Unless you’ve been living under a rock under all these years, there’s no chance you aren’t acquainted with the Grand Theft Auto franchise. A series of open world action-adventure games, Grand Theft Auto’s focus is on characters trying to make their way up in the world, without ever resorting to legal ways to make money. The newest entry of the franchise, Grand Theft Auto 5, lives upto its name, while adding tons of extra features, easily making it the best game in terms of the gameplay and mechanics. One of the most intriguing additions is the ability to play as multiple characters.
Grand Theft Auto 5 is the first game in the franchise, and the one of the first action adventure games to employ multiple playable protagonists whom you could switch to whenever you desire.
Rockstar’s writing department was really meticulous in their research about the backgrounds of each of the game’s protagonists. As compared to most (if not all) Grand Theft Auto games, one of the most prominent differences was that the protagonists were not necessarily new to the setting for the game (with the sole exception of Episodes from Liberty City) . Tommy Vercetti, Claude, as well as Carl Johnson and Niko Bellic were all new to the place, and has to climb up the ladder of crime in order to make some money, or to exact revenge. Grand Theft Auto 5 employs characters who have been living in the city of Los Santos itself for a long time, and know (or atleast they think they know) their surroundings pretty well. That does not bode well for crooked cops, gang members and corporate folk who try to get their hands on some easy money every now and then. Sadly, it’s the green devil called ‘money’ that becomes the focus of the story later on, and not the multiple characters brilliantly employed by Rockstar as a gameplay mechanic.
The selling point of Grand Theft Auto 5 is the fact that you can switch in, and switch out into the roles of either Michael Da Santa, Franklin Clinton, or Trevor Philips every now and then. The brilliant thing about switching is that it not only allows you to take a more dynamic approach to completing missions where more than one (or preferably every protagonist) is present, but it also allows you to explore the lives of the characters, getting to know them a bit more. Michael’s the rich white guy coping with the illusion of the American dream, up to his neck in debt, with two spoiled children who never listen to him, and a wife who eats away at his bank balance every chance she gets. Franklin’s more of the “new immigrant” to America, working menial jobs to make some bucks, with his friend Lamar Davis helping him out in his chores, even as he manages to slog through the difficulties his aunt puts him through. Trevor’s the crazy maniacal psychopath who snorts through cocaine, morphine and other “edibless”, selling them to the locals, and occasionally roughing up some obnoxious buyers who conveniently forget to pay the mighty Mr Philips. Every protagonist is entirely different from the other, and it is clearly evident in their appearance as well as their surroundings. Every time you switch, either you see Michael’s wife screaming at him, or Trevor roughing up some locals at a pub, or Franklin on his way back home from a repo job with Lamar.
Switching between characters in Grand Theft Auto 5 feels almost like you are switching between three alternate lives, each different from the other.
One of the real downsides to players really getting to explore the mechanic in missions is that you need to unlock the characters before you actually get to use them. Rockstar had already made it apparent before the release of the game that all characters would not be accessible from the start. This was done solely to allow players to pick up the background of each of the characters and explore their back story. Sadly, as the story progresses and you get access to all characters, the narration doesn’t manage to keep up. For a game with a brilliant theme, a brilliant setting, and some of the best gameplay mechanics to be added in a Grand Theft Auto game till date, the narration and character development after showing the back story of each character is surprisingly shallow. Despite that, the heists are a pretty cool way of bringing together the protagonists, through the pre-heist missions, and continuing on to the actual job – gaining the protagonists some ill-earned cash and the players some much-needed respite from the boring character development.
Even in certain missions, you get acess to all three protagonists, switching between all three of them to diligently complete your objectives.
Who would have imagined that a weekend of “North Yankton Memories” at the maximum volume, some nostalgia, and quite a few hours of heists in Grand Theft Auto Online would have made the Indian Noob resurrect the Gameplay Diaries? Nah, certainly not Rockstar Games.