When we last left the Grand Theft Auto franchise, Dominican-American nightclub manager Luís Lopez was blitzing and glamming it up with nightclub owner Gay Tony.
That was Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony. TBOGT was a stark palate change from the darker storylines of Grand Theft Auto IV and its first expansion The Lost and Damned. In IV, Serbian immigrant and Yugoslav Wars veteran Niko Bellić comes to live with his cousin in pursuit of the American dream, but only finds the dark underworld of crime, and in TLAD, a biker gang is torn apart by a civil war.
Fan reactions to the darker turn of the normally bitingly sarcastic, rags-to-riches storylines of previous Grand Theft Auto games was lukewarm at best. Some fans felt Bellić was a hypocrite for bemoaning violence in cutscenes and then willingly partaking in it.
But with TBOGT, the series returned to its balls-to-the-wall roots. Fans thought that the next installment in the franchise would be less serious and more zany.
Boy, were they right.
I was early in my junior year of high school when I first saw the trailer for Grand Theft Auto V. I'm a freshman in college now.
My first experience with non-sports video games (I've been playing racing games since I could handle a keyboard) came with 2002's Grand Theft Auto: Vice City at my cousin's house. We rarely did the missions, we just messed around and stole cars an threw Molotovs at cops and macheted passers-by.
I got my first console, a used PlayStation 2, for Christmas in 2006. One of the first games I got for it was Grand Theft Auto III.
I tell you this because I'm perhaps not the best source for an opinion on V. I love this franchise more than anything.
That's why it's so impressive that V is easily the best game in the franchise.
When I first heard that GTAV was instituting three characters instead of just one, I thought there was no way that even the gods at Rockstar Games could possibly make that work. But they did.
The three characters low for a totally different take on the franchise's mission structure and open-world structure. The ability to switch between psychopath Trevor, street thug Franklin and cool bank robber Michael at a moments notice creates different perspectives on the world and the crimes you commit. The ability to go from the brunt of the action to a sniper in the high rise to the getaway driver allows for more free-form mission structure instead of just "go here, shoot these people, come back."
Their are a couple of major heists during the main storyline, with several different ways to set each up, allowing for incredible replay value. Go in loud the first time, quiet the next.
Each character is so different yet so fun to play and experience. Each one has their own quips of dialogue and personality. They feel like real people. Or maybe exaggeration of real people.
The NPCs are cool too. The mastermind Lester, Michael's crazy faux-gangster, gamer-parody son, Franklin's dumb friend Lamar, the juggalo Wade, the douchebag FBI agent Steve Haines, the perverted radio host Lazlow, the murderous billionaire Devin Weston, and countless others, all feel real and are expertly written.
PLANES ARE BACK HOLY SHIT PLANES ARE BACK
AND THERE'S A SUBMARINE
AND THERE ARE LIKE ELEVEN BILLION CARS AND MOST ARE AWESOME
Los Santos and Blaine County are so incredibly detailed and beautiful. I was afraid that the world would be too large and it'd be difficult to get from place to place, but it's perfect. I'm not sure how to adequately describe the world, because it's so awesome.
(Okay, women could play a bigger role. But if you're playing GTA to get your political correctness fix, you've got bigger things to worry about).
Grand Theft Auto V is easily the best Grand Theft Auto game. And that is saying something.