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What can be said about Grand Theft Auto V that hasn’t been said already? It’s a record breaker. It pushes current generation consoles to the limit and beyond. It pushes controversy past the edge, rips its tooth off with some pliers and then drives it to the airport explaining how crazy the world is.

And it’s the game we’ve been waiting for since GTA: San Andreas.

From the beginning, GTAV was reaching for the stars, not only in terms of what was graphically possible in current consoles that are near expiration this holiday season, but also in terms of story, character development, and what makes a sandbox game fun: chaotic missions that remind you not to take things too seriously. There is never a dull moment in GTAV. Something as simple as finding a stray dog leads to riding a quad-bike out of a cargo plane with an adrenaline junkie. You will literally step on every inch of GTA5 thanks to the side missions alone, and that is an achievement in itself, given the fact that this map is larger than the maps of GTA: San Andreas and Red Dead Redemption…combined.

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But the real meat of GTAV is the three main pro-antagonists and their journey: Michael, Trevor and Franklin. A lot of similarities can be tied with Michael and Tommy from GTA: Vice City. The same can be said about Franklin and CJ from San Andreas as well. But it is a very different take. Michael is a retired veteran of the crime scene. He has a dysfunctional family and doesn’t really know how to be “normal” after years of robbing and murdering. Franklin’s ties are weaker to his home and his friends, making the transition to protégé for Michael more believable. I find their relationship very interesting, albeit not the most original in a crime game. Franklin is trying to move up and Michael is trying to live vicariously through Franklin.

And then there is Trevor.

Judging Trevor at face value, you see just a crazy meth-head that likes to kill things. Peel back the layers, and you see a tortured man shell-shocked from a criminal life. At times you feel he is beyond redemption, understanding or reason. However you see moments of humanity. He falls in love. He grieved for fallen comrades. He even cares for Franklin’s future and in typical senior fashion gives advice to the young and impressionable criminal-in-training. But what the game does well is that it isn’t sappy and over the top dramatic. That is saved for the few key and climactic scenes in the story and even then the tone matches the game perfectly.

In my personal opinion, Trevor was something completely different and I like that. He wasn’t calm, cool and collective. He was chaotic, violent and truly worthy of the ‘M’ rating. But at the same time, the game very creatively let you choose at virtually any point who you want to play as when you feel you have had enough of Trevor’s zaniness or Franklin’s bemoaning of small-time crime or Michael’s mid-life crisis. In a map this large, it’s a real technical marvel to be able to switch from Michael walking down the streets of Los Santos all the way to the top of the map with Trevor (usually being chased by cops) off Mount Chiliad in less than 30 seconds. If that wasn’t locked down, this would have never worked and it goes to show that 5 years and over $250 million budget was put to good use.

In short, I am glad that GTA Online didn’t launch in tandem with the game. Simply driving on a freeway and admiring the city at night and then off to the iconic Mount Chiliad is a story in itself. The place felt alive and diverse. It felt like I was in a world where exploring was a reward rather than just a chore for finding collectibles.

And for me, I finally found a game to dethrone GTA: San Andreas. Bravo Rockstar!

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