Rockstar Games scaled a mountain with Grand Theft Auto V and created the best looking, best sounding, and most importantly, best playing version of the most infamous franchise. The scale of one peak, however, reveals another – their cloudbreaking ambition to create a great ensemble video game drama, an epic of intersecting, interactive lives. Rockstar doesn't hit this new high as impressively with GTA V, but on his first attempt at such a bold feat he makes a fine impression.

This is a game that feels like both the best one can expect from a GTA and the exhilarating, somewhat raw, uneven first attempt at a more interesting future for this type of massive open world adventure.

This is a game that works as both an apotheosis and a rough draft.

But maybe you just want to know how it compares to GTA IV, the previous Grand Theft Auto that was released back in the spring of 2008. Well. This new version looks far better on the console, although it runs on the same hardware, has a more interesting and varied world, has better average mission quality, and is longer (possibly the same length if the two episodic expansions of GTA IV are counted) . is better constructed, less serious, but does not have such a convincing main character as Niko Bellic. V also has planes. And tanks.

The change

Like six of Rockstar Games' previous seven Grand Theft Cars, GTA V is a third-person action game set in a vast three-dimensional world. The world of this game is a detailed, fictional recreation of Los Angeles and archetypal deserts, forests, mountains, lakes and small towns nearby.

Los Santos of the game isn't a real LA, it's a spoof version with spoof radio stations, spoof celebrities, and a spoof internet. Much of this fakes American politics and pop culture. Remember, this is the game series with patriotic gun shops called Ammu-Nation. This is a GTA world full of people who are mostly ridiculous. Almost everyone is an idiot and / or a joke. Almost everyone is a fool: Dudebro financier, corrupt government agent, mindless starlet, mouth-breathing gamer, tough lawyer. The game world is huge, varied and full of ridiculousness. It's there to keep you entertained.

The most notable change to the series’s formula is that the player can now control three protagonists. Instead of an ambitious Tommy Vercetti or a reluctant Niko Bellic, GTA V players can switch back and forth to pilot a trio of men through congested Los Santos and vast Blaine County to the north. They each have their own roles in their interwoven narrative.

The main characters in the new game are all criminals, but they have very different lives. There's Franklin Clinton, a black South Central native who has a shitty job at a car dealership and dreams of committing some great crimes. There's Michael De Santa, a retired white bank robber who lives in the posh GTA version of Beverly Hills. He shares a house with a woman who sleeps with the tennis instructor (and yoga instructor), an annoying, talentless daughter trying to get on a TV talent show, and a lazy son who spends his days getting violent Sneaking through online video games and trolling celebrities on the Twitter version of GTA V. The third lead is Michael's former bank robbery partner, the bald white trash Trevor Phillips, now a meth dealer who lives in a trailer up north and has a perforated line and has the words "cut here" tattooed on his neck. The man screams almost all the time. He's a psycho. Franklin, Michael, and Trevor have moved in together and will soon begin planning raids while pursuing their own criminal ventures.

In the older Grand Theft Autos and in many games that copied Rockstar's open-world formula, a gamer got around by walking around or putting their character on a car or truck that was idling in traffic or on the side of the road parked and jack it. There is a third option in the new game. The player can jump across the map by switching characters and immersing themselves in another player's life.

Once the game allows access to all three main characters – and for much, but not all of the rest of the game – the player can press a button on their controller to create a circle showing portraits of the game's three main characters. After another input from the player to change characters, the game's camera is suddenly thrown into the sky, moved to another point above the vast world of GTA V, and then pressed on the new character the player wants to control. These switches vary in length of time, but are typically less than 30 seconds. Michael, Franklin and Trevor don't sit idle waiting to be checked. Whoever switched player seems to have started their day. A short scene is played before the player is in control. Judging from these transitional scenes, Trevor's days seem to consist of being thrown from places, tied men to the floor of pillars, or stumbling around drunk wearing only boots, socks, and underwear. Michael's and Franklin's days are more like yours or mine (hopefully!).

Players have no say in where the character they are switching to is in the world. The goal of the character change is a surprise that adds a welcome new variable to the GTA formula. Switching characters is similar to switching between three television channels. You will generally know what you are going to be prepared for, but you will not know where you are on the show until you turn around.

As before in GTA games, missions are spread throughout the game world. Important missions – about 75 of them, despite the information in the mission counter in the game – are represented by colored capital letters that indicate which of the three main characters are color-coded and can initiate them. The deck of the new game's main side quests – of which there are a few dozen – is also color-coded. Some quest givers have different missions for different characters and will weave their way into and out of the narratives of the three main characters. All of this allows GTA V to feel like the least linear game in the series because, although it does flow at certain bottleneck moments, it gives the player great freedom in choosing where to go, who to meet, which missions he wants to continue – all with the chance surprise of where the player is on the map when switching characters – to mess things up.

Once missions are triggered, the game narrows the player's options by fitting them into a carefully planned sequence of cutscenes and quests, much like other Grand Theft cars have done. In this game, some missions will feature two or even three playable characters. These missions allow players to switch characters on the fly. During the missions, character changes are as quick as the snap of a finger.

Some in-mission switches will be minor, such as moving from Michael taking cover behind a car in a shootout with the cops to Trevor holding a sniper rifle while standing on a rooftop overlooking the firefight.

Other switches are spectacular, in one case changing from a character on a train trying to cross a bridge high above a river to a criminal partner in a boat on the river far below. The latter changes are often triggered automatically, but help make the missions feel more varied, less like a sequence of events and more like a juggling of multiple chaotic moments at the same time.

Regardless, players exploring the vast amount of missions, side missions, hobbies, mini-games, distractions, and random events of Grand Theft Auto will spend much of their time playing solo, depending on which character they prefer. They're going to do what GTA players have long been doing: steal a convertible, flip a radio station, peel off the highway, run away from some angry cops and head for … a game of darts? A rampage? The military base where they'll steal a fighter jet this time

The payment

Some GTA players ignore all of the story missions and just play in the games' chaotic sandbox. Others rush through the act. When I play open world games, I am a wanderer and a checklist checker offering. Before my review, I played Grand Theft Auto V for almost a week and took time to explore Los Santos and Blaine County instead of just driving mission to mission. I'm a sucker for great landscapes and interesting side quests. The game is full of both.

A peer who wrote the story and did only a few side quests finished the game in about 30 hours.

Another, just racing from story mission to story mission, was moving faster than that speed.

I moseyed and didn't do the game's first major raid until 11 hours after the game started, only unlocked the third main character after that and watched the credits roll, with 69 main quests and 33 side quests in 42 hours. Fascinatingly, the time I spent as each of the three main characters was almost identical:

Playing the game this way allows me to take the story slowly and poke around in side quest after side quest. The side missions have opened up more scope and new special mission types such as B. Basic jumping triggered as I improved my understanding of the characters and increased the richness of the game world. Refrain from doing the side quests and the game will not only send you skydiving but also will not take you to the top of its highest mountain. Don't do side quests and you won't go jogging on the beach with a woman. They will not attempt to steal celebrity belongings for an elderly, demented British couple. You won't see how Trevor deals with immigration issues. and you won't see how, in a sequence of three optional missions distributed throughout the game, each of GTA V's main characters reacts to a man trying to legalize marijuana.

Even when the big side missions are done, the game only takes you to Blaine County's sprawling wind farm once, never jailing you, and ignoring the game's stadiums and speedway. That's not negative. Rather, it's proof of how immense and full of attractions the world of GTA V is. As you fly over the spaghetti of streets and bridges, you will find that Rockstar no longer works graphically in visual metaphors and has instead drawn, with detailed realism, a metropolis and its surroundings that are full of landmarks and random elements in real terrain that you are facing From fictional versions of the Hollywood Sign, to the Getty Center, the Rose Bowl, LAX Airport, and LA's famous urban drainage canals, to trailer parks, ranches, quarries, shipping docks, restaurants, and A Place Where People Have Stones Paint in hopes of signaling aliens. Some of GTA V's glorious landscapes may be for virtual tours only. Some of it can be used as a playground for Grand Theft Auto Online, slated for October, which will use GTA V's map to get started (and free for anyone who purchases GTA V).

The land and waters of GTA V probably hold at least a hundred secrets too – especially hidden collectibles, of which I've only found three in my 42 hours of play. There's just so much to discover in the game that much of it detracts from the appeal of the real world geography. If the grandeur of a huge lake, the eeriness of an abandoned barn, or the thrill of driving up a large mountain isn't doing anything for you, look for more awesome game worlds to play with.

The four games in one GTA

As extensive as the game is, it can be broken down into four elements. After all, each GTA consists of four games that take place at the same time. In no particular order they are:

1) The mini-games menu: In a way, the cities of Grand Theft Auto games are glorified menus that give access to smaller, more focused games. Do you want to play a game of darts? Or a video game version of yoga? Or tennis? Or golf? Or fly planes through targets? Or do you use those planes to throw things at targets? Or racing car? Racing boats? Do a triathlon? Head to the right place in GTA V and you can do that. Versions of some of these activities have already been released in GTA games. others are new. Games like tennis are complex enough to stand on their own as little games.

Good or bad, these mini-games remain the least appealing part of the series for me. They are presented more or less dispassionately without the snark and satire of the rest of the game world. They are generally exactly what you would expect them to be. The game of darts is just that, a game of darts. There's no flair, no imaginative gameplay twist, no buzz of something special that makes a game, or a game within a game, fun.

GTA V may have more mini-games than ever before, but these activities remain one-time attempts for everyone but completing, direct distractions in a game world that otherwise seems to go out of its way to get a reaction from you.

2) The chemistry set: The best element of GTA has always been the wacky mutation of Pac-Man, his chase that spans what was once a largely urban network. The genius of the 2001 GTA III and its successors was their ability to give players an ever-flowing version of this street-level action, giving players ever more freedom in how they would play it. If you steal a car or shoot someone in these games, the police can be after you. Whether you flee or fight back, you will deal with an increased response. The cops are driving towards you. If you are on foot you will face a shootout. When you are in a car you are faced with some insane chase. You will either have your character killed or manage to escape, but usually there will be a lot of chaos along the way. There are up to five "star" levels of notoriety in GTA V, although when you get to zero there are actually relatively few cops around. When you get three or four stars, the police will send you helicopters.

The big change in how GTA's core CTA-and-Robbers system works is how the cops are chasing you. When the police see you, the minimap in the lower left corner of the screen will flash blue and red and the police will be all over you. Give the slip to the cops and the minimap will go back to black and gray, but small flashing dots representing the police buzzed through the minimap, projecting a cone representing each cop's line of sight. What happened there is that the cops are chasing you. You can't stay stationary and hide. You have to move. You have to get out of sight until the police lose interest.

The police have always been the most interesting part of GTA's chemistry set, but there were also other elements that were usually tied to specific vehicles. In the past, for example, theft of a taxi allowed players to find passengers and take them to their desired destinations. That returns in V. In the past, other missions could arise after a tractor-trailer or a police car or a delivery truck or fire truck was stolen. Much of this appears to have been removed for V, although the wide range of vehicles to be stolen remains. For example, in this game, if you steal a helicopter, mostly you're doing it for fun.

GTA IV had added a cell phone to the mix and gave the player many in-game friends who called and asked to rest. These friends were annoying. These people always seemed to want to go to bars or play pool or other less fun GTA IV activities. Each of the main characters in GTA V has a cell phone and friends and family calling (or texting or emailing), but they're rarely asked to do anything with them. You can go to the bar with them if you want, but only at your request.

So it's not vehicles or friends that play a big role in optimizing GTA chemistry this time around. Instead, it's money. The game runs on a much more complex economy than its predecessors, and builds heavily on some ideas about ownership introduced in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. In V, you can buy properties, collect weekly piles of money from those properties, and even do missions to keep them high. Part of your real estate income is influenced by actions in the world. For example, the junkyard brings in a certain amount of money every week based on the number of cars you smashed in the game

What is more interesting is that you can play on the stock market. The game operates two stock markets, one controlled locally within the game and the other whose stock prices, according to Rockstar, depend on how the bulk of GTA V gamers play the game. If, for example, a type of car is stolen frequently, the share price of the automaker behind it is influenced. Stocks also change prices based on the missions the players are currently performing. So, it's up to the players to listen to their mission givers and possibly buy a ton of shares in the company whose rival CEO you have just been asked to assassinate.

The chemistry set from GTA V is well designed so that players can mess with it. It is tempting as always to drive an element here or there and see what happens as a result. You know how … well, what if I drove through the airport gates and tried to steal a private jet? What if I put all my money into Burger Shot stocks? What if I steal the fire truck? Go ahead and see what happens …

3) The search for things: For video game theory purists it may seem like a fall from faith, but one of the most fun things to do in GTA games, including this new one, is finding the next piece of non-interactive or barely interactive content. In a sense, GTA V is a massive treasure hunt. Like the franchise listings before, it has a huge world that contains all sorts of things the developers want you to do but cannot easily find. Well, not everything is easy to find. Some of the things in the game are what serial veterans would expect. You have to watch new TV shows in the game. There are more than a dozen radio stations to listen to, all with funny, satirical commercials. You can spend a few minutes in-game watching rock stars send up on almost incoherent foreign films.

The game's fake internet is full of sites faking big clothing brands, online dating services, self-help movements, and more. None of this makes GTA V more interactive, but it does help make its world more interesting. It also makes the game a time capsule, as the targets of its ridicule – everyone from predatory lenders to people camping for iPhones, everything from skinny jeans to Google Maps – may not be around, or detectable, or just not annoying Just like Rockstar makes another GTA.

A note on all of this satire, it can be difficult to take rockstar's skewer of modern (mostly American) culture that seriously in a game that also features interactive first-person lap dances as well as simple slaps on idiotic things like reality shows. Some may see the old Shakespearean gesture for both the highbrow and the lowbrow in GTA V's satirical abuse of tax and spending liberals and its hilarious portrayal of pot use. But GTA has done this stuff before, and its satirical newscasts – "Weazel News: Confirming Your Prejudice" – just don't sting as much as it has stung so many times. GTA V finds its mark and makes a piercing point in showcasing some of its satire in the game's playable missions. Without spoiling it, a mission makes it very clear that after 9/11 America will treat people who look a certain way. Through the interactivity the player becomes involved in what he seems to be criticizing in a fascinating way.

Most of the content in GTA V isn't actually that great. It's also rarely boring. Every now and then there is a new character to be found or a new place to visit, new things to see or hear. For those who like to hunt, peck and peek in every corner of a game world, there is a lot to like here.

4) The story. There is a scripted adventure in these games, one with a beginning, a middle, and an ending. GTA V has that too. This is where the ensemble comes in, and this is where the game stops perfecting what previously appeared in the franchise and rather an imperfect attempt at doing something new.

Basically, GTA V is a story about three men who come together to commit new crimes. Since they can't always be together, the game's writers and mission writers had to repeatedly find reasons to bring Michael, Trevor, and Franklin together and then split them up. In doing so, they had to keep all three men interesting. Here their success was mixed.

Separately, Trevor outshines Michael and Franklin. Trevor is a complete sucker who comes into play in a way that makes him instantly incorrigible and fascinating. He's the right kind of weirdness for a GTA. His character matches his action and overcomes a bug in previous GTAs that caused the characters who controlled players in the cutscenes (generally calm, amused, and often reluctant) to feel completely inconsistent with those they were in Controlled gameplay (generally mass murderer ready) to blow up dams, drive over pedestrians, and arm dozens of police officers with machine guns). Trevor is crazy about his gameplay. He's crazy in his cutscenes. He also has strange relationships with his friends, is haunted by things that happened in his and Michael's past, and overall, he's someone interesting to control and find out more about.

Michael is maybe half as interesting. His family dramas are full of potential, but never reach more than sitcom complexity. He's in therapy, but that's mostly played for satire. Any revelations that the character does not deserve. He has his own problems with his past and he has potential as a mentor to Franklin, but aside from conflict with a possible career change at some point in the game, he feels drawn by numbers and lacks surprise or meaningful development.

Franklin is enriched by his friendship with Lamar, a hot-headed friend from South Central who steals scenes early and late in the game. Otherwise, however, Franklin is mostly empty and comes to life a little bit when he exchanges emails with his ex-girlfriend but otherwise does not distinguish himself as anything other than a mostly sensible, aspiring crook.

Many of Grand Theft Auto's previous protagonists have been so empty or even deprived of a memorable personality than Franklin that it may seem unfair to beat two-thirds of the lead cast. But the ensemble approach invites comparisons between these actors, and Michael and Franklin pay the price for Trevor's excellence. Good supportive appointments for all three leads at least help to balance the situation. It's one of the best touches of GTA V that switching from one character to the next feels like switching social circles too. The problem is that if Michael and Franklin share a scene with Trevor, they lose. He's the one keeping an eye on your eyes. And he's the spark of most of the interesting conversations between characters. Trevor also follows Cole Phelps and John Marston, two exceptionally well-written, deep, and interesting leads in rock star games. He's up there with them. Neither of his buddies.

There are clues in-game to the ability to tell stories when the player knows more about what is happening to all three characters than Michael, Trevor, and Franklin. Rarely like something like that in games, Rockstar had at least previously played with the gap between character knowledge and player knowledge to great success in his and Team Bondi's 2011 L.A. Noire. For part of the game, two characters have very different understandings of something that happened in the past. The player knows the truth even when controlling one of the characters who still believes in a lie. There are few such examples in the game. But those parts of the story don't feel fully realized. They're glimpses into a fascinating new way of telling interactive stories, but their potential never feels exhausted.

It is undeniably powerful to experience a story as a multitude of members of an ensemble cast. In any role-playing game with multiple characters, the concept feels largely untapped. In terms of the writing and mechanics of putting GTA V's main trio missions together, Rockstar's new game seems to be making headway, but failing to fully understand, fail to fully justify why these guys would stick together, and not quite the best of it Getting Out of That A player's relationship with three different characters just wouldn't and just wouldn't be quite as equally excellent as it probably would have been.

Players occasionally long for the simple, single arc of GTA IV's Niko Bellic and forget about the boring parts of a too thinly stretched narrative. Michael, Trevor, and Franklin benefit from shorter stories but would have benefited even more from more interesting arcs and intersections.

The raids

Michael, Franklin and Trevor are brought together in GTA V to commit robberies. During the promotion of the game, Rockstar officials described a handful of malleable heist missions where the main characters would come together. These missions would give the player the opportunity to tweak some variables and play the raid differently than other players. These Capital H Heist missions present some of the most exciting, big-action moments in the game's main storyline, but they're surprisingly not the best missions in the game. They aren't even all of the game's greatest missions.

Something is wrong with the raids. You can branch out. They can be playable in a variety of fun ways. But some of the decisions and systems involved feel half-hearted. For example, the robberies present possibilities of which henchmen are to be brought along. Some of these henchmen can be found in the game world. You can act as a driver or a gunman. The henchmen have different skills and claim a different percentage of the raids in a robbery. Really bad henchmen will screw up part of a robbery. Good guys get status bonuses after finishing a raid. The problem is, almost none of this seems to matter. The consequences of using these henchmen or repeatedly using a henchman to increase their stats are nearly invisible. It doesn't seem to mean much what they take as players make a decent amount of money in this game no matter what.

Perhaps these specially labeled core Heist missions should be viewed as great bonding moments for Michael, Trevor, and Franklin. Sometimes they are. But non-heist missions give these characters – and some excellent interactive heists – good moments themselves.

How it feels

GTA V's credits roll for 36 minutes. Unabhängig davon, wie viele Stunden sie das Spiel spielen, werden die Spieler das Gefühl haben, ein Spiel zu spielen, das aus der Anzahl der Personen besteht, die erforderlich sind, um einen Crawl so lange am Laufen zu halten. Die Liebe zum Detail in GTA V ist in keinem anderen Videospiel vergleichbar.

Wenn Sie ein Auto parken, hören Sie ein paar Rasseln, wenn der Motor abkühlt.

Beende eine Mission, während ein Mann hinter dir schimpft und bleib dabei … dieses Schimpfen könnte eine Weile dauern.

Beim Vergleich meiner Erfahrungen in einigen Missionen von GTA V mit denen anderer, die sie gespielt haben, haben wir festgestellt, dass einer von uns lange Gespräche im Spiel gehört hat, die der andere verpasst hat. Es ist wahrscheinlich, dass die Erinnerungen der Spieler an GTA V und das Verständnis der Ereignisse des Spiels aus diesem Grund variieren.

Dank der Armee von Leuten, die das Spiel gemacht haben, gibt es eine großzügige Menge an Politur im Spiel und viele Korrekturen, die alte GTA-Verschlimmerungen korrigieren. Eine Serie, die einst zum Teil für schlechte Kontrollen und unversöhnliche Missionen ohne Kontrollpunkt bekannt war, bietet jetzt straffes Schießen, anständige Tarnung und raffinierte Fahrkontrollen. Missionen überprüfen jetzt so sehr, dass sich die Spieler möglicherweise in die andere Richtung beschweren: Das Spiel hält die Hände der Spieler zu sehr. (Rockstar sollte in der Lage sein, diese Kritik abzulenken, da jede Mission mehrere Goldmedaillen-Abschlussanforderungen enthält, die unkontrolliertes Elitespiel belohnen.)

Eine weitere nette Geste: Jede der drei Hauptfiguren des Spiels verfügt über Statistiken zu Fahren, Schießen und anderen grundlegenden Fähigkeiten, die sich alle mit der Verwendung verbessern. Dies erleichtert die Steuerung des Spiels, je mehr Sie es spielen. Zu Beginn des Spiels wiederholte ich immer wieder ein Rennen, das mir Anfälle bescherte. Jeder Versuch hat mir nicht nur geholfen, die Fahrzeugphysik des Spiels zu lernen. Dadurch konnte mein Fahrer, in diesem Fall Franklin, besser um Kurven fahren. Jeder Charakter hat auch eine gemessene Spezialfähigkeit. Franklins Fähigkeit, die die Zeit während der Fahrt verlangsamt, macht Haarnadelkurven während der Verfolgungsjagden zum Kinderspiel und macht das Ausweichen der Bullen lustiger und weniger frustrierend.

All dies macht GTA V spielerfreundlicher als frühere GTAs. Dieser verschwendet weniger Zeit und verzeiht mehr Ihrer kleinen Fehler als alle zuvor. Es macht auch die Erfahrung des Spielens angenehmer. Hier ist ein Spiel, das gut genug ausgestattet ist, um lange Gespräche zwischen Ihrem Charakter und seinem Beifahrer während der Fahrt zu führen, diese Gespräche geringfügig zu ändern (wie IV), wenn Sie die Mission wiederholen, und diese Gespräche mit einigen Flüchen Ihres Passagiers zu unterbrechen, wenn Sie stoßen mitten im Gespräch auf Verkehr und nehmen dann diese Unterbrechung auf, um das Skript-Gespräch fortzusetzen, ohne einen Takt auszulassen. Unglaublich.

Während Rockstar seine GTA-Spiele entwickelt hat, hat das Studio nach und nach Steuerelemente und Kontrollpunkte verbessert, um zu V zu gelangen. Diese Verbesserungen schienen jedoch mit einer Zähmung der Möglichkeiten von GTA einherzugehen. Mit den offenen Missionen älterer GTA-Spiele können Spieler kreative Lösungen finden, um verschiedene Fahr- oder Attentatsaufgaben zu erledigen. Dieser Ansatz machte Missionen wie GTA IV Platz, die weniger und oft nur einen Weg hatten, sie abzuschließen. Zum Glück beginnt sich GTA V dagegen zu wenden. Einige Missionen fordern den Spieler ausdrücklich auf, einen Angriff zu planen, angeblich so, wie es der Spieler möchte. Andere bieten einfach ein Ziel an und überlassen es dem Spieler, kreativ herauszufinden, wie es erreicht werden kann. In einem Spiel, das so mit Skriptinhalten gefüllt ist, ist dies eine willkommene Rückkehr zu einem früheren Formular.

Es ist auch beeindruckend, dass GTA V ständig neue Wege zu finden scheint, um seine Spieler zu überraschen, indem es seine Welt mit kleinen interaktiven Ereignissen bevölkert. Die Idee für die halbzufälligen Begegnungen des Spiels stammt aus den Fußgängermissionen in GTA IV, die in Rockstars Red Dead Redemption erweitert wurden. In beiden Spielen stießen die Spieler auf Charaktere, die einige Redewendungen hatten und vielleicht die Bitte hatten, irgendwohin transportiert zu werden oder jemanden jagen zu lassen. GTA V ist voller solcher Dinge. Einige, wie der Typ, der auf seiner Einfahrt steht und die Kleidung betrachtet, die seine wütende Frau aus einem Fenster geworfen hat, und der eine Fahrt von dort aus braucht, scheinen an bestimmte Stellen auf der Karte gebunden zu sein. Andere, wie die zahlreichen Raubüberfälle auf dem Bürgersteig des Spiels, scheinen überall zu passieren. These small incidents are generally welcome—except the robberies, which are V's worst annoyance—and can lead to good things. A man needing a ride to the airport, for example, gave Franklin a great stock tip. Who knows what else is hiding in Los Santos.

By the end of GTA V, such as there is an end to GTA V, the player will have stories to tell. One is the story of Michael, Franklin and Trevor and follows the main plotline. That one's ok. The better story to tell will be the one about all the things that happened at the margins… in the streets and alleys, off the airfields and down in the valleys. Much of that was written by Rockstar, too, and some of it was simply enabled by the marvelous chemistry set of their game world.

Beyond all of this, however, is one consistent fact about so many of the best video games: they create great places in which to play. Underpinning everything else, in GTA V, Rockstar has created one of gaming's most impressive worlds. They've built on geography that anyone who has visited L.A. or hiked a trail will recognize and appreciate.

Occasionally Grand Theft Auto V's main missions will push players up the map and out of the city, into the big-sky northern half of the game. In one such moment the player is controlling Trevor. He's on a motorbike. He's chasing a plane that is also heading north. Blaine County stretches as far as the eye can see, a world of possibilities. You can go to all those places you can see. You can do stuff there, probably cause some mayhem or go on a mission or just explore. It'll look good when you get there, too. Mount Chiliad looms in the distance.

That's GTA V at its best—excelling at what you thought GTAs were supposed to do, while heading for the next impossibly high peak.