Grand Theft Auto 5 Review: The Three Kings

11 Feb

When Rockstar Studios, Rockstar North, released Grand Theft Auto 5 in 2013, for the PlayStation 3 and XBOX 360, receiving ports for later systems, it was a cultural icon, (with a strong online multiplayer and modding community, and a movie maker functionality, too) as Grand Theft Auto has also been accused of inciting violence but then what video game hasn’t. It’s generated more than “120 million copies to date,” according to Forbes, and all the while, still outselling major blockbuster movies with over “6 billion” in revenue (https://www.forbes.com/sites/paultassi/2020/02/15/the-enduring-mystery-of-how-gta-5-has-sold-120-million-copies/?sh=1cd25a391c7b). GTA has always been a lightning bolt for controversy for violence and angry moms wetting there pants at little Johnny wanting to fuck a prostitute, rob a bank, but Rockstar Studios, in my opinion, outdid themselves. It seems to be more about middle aged men having a crises, more than anything else. 

            The game, for the initiated, proved that there was more room for excess. It does prove that Rockstar was on top of their game. While some would convey that Rockstar outdid themselves with Red Dead Redemption 2, I was not as impressed as everyone else. The temptation to love everything that I play is not in my purview. 

            GTA 5 takes three characters and makes them all available to play. Michael Desantas, or Michael Townley, is a washed up middle aged bank robber, as he falls prey to the witness protection program, but is invigorated as Franklin, the second character of the game, is trying to repossess his son’s car from a crooked car salesman. Franklin’s best friend, gangbanger, Lamar Davis, moves up with Franklin, as Michael starts robbing banks to pay off a debt to the Mexican cartel, Mr. Madrazo. As the campaign itself progresses, the stakes increase, as the friendship between Franklin, Trevor, and Michael deepen.

            Now I’m sure that everyone is aware of the plot of GTA 5, as it was studied and adored by fans and critics alike. But what I pose is that what saves Grand Theft Auto is the dialogue and the writing, as the missions give you prompts, but in some of the most hilarious cases, help you commit crimes, and torture in the name of Michael’s impulses. 

            The game is nonlinear through player action, and can jump from character to character, as it doesn’t follow one character at the same time. The player is forced to live as each character at a critical moment in the game. Like the Jorge Luis Bourges story, the Garden of Forking Paths, that argues for a multiple narrative story, where much of the narrative can be splintered, and the character speak for the player/reader.

            The character of Michael seems to give away that he’s reached the end of his rope. Being protected by the FIB (a take on the word FBI) and his hot headed moves put Franklin in worse positions than he was before. Michael is reinvigorated with Franklin’s presence but with the arrival of Trevor, it changes the narrative and in one case, you have to switch to Franklin to shoot out the window to help save Michael in the mission “Marriage Counseling.”

            Franklin, who is from the south side of Los Santos, is young, and the people around him do not want to succeed in being a criminal, rather than living the lifestyle of a CJF or a Baller (two African American gangs that have had turf wars since GTA: San Andreas). Franklin Clinton is still obsessed with his ex-girlfriend, Taneisha, who he begs to still be in contact with, but she refuses, knowing that Franklin is still a criminal. As any advantageous criminal would, Franklin believes money would help free him from the lifestyle of a common hood. 

            After there first robbery, the next character in GTA 5, who introduced having sex with a biker gang members girlfriend, hears a phrase that connects the idea that Michael is not dead. It’s a movie quote. For Trevor, he is also advantageous as he is vicious, putting together that Michael is still alive. 

Trevor, is a savage psychopathic person who is a wild cannon, and in his introduction, we see that he will go to any lengths to finding Michael after he catches wind of the jewel store robbery. Then, through no fault of there own, Michael and Trevor have to reconcile, and Franklin becomes involved to the point where they all do favors for the government, too. 

If Chekov said “fiction must create the problem not solve it” Rockstar studios follows in Chekov’s footsteps, as Rockstar has to deal with all three men who have to figure out how to get out of the mess each man has made. Either through violence or manipulation. It’s rather honest for a game that’s supposed to be about bank robberies. I guess the problem for me is that one could get lost in the side quests, but that helps the resale value of the game. No one really gets mad at Skyrim when there’s an abundance of quests to take part in. Some just don’t involve going to strip clubs (which is a great distraction).

But there’s another character that hasn’t been spoken of that without, would have never made the story possible. Lester. He plans all the robberies. He’s mostly in a wheel chair but can walk with a cane. He’s smart, and learns to plan out his missions. He uses a board, and he stays under the radar. He even stops Trevor from making a mistake and selling a nuclear weapon, as it would put them on “every watch list on the planet.” Lester, as much as the three main characters, is even more important than Lamar. Without Lester, there would have been no option C ending. 

Character is destiny, is a phrase that GTA 5 embodies well. Every decision must be made according to the game’s influence as it’s putting you in the characters shoes at any key point of a mission, but also allowing you, when not in a mission, to roam Los Santos freely. What is interesting is that Dan Houser, Rupert Humphries, Michael Unsworth, are creating a natural competition between the three characters as it’s almost like who could make the version of the characters the best they could. It shows as they had to find out which character could be more over the top, and see what could make it into the game, and what might not. As the player, when not in a campaign, or part of the story, is allowed to be whoever the player fantasizes to be too. So, there is a script but only when the player chooses a mission, but it’s called A, B, and C writing, and the ending does depend on what you have to make in terms of a conscientious ending.

What can be said about GTA 5, in retrospect, is that the humor matches the world of Los Santos and the three main characters. The humor is still perceptive and still funny, as I laughed at every single moment in my repeated playthroughs. There is a memed scene where Lamar Davis roasts Franklin, after a day of “boosting cars” for a sleazy car salesman, Simeon Yateteri.

The conversation goes: 

Lamar: “What’s up, can a loc come in your crib?”

Franklin: “Fuck you I see you at work.”

Lamar: “Nigga, don’t hate me cause I’m beautiful nigga. Maybe you got rid of that old Yee Yee ass haircut you got maybe you’ll get some bitches on your dick. Oh better yet Taneisha will call your dog ass if she stop fucking with the brain surgeon or the lawyer she be fucking with. NIGGA!” 

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXZtVoQ0gqs
Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29SFz-DqwoU
Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0RHHFarUMBA
Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvTOTADmWBA
Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tvnh1nI2Cdg
Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cU0oHq9Y6Ws
Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CQuNe72lUM
Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBVMbPaKIwA
Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJpp3TdVirY

It is one of the most memed scenes on YouTube, as the hilarity contains some fine wisdom from the mouth of a clown, but reveal what everyone thinks at the same time. We all need friends like Lamar or Lester.    

            I remember GTA 3, Vice City, (two of my personal favorites, maybe out of nostalgia) and 4 in hindsight (the running and walking system was clunky and the combat shooting system didn’t impress), and it was far more serious than most of the later games after. GTA is based on criminals who get ahead, but the deception is that by the 4th game, (while the ballad of gay tony had its humorous moments) there’s always a price to pay. 5 takes this but allows you to make a single choice that can affect the outcome of the ending. 

            What is detrimental is how the ending of the game will determine the ending. If you kill Michael, the adversarial language they use, doesn’t really make sense, when I heard it, but if you choose to kill Trevor, there’s not really heated language used between them. But C is always my preferred ending because there’s always a way to help out your friends. Because if you choose to kill either Michael or Trevor, you are no better than Michael or Trevor. So, it’s easy to think that both Michael and Trevor are both what Franklin fears, “Man you motherfuckers terrify me of that middle age.”

            But if you kill either one of Trevor or Michael, Franklin might be as treacherous as Michael was. But it all depends on your choice of ending, too.

            While the game is rather funny and over the top, it does provide some brief allowance into friendship and how friendships require a Franklin, Michael, and Trevor, and Lester, and Lamar, as they are apart of the American psyche, in a brilliantly told tale of heists, friendship, and learning to overcome the pettiness of modern day life in order to find what truly matters.

-Louis Bruno is the author of more than 15 books, including, The Michael Project, Thy Kingdom Come, The Disintegrating Bloodline, Apocalypse Soldier, Hierarchy of Dwindling Sheep. His books can be found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Lulu. He can be found on Gab, https://gab.com/thereallouistbruno, Minds https://www.minds.com/lbruno8063/. His latest novel, Come Home, Young One, is out now at Lulu.com at this link: https://www.lulu.com/en/us/shop/louis-bruno/come-home-young-one/hardcover/product-pw8q7z.html?page=1&pageSize=4

Note from Louis: Thanks so much for reading my articles and being such a constant reader. Also, I want to stress that to keep my content ad free, please subscribe, donate, like, buy my books, leave a review, comment, (and share the article if you can’t donate, all help is appreciated) to have access to top tier content, and also grow my page to help keep corporations mad all day. 

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