20 Hours In… What I Love About “GTA V” So Far

I might be a little late to the game as everybody goes Pokemon crazy this weekend, but lately I’ve been mildly obsessed with Grand Theft Auto V. I started playing this past weekend and ended up staying up to play into the wee hours of the morning, unable to sleep as I wanted to play just one more mission… or take Michael and Franklin out golfing, or go for another drive, or check out that last question mark on the map, or see if Lester has a mission for me…

GTA V

As a sandbox-style game, GTA V has that addicting quality that other open world games like Skyrim have — something I talked about on my blog about a year ago when I got obsessed with Skyrim for the second time in my life. I don’t normally play GTA games and wasn’t sure if I would fall for it or not, but I’ve ended up loving it, and it’s fast becoming one of my favorite games ever. Here are some of the things I love about it so far…

The Driving Mechanic

Although I haven’t been a big Grand Theft Auto player in the past, one thing I’ve always admired about the series is the driving mechanic. It’s hard to find a good alternative to shooting in video games, but driving is the perfect replacement (or addition, really). Instead of shooting your way through corridors, Grand Theft Auto takes the action adventure approach with the unique focus of driving — an activity that’s dangerous, that you can fail at, that requires skill, that forces you to scan ahead and prepare for obstacles, and that’s truly fun even when you’ve done it over and over again.

GTA V brings that back with great success. Losing the cops is another great feature, as there are several approaches you can take to your getaway: such as finding a sports car and speeding away, making a lot of turns and finding an alley to hide in for a while, or switching cars to kick the cops off your scent. To be honest, I used to be a terrible driver and could barely get through GTA for that reason, but I’m finally getting it down in GTA V — and I can’t believe the amount of fun I missed out on before.

The Dialogue

The amount of dialogue in Grand Theft Auto V is another high point for me. Early in the game’s development, Rockstar vice president Dan Houser said the script was over 1,000 pages long — and surprisingly, I’m not surprised. In addition to the cutscenes’ dialogue, there is also dialogue as two characters driving together and dialogue from the playable character as he performs a task (such as Michael bitching about being too old for this if you make him do the triathalon). When you’re playing one character and call another to hang out, there’s more dialogue (such as Trevor mildly trash-talking Michael when he invites Michael’s son Jimmy to hang out). There’s dialogue about car crashes as you’re driving. There’s dialogue when you switch from one character to another and see what the new guy is up to. There’s dialogue during main quests, side quests, random activities you can participate in like golfing. The game never feels dialogue-heavy — it’s never boring, or bogged down in words, or overly scripted — but the sheer amount of realistic conversation and monologues adds another level of verisimilitude to the experiences you go through in the game. This makes Los Santos feel like a real world, and characters interact in it and with it in ways that feel authentic.

Three Stories

Having three main characters also makes the game more entertaining than it would have been with one. Part of this is because this allows a balance of traits — there’s no single “perfect con man,” and each is allowed to have weaknesses that the others make up for in the team environment. It also gives you three chances to find a story that engages you as a player. I’ve been enjoying the stories to different degrees; had Franklin been the only playable character, I might have found the game less interesting than I currently do being able to spend time with my favorite character Michael.

You can also freely switch from one character to another any time you’re not in the middle of a mission — and sometimes when you are. There’s also more of an RPG feel to a game with three main characters, because it allows me to build my adventure around extra time with my favorite characters, level each the way I want in order to create a dynamic team, and play missions in a slightly different order than other players might. I can max out Michael’s skills as a pilot while others stick with Trevor. I can work more on Franklin’s shooting and leave Michael and Trevor to other skills. Although the stats for each character haven’t made a noticeable difference for me yet, being able to choose how to level each character does give me a little taste of role playing in this action adventure sandbox.

Rockstar Social Club

Rockstar Social Club has made keeping track of your game more fun than ever before, too. You can now go to the website to see how many hours you have put in with each character, stats like cars stolen or time spent on foot, missions completed, deaths — all specific to each of the three main characters so you can see to whom your game time goes. I’m sure not everyone cares about keeping track of these things, but I’ve always loved knowing details of how I spend time on sites like the music tracker last.fm. Rockstar Social Club does this for my GTA V experience, and I love reviewing my progress and knowing that it’s unique to the way I choose to play the game. Plus, you can take in-game snapshots and check them out later, which I love.

GTA Series. . .

Since I’ve been playing and enjoying GTA V so much lately, I have a series of posts about the game lined up for my blog Robo♥beat. I’m about 20 hours into the so far and know I have a long way to go, but I’ll be rolling out the posts as I complete the game this month!

— Ashley

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