It’s almost as if society has finally grown-up and accepted GTA for what it is: mindless, irreverent, joyous fun.
With the headlines seemingly devoid of widespread fear-mongering this time around; GTAV has managed to happily generate more money than an oil-rich middle-eastern nation in the middle of a fire-sale. $1 Billion in three days. Mental. Even the mild-mannered non-gamers out there have been peering over their offspring’s shoulders to gawp in wonder and the technological marvel that is Los Santos.
Yet having left GTA4 feeling more than a little muted by the under-used environment, hum-drum story and cardboard-cut-out characters, I approached GTAV with some trepidation. As ever though, the hype soon got the best of me (when doesn’t it?) and I weakened the moment I walked past the gaming isle of Tescos. In fact, so predictable has my failing nerve become in such situations that I’ve invented a medical term for it: euphoiritis releasium – the inability to control day-one spending urges despite the concious decision to do otherwise. Simon and I are even attending a self-help group to tackle the problem. I say self-help group: it’s just the two of us crying over our bank statements, interspersed with vigorous man-hugging and back-slapping.
There is only one rule: if you can see it, you can touch it. This rule does not apply to our self-help group …
And so as I got stuck into GTAV, the hype soon melted away into muted background noise – just as the wonder of it all came into focus. As someone who’s been know to lambaste the open-world template in the past, here was a game that finally delivered on the mythical promise. You see, the clue is in the title: open-world. And boy, Los Santos is a world if there ever was one.
I occasionally experience lucid dreams (I said lucid, not lewd) where I am fully aware that what I am experiencing is a dream-world – a vivid and utterly convincing dream-world. They’re pretty awe-inspiring in the sense that I seem to somehow construct entire cities to explore – a hangover from my architecture days, perhaps – and wander around soaking-up everything from the most irrelevant minutiae to the epic, grand-design of it all.
GTAV is the closest I’ve come to this feeling in my waking hours.
Every alleyway or house is lovingly constructed with details that most people will never even bother to notice. Every hill and mountain is crafted with detailed textures and polygon counts that would make your average FPS proud. Each car is fit enough to appear in a fully-fledged driving game and each citizen goes about their business in a convincing and unique way. I know: I’ve stalked a few just to see what they get up to.
Yes, they even modelled an underwater world for you explore.
And it’s this mind-blowing attention to detail that couches the GTA template (for the first time, I’d argue) in a world that befits its ambitions – or lack thereof. So tangible is the atmosphere and environment that the developer has managed to insert a truly insidious, sociopathic and unhinged character into its vision and largely get away with it: Trevor Philips. Even the gratuitous torture scene (the usual nod to those of a certain disposition to become incensed) flew past most people’s attention without so much as a whimper.
At last, it seems, that a game’s attempt at gritty, unflinching depravity has been judged as being no more offensive than that which we would see in all manner of other mediums. All thanks, I’d say, to the most unquestionably realistic context that a game has even been given: Los Santos.
In short: shit just got real.
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Husband. Parent. Gamer. Go figure.