Are we playing GTA V wrong?

Reviewing games can be tougher than it sounds sometimes. With a nice ten-hour single player game it’s fairly straightforward – you complete the game on whichever difficulty you usually prefer, get some of the collectables and try out the higher difficulties for a level or two – simple. If the game has multiplayer is harder to judge how much you need to play, is a single match in each mode enough? Is there a level you need to get to? Some games only show their true colours when you reach a certain skill level (Starcraft, DOTA) so that might take a long time before you’ve scratched beneath the surface of the game. In open-world games it can be even harder, how do you know when you’ve played ‘enough’ of SimCity? Do you need to play every class in an MMO? Fans can be let down by reviews where they don’t feel the reviewer has given the title a fair chance and it’s a fair point, but it can be tough to know how to give games that chance. With GTA V we’ve seen that problem clearly. Many reviews are up despite the multiplayer mode being completely absent for a couple of weeks. The outlets that got advance copies had time to finish the game, but there’s no way they could have played everything in the game before penning their thoughts. We didn’t get a copy ahead of release so our review is going to be coming after the multiplayer launch, but then what if we’re playing it wrong?

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For reference we’ve just finished the first mission where you get to control all three characters so we’re in the early days. That being said we’ve played the game for around ten hours which would often be enough to do a decent review of many titles. We’ve completed loads of side quests, been in police chases, made loads of money on the stock market, tried out many forms of transport and bought too many haircuts and tattoos (at the moment Trevor looks like Jack Nicholson, Michael looks like Zach Galifianakis from the Hangover and Franklin still looks like Franklin because his haircuts give us a headache to look at too long, some of them are like mazes), we’ve climbed one of the mountains and we’ve played with Chop. That sounds like a fairly impressive list but there’s so many things we haven’t done at all yet. We haven’t played golf or tennis, we haven’t watched a film, we haven’t spent much time underwater, we haven’t paid much attention to levelling up, we haven’t used any multiplayer or social club features, we haven’t been to around 60% of the map and we haven’t used many of the weapons.

We’re currently working our way from story mission to story mission, occasionally indulging in other things while we’re on our way. While this means we’ll get through the (incredibly well written) script for the main plot and unlock things that need to be unlocked, it’s hard not to think that this won’t be everyone’s experiences. All of those people who ignore the main missions for as long as possible might be playing sports, exploring, getting into crazy chases. Are we missing out on that because we want to move the story forwards? This is by no means a criticism of the game, but there is far too much to do for anyone to say at this point that they’ve experienced everything the game has to offer. We can make generalised judgements about the visuals and audio as well as a few gameplay mechanics, but for anything else there might be counter examples to our points just because we haven’t discovered them yet.

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So what we’re asking is: Are we playing GTA V wrong? Is there a good way to experience as much as possible? What are you focusing on? Progression, purchasing property, levelling up characters, exploration, stunts, acquiring cash?

If we wait to do everything, our review won’t be out this year, if we push out a review next month, we’ll be missing out on vital parts of the game that Rockstar have painstakingly crafted. This is a problem with all large games but it’s hard to shake off the feeling in GTA V that you’re always missing out on something, there’s always another diversion you could be taking part in. How should we play this game?

 

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Author: Thomas Souter

I'm Tom Souter, a full time English and Philosophy teacher who has been playing games as long as I can remember. I started off with a tape-loading BBC (I still remember getting our first mouse!) and moved on to playing NES games at my friends' houses. My first console was a SNES, and I became a Nintendo fanboy through my formative years. This all changed with the arrival of the Xbox, and now I've overcome my fanboyism to the point of owning every current console, and a gaming PC. I've never really had a favourite genre, but am painfully shallow when it comes to fancy graphics and art styles. All-time favourite game? Rollercoaster Tycoon 2.

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