Game of the Month: May – Grand Theft Auto 5

We live in a land of plenty, in which the bountiful supply of videogames to play can feel like a gift in one moment and a suffocating deluge in the next. That’s what Game Of The Month is for. Each month, we’ll pick one game that we think you should play if you have time for just one game. Then we’ll write a flurry of features spread across the month to explain why.

In May: you should play Grand Theft Auto V [official site].

We’ll have a group verdict along shortly to talk about some of the reasons why. In the meantime, you can read our review.

Still have questions about this whole Game of the Month thing?

For starters, wasn’t this thing meant to happen on the first Monday of each month?

Yes, but yesterday was a Bank Holiday in the UK and someone needed to copy the header logo over Trevor’s face.

Why is May’s game a game that was released in April?

We want to be able to play the games we choose as Game of the Month, not speculatively guess at what might be worth your time. That means that the games we choose will already be out, and in some cases may have been released years previously if they suddenly become relevant again. In GTAV’s case, there’s lots of reasons the game will remain relevant for months to come – heck, even if you’ve completed it, you’ve got the beginnings of a mod scene to get involved with.

Have you guys done this before?

Once, last month. The game was Cities: Skylines and you can see all of its Game of the Month coverage here.

Seriously, why didn’t you pick Pillars of Eternity, you mugs?

Look, John, stop leaving these questions here. But starting later this week, we will do a post of runners-up each month, where the staff can select individual games they’d like to push upon you like an insistent aunt offering you a slice of sponge cake.

65 Comments

  1. RQH says:

    Yuck. I will listen to your reasons, but I do not expect to be persuaded. Surely gaming has become a rich enough landscape (one might argue, always has been) that we don’t need to continue to celebrate a series that has failed to grow in any meaningful way, simply because it offers a prettier playground than the last one?

    • Zarf says:

      I’d argue that the playground is the big draw for most people who like these games. I mean, I don’t like any of the main characters besides Franklin, it treats women like trash, the humor is sophomoric, and most of the characters are merely hollow commentary about “What’s wrong with society these days”, despite being mostly about picking society to shreds in order to profit off of it. But I still like the game.

      That playground is one heck of a playground. Driving is fun, and I tend to dislike racing games. The combat is fun, though it’s by no means the best combat game I’ve played. The world itself is the main attraction. If a game doesn’t appeal to you because it mostly functions as a loose story set over the main attraction of a playground, this game isn’t for you.

      If you’ve played previous GTA titles or Saints Row titles and didn’t like them, I doubt you’ll like this one. It is marginally better than the previous ones in every way, except for the world. The world is much bigger, much better, much more interesting. It sounds like you aren’t particularly interested in that, though, so this game probably won’t be one you enjoy.

    • draglikepull says:

      I’d say GTA V is a remarkable technical achievement that has a lousy game attached to it. Is the world impressive? Absolutely. Did I have fun playing the game’s missions? Rarely.

      At this point there are just so many better open-world games (Sleeping Dogs, Red Dead Redemption, Arkham City, etc.) that it’s difficult to see why GTA V still gets so much praise aside from its budget and name-recognition.

      • Hebrind says:

        There’s a trio of things you must consider:

        1) Sleeping Dogs is old as balls and not really a contender for “Game of the Month”, I think

        2) Red Dead Redemption didn’t come out on PC, and this here is a PC gaming site first and foremost.

        3) Batman: Arkham Asylum/City/Oranges/Knight [delete as appropriate] are also fairly elderly (older, even, than GTAV) and their open-worlds are piddly little places compared to GTAV’s take on San Andreas.

        None of the above games came with a multiplayer, either, which is a shame. (I know RDR did but again, no PC, no cigar) and honestly, the time I spend in GTA Online with my friends feels like we’re having fun by dicking around with planes, trains, automobiles and everything in between. It’s the closest to hanging out in real life as we’ve got so far online, which is great. And yehyehyehyeh I know multiplayer isn’t what all the people on Farms/Military Bases/Oil Rigs/The Mun want from a game but its a damn good multiplayer, its issues aside, and I’ve not spent an unenjoyable hour in it thus far.

        Mods, I haven’t really dived into yet because I know there’s some contention surrounding what is and isn’t allowed, and I’d hate to not be able to play the MP with my buddies because I wanted a go at having a flooded Los Santos.

        The singleplayer is a good time too, for my money, and I’ve enjoyed 75% of it at least, which is fine. There’s bits of Arkham Universe that bored the pants off me, too, and I love Batman to bits. The open-world of GTA V is staggering and there’s always, *always* your own fun to make out there, you just have to have the imagination/tools/opportunity to do so, which is almost always the case. Even if you aren’t planning on being a massive douchebag to other people, the missions in Multiplayer keep pace really well and there’s always a new scenario or a challenge to beat, and the heists are a lot of fun too.

        TL;DR – I really like GTAV and I think it’s a great choice for GOTM, and I hope to see a bunch of modding ideas and video nonsense being thrown about.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        A remarkable technical achievement as you say, but you didn’t like the game itself.

        What happens to your list if one happens to actually like it instead? Your comparisons are incredibly subjective, meanwhile the technical merits of GTA aren’t. You just need a couple writers here at RPS liking the rest of the package for it to be an easy game of the month.

        Sometimes it’s hard to believe some people aren’t simply against the mainstream out of principle.

        • draglikepull says:

          You are correct: If people like a thing that I don’t like, then those people like it.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      This game is a serious achievement on many levels, subjective tastes aside. This is not something that can be simply boiled down to “just a prettier playground”.

      Maybe you hate this sort of game, but for those even midly interested there’s technically nothing else that come close and this probably will hardly change in the future, as it’s pretty hard to find a studio that combines BOTH a huge budget and actual talent.

      You usually have to pick one, there you get two.

      • RQH says:

        I like how the stuff you praise is somehow objective, while everyone else’s opinion is subjective. I also like that we’re continuing with this fallacy that what can be measured objectively matters more than that which can only matter subjectively. As is the vileness of GTA’s characters, its lazy misanthropy (note: I did not say misogyny), its clunky and heavy-handed mission design can’t be weighed against the polygons and the shaders and the physics, merely because they are a matter of judgment.

        • RQH says:

          I happen to like a pretty playground, but I’m sick of this compromise we seem to have accepted, that we need to put up with what is essentially a 13 year old boy’s idea of a gangster movie pastiche so we can hike in some pretty virtual woods. We can do better.

          • Distec says:

            It’s the fifth main installment in the GTA series and you’re complaining that you have to put up with dumb gangsters instead of strolling through the forest.

            How is this GTA’s problem, again?

          • lyralamperouge says:

            RQH, we ARE doing “better”. There are other games that cater to your tastes. Why does GTA need to in order to be considered “better”?

          • RQH says:

            This isn’t a critique of GTA V’s right to exist, but of it as the choice for “the one game you play this month.”

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          It’s not that the stuff i praise becomes objective because it’s mighty god-me praising that, but because i’m just focusing on that sort of thing.

          And i see no fallacies in cold technical analyses every once in a while either, because those things are there for everyone, meanwhile whatever one might think about the story, the writing, the overall “intent” and presentation and so on is incredibly personal.

          It beats you and others passing the immaturity of the whole thing as fact, always throwing around the 13 years old argument or what have you.

          • RQH says:

            If the only thing we can critique about games are the facts, then we have nothing to say.

    • lyralamperouge says:

      GTA has grown plenty. Just because it’s chosen to stick to its guns in terms of its mentality doesn’t mean it hasn’t grown. If it changed its mentality, it’d be another series entirely.

      We already have Saints’ Row for the ever-quirkier silly GTA clone, Watch Dogs for the super serious tech-themed GTA clone, Red Dead Redemption for the western-themed GTA clone, Crackdown for the gangs-and-law-enforcement GTA clone, and so on. Instead of stamping your feet and demanding one series modify to suit you, why not live and let live? Go play a game whose mentality and humor you do get on with, but don’t complain that a perfectly valid gameplay experience isn’t great because it doesn’t click with your personal humor or moral compass.

      I’m a woman and I don’t have a problem with the treatment of women in GTA. Women are not a monolith. That is to say, GTA can be abusive or disrespectful to the specific women who appear in it without it necessarily being a comment on all women. Why don’t you realize this?

      • RQH says:

        Again, not a critique of GTA existing as GTA, but of the choice to make it “the one game you play this month.”

      • RQH says:

        Also, I have not once in this discussion accused GTA of misogyny: you assumed that about me. I rather think GTA hates the whole human race.

      • RQH says:

        Lastly, I’m really glad you’re here to correct any women in this comments thread who may have found GTA’s portrayals of women misogynist. They will be no doubt relieved to learn that they can be unique individuals and abandon their opinion which differs from yours.

  2. Volcanu says:

    Well this is a shame. GTA V is fine and all but it hardly needs any more praising from the rooftops. The actual gameplay is somewhat stale and there is nothing fresh about it. The world is crafted with remarkable attention to detail but the base game rarely makes you do anything memorable in it.

    Pillars on the other hand really deserves praising from a mountaintop. It represents a remarkable achievement in bringing a much beloved old genre into the modern age, without dumbing down. To me it’s a fantastic example of the kind of game that you can only really do on PC. And the kind of game that makes PC gaming great.

    I would dearly have loved to see RPS championing it as Game of the Month. It deserves some cheerleading.

    Anyway, opinions and all that.

    • Horg says:

      Pillars came out in March so it technically lost out to Cities: Skylines.

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        gritz says:

        And GTA came out in April so clearly it is the more deserving Game of May.

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        gritz says:

        That’s why I come to RPS: Thought provoking content about the lesser-known gems of the PC gaming experience like Far Cry 4 and Grand Theft Auto.

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          If they think one of those lesser known gems are deserving their game of the month badge, you can rest assured they won’t let you down.

          At least, this is what they’ve always done.

        • lyralamperouge says:

          Not giving recognition to a game just because it’s cool is the sort of bullshit I’d go to other, hipster-led gaming discussion sites for. I come here for the grownup, non-hypocritical acceptance that sometimes “triple-A” games aren’t the devil and that’s okay.

      • Caiman says:

        Pillars came out near the end of March, and was pretty much dismissed in the GOTM post for Cities because it had only just arrived, whereas it now loses out to the predictable GTA juggernaut. As someone who would much rather see more PoE-style games than yet more GTA style games, it’s a shame that RPS went for the low-hanging fruit. Fortunately we’ll likely see at least some acknowledgement of the game this month, amidst yet more GTA stuff.

    • Donkeyfumbler says:

      The reason I chose to buy GTA V over Pillars of Eternity is along similar lines, except I thought that Pillars looked a bit stale (or at least not different enough to the games that had gone before it). The reviews I’ve read suggest that it’s a throwback to the golden era of PC RPGs, but adds very little and while I loved Baldurs Gate, Fallout, Torment and the rest at the time, I’d really prefer to play something new (which I thought Divinity did really well).

      GTA V may not have altered the basic formula but at least it’s thrown a lot more things to do into the mix (and looks lovely while doing it). It still makes me laugh too, even when I’m just driving around seeing the sights and while it may make me an awful person, Trevor really amuses me. It’s also a game I can dip in and out of, which, with my limited gaming time, is a real plus.

      As you say though, opinions.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        In a way, Trevor is the most human of them, but then mostly because Michael is the biggest scum on earth and Frankling is… Well, he’s a bit boring honestly.

    • blur says:

      For the sake of argument though (as I’ve not played either game [a bit of GTA V on PS3 at a friend’s place], nor do I expect to play either), isn’t the reason you’re building up Pillars the same reason that you’re tearing down GTA?

      From what it sounds like to me, they’re both doing something that’s been done before, but doing it prettier. Pillars has the sheen of nostalgia going for it though, while GTA’s sheen comes from the polish that triple-A titles get.

      To lambast a game because the richly-created world doesn’t ask much of the player inside the world is also to say that games such as The Lost Valley and Proteus, and Dear Esther aren’t deserving of praise. It’s completely possible to appreciate the worldbuilding that goes into a game while being critical of the gameplay and the game itself.

      • aleander says:

        To lambast a game because the richly-created world doesn’t ask much of the player inside the world is also to say that games such as The Lost Valley and Proteus, and Dear Esther aren’t deserving of praise.

        Well, to me, if they stopped at the richly-created world in which you can ride cars around and destroy them all, I’d be happy to agree with you (I hate cars so destroying them all is right up my alley). But GTAV attached something to that world, and that something is horrible and evil, exploitative and nihilistic, something that might be an interesting heart of darkness commentary on the state of gaming culture, if not for the fact that it’s not.

        I guess what I’m saying is that while some of the other examples didn’t add much to the world, GTAV actually managed to subtract a lot.

    • onodera says:

      Seriously, why didn’t they pick Pillars of Eternity, them mugs?

  3. Monggerel says:

    why is this not Call of Pripyat
    explain yourself
    this cannot be
    i am righter

  4. Lexis says:

    And what about Rockstar banning single-player only modders?

  5. Thurgret says:

    The world is rich and vibrant.

    The story and missions have some funny satire that runs out about halfway through at which stage it’s largely just a slog (I played some of it, and a bit more of it, and stopped without finishing the game, because it got really boring).

    The gameplay is stale and boring, exacerbating the above issue.

    The multiplayer produced some entertaining moments when playing with a friend, but ultimately fell flat.

    • Sgt_Big_Bubbaloola says:

      The MP would be even more fun if, for example, the load times weren’t interminable …. it actually asked first whether you would like to join your crew rather than randomly dumping you in any old server …… that it was more stable and reduced the amount of players dropping out unintentionally given the development leadtime.
      .
      The few times I have gotten to play properly with my pals online has been a complete blast, but there’s been too many glitches. God that sounds exactly like my BF4 experiences.

  6. jgf1123 says:

    Awww, I liked the Cities Skylines material. Some how, I don’t think GTA5 will be as interesting, but I’ll give it a fair shake.

  7. Banks says:

    Right, because there hasn’t been enough information about this damn game.

  8. rexx.sabotage says:

    welp, that’s two months this feature has survived.

    does it have 3 in it? stay tuned to find out!

  9. Flatley says:

    Bravo to RPS for not being too “cool” or whatever to pick a game that lots of people actually really enjoy.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      It takes some guts, doesn’t it? I mean, look at all the anger there for having picked something popular because it might actually be good.

      • pepperfez says:

        Indeed, I see nothing but unhinged fury at RPS choosing a popular game, combined with an utter refusal to criticize particular elements of that game’s theme, content, or structure. I mean, if people were taking issue with GTA’s “stale misanthropy” or missions that become “just a slog,” or even its attachment of something “exploitative and nihilistic” to its beautiful world, maybe there’d be something to discuss.

        Unfortunately, in this fallen world where we live, it’s better to just dismiss all the hysterical haters who don’t like this choice. They obviously only care about a game’s popularity and don’t even try to hide it.

        • LennyLeonardo says:

          It might be nice if someone mentioned the fact that filling a beautiful world with reprehensible humans, creating an atmosphere of nihilism and exploitation, is a smart way to parody Los Angeles. But it’s possible that the moment-to-moment satire is just not smart enough. But perhaps that doesn’t matter, since it’s only trying to be smart-ish pulp entertainment anyway. But perhaps mechanically it’s not fun for everyone, but perhaps the mechanics are only a small part of the appeal. But perhaps… I DON’T KNOW.

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    SputnikSweetheart says:

    I think this is a great choice. For all it’s many flaws, obnoxious characters and really disappointingly dumb satire, I think it might have the best open world ever made. As much as it is a playground, ready made for silly hijinks, it’s also beautifully crafted place that I’ve already spent far too long just wandering around in, taking in the sights and soaking up it’s details.

    • cqdemal says:

      No need to say ‘might’ at all. I’ve played a ton of open-world games, solo and multiplayer, and this is the one that trumps them all when it comes to the world and the fun you can make out of it. I regularly play in a group of four real-life friends and GTA Online has essentially replaced actual drinking sessions (which were hard to come by as we are all professionals with serious differences in daily routines). It’s a tad disappointing that the GTA Online map isn’t as lively and vibrant as the singleplayer version due to pared-down traffic and pedestrian density, but that does little to detract from the multiplayer’s massive success in almost every aspect aside from poor UI design and inconsistent matchmaking.

  11. JohnnyPanzer says:

    Not Kerbal? How?

    Not game of the month. No WiT. Not a single mention since it was released. What exactly did Squad do to piss you guys off to this extent?

    • aleander says:

      Not gave them enough fuel to return from Mun, obviously.

      OTOH, yeah, you think that GTAV has a large gameworld? PAH! Okay, so it’s mostly vacuum, but in vacuum nobody can hear you make painfully obvious attempts at being radical and mainstream at the same time.

      • WiggumEsquilax says:

        KSP will be GOTY.

        • JohnnyPanzer says:

          It better be. In my book it’s Game of the Century.

          But seriously, what’s the deal here? Every other highly anticipated game tends to get tens of articles during launch week, not just WiT, but opinion pieces, fluff, mod cover, all that stuff. But KSP is getting absolute radio silence, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why.

          • aleander says:

            I have a feeling that not many RPSers really play that game – acknowledge its existence, yes, but while KSP is a brilliant game, it also needs to click with you. I suspect it’s the same with some other games I know are brilliant but haven’t really wasted even the same order of magnitude of time – say, Civ series, or the entire Europa Universalis thing. Now, seeing that RPS is very largely an opinion’s site, having people who actually play the game will have a large impact on how much coverage it will get. Which is why I come here, even if sometimes that results in :-( like with Far Cry 4 or GTA V.

            Now, the answer that we, the repressed readatariat, should present, is non-stop protests in front of Global RPS HQ until RPS hires an astronaut, as astronauts surely play KSP at every occasion, I mean how could they not? Samantha seems like a really cool person, I mean, how could a person who got an espresso machine into space (and surely plays KSP because she’s an astronaut) not be nice?

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            God, if I was an astronaut, KSP is the last game I would play. On the other hand, it’s a great game for people who hate astronauts.

    • Synesthesia says:

      I would also like to know what the hell happened to ksp coverage. It’s beyond weird at this point.

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        Graham Smith says:

        It’s a hugely complicated game that requires in-depth knowledge and long hours to make real headway with. I’ve played maybe 25 hours of it two years ago but didn’t feel equipped to review it and didn’t have the time to spend with it at release. We gave it to two other writers, both of whom dropped out for different reasons after originally committing to a review. It’s now with a third writer and we should have a review up by the end of the week or Monday at the latest.

        In 99% of instances, if we haven’t covered something significant, it’s because time, writers, expertise and money are all finite and one or more of them can create obstacles at any moment.

        • Synesthesia says:

          Oh, that explains it. Thanks a lot for the answer! It *was* weird, though. Can’t wait to see what RPS thought of it.

  12. SuicideKing says:

    like to push upon you like an insistent aunt offering you a slice of sponge cake.

    Haha, this happens everywhere then?!

  13. Ayasano says:

    “…and someone needed to copy the header logo over Trevor’s face.”

    Except that’s Michael, not Trevor. Trevor is the psychotic, yet funny one. (Well, more psychotic than Michael, anyway)

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    Serrit says:

    I was worried you’d pick Pillars as I only started it this weekend so I imagine it’s gonna take at least the rest of this month to get through! Next month though perhaps? :-D

    • caff says:

      <3 Pillars.

      It's a beautiful game that grows and develops with you, unlike many RPGs I've played in the past. I've actually come to appreciate every mechanic and every stat, rather than bluffing my way through and creating generic fighter build #30,535.

      I'm sure I'll be back for expansions for both GTA V and Pillars though.

      • iucounu says:

        I’ll say this about Pillars, though: I’m a ways in to Act 3 and I have kind of dropped it. My characters are all basically maxed out, there’s not a lot of interesting loot or crafting to do, and I’ve hit that bit I get to in a lot of 80% games where I stop around 80% of the way in. It’s like Dishonored, in a very different category – an excellent game I may never actually finish. Or, indeed, Skyrim.

        I did finish Divinity: Original Sin, however. I think perhaps it’s a better game than Pillars is, overall. The combat in particular, by focusing so hard on terrain effects, is better for it.

        What I’ve done in fact since drifting away from Pillars is to blow the dust off the PS3 and go back to GTAV, which I bought a year or more ago and played about half of. It’s lots of fun; dunno whether I’ll finish it yet. (The last open-world game I finished in story terms was Arkham City, though I didn’t get near hoovering up all the side quests.)

  15. McPartyson says:

    Pillars is an unpolished buggy mess that I dropped for now because I constantly run into stupid bugs. I’m hoping on some miracle patch, but I doubt it will make any difference (i tried beta 1.05, still not impressed). The combat system and pathing (especially with multiple melee classes) is simply awful…I doubt Obsidian will patch these 2 aspects any further.

    GTA V, I am playing now. This game is fantastic. I finished the campaign. The online is fun especially when you make some friends and do things together.

  16. neoncat says:

    Huhm… I think this game of the month thing is going to make me sad, simply because the likelihood of RPS choosing to focus its collective effort on a game I care about is very low. I know the quantity of other content won’t decrease, but it will become increasingly diluted in the daily stream. :-/

  17. thelastpointer says:

    Well, that was predictable.

  18. someoneelse84 says:

    Impotent… RAGE!!!

  19. someoneelse84 says:

    The truth of the matter is that most of us folks are enjoying GTA. Loving it, even.

    I’ve been “gaming” since forever. I am awesome. I’m talking Sim Ant awesome. GTA does it for me and a whole lot of others, including the literate folk.

    Pillars of Eternity comes a close second, admittedly, but despite being a CRPG fan it didn’t quite break as much ground as much as I’d hoped, especially after last year’s exemplary Divinity…

    As much as this comes down to personal opinion I truly believe that it is petty to complain about RPS’ game of the month being GTA V, the very game that the majority of PC gamers are loving and playing at this very moment.

    Hey, we cant have it all our way, can we?

  20. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    I would play this game of the month, if it would run reasonably on my completely reasonable system. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t look THAT mindblowing, tech-wise. And to make it run at solid 60 fps I have to drop the settings down to where it looks waay worse than other similar games. Guess I’ll play it in a couple of years, when other games start requiring the same kind of processing power.