July 20, 2015 | by Michael
Round Trip: GTA V

All trains follow a fixed route, and sometimes that route returns to some familiar locations. This will be a chronicling of our time with games we’ve already played or may have missed the first time and have decided to go back to. There’s no telling what we’ll play and what we’ll find when we go back, so join us on the tracks as we make a Round Trip.

Out of some of the recent games I’ve taken a dive into I didn’t expect the re-release/remaster of Grand Theft Auto V for the Xbox One would be the one to grab ahold of me. I already own the Xbox 360 version, which I finished, and the thought of playing through the same story and same missions just didn’t excite me. That is until I actually started playing it.

Don’t get me wrong, the other games I’m playing, The Witcher 3 and Super Smash Bros., are games that are sinking hooks deep inside my brain. Witcher is a plodding, engrossing, narrative and world that requires all of my energy. Smash Bros., while light in comparison to GTA or The Witcher, demands my focus with constant and visually loud fights. But Grand Theft Auto is keeping my interest. The world, and events within, of GTA are just too well made, too engrossing, and too diverse to stop playing.

Three-Impressive-GTA-V-Screenshots-Now-Available-2

I had forgotten how interesting and strange Michael’s world was, with his seemingly perfect family that is actually far from it. A hidden, terrible, past that he desperately misses until it comes bursting in his front door. There’s Franklin, whose world is terribly cliche and he’ll take any chance to escape the doldrums of petty crime. And then there’s Trevor whose insanity and unpredictability are practically birthed from the chaos of the Grand Theft Auto franchise. These three are mixed together in a world that lives and breathes naturally, as pedestrians casually walk along the sidewalks, exercise on the beach, or drive their expensive cars around town. The world feels less like a simulation where we spend our time completing missions, but like a real place most of us try to avoid or only dare to visit.

Honestly, it’s all kind of heartbreaking. Two former friends who are  at odds, a newcomer who’s attaching himself to what might be a fadingstar. Drugs and money rule over everyone in this city and nothing inside this world could ever be described as pure. The snark and satire is so spot on it sometimes hurts. The truth that is shown is this misshapen alternate city hits way too close to home, but I still can’t leave.

The hyper reality that exists in GTA V is a condensed, concentrated, version of our own. It’s louder, busier, cruder, and dirtier. Despite all the dirt and grime, the world reveals it’s still steadily beautiful. The sunsets are gorgeous, the rain slicked roads still calm. The gentle hum of the city reminds us that life still thrives, and the peaceful, secluded hills and forests remind us that humanity hasn’t wrecked everything yet. In this filthy, satirical, reflection there still is hope, happiness, and allure. There’s still a diamond in the rough, but it isn’t too hard to find. The fact that Los Santos can still be this charming and attractive place that I can feel so much better about is what keeps bringing me back to this game.

Michael

Managing Editor around here, moderator over at Giant Bomb, writer at prowrestling.cool

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