Grand Theft Auto V: A Critique

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They may seem an unlikely pair, but Grand Theft Auto V and Pikmin 3 make for bizarre mirror images of one another. Both revolve around three independent protagonists making their way in an expansive world. Both present moments of nearly breathtaking beauty. And both, fundamentally, are violent to the extreme.

Where they differ from one another is in their tone. Despite its need for constant savagery, Pikmin 3 goes out of its way to create an emotional connection between the player and the characters that inhabit the game world. GTA V, on the other hand, invariably comes off as a concerted effort to make its protagonists as unlikable as possible. I suppose that's part of GTA's schtick -- giving players a window into bad behavior as a chance to act out their antisocial fantasies, or whatever -- but for me it's always been the most difficult element of the series to accept. I play Grand Theft Auto games because they offer so much freedom and such vast worlds in which to run and drive around, and I do it despite their awful stories and characters, not because of them.

The gulf between what I want from GTA and what Rockstar North wants me to settle for has never been wider than with GTA V. Never before has the studio created such a gorgeous setting, and never before has it been populated with such despicable sociopaths. It's a parable for the modern video game industry: A $265 million investment for which teams of hundreds of people sculpted an expansive, interactive city in miniature as well as its elaborate surrounding environs, only to give players a suffocatingly narrow palette of things to do...

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