Grand Theft Auto V is a game caught between two distinct impulses: it wants to be real but needs to be fake, too.
In his newest Errant Signal video, Chris Franklin takes a look at how Los Santos is constructed both as a place meant to closely mimic reality and as a virtual space meant to support over-the-top gameplay:
"You know how a 3D model can look great in screenshots and horrible in motion? Grand Theft Auto V looks gorgeous in motion but terrible when pretty much interacted with in any way."
"It is at once a stunning recreation of modern Americana and a collection of poop and sex jokes that remove any gravitas that the game might have otherwise had."
Part of the dissonance Franklin finds in GTA V is owed to the game's design and tonal approaches. It needs action, laughs and drama to happen frequently—justifying its own existence in a sense—which undercuts any instances where moments of wonder or cultural commentary seem to happen organically. It's a game that made up of a lot of well-crafted things but Franklin ultimately finds GTA V could be so much more.