Did the GTA Online launch troubles leave a sour taste in your mouth? Here are a few reasons why we're still loving GTA V — and why we think you should too.
There's never been a protagonist in a GTA game who's been someone you'd drag home to meet your family. But that's OK — there's nothing wrong with appreciating a good anti-hero.
GTA V upped the ante by throwing us not one, not two but three playable characters in single player and letting us create our own for GTA Online.
While all of the single player characters have their own appeal, it's Trevor who stands out. Initially seeming like a dangerous, difficult and deranged monster of pure id, Trevor quickly proves himself far more complex, if not exactly nuanced.
In fact, after playing for a while, Trevor appears almost Shakespearean, both in deed and in manner. Consider him as something out of Titus Andronicus and he becomes oddly compelling.
Talking to other people playing GTA V in the office, it's been interesting to see that gamers have their own individual takes on the characters. From their style choices, in terms of hair and clothing, their favourite vehicles and even what side missions they may or may not accept, there's a surprising amount of room to make your mark on the single-player characters.
As for GTA Online, the character creation system that lets you pick your family tree to determine your characters appearance is not only novel, but oddly quite a time sink and a lot more interesting than just dragging a slider bar to adjust nose length.
We will say this, though: it's well and truly high time that Rockstar offered a female protagonist and definitely time that it worked on how women are represented in Grand Theft Auto games.
Trevor: not a likeable character, but certainly an unforgettable one.
The story missions
With three protagonists to play with, Rockstar has done a stellar job of giving a strong individual flavour to various story missions. In the early sections of the game, as you unlock the three characters, the missions form a strange combination of gameplay tutorial and introduction to the different personalities you'll be playing as the narrative progresses.
Even better than that, the stories go on to intertwine, showing how the character relate to, and antagonise, each other.
And the heists, when all three characters work together on various meticulously planned crimes, would be worth the price of admission all by themselves.
The non-story missions
If we're honest, these can be hit and miss, but it's the breadth of them that's truly remarkable. Hunt elk in the forest, street race in LS, improve your cardio with a run, track down bail jumpers, tow cars, the list goes on and on, and we're not even including activities like tennis and darts.
Your map will be jammed with various icons of what the characters can do during their downtime — relax and enjoy a couple. Or...
... just explore the world. It's been said before, but Los Santos and Blaine County are truly massive. More than that, the environment, be it up Mt Chilliad or in the middle of downtown LS, has been crafted to a ridiculous level of detail.
And it feels alive. While the people wandering the street can feel like bad caricatures at times, it's the random events that help it feel like a breathing world. Muggings, hitchhikers, people needing rescues from crashes — there's a lot just occurring around you.
Beyond that, we'll say it again: just explore the world. Take the cable car up Mt Chilliad and then ride a mountain bike down. Find an area on your map that hasn't been opened and just drive out there to see what's around. Some of our favourite moments in the game were us getting Michael into a nice car and just driving around at night, obeying the road rules and enjoying the scenery.
Want to get a sense of just how well developed the world is? Take a look at the Grand Theft Audio Mythbusters video series for a rundown of just some of the vast levels of detail that Rockstar has put in the game.
Give GTA Online another go
All the server hassles aside, our first experience with GTA Online wasn't exactly fun. We did a few of the tutorial missions, and afterwards, our character was standing around taking it all in and wondering what to do next when the player beside her turned around and punched her to death.
Thanks for that.
Later on, the same player backed a car into her as she was walking in to rob a convenience store. We're assuming he wasn't being a concerned citizen trying to stop a crime in progress.
It was later sessions where we played with actual friends in a crew that the real appeal of a multiplayer version of Grand Theft Auto became apparent. If you want to just have fun by yourself around the in-game world, save it for single player. GTA Online is where we recommend you team up with some good friends for a coordinated crime spree.
We're not suggesting that GTA V isn't without its faults — it's far from perfect on a number of levels. But Rockstar promised a sprawling, ambitious game, and it has delivered in spades. It's a twisted and often politically dodgy game world, but it can be a great deal of fun, and there are few games that have managed to capture our attention for this long without starting to feel stale or repetitive.
In GTA Online, unlike Blanche DuBois, you can't always rely on the kindness of strangers. Bring friends instead.