Just wrote on my feelings about the story in GTA 5 - which I think is lacking - and the multiple protagonists/switching mechanic from the story - which I feel is unnecessary and does little for the good of the game or narrative.
Full text below from my website SnackieCakes.com.
I've seen on these forums that a lot of people like Trevor, and will probably generally disagree with everything that I say. But we'll see, lol.
Minor spoilers below.
"I’m a pretty serious gamer. Most of the people around me are not. I have a lot of first time gaming conversations with people that ask what I play and what are my favorite games. I often surprise these people when I tell them I think Grand Theft Auto is the greatest series of all time.
What? Grand Theft Auto? The game where you murder prostitutes? Yeah, in the few hundred hours I’ve spent playing GTA games I’ve murdered a few prostitutes. But, like, there’s so much more. I become animated. I start with the story – always with the story! – the quality of the voice acting and animation and writing, everything that goes into making this interactive experience more than a game and more than television or movies or music or anything else. GTA 4, in particular, I tell them, is a masterpiece. I hear the name Niko and I remember an old friend; gosh, he’s there, a real person I’ve known; I tell them about his hunt for a man that betrayed him and the rest of their childhood friends. They were all murdered in the midst of a very murdering war. Niko just wants to know why. When Niko and I find the betrayer I am unable to forgive him; I murder him, anguishing all the while. In any other game I would play the good guy, I would forgive, but here I could not, so great was the long crime of Niko’s downtrodden life. I am becoming quiet at this point, reliving the lived and greatest moment I’ve ever experienced in a game. It is for me the pinnacle of interactive media. So, yeah, I tell them to give the GTA games a try, take them seriously, play the missions and embrace the world.
But now there’s GTA 5 and I have to say something different because GTA 5 hardly features a story. If the previous games mimicked movies then the latest installment mimics television: it has a lot of characters and tons of episodes but they’re all just there to keep you watching through the seasons. It doesn’t really start anywhere, go anywhere, end anywhere. Read the reviews with all of the high scores and look for mentions of the story. What is it about? What are the characters about? What happens? Nothing. Nothing happens. I mean, you know, a lot of stuff sort of happens, and you’ll find yourself racing amazing cars, tearing down mountains on motorcycles, gunning down hundreds of enemies, and racking up coin like a real fake criminal, but there’s very little context to any of this. Grand Theft Auto has “grown” with the industry: Call of Duty.
The biggest change to the GTA formula is the advent of multiple protagonists, played together in quick succession. The gameplay advantage to this system is that you’re basically always doing the coolest things. One character is grabbed by an enemy, you switch perspectives to make the shot yourself, freeing the first character. Or you fly a helicopter above a skyscraper, switch perspectives to rappel down the building, switch perspectives again to provide cover fire from an adjacent building. You get to do it all.
Those are the two best examples I could think of. The rest of the time the switching mechanic is gimmicky, disorienting, and ruins the immersion.
Like Call of Duty, GTA 5 suddenly finds itself on rails. Why am I in a submarine? Why is it exploding? Why am I mountain climbing? Why is the mountain exploding? You move from set piece to set piece with little explanation and often even very little temporality. You might, for instance, start a mission as Franklin and after a cutscene be made to control Trevor, who might drive from A to B, at which point you’ll be made to control Franklin, who is now doing something else somewhere else. My roommates watched me play much of the game and would regularly ask: who are you right now? I have no idea. Am I Franklin? Click the sticks. No. I think I’m Trevor. Why? I don’t know. I f*cking hate Trevor.
Yes. I f*cking hate Trevor. All three characters have very little going for them – not necessarily in potential, but in that they do not develop, do not have the space to develop, do not have enough time away from the others to become real; But Trevor is not only vacuous, he is unrelentingly obnoxious. Trevor has approximately one line: “Michael, you betrayed me.” He sometimes shouts, sometimes screams, profanity-laden variations of this one line thousands of times. It seems like hundreds of thousands.
If Niko is my favorite game character of all time, Trevor is my least favorite. I don’t even love to hate him. I just wish he never existed.
So you control three shallow characters through disorienting set pieces. But at least the set pieces are sweet, right? Yeah, a lot of the missions and events in GTA 5 are spectacular and a lot of fun to play, but I don’t think they’re enhanced by the switching mechanic. Consider one of my favorite missions: Michael drives to an anti-aircraft gun mounted to the back of a van at the top of Vinewood. He uses the gun to shoot out the engine of a flying jet. Perspective then changes to Trevor who pursues the hamstrung jet down gravel roads and the side of a mountain with a dirt bike. It is a fantastically exciting and unique mission. But could it have existed in a previous GTA game without the switching mechanic? Sure, the player would simply dismount the AA gun and get on a nearby dirt bike and, voila, same damn thing.
There are simply very few times switching is mechanically necessary to gameplay, and even fewer times it enhances the characters or the story. I hope Rockstar does away with multiple protagonists with their next game, but if they don’t, I hope they will at least read Watchmen again and again for inspiration on how to properly make use of multiple characters and multiple scenes to heighten, rather than simply widen, narrative.
What? Grand Theft Auto? The game where you murder prostitutes?
What do you all tell your friends or acquaintances about GTA? What do you think are the selling points of the series?