Gaming Masterpiece Grand Theft Auto 5 Is Finally Available on PlayStation Plus
A true phenomenon.
It’s been ten years since the gargantuan launch of Grand Theft Auto 5, but somehow Rockstar’s magnum opus is even more relevant a decade later. The open-world crime game launched the tremendously popular GTA Online, and its breathtaking open world has inspired countless other titles. It’s one of the most important games ever made, and now PS Plus Extra and Premium subscribers can jump into the entire experience for free, both single-player and online. If you haven’t played GTA 5, you now have no excuse.
When Grand Theft Auto 4 released, it already felt like a seismic achievement, weaving a dramatic crime story through a vibrant sandbox world that truly encouraged player freedom and variety. So it was hard to imagine Rockstar could drastically improve upon its already-established formula when it announced the follow-up, but the studio blew that idea out of the water. The two most important things to highlight with GTA 5 are scope and attention to detail, both of which were cranked up to eleven.
GTA 5 is, by far, the biggest game in the franchise, with a massive world map and complex story that takes dozens of hours to complete. The game takes a fascinating approach to open-world storytelling by having a trio of protagonists whose stories weave together. Michael is a middle-aged retired bank robber who is bored of his suburban life, Franklin is an up-and-coming gang member dreaming of making it big, and Trevor is a mentally unstable addict with a penchant for destruction.
These three characters all have a different tone to their stories, but each feels like a piece of the larger puzzle. What’s truly impressive, however, is how you can swap between the three at will while in the open world. The dazzling effect zooms out from your current character, before zooming in to the next one in a matter of seconds. It’s a truly staggering technical feat that very few other games have ever been able to reproduce.
That’s just a small piece of GTA 5’s attention to detail, though, as the city of Los Santos is one of the most intricate places ever seen in games. Downtown bristles with activity: street vendors, businessmen, and citizens going about their daily lives. The beaches are packed with tourists and leisure-seekers, and Rockford Hills (based on real-life Beverly Hills) is dotted with extravagant mansions.
Every part of Los Santos feels living and breathing, from the radio stations that react to in-world events and story beats, to how you can find Michael’s wife on the fake in-game dating site. Even past that, there are tons of little visual and mechanical details: sweat will soak the character’s clothes the more they run, you lose a GPS signal in tunnels, and older cars are harder to start and have squeaky brakes. Even each main character has a different phone and menu, representing their different economic situations.
As if all this wasn’t enough, there’s so much variety packed into every aspect of GTA 5. The main story does a phenomenal job of mixing up its missions, from climactic bank heists to substance-fueled psychological trips. Then there’s the plethora of dynamic side activities. You can watch a movie at the theater, take a trip on a seaside roller coaster, invest in real estate, play golf, run a triathlon, or go hunting. There’s a seemingly endless amount of ways to explore and engage with Los Santos, and that level of interactivity is what made the game so defining.
Open-world games have been around long before GTA 5, but Rockstar’s title quite literally changed the game. Its world wasn’t static, but dynamic. Its side activities weren’t just checklists or collectibles, but compelling reasons to learn more about the characters and world. In the years after, games like The Witcher 3 and the Yakuza series would run with that idea to find new and compelling ways to enrich their worlds. But in many aspects, GTA 5 is the precursor to all that.
GTA 5 has everything you’d expect from a crime game. There’s all the shooting and car chases you could want, side missions with unique mechanics or vehicles, open-world mayhem and destruction, and a massive, engrossing multiplayer mode. But it’s that attention to detail and commitment to variety that truly made GTA 5 feel revolutionary. A decade later, nothing has been able to capture the same feeling, and it seems more than likely that nothing will until Grand Theft Auto 6.