Welcome to the next post in my year-long series “Play or Pass” that takes on the proverbial “must before death” theme with video games. Every other week I will be covering one or two games from “32 Video Games You Have To Play Before You Die,” a list compiled by BuzzFeed based on a reader poll. I will not be critiquing the list itself, but rather I’ll be discussing each game or games in whatever manner feels fitting and will attempt to answer a couple simple questions: Have I played [insert game name here]? If yes, do I consider it a “must” and why? If no, do I want to play the game before I die? I’ll be going through the games in the order in which they appear on the BuzzFeed list. Good? Good. Let’s get on with the games!
Week six: (8) Grand Theft Auto V
Numbers don’t lie. Just like with Last week’s entry, Super Smash Bros. Melee, I had to look at the numbers for this post on GTA V. Not only is it tops in best-selling games for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, but, as we may remember, it grossed one billion (with a capital B) before it’s first week of release was even over. That’s one hell of an accomplishment for any entertainment property, let alone a mere video game.
Without gushing too much, I immensely enjoyed GTA V (despite a few…uh…personal issues that I couldn’t unsee). When I think of GTA V, all I can think of is “right.” It got the whole GTA formula right is many ways. It had a grand and grotesque story complete with well-rounded if utterly insane (at times) characters. It presented gamers with a world like none other to explore, as well as multiple ways with which to explore it. It offered up a compelling single-player experience as well as, from what I understand, a non-stop multiplayer romp, that was further expanded into the highly successful GTA Online. And though the game might not have brought much new to the table in terms of controls and mechanics, it played solidly and was a complete product right out the gates. No brokenness, no waiting for additional content. No cheap, plastic interior here. GTA V was smooth-grained leather with rounded trim All. The. Way.
GTA V was, and is, something of a brilliant swan song for the PS3/Xbox 360 generation, for it really brought out the best in those machines, even though it pushed them to the brink. (We have the PS3 version, and there were more than a few times I wondered if the game was going to load or not.) The game demonstrated that the world was ready for the next console generation, and it pushed things there too. (We also have the PS4 version, and it looks sooooo pretty there, and without the “will it load” question, because it does. Every beautiful time.) People are still playing GTA V now, and they will continue to do so for quite some time, I’m sure. Hell, I haven’t even found all of Los Santos’s locations yet!
When I first saw that GTA V was on this list, I immediately thought, “oh yeah, it’s a ‘must’.” But then I simply had to stupidly go and think about it too much. Because I couldn’t help but question that if I was making my own “games to play before you die” list, would I put GTA V or GTA IV on it? Because I tell myself, sometimes, that I adore GTA IV more than breathing. The game spoke to me in ways that GTA V simply didn’t. Maybe it’s just that, with GTA IV, I didn’t expect that I’d come to enjoy it as much as I did. And with GTA V, I knew what I was getting myself into. Y’know…with GTA IV, I had that first time feeling, and it was pretty damn special. I didn’t get that same whirlwind of emotions from GTA V, as compelling as it was.
Still, it’s simply hard to ignore that GTA V builds upon GTA IV in so many ways. Not only does it look and play better, but it’s a more thoughtful game. (If a GTA game can be called “thoughtful, anyway.) In GTA V, you can clearly see that Rockstar made a significant effort to bring to the players progression. Progression in gameplay, progression in storytelling, and progression in world-building. Frankly, you can’t say about many game series, where sequels are more like sidesteps rather than steamrollers. In the end, while I harbor plenty of nostalgic pangs for GTA IV, I safely believe that GTA V is the better game.
So here we go…
Have I played Grand Theft Auto V?
If yes, do I consider it a “must” and why?
Yes. It’s a game that caters to the open-worlders, the RPGers, the story nuts, the race fans, the dive bombers, and the all-out crazies. It’s fucked up fun in all the right ways, even if those right ways are oh so wrong. Plus, I can’t gush enough out its single-player game. Simply spectacular.
If no, do I want to play the game before I die?