"Grand Theft Auto V" — the newest addition to the Rockstar Games franchise that has sold more than 125 million copies to date — arrived in stores Tuesday.
Rest assured, like its predecessors, "GTA V" offends sensibilities by glamorizing drug use, exotic dancing and cold-blooded murder. But bemoaning those realities is so 2001.
Instead, what sets "GTA V" apart from past iterations is its sheer scope. With five years of development under its belt and a bigger budget than any video game ever — multiple published reports peg development and marketing costs at $260 million — "GTA V" seamlessly packages the franchise’s signature brand of offensive content into a glittering fictional world so sprawling and vast that it’s never been easier to get blissfully lost in a cesspool of immorality.
“While the franchise has lost the ability to shock, it remains the most immersive spectacle in interactive entertainment,” the New York Times’ Chris Suellentrop reported. “And with the profane 'Grand Theft Auto V,' Rockstar Games has produced the best plotted, most playable, character-driven, fictionally coherent entry in this 16-year-old series.”
The Guardian’s Keith Stuart opined, “The bigger heists subtly add to the feeling that what we're all doing here is acting in our own version of Michael Mann's film ‘Heat.’ While certain ideas are repackaged and chucked straight back at you several times, you're carried along on a rush of euphoric action and shock — mostly because the world looks and behaves as though all this makes sense.”
“ ‘GTA V’ has an abundance of (moments), big and small, that make (the game) feel like a living world where anything can happen,” Keza McDonald wrote for the gaming website IGN. “It both gives you tremendous freedom to explore an astonishingly well-realized world and tells a story that’s gripping. It is a leap forward in narrative sophistication for the series, and there’s no mechanical element of the gameplay that hasn’t been improved over 'Grand Theft Auto IV.’ ”
The ability of "GTA V" to so painstakingly realize its warped reality isn’t merely the consequence of millions of man-hours and a huge budget. Rather, it’s also a function of the fact the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 gaming consoles both teeter on the cusp of technological obsolescence.
“In less than two months, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One will start replacing the increasingly obsolete current crop of consoles,” Jesse Brukman reported for Rolling Stone. “The greatest games tend to come at the end of any system's lifespan, when developers have explored every nook and cranny and learned to exploit the hardware for everything it can possibly do. 'GTA V' looks like it will push the Xbox 360 and PS3 as far as either system can possibly reach.”
"Grand Theft Auto V" is rated M for mature by the Entertainment Software Rating Board. (Intense violence, blood and gore, strong language, mature humor, strong sexual content, nudity and use of drugs and alcohol.)