There’s a turning point in the game where one of the protagonists, Michael, is no longer robbing and murdering solely out of necessity for his life — but also for wealth and power. This desire is a commonality between the series’ leading men, but none have been expressed with the amount of vigor, depth and execution Grand Theft Auto V brings to the franchise.
At the forefront of these changes are the three protagonists Michael, Trevor and Franklin. No longer bound by the restraints of a single character, you are able to switch between the three at almost any moment. This allows the already open-world game to truly open up. WIth only a few button presses and flicks of the stick, you can experience anything from Trevor’s methamphetamine business, to Franklin’s towing side job, and even live the life of a struggling marriage in Michael’s home.
As you bounce around from character to character, every now and then the characters stories will intertwine while completing objectives. Once a relatively weak point in the series, you are no longer bound to the drive, drop-off, then kill formula of GTA missions’ past. The missions in GTA V have caught up with the superb writing in terms of entertainment, and at the head of the entertainment heap are the game’s heist missions. This is where all of the game’s ideas and what you’ve been taught come to ahead. After planning your mission on an in-game bulletin board, you’ll have to quickly switch between the three characters to complete tasks varying from poisoning a crowd to providing sniper support — all before retrieving the valuables and getting away. The fast-pace and diversity of these missions are what separate them from the lead-up objectives. However, that same pace and diversity can lead to confusion in the heat of the moment, especially when new gameplay mechanics are being thrown at you. This leads to some imperfect heists, but the satisfaction of getting out alive always overcomes that disappointment.
While the gameplay is certainly the strongest of the series, the story doesn’t lack improvements either. Each character is still looking to rise through the proverbial rankings, but the typical Grand Theft Auto story is deepened by the changing and often conflicting motives of the protagonists. While Michael may be helping a drug overlord to save his life, Trevor, meanwhile, just wants the money and doesn’t care about endangering either of their lives. The roles will switch throughout the game, but the refreshing effect it has on the series’ typical rags-to-riches story stays throughout its entirety. There wasn’t a moment where I wanted to ditch the main storyline and create my own through a civilian-killing rampage — quite the distinction from the game’s humble beginnings.
Though the three-character formula mixes things up, it isn’t always for the better. Franklin’s story of being a gangbanger — while fine on its own right — often struggles to fit into the long backstory of Trevor and Michael’s relationship. Consequentially, Franklin, at times, feels like he was added to the game to fill out the third protagonists’ slot.
Luckily, Trevor helps fill the void and is easily being the most enjoyable of the three. He often bridges the gap between polar opposites Michael and Franklin with his not so subtle jabs at their father-and-son-esque relationship. This helps alleviate the awkward mood of a thug, redneck and multimillionaire standing in the same room. Think of him as a likeable, psychopathic middle ground with a meth enterprise. As you can imagine in a series filled with want-to-be mafiosos, Trevor and his redneck persona stand out. His uniqueness is part of what makes him so fun to play as. The other part is his hilarious dialogue and playful banter with Michael that often nearly boils down into fist fights. He’s the perfect fit for a game franchise running off the heals of their most stale entry to date in GTA IV.
While Trevor could have been the sole lead character and I wouldn’t have minded, Rockstar went above and beyond the call by adding in 2 extra playable characters. While their story may not always embed perfectly within each other, it’s hard to be down on a game as ambitious as Grand Theft Auto V.
GamesBeat 2014 — VentureBeat’s sixth annual event on disruption in the video game market — is coming up on Sept 15-16 in San Francisco. Purchase one of the first 50 tickets and save $400!