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Customer Review

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Are you sure Hank done it this way?, 3 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: Grand Theft Auto V (PS3) (Video Game)
A gruesomely interactive torture scene followed by a monologue condemning torture? Only in a Rockstar game will you find such knowing hypocrisy, but in GTA V Rockstar have created their most intelligently self-aware piece of entertainment yet.

As a game, GTA V is a technical marvel, and the culmination of Rockstar's efforts this console generation. The swashbuckling atmosphere and 'stop-and-stare' scenery of Red Dead Redemption has been worked carefully into the GTA formula, with the series' trademark wit and bombast combining with a more expansive and living world than was achieved in GTA IV. Pedestrians get out their camera phones to snap away at car crashes, radio stations crackle and fade as you drive out of the city into the country, and hikers stop and chat on a mountain side: the only other game world I've played that exhibits such richly believable detail is Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and that was miniscule in comparison to GTA V.

But aside from the technical achievement of the game, the most impressive thing is the sense of time and place. Having recently been to real-life California myself, I was equally delighted and impressed at how well Rockstar have captured the zeitgeist of this uniquely absurd part of the world. In the game you meet paparazzi hiding in celebrities' gardens trying to get up-skirt shots whilst claiming to be bastions of free information and truth in an age of government control; your therapist utters meaningless truisms and keeps one eye on his watch before pushing you out the door and grabbing a fistful of cash for his time; and a vigilante border patrol agent teams up with a Russian who doesn't speak any English to keep undesirable foreigners out of America. The satire is bitter and laugh-out-loud in equal measure as it always has been in GTA, but more than ever before you can feel the seething intent behind it, and nowhere is that better expressed than in the choice of music in GTA V.

Listening to the urgent, insistent violins of 'California Soul' and the cheesy saxophone riff of 'Baker Street' whilst lobbing grenades from a car pursued by cops down a sunset-drenched freeway - these are moments that perfectly express the mock-epic silliness that GTA is all about and that capture the plasticky sincerity and fading integrity of a place like Los Angeles.

But Rockstar really play their ace with Waylon Jennings' 'Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?', a country favourite harking back to Hank Williams' heyday and lamenting the genre's decline into money-grabbing, repetitive superficiality ("It's the same old tune, fiddle and guitar, where do we take it from here?"). Combined with the frequent digs at cash-cow modern shooters like Call of Duty (referred to as 'Righteous Slaughter 7 - it's pretty much the same as the last game!') the extent of Rockstar's satire becomes evident: GTA V isn't just about taking the p*ss. Instead, it's a swan song to this generation of consoles and a cautious reminder (alongside The Last of Us) that what's important in gaming isn't churning out yearly updates with more maps, more guns, more killstreaks - it's about creating an immersive world that people can't resist coming back to.

In short, the best way to understand what's great about GTA V is to look at the character of Trevor. The 'idiot savant' of the group, he's a violent, rage-filled psycopath who is nonetheless very much awake in a world of sleep-walking idiots: he experiences moments of clarity and common sense not shared by the other clichéd, self-destructive characters, but only after slaughtering a family and setting fire to their meth-lab house. In that sense, he's like an expression of Rockstar themselves, combining an awareness of their own transgressively violent roots (the 'Rampage' side-missions are a thrillingly mindless nod to the early GTA games' 'Kill Frenzies') with an acute sense of simmering frustration at the potential for creative stagnation if the yearly Call of Duties of this world are to dominate an industry still struggling to receive real critical respect. With the approach of a new console generation, GTA V reminds us that games absolutely can have artistic integrity, unity of vision, and self-awareness without sacrificing sheer indulgent fun and entertainment - they just demand a little worthwhile patience from gamers.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 3 Oct 2013 19:43:05 BDT
Great review. It's a shame that the media still see video games as some novelty; after they've basically surpassed film and TV; ironacally they still see Grand Theft Auto as the same controversial - criminal - promoting game as it was made out to be in 2002 when the series went 3D, but yet any criminal behavior depicted in this game, would be quickly rectified, by police presence and it also lets you do good things. So GTA is becoming less violent and more cautious. Making you think about your actions, before taking them. Anyway your review is relaxing to read; keep it up.

Posted on 3 Oct 2013 22:11:07 BDT
Ballisticola says:
You had me at 'California Soul' :)

Posted on 4 Oct 2013 10:10:06 BDT
Hate Tank says:
Ha Ha!

Love the review. I never thought anyone else in the world cared that Waylon Jennings was on the soundtrack. But in my opinion the best song ever on the GTA soundtrack was Jerry Reed's "Amos Moses" from San Andreas. But in the immortal words of Phil Collins " I don't care anymore"
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