GTA 5 Review

Key Features:

  • Developer - Rockstar North
  • Publisher - Rockstar Games
  • Platforms - PlayStation 3 (tested), Xbox 360
  • Release date - Out now
  • Price - £39.99

Grand Theft Auto 5 Review

Well, you've got what you wanted. Everyone who opined that Grand Theft Auto 4 was depressing, that the city was too small and there wasn't enough "fun" stuff to do, you've got what you wanted.

Grand Theft Auto 5 is like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. There are mini-games, customisable characters and plenty of things to do that are quote-unquote "wacky." But I can't help feeling this is a step back.

Grand Theft Auto 5 is detailed and beautiful, and evidently the work of game developers who are at the height of their powers, but it's not an intelligent game. It's written terribly and sits as proof that Rockstar's trademark, so-called biting satire, in fact boils down to misogyny and racism.

In terms of scope and technology, GTA 5 is a marvel. In regards to almost everything else, it's unsophisticated.

Let's start with a few plus points

Los Santos is an astounding environment. Like its real-world counterpart Los Angeles, it comprises terrace houses, mansions, liquor stores and golf courses, all pushed within a few blocks of each other. You can literally see the disparity. On streets like Vespucci Boulevard and Crusade Road, half of the driveways are filled with pick-up trucks and the other half house sports cars.

GTA 5 Review

I won't defend Grand Theft Auto 5 as social commentary but it's certainly well observed.

I also like the character switching. As you're no doubt aware, Grand Theft Auto V lets you change perspectives between three different protagonists: Franklin is an up-and-coming hood from South Central; Michael is a retired bank robber living with his family in Hollywood; and Trevor deals drugs from his trailer out in the desert.

Switching between them provides a multi-faceted take on the narrative and a broader picture of Los Santos itself. We're given to understand events and the city from a multitude of perspectives. Where in the past GTA games have drawn inspiration from movies, Grand Theft Auto 5 feels more like an AMC drama, with hundreds of characters and an arching, complex story.

GTA 5 Review

And there are other things I like: The combat has been finely tuned, the heist missions, where you hire your own crew and plan each stage of the robbery, are great fun and for someone who likes role-playing, who likes to spend hours and hours pretending that he actually lives in a game world, there's plenty to do.

Rampant sexism

But dozens of other reviews have praised these things already and I'm on a tight word limit here. So I want to focus on what struck me the most about Grand Theft Auto 5: The bad writing, the rampant sexism and how, after 16-years making these games, Rockstar seems to have lost its cool.

There's a moment when Michael goes to meet Trevor and when he gets there, Trevor is squatted in an alley, doing a poo. "Are you taking a dump?" asks Michael. "Heh, I needed one," says Trevor. And then he pulls up his trousers, the mission goes on and this exchange is never brought up again.

This is the level of humour Grand Theft Auto 5 operates at. It seems to me a hypocrisy that the game can say 18+ on the box, and at the same time, expect its audience to giggle at poo jokes. There are some strained attempts to make GTA shocking to adults, including an incredibly misguided torture scene, but they're desperate and boring.

GTA 5 Review

There's loads of swearing, some uncensored sex and black characters who use the n-bomb a lot.

GTA 5 is like a teenager boasting about how much weed he smokes. It's trying to look edgy - it's trying to look street - but since it's written by middle-aged white men who haven't researched their characters, it comes over false.

It contains an enormous amount of cuss words, so I can't paste it directly into the article, but here's a transcript of an exchange between Franklin and his friend Lamar. Try not to laugh. It's super serious social satire.

Constant gags

That's how the game treats race. It treats gender even worse.

Michael's daughter has a tattoo that says "Skank." A radio station advertises a college where women can learn to screw better. There's a level where you're chasing an actress because a paparazzi friend wants to get a photo of her "low-hanging muff."

Almost everything in Grand Theft Auto 5 is at the expense of women. The constant gags about female bodies are one thing, but the game consistently marginalises women and their sexuality:

- Franklin's auntie wants to start a feminist discussion group at her house. The game refers to her constantly as a "crazy bitch."

- After discovering he cheated on her, Michael's wife sleeps with her tennis instructor. It's later revealed that she used to be a stripper and now has fake breasts, as if women who own their sexuality have to be sluts.

- Sometimes you'll be flagged down by a woman at the side of the road who's screaming for help because her neighbour is beating his wife. If you pull over, you'll discover it's a ruse, and she's actually a gangbanger leading you into an ambush. Accusations of domestic violence, it seems, always hide some ulterior motive on the behalf of the complainant.

Plain boring

Aside from offensive, it's plain boring. When all the women in Grand Theft Auto 5 are sluts, and all the men do is yell at them about being sluts, it hardly makes for exciting viewing. Double entendres, fart humour and sexist remark after sexist remark - this, apparently, is the best satire videogames have to offer.

GTA 5 Review

Even when it targets "now" topics like tech start-ups and the NSA, Grand Theft Auto 5 feels tired. Time was GTA traded in subversive and cutting humour; now it just feels flatulent, like a middle-aged dad scoffing at what he's read in the newspaper.

It doesn't get black people, it doesn't like women and it tuts at things like Facebook and iPhones. What happened to you GTA? You used to be cool.

Yes it's beautiful, yes it's good fun and yes, it's the product of a lot of hard work by some very talented game-makers. But Grand Theft Auto 5 is an idiotic game - it's for people who didn't get GTA 4.

Grand Theft Auto 5 is a satire on the American Dream in the sense that it's never as good as the marketing would have you believe.

I still enjoy it, but my word, this could have been better.


  • Gameplay: 9/10 - Plenty to do, shooting is great and even when you're not into something, just cruising the city, flicking between the characters, is marvellous.
  • Sound: 7/10 - Great voice acting and all, but I'm a little disappointed in the soundtrack. A few great songs but mostly just poppy filler that you won't recognise.
  • Graphics: 10/10 - If graphics takes into account aesthetics, then GTA 5 deserves a perfect 10. Los Santos is a beautiful, beautiful place. As soon as I'm done writing this I'm going for a drive around it.
  • Writing: 3/10 - Dreadful. The story is stitched together well, I guess, but the toilet humour, the misogyny and the racism insult my intelligence.
  • Replay value: 9/10 - It's a GTA game, so there's plenty to do and we're still waiting on GTA Online which is bound to be massive. I won't be playing it again however.
  • Overall: 7/10 - Do your worst: Yell at me in the comments, send me threatening emails or start a petition to get me fired. But I can't in good conscience give a higher score than this to Grand Theft Auto 5. Rockstar should know better.

Want to know what our review scores mean? Have a look at how we review games.