By: Lara Murray, staff writer
Publisher: Rockstar Games
ESRB Rating: Mature 17+ “(M17+”)
Reviewed On the Playstation 3 – also available for Xbox 360
Editor’s Note: I have been asked about this game no less than a dozen times by concerned parents since the game was released. As a result, I had one of my writers play through and review it so that parents will be able to read it for themselves (and make decisions accordingly).
Grad Theft Auto V (“GTA5”) is an open-world action game, and is the latest installment in the notorious but very successful line of Grand Theft Auth video games. The game follows three different protagonists within the fictitious city of Los Santos (based loosely on Los Angeles) in the fictitious state of San Andreas whose lives intertwine as the player completes missions. These missions often require the player to meet a crime-based goal, such as pulling off a bank heist, in order to move on to the next segment in the overall story.
When not involved in a mission, players are given free range to explore Los Santos and find ways to interact with the environment. That is where a bulk of the game play lies. Much of the interaction involves committing crimes, and as players commit crimes they will build up a 5-star rating. The more stars a player earns, the more law enforcement that comes out to find and put a stop to the player’s antics, which then usually ends in a shoot-out between the player and the law.
Family Gaming Assessment:
First and foremost, if the title “Grand Theft Auto” wasn’t a tip off, let the reasons for its M17+ rating speak for themselves: “Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Mature Humor, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs and Alcohol.”
The ESRB’s explanation for GTA 5’s M17+ rating is available by clicking the provided hyperlink. The ESRB does a great job describing a myriad of graphic in-game examples that explain why GTA V has a M17+ rating, like when the player must torture a kidnapped man for information, or the availability for the player to hook up with a prostitute after she performs a topless lap dance for them. If sirens aren’t already going off in your head, then it’s worth your time to read the ESRB’s explanation.
In addition to the mature content, GTA 5 also has a lot of satire dripping with passive-aggressive contempt aimed at modern American society, from advertisements on billboards to television shows to dialogue passed between characters. Adults may find humor in the game’s tongue-in-cheek approach, but the jokes will go over most children’s heads.
As mentioned earlier, players control one of three protagonists, completing missions that further advance the storyline. Some missions require managing more than just one of the protagonists. This is handled by switching from one to another, sometimes at the game’s decision but most times manually by the player. If a player dies in the game, whether or not it’s during a mission, the game resumes outside a hospital or clinic and deducts a “copayment” from their funds.
Reading and comprehension skills are a must to play, but the average age of GTA 5 players should not have an issue with this. There are no dialogue boxes during conversations, but subtitles are available from the start menu, as well as other features such as a larger map, briefings on current missions, player stats and game options.
During play, a map appears in the bottom left corner that acts like a GPS by routing paths to predetermined locations. The bottom right displays pronouns, such as character names, streets, and types of cars, to help keep track of what the player is interacting with.
Online multiplayer mode was not available at the time of the review, but Rockstar has indicated that the option will become available October 1st, 2013. In it, players will interact with other players in Los Santos, either working together or against each other to earn points for their team, known as a “crew”.
It’s likely that GTA 5 will appear at the top of many top ten lists this year, as well as the top of many holiday lists, but it’s the kind of mature fun that’s reserved for responsible gamers and not children or teens that are still impressionable and haven’t established firm principles, character, or comprehension. Most families will find that GTA 5 doesn’t have a place in their household, especially in homes with young children. Use discretion with teenagers who may be old enough to see through the veil and handle the mature themes.
Regardless of your decision, use GTA 5 as a talking point with your children. Instead of telling them straight out that a popular game like GTA 5 is banned from the house, explain the reasons why you feel it’s not an appropriate game; it can be a means to explain to them why behaviors such as drug and alcohol abuse and gun violence are bad. And if you do approve of the game, let your child know what they’ve done that permits you trust them.
You may not be playing a game but you’re still engaging with your family. That’s what’s important.