The DigestVideo

Games Of September 2013: Grand Theft Auto V

It’s grand until it’s not, and then it is again.

By John Teti • October 22, 2013

Drew Toal and I kick off The Digest’s final week in Brooklyn with a discussion of Grand Theft Auto V, an obscure indie game that saw a quiet release last month. This was a tricky one for me, and not just because it’s hard to pick and choose what you’d like to discuss about such a vast game in a 10-minute video. My feelings about the game varied wildly from moment to moment—I often found it revolting one minute and sublime the next. This yo-yo effect is disorienting, but in the end I had to admire the game on the whole for succeeding in so many of its ambitions even as some parts of it seemed to lack any ambition at all.

My feelings were less mixed on the matter of kale chips. The theme this week is Park Slope cuisine—the upscale hippie snacks I see all over my thoroughly gentrified neck of the Brooklyn woods. I’ve seen these kale chips any number of times, but I’ve never been brave enough to eat them. Until now.

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  • The_Helmaroc_King

    Teti? But I thought you were dead!

    … Then again, you only said the site would start scaling back this week, not that it would be disappearring yet. That could’ve been clearer, I suppose.

    • Dora_The_Explorer_Game

      This is me yesterday when I opened Gameological and found no updates:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGes7FDmHAM
      But the ‘stache is coming back, like a flower blooming after a wild fire, reminding us that there might be hope for us all after all. Seriously, Toal, don’t shave this thing for a while, we need it.

  • http://starttocrate.tumblr.com/ Http Lovecraft

    Gameological is dead! Long live Gameological!

  • HobbesMkii

    Just as The Toalstache was to reappear?!!! You maniac, Teti! You blew it up!

  • Cloks

    This was to-Toal-ly awesome.

    Yyyyyyup.

  • http://caspiancomic.com/gametheory caspiancomic

    Show of hands, who feels a little silly about all those apocalyptic goodbyes last Friday?

    • PaganPoet

      What? That was pure emotion, bro. I was wailing in my whistle register.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia

      It’s like when you see someone you know right when you get to the grocery store, chat a bit, then awkwardly part ways. But you both still have all your shopping to do so it’s two or three isles of head nods and slight chuckles before you just start peering around the corner and avoiding isles all together.

    • Jackbert

      Yeah, I feel pretty silly. As for GTA, I think the cynicism is pretty stupid, but when it’s combined with the deep amount of things to do, there can be funny moments. For example, there was a time I came across two naked old men attempting to rape a young woman, which is gross and unnecessary. But then I killed them and took a selfie next to their limp bodies. Michael’s soft smile juxtaposed with old man genitalia was priceless.

    • CrabNaga

      I think the South Park comparison is apt. Both it and the GTAs seem to go to great lengths to make fun of everything all at once in a strangely accusative manner.

      However, I feel like there’s an art to separating the meaning from the message as someone in the audience. I don’t agree with most of the stuff that Matt Stone, Trey Parker, Sam Houser, et al think about the world and society at large, but I can still laugh at their funny jokes. It’s only when I think about what’s behind those jokes that it’s spoiled.

      I can laugh at a Human CentiPad even though I know the creators are sitting behind the curtain, whispering “Hey guys. It’s the right of a company to do whatever the hell they want. It’s your fault if you accept their terms.” Similarly, I can laugh at the exaggerated antics of Michael’s family, while the writers are shouting “Hey guys! This is what a modern yuppie family looks like! Society is doomed!”

      • RickyHitler

        I don’t the message of the Human CentiPad was that the company should do whatever they want. I think the message was that people are stupid to put up with all of Apple’s terms without a second thought. Asshole companies behave like assholes. People should be smarter than to trust them.

    • RickyHitler

      South Park is miles above GTA V. Not everyone is willing to stomach South Park’s messages and themes but that doesn’t mean it isn’t funny and clever a good portion of the time. The creators of South Park sometimes get careless and/or churn out sub-par material, but they also have moments of brilliance (see: the WoW episode everyone loves). GTA V is just shit writing. It isn’t funny. It isn’t clever. It’s not a matter of taste, it’s just plain poorly written.

      They are similar in that they both have a tendency to be unnecessarily offensive for offensiveness’ sake (and come across as being extremely immature for it) but I don’t think it’s fair to lump a fairly well-written show together with a poorly-written videogame based on a few tonal similarities.

    • Cian

      South Park is far less cynical than Grand Theft Auto. It mocks many things but it’s usually fairly good-natured (some of the people who were made fun of even said they loved their representation) and generally ends on some kind of positive note, especially in the early seasons when episodes often ended with “I think we all learned something today”. At the very least you get some episodes that make jokes about how great something is. GTA is just unrelenting “everything and everyone is terrible” with no real twists or lessons to teach.

  • PaganPoet

    I love kale chips and j’accuse(!) John Teti of overselling his disgust. Admitting that makes me feel like a privileged, upper middle class 30 something white woman (I’m thinking Piper from Orange is the New Black). But they’re salty, crunchy, and they don’t attack my waistline like pretzels and potato chips do.

    • SamPlays

      I think what you’re trying to say is that kale chips are criminally delicious.

      • Steve McCoy

        Especially with “vay-gan” cheese

    • Roswulf

      I’ll defend kale chips as well…but only in the take a piece of kale (AND NOT THE CRINKLY KIND)-add oil and salt-bake, sense. No vay-gun cheese. *Shudders*

      • DrKumAndGo

        Good things to put on Kale chips before baking:
        1. Parmesan
        2. Sriracha
        3. Worchestershire
        4. Garlic Salt

        Bad things to put on anything, ever:
        1. vegan cheese
        2. vay-gan cheese

        • The Archmage of the Aether

          Stoopid vegans, trying to live with a foot on both Hippogriffs. Is it cheese? Or are you vegan? Why perpetuate a World with Cow Slaves by calling not-cheese ‘some-kind-of-cheese’?

        • Enkidum

          As a former vegan (still agree with the idea, just like eating everything too much), I would like to categorically state that vegan cheese is worse than Hitler.

          • Carlton_Hungus

            I’m a level five vegan, I don’t eat anything that casts a shadow.

          • PaganPoet

            I eat not the flesh nor the ovum of anything that has a face.

          • http://i821.photobucket.com/albums/zz132/toemali/stuff/bosun.jpg Colliewest

            But Clock cheese is delicious!

          • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

            I think “vegan cheese” is too wide a category to completely disavow, though. There are brands of melty cheese-ish stuff that are better than others (Vegan Gourmet is all right, I’m fine with Daiya, but it has a strong nutty flavor that I imagine could turn folks off), there are substitutions you can make in recipes to give them a cheesy flavor (nutritional yeast is pretty bomb in this respect – and you can make a great mac+cheese powder using it, walnuts, and some garlic salt), and there are substitutes for fringe cheeses – cream cheese, sprinkle cheese, etc. – that tend to be more successful than ersatz ‘real’ cheeses.

            I mean, I’d never eat a straight-up brick of any of that stuff – but I wouldn’t do that with cheese, either. I’ve cooked dishes with vegan cheese that went over perfectly well with omnivores.

    • mizerock

      The raw kale chips at Whole Foods are quite delicious, but stupid expensive.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      I was unaware that they were a thing, but John’s disgusted description of them totally got me all hyped up to have some kale chips. Vegan “cheese”? YES PLEASE.

      I’ll probably have to wait until I graduate and start earning money instead of hemorrhaging it, though. Then maybe I’ll rise up to the Whole Foods/Trader Joe’s tax bracket…

    • GaryX

      If you want some good kale-focused, yuppie food in Brooklyn, go to Chuko and get that kale salad. Shit is amazing.

    • snazzlenuts

      Until they make kale chips that taste like Cheez-Its, I ain’t eating ‘em.

  • Spacemonkey Mafia

    Man, lookit you two. Teti went out and got him some promotion duds, some sort of otter skin jacket and a tie cut from a swatch of the Duke of Argyll’s tartan.
    Meanwhile, Toal looks like he came straight from prison release, still threading the laces back into his shoes and wearing the rumpled, unwashed suit he stole from a man’s funeral, being the crime that landed him in the clink in the first place.

    • NakedSnake

      That was awfully decent of the Warden to let him keep that suit. But I guess the dead guy wasn’t using it either.

    • Jackbert

      That jacket is great, but John, buddy, you gotta unbutton it when you sit down!

      • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

        I think the button makes for more appealing lines in the framing we use for The Digest, so I leave it buttoned on purpose. Good eye, though.

        • Pepenator

          So what happens when you guys leave Brooklyn?

          • Carlton_Hungus

            Duh, he unbuttons the jacket.

          • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

            That’s a good question, and I’m not sure yet—pretty much every element of my life is in limbo right now, so I’m just concentrating on getting my ass out to Chicago and getting settled. I’ll probably have a mix of Chicago game critics and A.V. Club staffers as the guest critics, but I still have to figure out all the details of the production.

          • Spacemonkey Mafia

            Good luck with the transition, the upheaval and the move. Looking at he backdrop for the Digest set, I imagine the move to all-digital media couldn’t come soon enough for you.

          • Pepenator

            Wait, Drew isn’t coming to Chicago? :(

          • Drew Toal

            No. I will be remaining in parts unknown.

          • Pepenator

            Drew, you shall be missed.

        • Roswulf

          I want a Digest with Tim Gunn.

          • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

            Me too!

        • Mike Mariano

          John, I spent this video eyeing everything on your shelf, sad that it will all be dismantled.

          If you won’t be taking that Dragon Quest slime with you, I can give it a good home!

  • Citric

    The kids pissing in the snow line is kind of the best way I’ve heard to describe GTA’s more ham-fisted moments. So much of it feels like teenagers trying to be adult and clever and just failing. Like the nuance-free Facebook jokes, it’s so on the nose and bad, like a high school student who just learned what satire is but hasn’t actually had a class about how satire is executed.

    • NakedSnake

      It’s from the Mountain Dew School of Attitude®.

      • Citric

        Speaking of Mountain Dew, apparently the gross blue one won the voting thing in Canada. I suppose I should be grateful, since it was the flavor I hated and I’m not sure humans should be drinking Mountain Dew, but it confirmed something I long suspected…

        Dewmocracy is a joke.

        • Karbin

          Are you saying we should be a Dewtatorship?

          • CrabNaga

            It is the right of no man to force his Dew onto anyone else. I support Dewnarchy.

          • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

            With Teti gone, Brooklyn might turn into a Drewtatorship.

          • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

            But his love of kale chips will prelude a Drew-tater-chip, at least…

        • GeoffZoref

          When you say “the gross blue one” it leads me to believe that you find other flavors of Mountain Dew to taste good. That’s your first mistake.

          • Citric

            I genuinely enjoyed white Mountain Dew even if I knew that it was slowly destroying my insides. The black one was also pretty okay. The blue one was just vile though, sickly sweet and made me regret all of the poor decisions that lead to having blue Mountain Dew in my house.

    • Swampgas_Man

      It’s work. Dammit, video games are supposed to be fun. The only thing GTAV gets right is the “Three Strikes and You Get To Skip” idea. Maybe I’m not “mature” enough for this game, but I got more “Gosh WOW!” from Saint’s Row IV (as I’ve said ad nauseum), and I’m getting more stimulation from Scribblenauts Unlimited.

    • dreadguacamole

      it does completely nail it. The game’s smug tone was a huge turn-off for me.

    • GeoffZoref

      True. I enjoyed a lot of the game. Michael and especially Franklin were both somewhat compassionate, and Trevor was just downright scary in a good way, but the goddamn sexism in the game is so ugly that it distracts. I’m not even sure if there even IS a message about women in this game, or whether the writers simply don’t like–re: are of afraid of–women.

    • haysoos

      There are classes to learn about how satire is executed?

      I’m going to go out on a limb here, and guess that anyone who has actually taken one of those classes will never produce decent satire.

    • http://www.facebook.com/andy.tuttle.79 Andy Tuttle

      I’m going to be one of those message board kool aid drinkers and tell you how wrong you are about Grand Theft Auto.

      Well, okay, I get that this game is perhaps the most cynical game in the entire series, but I found it fitting for a game set in the completely fake world of Hollywood and the surround city of LA. I live in San Diego, which is like LA’s jealous little brother, and this vapidness makes its way down here as well. I loved the game, and you probably couldn’t convince me otherwise, but I get your criticism, you’re just wrong, obviously. GTA RULEZ NOOB!!!! YOU ARETEH SUCK.

      • ApeDrape

        GTA V was cynical, though it wasn’t as heavy handed as the last GTA entry (which honestly felt overly grim to the point of contrivance). GTA V struck a good balance between humor and serious story telling.

  • Citric

    Also, there was something oddly horrifying about how stuff just kept falling off that chip. That just isn’t natural.

  • ApeDrape

    I am going to have.to say both.

  • Greg

    you guys are chickenshits. try having fun without being pc.

    • Citric

      Well GTAV is a console exclusive, so you can’t be PC.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

      Try not being so stupid ohmygod.

  • NakedSnake

    I think my favorite thing about The Digest is that Teti seems to have mixed to negative feelings about almost every piece of food featured. At least we know he doesn’t abuse his editorial powers to secretly feature his favorite foods.

    • SamPlays

      The fact that John insists on sharing food he doesn’t like suggests a deeply embedded sadomasochistic personality.

    • http://caspiancomic.com/gametheory caspiancomic

      I think he actually sincerely enjoyed stak’s homemade marshmallows, although he may have just been being polite.

      (Also, bonus tidbit, John is wearing the same outfit in that video! Synergy!)

      • NakedSnake

        Crikey moses! I must have missed that one. Pretty cool.

      • Drew Toal

        Nope. Those were legitimately excellent.

  • http://disqus.com/Dikachu Dikachu

    Despite its flaws, I think that GTA V is the best of the series by a country mile… it’s the first one that I actually wanted to finish since III, and the first one I actually finished without cheating. A huge part of that was the fact that you finally don’t have to totally restart a mission if you screw up one part, but overall I think it’s more that the characters are finally compelling. Each one has their own story and motivation, and even though they’re intertwined, they’re all very distinct and the game treats them all differently in the same situations.

    My own main complaints, after now having finished the game twice, are twofold: Holy crap, this series is hetero-teen-male heavy. I mean, the very first image you see is a blonde chick in a bikini, who doesn’t even appear in the game, and the rest of the time your glimpses of women are either prostitutes, strippers, or idiots. The only females of any consequence are Michael’s wife and daughter, and they’re barely tolerable at best (especially the daughter, whose voice acting was like splinters under my fingernails).

    The second complaint is the cops are so fucking wildly inconsistent… I’ve bitched about this before on various AV Club threads, but there’s almost no consistency to when the cops get on you, and how quickly the wanted level will escalate. I’ve driven firetrucks into hundreds of cars and killed dozens of drivers with no problem, but bumping one pedestrian will sometimes (not always) immediately get the cops on you… and if you evade them even at a distance, your wanted level goes up and they start madly firing away. San Andres seems to exist in an alternate world where there’s no such thing as liability.

    • Real_Irwin

      I would agree that this entry in the series is absolutely the most fun and inventive. The story is completely wild and quite fun to play through. The way they’ve streamlined everything to maximize the fun is admirable.

      As for your complaints:

      1) Completely correct. I’d like to see Rockstar tackle some actual female characters in GTA. They made a few fleshed-out ones for Red Dead Redemption, so it’s odd that they didn’t do anything interesting here in terms of female characters. If they’re going to include multiple playable characters, then why can’t there be one who’s a woman?

      2) You’re right, but I have to disagree about it being a negative. The sheer unpredictability of the police makes the game really fun. It adds to the manic energy of the game for me.

      • http://disqus.com/Dikachu Dikachu

        I think the wanted levels work a lot better during missions than they do for when you’re just out tooling around… well, except when you’re doing the final big heist, option B, and you’re expected to somehow escape downtown Los Santos in a passenger car with a 5-star wanted level.

      • JamesJournal

        I didn’t care that there were no female player characters. But overall female representation in the game was gross. The hacker chick who barely gets any lines is like the only woman in your entire crew? The only female Faux-FBI agent who ever see is a blink and you miss it cameo from Niko’s first girlfriend in GTA4

        The less said about Franklin’s Aunt and Michael’s daughter the better.

        • http://disqus.com/Dikachu Dikachu

          And don’t forget Devin’s assistant lady, who suddenly goes batshit crazy when you’re chasing her. Maybe she was PMSing, amirite guyz!?!?!?! But seriously, what the fuck was with that storyline? It didn’t make any sense.

          • JamesJournal

            It was weird that Devin’s assistant was the closest thing you get to a female quest giver in the entire game!

            Where there no female criminals in the entire Faux-LA era?

            I could sort of rationalize why there wouldn’t be a lot of female equivalents to Trevor and Franklin. But it makes no sense what-so-ever that Michael’s story is also a complete sausage-fest. He encounters no faux FBI agents or Hollywood power players. I mean, if you are gonna pull a Sopranos you could at least make his shirk a chick or give his wife some more material.

    • dreadguacamole

      Conversely, even though I agree with some of your points, I ended up returning the game before I was a third of the way through – it’s the first GTA game I haven’t finished. The noxious tone got to me, but above all had some serious issues with the gameplay. Archaic mechanics, the horrible vehicle handling, the police taking forever to shake off… I just couldn’t connect with the game at all, and I dropped it as soon as an instant-fail stealth mission reared its ugly head.

      I might get it again once it comes out on the PC and the kinks are ironed out, because just exploring its sandbox is a pleasure, and it can be fun – but to me they haven’t fixed all of the glaring problems with GTA 4, they’ve just papered over them with even more money.

      • GaryX

        I thought it was by far the best the vehicles have handled (helicopter aside), and while archaic mechanics have always been something of an issue for GTA games, this one felt the most playable to me.

        • http://disqus.com/Dikachu Dikachu

          Yeah, I never really had a complaint about how vehicles handle in the series… I mean, they’re cars, they’re not supposed to be nimble. My complaints are reserved for the character controls… these guys all move like rag dolls in lead suits. It took me several hours just to get used to it, and I never really got comfortable with it even after playing through the game twice.

          • GaryX

            Yeah I was mostly speaking to shooting, walking, and running in previous GTA games. V’s characters control much better than IV’s at least where trying to turn around was frustrating to me.

    • CrabNaga

      I know this was present in GTAIV, but sometimes pedestrians will call the cops on you if they witness you doing something illegal, so you might get a star for simply taking a car off the side of the road. However, since pedestrians are robots, they shout “I AM CALLING THE COPS NOW,” which gives you a cue to shut them up for good (and prevent the wanted star).

      I’ve never found the cops to be that terrible. Sometimes you’ll get a cop with police nitro in his car or something, who is able to ram you while you’re speeding along in an Infernus. Sometimes you’ll get the X-ray vision cop, who can see you through a building (although I’ve only had that happen once or twice). Sometimes you’ll get the psychic cops, who will know exactly where to get out of their car and look for you, even if you’re a mile away from the last place anyone saw you.

      However, there’s all kinds of tricks you can pull as well that make getting away from the cops super easy (and the game doesn’t tell you explicitly, which I like). First, if you switch cars, cops won’t notice you in them unless you drive right past them. Second, you can go hide in a bush and unless one of them bumps right into you, they’ll never find you. I’m not sure if it helps, but I also like turning off my headlights when I park my car down some alleyway.

      • Carlton_Hungus

        I feel like in GTAV I’ve dealt with the cops far less than in any of the previous entries in the series.

        Maybe this stems from the fact that the driving mechanic is so improved. I think I said a few weeks ago I’ve hit less pedestrians in that game than people pass away in their slippery bathtubs in real life. But other than that there just doesn’t seem to be that much of a police presence. In the earlier games the way I always ended up with the cops on me was accidentally hitting one (due to the poor driving mechanics but also to their increased presence in traffic).

        I feel like the accidental wanted levels are gone, the only times I get a wanted level on me now are when I do something that intentionally triggers it or it’s a part of the mission.

        Also they’re such prolific shots, and your character seems to be able to take less punishment in than in the past so the shootouts seem less fun.

        Although maybe I’m just an old fuddy duddy and don’t go on non-mission approved rampages as much as before.

        • http://disqus.com/Dikachu Dikachu

          One of the things I especially like versus IV is that there’s a lot fewer cops just driving around… in IV, it felt like every 5th car was a cop, which made car-crashing rampage in a firetruck pretty inconvenient.

          • CrabNaga

            Shooting a pigeon was like flipping a coin to see if you get a wanted star.

          • GaryX

            I don’t even know if I’ve ever seen a cop just cruising. I’ve seen the occasional speed trap, but in-game they seem to just spawn out of nowhere.

      • a_scintillating_comment

        Yeah, I’m enjoying the increased durability of the cars, but I didn’t see it as a balance to changes made to acquiring a wanted level.

        I agree that the cops are easier to evade/more realistic if you get a bit creative. In other games, those kinds of options weren’t even there.

        • http://disqus.com/Dikachu Dikachu

          The cars being more durable is nice, but it seems they’ve removed the visual indicators of when a car’s about to blow up, or at least have made them a lot more subtle. I’ve had a few explode with no warning, which is quite a kick in the balls.

          • CrabNaga

            Yeah, the “HEY, your car’s on fire!” effect is very subtle in this game. That being said, it’s very rare for me to drive a car and smash it up enough to get to the exploding point. Usually one of the wheels gets stuck and I abandon it long before my engine is even smoking.

          • GaryX

            If your car makes something of a fall but lands upside down, it insta-explodes which can be a bit frustrating.

        • Unspeakable Axe

          I thought maybe the durability thing was in response to the huge variability of the terrain. This is by far their hilliest and most mountainous map – even in Los Santos I’m frequently barreling off the Vinewood hills or going down a steep road at 150 MPH, and in the mountains there’s as good a chance as not that my car will be sailing through wide open air with no idea where it’s going to land. The enhanced health of the cars just makes it so I can do all this ridiculous cartoony stuff and not die or get stranded somewhere frustrating over and over again.

          • http://disqus.com/Dikachu Dikachu

            Yeah, cruising around on the mountains is a shitload of fun… and whenever I get stuck, I just switch to another character and crash at their safehouse for 8 hours, then switch back, and they’re usually somewhere else.

            The mountain lions kinda piss me off though.

          • Unspeakable Axe

            I’ve hardly seen them – maybe 4 or 5 the whole game, and usually they kept their distance, or I passed right by them anyway. The only time one killed me I wasn’t even on the mountain, just driving along an adjacent road. It was hilarious actually – I was chasing a guy on foot, got hit by a car, and then mauled by a lion. I felt pretty incompetent.

      • mizerock

        I’m still not sure how I got wanted stars for silently stabbing someone in the hedge maze. There were no witnesses! The PreCrime police force at work?

        Of course, the police got nowhere near me before my wanted star went away. It’s a maze! And not particularly close to a road.

        I was impressed to see the escape skills of one of my crew members online, while I was a passenger. 4 wanted stars, multiple helicopters, and yet he knew just what overpass would block their view. It seems like the “any visible bit of blue sky means you aren’t hidden” rule isn’t always true. And driving into the sewers, now that is truly effective. As long as your car is tough enough and fast enough to get you there before you get penetrated by large-caliber rounds fired by helicopter.

        • Unspeakable Axe

          Sewers and train tunnels, baby. My two best friends.

          The helicopters seem to have actual lines of sight – if there’s sky visible they may or may not see you from it. Depends how low they fly and which way they’re facing.

    • Kyle O’Reilly

      Yeah, the cops can be annoying but it’s the Police helicopters that drive me nuts. I can evade Johnny law by tucking in a back allye, jumping a fence and hiding behind a trash can but even with just a sliver of sky visible that Helicopter will see me and start peppering me with bullets.

      • http://disqus.com/Dikachu Dikachu

        Yeah, it’s practically impossible to escape with a chopper on you, even if you’re 10 feet underwater. Needless to say, I’ve gotten entering the “reduce wanted level” cheat down to about 1 second.

        • Unspeakable Axe

          Underwater will work if you dive deep – the problem is that, without scuba gear, you can never stay down there long enough to lose your wanted level. When you re-surface, the helis are usually still circling and trying to find you. I’ve been down that road enough with Trevor to have figured out that it doesn’t really work except as a short-term solution to escape the most immediate heat.

        • TaumpyTearrs

          I’ve found if I can actually make it to the water and grab a jet ski I can outrun the choppers long enough to lose my wanted level.

      • JamesJournal

        With cover,choppers won’t see you. They are only a problem when you are above three stars

    • disqus_GWuZqN7zGR

      I’m with you re: the complaints, but I suppose if I put my devil’s advocate hat on, I can come up with a defence of the lack of female characters in the game — it’s supposed to be a riff on the uber-male, American-dream-chasing archetype, and all the horror that it spawns (fun horror, but horror nonetheless). Basically, a Breaking Bad set in Los Santos. (Note the countless bits of crossover between the two — the RV methlab mission, the father-son dynamics at play between Michael/whatever his kid’s name is/Franklin, etc.)

      The female characters are presented as venal and stupid, because that’s how the type of machismo-soaked douchebags (Michael, mostly) who would think of them. It’s satire of masculinist culture, if not necessarily subtle or well done. But if that’s the point, I suppose it mitigates the rampant obsession with catering to our inner and actual 17-year-old dudes.

      • http://disqus.com/Dikachu Dikachu

        Yeah, that definitely makes sense, but the game is huge enough so that they could have that, and still have room for some kind of active competent female presence.

  • Haughty Todd

    … I’ll eat these all day, son.

    • SamPlays

      … said @Haughty_Todd:disqus impugnantly, placing the spoiled platter of putrescent vermin on the worn edge of his pitch barren refectory.

  • Penis Van Lesbian

    As a technical achievement, it’s extraordinary, but I only managed an hour before accepting that it’s not for me and giving up. I’m really not interested in being a bad guy in a fantasy bad guy world.

  • Raging Bear

    I don’t think the extraordinarily juvenile tone of GTA started to bother me until IV. Maybe it’s because they were so cartoony before then, but this console generation brought so much more realism, and IV seemed to at least pretend to take the story in a mature direction, that I find the fact that the series still absolutely wallows in utter childishness just so damn tiresome. Not EVERY logo and brand name in your universe needs to be a reference to sex or genitals, Rockstar. Jesus. Grow up.

    • Mercenary_Security_number_4

      I have to agree. I haven’t played 5, but trying to nuance Niko in IV just seemed to unintentionally validate the misogyny and the stereotypes that surrounded him. Its one thing when a game is obviously just trying to be stupid. But when they make some aspects and characterizations more realistic, it makes you wonder what their true opinion is of the stereotypes they leave in. One of the hidden gems of the games I actually liked was the documentary about the history of the city that you could find on one of the cable channels. At least the satire there required a basic knowledge of real history to appreciate.

    • Smilner

      As true as that may be, my wife was on the floor cry-laughing when the Pißwasser commercial came on the radio.

    • SamPlays

      Maybe it’s because you grew the fuck up.

      • Raging Bear

        Possible. I do demand a certain craft and wit from dick jokes these days.

      • Penis Van Lesbian

        That was my thought.

    • Oof

      ProLaps sports gear is god damn funny to me. I apologize to the concept of maturity.

      • Raging Bear

        Hell, I find ProLaps pretty damn funny too. It also qualifies as actual wordplay, unlike, say, “Gruppe Sechs.”

      • Carlton_Hungus

        What’s the “50 Shades of Grey” knockoff they have on the radio, Chains of Endearment or something? That one elicits a chortle.

    • http://disqus.com/Dikachu Dikachu

      I dunno, I found most of GTA V to be pretty mature… if nothing else, the main characters are a hell of a lot more complex than they used to be. I just wish they’d have some strong female characters for once.

    • JamesJournal

      I guess I just compartmentalized the story/gameplay. I enjoyed the story and characters in GTA4/Episodes from Liberty City a lot more than 5. But I also just accepted the gross parody of America culture outside that narrative as it’s own “video game-y” thing.

      I very much enjoyed Republican Space Rangers!

    • Unspeakable Axe

      I think “Red Dead” is the Rockstar game for grown-ups. It still has some moments of GTAish humor, but mostly in the silly secondary characters – it’s not just relentlessly immature for the fun of it.

      As for GTA itself, I don’t mind it. Partly because I think I stopped trying to distance myself from the snickering 12 year old inside of me; and partly because this feels like the appropriate world in which to set the antics of its main characters. GTA IV had a bit of an identity crisis, but with this game and especially the addition of Trevor, it feels like they have figured out who they are – and who they are is a bunch of cop-baiting mass-murdering cartoon psychopaths, existing in a world where nearly everybody deserves to be murdered. If the world wasn’t so ridiculous and viewed with such cynicism, I’d actually feel bad about doing the stuff GTA asks/invites you to do within it.

  • JokersNuts

    I never want the digest to go away gameologicons.

    I think rock star should give it up with the social commentary and just focus on what it is; driving around killing a whole lot of people, while playing as really terrible and mean-spirited characters. Sometimes you just got to pull some guys teeth out right?

    • mizerock

      Would a Carmageddon reboot require a story? Or Burnout, why did Burnout have to go out with such a whimper, or go out at all, for that matter?
      I guess there aren’t any “walking around” parts of those two titles though.

      • Carlton_Hungus

        What about Just Cause 2? The story is so paper thin there as to be just about killing and blowing stuff up. And the only torture was those accents.

        • mizerock

          Yeah, that game is totally right up my alley, I need to dig it out again. It seemed to me like every “mission” was the exact same thing [drive to a village, blow up all of the stuff there that is branded with the evil dictator's logo], it was starting to grow thin. And yet, the mechanics are awfully fun. Grappling hook + parachute + lots of cars + massive map = WIN.
          I still haven’t completely gotten rid of my JC2 instinct to bail out of cars as they are moving, and that move doesn’t work out so well in GTAV. I suspect that will remain the case even if I start wearing a parachute.

          • Carlton_Hungus

            I long since beat the story (and was nerdy enough to get a platinum trophy), but I still take the game out from time to time just to lay waste to some town or village. Crashing a jet in, parachute/grappling around, grapple attaching enemies to CO2 tanks and launching them…

            As much as I enjoy the GTA games, Just Cause 2 is the purest open world mayhem simulator. Even though all the locations are relatively generic, the sheer variety of types of location, mountain monestary/ski slope, jungle villa, jungle oil platform, desert town, casino resort, and everything in between just made it such fun. And with hundreds of towns there is always another that you haven’t destroyed all the propaganda stuff in. Actually, I know what I’m doing tonight.

      • signsofrain

        I just wanted to mention that there’s a very nice version of Carmageddon for Android. If you haven’t played Carma in awhile it’s probably the best way to enjoy it right now. Of course, you can still run Carma2 on PC if you have a copy (mine runs in Windows 7 no problem) but although I’ve messed around no end with IPX->TCP hacks, Hamachi, etc, I can’t get multiplayer running for the life of me. If anyone has managed to get Carma2 multi running on a modern system please get in touch with me… man I miss it.

      • Citric

        Fun fact, when I was playing Carmageddon I was pretty into REM’s Out of Time. Now I forever associate Shiny Happy People with driving over pedestrians.

        So basically I want an REM-soundtracked Carmageddon.

  • TheMostPopularCommenter

    This is the last Digest because Teti is a Senior Editor now which means he is 85 and will be dead soon.

  • MathleticDepartment

    Don’t worry John – kale chips are becoming prominent in Chicago so quickly that they threaten to overtake us all. Try the Pina Kale-ada flavor!*

    * this is a real thing

    • Newton Gimmick

      I’m not much in to health food. I am into champagne.

      • Carlton_Hungus

        That song is like the craigslist “missed connections” page of 30 years ago.

        • Citric

          It’s also about people trying to have an affair, so it may also be the craigslist “casual encounters” page of 30 years ago.

          • http://gameological.com/author/jasonreich/ Jason Reich

            It’s also about people so dysfunctional and lacking intimacy in their relationship that even keep their choice of cocktails a secret from each other.

  • Kyle O’Reilly

    I’ve sort of just accepted AAA video games to have the same maturity as AAA movies. I don’t go into Man of Steel expecting a poignant meditation on heroism, I expect shit to get smashed. I know that Zach Snyder wanted to be more than that but let’s face it, it’s a movie about a flying dude smashing shit.

    With GTA V I don’t go in expecting a biting critique of American Culture or a well-written story that explores regret, I go in expecting to ram an SVU into a military base and steal a fighter jet while blasting Night Moves by Pete Seeger.

    It’d be cool if the GTA games were able to deliver emotional stories that showed some actual complexity but it’d also be cool if the Middle Class wasn’t slowly evaporating. Now if you don’t mind, I have to affix some bombs to a city bus and reenact Speed but starring a sweatpants wearing Jack Nicholson lookalike.

    • http://disqus.com/Dikachu Dikachu

      I dunno, I would argue Trevor was a pretty complex character. Michael and Franklin were a bit clichéd, but they were developed deeper and were a lot more sympathetic than Niko was.

      But yeah, holy shit, that classic rock station has some awesome tracks.

      • JamesJournal

        Niko/John Marston are the only leads Rockstar attempted to make sympathetic.

        Franklin/Trevor/Michael are maniacs. They are fun maniacs though.

    • Enkidum

      Pretty sure you don’t mean Pete Seeger. Pretty sure it’ll be a long time before he’s in a GTA game. Too sincere.

      • Newton Gimmick

        And Pete Seeger would never endorse a video game about driving filthy cars.

    • Phillip Collector

      Night Moves by Pete Seeger? Is that a banjo version?

    • Cian

      I would say that’s all fine if GTA didn’t try so darn hard to be all of those things. It really wants to be a witty satire and a serious story and it just isn’t. GTA isn’t really the kind of game where the story was a throwaway addition.

      Also, Man of Steel was widely received as you put it. The reviews were middling and basically saying that if you want a dude smashing things then it’ll do. GTA 5 on the other hand has the second highest average score of any game this generation (behind GTA 4). If a film or book gets those kind of rave reviews (except they almost never do), you would generally expect it to be pretty poignant and intelligent.

  • Pepenator

    I wanna smoke a bowl with Drew and eat some kale chips.

  • Kyle O’Reilly

    Teti, kind of sums up the yo-yo emotions of playing Grand Theft Auto V for me.

    One minute I’m barreling down a mountain listening to Johnny Cash and amazed at the detail in the world, the other I’m playing a mission that is built around shooting boring people in a boring building. Ups and downs.

    Though I will say in defense that SOME of the satire is pretty damn good. Righteous Slaughter 7 the Call of Duty clone that the son plays and has commercials on the radio is a pretty funny send up of everything annoying about military shooters. “Unlike any other shooter out there, except Righteous Slaughter 6 which came out 3 months ago.”

    • CaptainFunction

      But hasn’t everyone even mildly aware of video games basically made the same observation about military shooters? Not that all satire has be incredibly original, but that specific observation seems really lazy at this point and seems to further the opinion that Rockstar’s attempts at satire are failing.

      • Kyle O’Reilly

        That observation itself yest, but the dedication to the joke kept it going to me, including the visual representation of it as a +100 xp, bloody screen, information overload. Also, Rockstar often has voice talent that can sell jokes better that aren’t exactly stellar but are driven home by delivery.

      • Phillip Collector

        Exactly. GTA is an entire franchise dedicated to low hanging fruit.

        Fox new sucks! Budweiser is watered down! Facebook sucks! Penis’s are funny! Too many Call of Duty sequels!

        “Hilarious”.

        The worst of it is that they don’t put a clever spin on these topics. Instead of coming up with an inventive new joke Rockstar’s approach basically amounts to pointing out the obvious and expecting us to laugh because they’re being irreverent.

        It’s like a collection of the jokes that were too bad for Mad magazine to publish and that’s really saying something.

        “Guys I got it! Instead of calling it Rockafeller Center…we’ll call it…Cockafeller Center! Because…you know…penises!

    • JamesJournal

      I once switched to Michael while he was playing Righteous Slaughter with his son … and …. damn … that gag worked.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      Call me when Rockstar is self aware enough to have commercials and games in their gameworld that honestly poke fun at their own games’ hoary tropes and design failures.

      • Unspeakable Axe

        It already happened, and his name is Trevor.

  • GeoffZoref

    Uggh. I played Sleeping Dogs right before GTA V. I kept saying to myself (and my friends, ad nauseum) if they had mixed Sleeping Dogs game mechanics with GTA V’s humungous map, it could have been one of the best games ever made.

    It even got me thinking that somebody should invent a mod to put one game’s mechanics into another games environment. Don’t know if that’s possible, but it would be cool. Sort of like take what you like about one game and put it into the environment that you like from another game.

    • mizerock

      When you find the programmer who can do that, can you have them add Pro Drums to The Beatles: Rock Band for me? All the coding is in the songs already, you just have to have the charts displayed to include cymbals.

    • http://disqus.com/Dikachu Dikachu

      The games are developed in totally different programming environments with different engines and tools, so unfortunately it’d be like trying to implant a dog’s organs into a human body.

      • Carlton_Hungus

        Hey, you just gave Rob Schneider a great movie idea!

        • http://disqus.com/Dikachu Dikachu

          Except Rob Schneider will probably be trying to implant his own organ into a dog’s body, if you catch my drift.

  • Phillip Collector

    GTA games have always been a mixed bag for me. In some sense it’s like winning the lottery but then being forced to live in your new mansion with your racist, sexist, uncle who never really grew up.

    GTA delivers a lot of great things but it also means enduring three weeks of: genital jokes, sexist humor, the “n word” on infinite repeat, an endless avalanche of cynicism, dour, insufferable, moronic, petulant, shrill, whiny characters who are tasked with doing some of the most tedious errands, i.e. pretending to be a stevedore, going shopping for masks, mopping, etc…

    It’s at times like a hellaciously long road trip that you desperately want to end. You’re tired of the songs on the radio. You’re tired of the dumb jokes. You’re tired of being forced to hang out with the people around you. You feel kinda gross and you’re asking yourself “why am I doing this to myself”, and then something awesome happens and you’re reminded “oh yeah! That’s why.”

    • Halloween_Jack

      In some sense it’s like winning the lottery but then being forced to live in your new mansion with your racist, sexist, uncle who never really grew up.

      I like the idea of a lottery-RSU factor for any given game: the relative proportion of awesome to cringeworthy. It’s like, in Mass Effect, it’s mostly good, but then at random moments Miranda’s ass will jump into the foreground in tight close-up, or Jacob will say something.

      • Phillip Collector

        Ha! That’s the good point. Pretty much every game IS a combo of awesome and cringe worthy.

        Mass Effect really wanted us to take it seriously and I more or less did but then BAM! Miranda’s ass is up in my biz like the cover of the new Lady Gaga/R. Kelly single.

  • mizerock

    I’m having a blast playing missions online, mostly because I can stick to what I’m good at [driving] and let my teammates carry me through with their superior firepower, excellent marksmanship, and penchant for stealing helicopters to take along [even when the mission doesn't specifically call for that, and even when it seems to be a ridiculous way to approach certain missions]. Are there any other games that will allow me to play online in a cooperative environment [players versus AI enemies]? I don’t like being the weak link in any team game, but it’s less horrible when it doesn’t result in a bunch of mouthy teens shredding my side because of my slow aiming skills & delayed ability to recognize approaching enemies & poor use of cover.

  • beema

    So… gameological is still here?

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      It looks like they’re doing the scaled-down update schedule now, and the folding-into-the-mothership will come a little bit down the pike.

  • Derek

    III, SA and VC are still better than V IMO. But V is a vast improvement on IV, which is the first since I started playing the series (GTA2) that I didn’t beat. At its core, GTA has always been about gameplay to me. Everything else, even the vast open world, has been in services of this. Otherwise you just have a big map like True Crime Streets of LA. In V, the world is huge, but much of it, at least in terms of main story missions, is completely useless. SA actually felt and still feels far more vast than this game, in part because there was sequential way in which the map opened up (Grove Street–> larger Los Santos area–>Whetstone–>Tierra–> San Fierro) and missions were location-specific. In Whetstone for example you spend a good 7-8 mission deep in that environment taking on racing and heist missions with Catalina. GTAV’s locus is clearly Los Santos and everything else is an afterthought, missions randomly sending you up into the countryside not so much to stay there but just to drive there and back. The difficulty of the missions is also way too dumbed down compared to the previous installments. While the addition of checkpoints is good in theory, it’s meaningless in a game that’s so easy. They’ve also done away with the awesome timed missions of the past, spook-o-meter and strict damage requirements (unless you’re shooting for gold) that added to the difficulty. Finally, I often get a sense in GTAV that you’re little more than an administrator for the story, driving from point A to point B to watch another cutscene or trigger another event. Often the length of cutscenes and dialogue far exceeds actual gameplay time! GTA has always had fun and interesting characters and stories but like the world, should be supplementary to the gameplay, not the main event. All in all, V is a return to form from IV and I’m enjoying it a lot but it’s not on the level of groundbreaking III or SA.

    • Derek

      Also, I succumbed to a gamesave glitch thanks to the online patches and so had to start the game again 39 missions in. It was frustrating that R* barely acknowledged the problem which I’d wager affected about 20% of all players. Is what it is. Stuff happens. But it seems like after the singleplayer launched, R* totally switched gears to online and has all but ignored SP issues. I got the game for the single player. Everything else is just gravy.

      • Unspeakable Axe

        20%, really? I didn’t have any issues and this is the first I’m hearing of it actually. What was the glitch?

        • Derek

          Basically if you installed patch 1.01 or 1.02 at the mission Blitz Play you were at risk. The mission after that for me was Surveying the Score, which I now know is about 10-12 missions AFTER Blitz Play. So after you completed Surveying the Score no other missions would pop up and you’d be stuck, forced to load up a savegame prior to Blitz Play, which I did not have or restart SP. They finally acknowledged the issue a couple of days ago, but I already restarted and am almost at the final heist:

          http://support.rockstargames.com/hc/en-us/articles/200506327-What-to-do-if-no-further-missions-are-showing-up-in-GTAV-Story-Mode

          • Unspeakable Axe

            Interesting, glad that didn’t happen to me…

    • Carlton_Hungus

      Agree on the fact that it’s too easy. I feel like previous complaints about the difficulty were based on the lack of checkpoint system rather than the missions themselves but just to be safe Rockstar nerfed both. Yet for some reason still kept the stunt jumps painfully impossible to pull off.

      I agree that the single player doesn’t use all the intricately designed nooks and crannies of the map enough (as opposed to SA), but where that map does shine is in the multiplayer.

      This came up on one of the major gaming sites reviews, but the multiplayer instances (death matches, races, etc…) that narrow the focus on a few city blocks really allows those areasto shine. It does affect single player too, I’ve found myself in areas of the map I know much better because I’ve raced this mountain path, or stalked the streets in a death match.

      I think the multiplayer use of the massive map will only get better as more missions and activities are added allowing a focus on the little places in Los Santos.

  • JamesJournal

    I like Tethi’s “Three ways to play” theory of GTA5. The best missions are the weird team ups. You just know shit will be real when Trevor shows up at Franklin’s house to mix up your standard “Lamar brings Franklin to a stupid under thought errand” mission.

    Anyway, I blitzed through this game in a week. I really can’t say enough about how awesome the heist missions were. And the story works in a “big budget blockbuster if done by Adult Swim” kind of way.

    The torture segment didn’t bother me. The subtext of that sequence all but throws a massive “THIS SEQUENCE IS ANTI TORTURE” disclaimer at you. It is a little scary that Trevor voiced my exact opinion on torture afterward.

    But I didn’t have actual investment in the completely morally bankrupt leads. At the end of the game awful things may or may not happen to them and … so. Trevor is bad ass, but he could choke on shit and die in a fire for all I care.

    So that basically squares me in the Niko Bellic/John Marston school of anti-heroes.

    Oddly enough, I never picked up Saints Row 4 again after the mission that was making fun of stealth games, I kept failing it and quit although I’m a hardcore Metal Gear/Splinter Cell fan.

  • https://www.thegamecrafter.com/designers/xyvir-games Xyvir

    “Vegan cheese” in “scare quotes??????” What kind of “society” are we “living” “in” “nowadays” that could “allow” “this” “kind” of “”food” “monstrosity”" “to exist?????!!???!??!?!?!”

    And Gameological is changing? But it’s so young….

    Aye, the apocalypse truly is upon us.

    EDIT: also bring back ‘tweet this’ as a digest staple plz thank you ok bye

    • Citric

      Once, I worked in a grocery store, the bakery lady was constantly putting quotes around everything. I would repeatedly tell her that it was grammatically incorrect and also made people suspicious about the contents of her bakery dishes, but she wouldn’t listen. Eventually I just erased all of her quotes when she wasn’t looking so people wouldn’t be suspicious of our “bread”.

      Now I work in a neglected and not particularly profitable section of the word industry.

      • https://www.thegamecrafter.com/designers/xyvir-games Xyvir

        They’re called “scare quotes” for a reason!

      • Chum Joely

        I have repeatedly noticed a note on diving boards at swimming pools that says Look before “YOU” dive! (there must be some manufacturer that puts these on at the factory). Now, I get that lots of people think that quotes are to indicate emphasis, or some sort of particular intonation, but what on earth could they have been thinking here? Look before “I” dive, as opposed to looking before someone else dives? Which wouldn’t even make sense?

        I guess my point is that the depth of people’s punctuational incompetence is beyond human understanding.

  • Eco1970

    John, when you stuck two fingers up at the end to signify ‘two’, you were basically giving the finger to any Brits watching. Palm out, Remember! :)

  • WayofThePun

    While I’d prefer the comedy and satire to be smarter, there are some really smart moments in the game. This TV commercial has got to be my favorite – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmuMuIkIlI8

    • JamesJournal

      That’s what car commercials already sound like to me

  • MiyokoVensel

    Its very Creative and Mind Blowing game for the Play .

    http://naturalcolonelitecanada.com/

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