or, indeed, for two to come up tails and the third to shoot up your dog's arse and give your dog bowel cancer. Franklin is probably closest to being the protagonist-protagonist, 'cause he does the standard GTA straight man thing, where he rolls his eyes exasperatedly at every random weirdo who thinks that flagging down passing pedestrians is the best way to put out a contract hit, but meekly follows their instructions anyway like a passive-aggressive husband. Michael, by comparison, is a very active-aggressive husband who retired from bank robbin' to spend more time screaming at his family and breaking things. And then there's Trevor, who seems to be an attempt to represent the standard mode of behaviour of a GTA player in that he's a filthy, amoral psychotic with the innate likeability of an incontinent honey badger in a whorehouse kitchen an hour before the health department inspection.

But my major beef is that none of these characters are likeable, and it's not because they, you know, kill people and shit; lord knows I can't throw stones in that department, at least not 'til I've cleared the basement out. They're just poorly-written and inconsistent, which may reflect the fact that their dialogue was being written by enough people to choke a sarlacc. Franklin just comes across as whiny, and Michael, having realized that all his ill-gotten wealth has done nothing to bring him happiness, seems to think that the logical solution would be more ill-gotten wealth!

To that end, we have the heist missions, which is the big new feature after taking fat dudes on dinner dates didn't exactly ignite our pubes last time around. And it's not a bad concept; you plan a robbery mission and do some recon and vehicle-stashing tasks before the caper itself. Well, I say "plan"; you "plan" them in the same sense that you "plan" a Sunday drive down a one-way street, because like all the missions, they bear the increasingly omnipresent Sandbox Paradox: total freedom when outside missions and, when inside, total instruction-following simulator, that fails you out of fucking nowhere because you got in the wrong car or went two feet the wrong way, and the game just felt like things were getting weird. The extent of your input is picking which of two pre-determined package tours to use, and what crew members to bring. Their stats increase as you use them, but since each one is only available for, like, two heists apiece in the whole game, it doesn't mean a whole lot.

The protagonists also have RPG-style stats incrementing away in utter pointlessness; levelling up your flight skill can mean the difference between planes handling like both your wings are stuck up a sumo wrestler's arse, and handling like the sumo wrestlers put on slightly aerodynamic hats. I suspect that this is all preparation for the mechanics of GTA Online, and how cunning of you, Rockstar, to hold off unlocking that until after I've submitted this review and stopped giving a two-dollar blumpkin about the game. Well, the joke's on you! I just moved house and my internet wasn't hooked-up anyway! Bet you feel stupid now!

But digressing back towards planes for a moment, why did I have to go through a plane-flying tutorial after a story mission in which I had to fly and land a plane? Had the sumo wrestlers expressed some dissatisfaction with my performance, or is it just that this game is a mess? And not the "potato salad molestation charges" mess that was Saints Row; but an engorged mess of unrelated and clunkily-tutorialized features. Lots of story threads, but no strong overarching one. Mostly "Character A pisses off Organization Y somehow, and fends them off for a while until Character A slaps himself in the forehead and goes 'I just remembered, I'm a murderer! Let's just murder whoever's got a nark-on and then have a bath in his wife!'".

Well, just to appease those champions of emotional stability who have been burning crosses in the front gardens of unimpressed games reviewers, I won't say there's no fun to be had. It's got some colour back into its cheeks, and generally feels less like a fat old sheepdog has fallen asleep on the physics engine. I cringed a bit when it brought in buyable properties, but they unlock more missions and gameplay so there's a point to it other than just soaking up unnecessary money as is the case in other sandbox games. There's not much that particularly made me go "Christ, who thought that was a good idea?", like that dinner dating business last time. But then again, there's also nothing that made me go "Christ, who thought that was a good idea? Because they were totally right to think that and I want to kiss their big, soppy face!"

There's nothing that excites me, that I can point to and call "the defining moment"; it's just a whole load of people doing stuff, which I admit is a fairly weak argument; World War II was just "a whole load of people doing stuff", but at least getting your leg blown off gives you something for the next letter home: "Dear Mum, remember when my dance instructor said I had two left feet? Well, I've managed to redress the balance somewhat. P.S.: FUCKING HELL, AAAAARRRGH!!!"

AddendaEdit

  • ​All things exist so that I can get pissed: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • See, I was under the impression that most commercial airlines include sumo wrestlers in the ticket price
  • Off to Escapist Expo, back in two weeks.

ScreenshotsEdit

Zero Punctuation - 317 - Grand Theft Auto 5 1

Gritty realism and tragic crime drama have their places, and that place is not the same place as the place where you can pile all your dead prostitutes on the side of the road and then ramp off them into a big fire.

Zero Punctuation - 317 - Grand Theft Auto 5 2

The heist missions, which is the big new feature after taking fat dudes on dinner dates didn't exactly ignite our pubes last time around.

Zero Punctuation - 317 - Grand Theft Auto 5 3

The "potato salad molestation charges" mess that was Saints Row

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart

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