Is GTA V badly written?

2 min read

There was a really interesting debate on The Repartee between The Escapist Editor in Chief Greg Tito; who gave GTA V a 3.5 out of 5 in his official review and Keza Macdonald,  a Contributing Editor at IGN, who gave GTA V a ten out of ten in her review, concerning whether or not GTA V is badly written. Beware, spoilers!

Keza’s position is that GTA V is effective satire of modern America that serves the plot and characters:

”Grand Theft Auto V is also an intelligent, wickedly comic, and bitingly relevant commentary on contemporary, post-economic crisis America. Everything about it drips satire: it rips into the Millennial generation, celebrities, the far right, the far left, the middle class, the media… Nothing is safe from Rockstar’s sharp tongue, including modern video games.”

While Greg’s position is that GTA V’s morally inept protagonists and supporting characters are a result of bad writing and lack of character progression:

“GTA V should not be praised for a shoddy story with little regard to writing strong protagonists the audience can understand and appreciate…I don’t fault the people complaining about my review of GTA V, and how it criticizes the subject matter, but I couldn’t ignore my churning gut and upchuck five stars for a game whose defining emotion wasn’t excitement or elation, but sadness.”

On one hand, I agree with Greg that the characters are reprehensible and don’t evolve much, but at the same time, I can’t see Michael, Trevor and Franklin as anything but really funny, lovable characters that bounce off each other really well. I also agree with Keza, as GTA V satirical qualities are absolutely undeniable.

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As far as GTA characters have been, none have ever been as fleshed out as they are in GTA V. They were never objectively good guys either, they were all gangsters or career criminals. But anyway, it’s a really good exchange of ideas and opinion and you should check it out as both have valid points. I’m curious to hear what the LG readers think about GTA V regarding this issue.

Last Updated: February 21, 2014


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  • Admiral Chief in Vegas

    Ugh, won’t read then

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    I think I haven’t played it, for obvious reasons.

    As a general rule though, quite a few people don’t recognise satire.

    • RinceandLeSIGH

      Very true. Too many people take things at face value which is indicative of exactly what GTAV was trying to get at. Now THAT is irony 😉 PS. Started reading that book you recommended, pity it starts with ‘this is about Vietnam’ would have liked to have figured that out myself.

  • UltimateNinjaPandaDudeGuy


  • RinceandLeSIGH

    Wow, he looks at the characters as anything but symbols of a fucked up world? Wow. Probably someone who thinks Clock Work Orange was shit because it didn’t have any oranges in it…

    • Hammersteyn

      Bwahaha or Days of Thunder, but it only had Nascar and no thunder.

      • RinceandLeSIGH


    • Weanerdog

      Dude, spoilers!!!!!!

      • RinceandLeSIGH

        HAHAHAH Oh, dude, I don’t have your email, but we are meeting on March 1 for beers at River Club. Even eyeliner will be there.

        • Weanerdog

          I’ll DM my email address to you on twitter. What time on the 1st, already booked for the afternoon.

  • VampyreSquirrel

    I can agree with both of them, but the game still deserves at least a 9/10. The characters are actually best for the game without them evolving much, and who and what they are makes the game what it is. Playing as 3 different characters in a single game is enough evolution for most people anyway.

  • RinceandLeSIGH

    6666? Australia so god damn dangerous you add a 6 to the Beasts number? Makes sense 🙂

    • Stephen Snook

      I’m glad someone looks at my rollover text :3

  • Sir Rants A Lot Llew. Jelly!!!

    Well I’m on PC so never played it. But that’s the beauty of any review isn’t it? It’s always personal view. No matter how objective you try to be. Your enjoyment value of the game affects the score. Enjoyment is always personal and cannot be objective

  • Ryanza

    GTA 5’s main characters are badly written. Franklin is just that typical hollywood nigger. Michael is the old emotional guy. Trevor equals the word fuck. I do not like the written at all. It’s so bland with no depth.

    Much better than GTA 4 but nowhere near GTA SA, Vice City, even GTA 3 is so much better and the main guy never spoke.

    JB Smooth was good but he can turn anything into funny. Big up to Slink Johnson, gangster. Those 2 were the highlights of GTA 5, the rest was just boring. Even Lazlow was boring.

    • RinceandLeSIGH


    • Cloud strife

      I would’ve down voted this but stupid disqus is preventing me from doing it

    • Victor Rivas

      Seriously? The “n” word? I reported your comment…

    • Lee

      I agree with your entire statement except for the N word lol

  • Rocky_Robin

    I thought the characters and story were pretty bad and plain to be honest. Nowhere near as good as GTAIV and San Andreas. Yeah GTAV was a good game and i love all the British humour in it, but, the characters , story and soundtrack let it down a lot in my eyes. Having 3 characters meant you couldn’t focus as much time on one individual character like in past games. I loved the progression of Niko Bellic and I’d love to see the return of Niko Bellic, Packi, Roman and the rest of the crew. I was disappointed that Paki only had a very minor role in GTAV.

    • Lee

      AGREED.. The story was overly simplistic. GTA SA had an Extremely superior story, and was higher replay value than GTAV will ever have..

  • boondocksaint87

    I can understand the thinking of saying that the characters are badly written, but giving it 3.5/5 just for that, is a joke. The game is incredible in so many ways. Then rather up your scale to % and give it 90 or something.

    I any case, I loved the game, for me, it has improved the franchise, the same way all the others did before it.

    Now let me go kill some hookers!

  • MasterQueef

    jeez you people realize GTA V has exploded in terms of revenue and has become a worldwide sensation, and yet you still have a need to put up bullcrap like this. it was perfectly written, the storyline was top notch, it added a twist most GTA’s didnt have, and it was funny. “on this hand i agree blah blah” oh shut up, GTA V was written beautifully by the best gaming company in the world. quit poking at it you degenerates, play the game.

    • Stephen Snook

      I appreciate that sentiment, but it’s not to say that it isn’t up for discussion.

      Call of duty sells just as well. Is that not up for discussion because it sells well?

      As far as gta v’s story goes, it borrows a lot from movies, which isn’t a bad thing. As far as gta goes, it’s the best story they’ve had. I think people were expecting more of a good guy story or having an ending where the multiple choice wasn’t obvious.

  • RebelMind

    Gta V to me is like a bad written book. It’s starts off with promise but withers dead because of grey areas brought in midway through, and the end of the game to me feels like it should be in the middle of the campaign, if not even a quarter way through. It’s a great idea with the 3 character switch, but it takes as much away as you would expect in any multiple story switch, even books, and movies don’t feel good with that cause it’s too much to focus on, and actually care. Some say the game is still funny, but to me it really does feel like a sad game to play, and it’s not because Rockstar was lazy or low on budget, but because it was a bad idea from the start in some gamers eyes, but an extremely great idea in a business point of view if they could pull it off, which they did after 5 years I guess.

    • Stephen Snook

      If you think about other gta games, can you think of one character that’s ‘better’ at the end?

      Im not even talking about arbitrary moral compasses, I’m just thinking in general.

      GTA serves to make you play a career criminal from start to end. They have never deviated from the norm as much as they did in gta5

      • RebelMind

        Tommy Vercetti hands down as the best main character for any gta game, especially Lance vance turning his back on him, i was shocked which made Lance the best protagonist in gta. Sure Vice City was inspired off many movies, but Tommy atleast had character enough to remember long after a decade has past.

    • Lee

      The story was lame

  • Sch00n3r

    I agree with aspects of both arguments. The game is stuffed full of fantastic and well executed satire. However, the characters do not progress at all. If there were some element to the story that resulted in them becoming even slightly better people in the end that would have sufficed. I really disagree with the assertion that the characters are “lovable.” While they are entertaining and I enjoy living vicariously through them within the game, I would never want to be associated with any of them in real life. Nor do I harbor any sympathy for them.

  • Brads

    Weak story…great gameplay. Dlc please, that casino is still awaiting a grand opening

  • Mabenito

    I think some people should start developing their own games and movies, and see what we are going to say about them. There’s a lot of creativity that goes behind all this. I appreciate and celebrate efforts made….! These are not novels.

  • Lee

    I liked 4 better, gonna be the minority here…Something about the dark storyline, dating, and the rain got me..Plus there were major plots twists which GTAV Lacked..We already knew what was going to happen, nobody turned on anybody and they were all three, pretty much lunatics..well Two.. Franklin’s buddies never turned on him, or Nothing, I think GTAV was all about the Action gameplay (Which was perfect..)…and that computer geek dude planning out heists out of newhere, was a little ridiculous..

    But…..It has a Beautiful city, and amazing graphics.

    • RebelMind

      I agree lV is better. GTA V just became it’s own little giant problem in itself because of the idea being pushed upon it by its 500+ developers and designers. I do however find the graphics were a bit too cartoonish for my liking, and while I can agree with you that the city is beautiful, but it’s also really hollow in in construct beneath all of the outer pixels, more so then Liberty City in lV which explains why last gen console’s are able to run it in the first place, barely atleast.

  • Thomas Rakewell

    It can be satirical AND a poor game, the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

    Personally, I’ve found GTAV to be my biggest letdown in gaming. I don’t care whether the characters evolve or not because you can make up for that with some other kind of progression. The problem is that just isn’t there. You do some stuff, nothing really changes, then you do some more stuff. It’s really dull.

    The online bit is the biggest tragedy though. I won’t go on too much because it’s been covered to death elsewhere but the online element is such a grind. Your character there literally makes no progress whatsoever and the whole thing is obviously set up so you “give in” and pay more real money for in-game currency. Most people seem to resist this, which I’m glad about, but the online game is so boring as a result. You get penalised for shooting people and missions pay almost exactly what they cost to join. The biggest shame is that it’s almost good, though. When everyone was glitching and the game was hacked a few months ago, it was great. It was like a big game, where anyone could do whatever they wanted. People were shooting each other, modding cars, making friends and joining impromptue gangs. It was really good fun. The media called it cheating though, Rockstar obviously weren’t happy because it scuppered their in-game currency plans, and ordinary players got hoodwinked into thinking the “cheaters” were inherently bad. Those couple of weeks showed what the game could have been though, with a bit of tweaking. Instead, we’re left with a dull cash-cow that no one plays anymore. I think they’ve damaged future prospects for the GTA franchise quite severely.

  • Deep

    the story in this game was very simple nothing exciting and there were no twist and turns as compared to previous gta titles . but in respect to game play it receive full marks .

  • Aria_Prescott

    Ok, I found this looking for something else on Google, and even though this is from February, I still have to ask: Someone is honestly taking The Escapist seriously in 2014? No, seriously- I don’t know if I should lose all respect for you… Or go through your other articles to see if you were drinking on painkillers when you wrote this.

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