The Joy of eavesdropping in Grand Theft Auto V

joyofgta5eavesdropping

I hear her before I see her. The young brunette sporting head-to-toe white Vinewood chic, her voice high as she seethes over the phone at a man I assume is her husband. He can barely get a word in through her accusations; he’s been sleeping with the nanny (again), she has proof this time, she’ll take his ass to court. Finally, something he says stuns her quiet.

“Who the hell told you about Raul?” she screeches.

But Raul will have to wait, because a flock of maître ds has started swapping stories in the alley to my left and their dirt peaked my curiosity. Seems like spit isn’t the only body fluid Los Santos patrons have to worry about in their minestrone.

Hold up, did that guy just say he stuffed a little person full of coke and hit him like a piñata?

It’s in these moments I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of Los Santos, despite offloading dozens of hours into Grand Theft Auto V’s story mode, and nearly twice that in GTA Online.

GTA V contains just under 160,000 lines of dialogue according to developer Rockstar Games. And much of it can only be heard by playing in a very non-GTA fashion. Even in Los Santos, pedestrians get spooked when they see others shoving past and causing mayhem. An accidental tap can throw them off their rhythm, their stories retreating into the game’s algorithm with a slim chance to be repeated. The successful voyeur must walk calmly, keep to themselves, obey traffic signals – easy enough in the real world, but when surrounded by GTA’s trademark sandbox free-for-all, it feels like a stealth mission a la Assassin’s Creed.

Occasionally NPCs break their own believability by talking over each other or providing canned responses. But when these vignettes play out in their entirety, it feels like you’ve snuck a glance at the real Los Santos.

So much work went into writing these incidental dialogues in case a player overhears a snippet of them as they race down the street, en route to a heist or fleeing from police. It’d be easy for players to never notice them, or at least to never give them much thought. But those who take a break from GTA’s chaos to stop and listen are in for some of the funniest dialogue in the game.

Back in Los Santos, I see a man in a pressed suit walk by me, phone in hand.

“I’m just saying, I don’t want to end up peeing in my coffee cup again.”

And just like that, I’m off.

30 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    Every time I see something about GTA V it makes me want to actually buy the game. Maybe next sale.

    • OscarWilde1854 says:

      So it’s you! You’re the one that still hasn’t bought it!

      Just for the singleplayer, you absolutely should. It’s a brilliant game built into a brilliant world. I own it on Xbox 360, then I bought it on Xbox One, then I bought it on PC… all for full price at their respective launch dates. I have 100% completion on all 3 versions lol.

      Buying one version now, at a heavily discounted price? I can’t think of a single reason not to.

      • Leemstradamus says:

        I’ve yet to finish the main story and don’t have much desire to play online, but it is still one of my favorite games ever. The detail is just so superb!

        • ColonelFailure says:

          Online play is fantastic if you have a few friends to play with. Plenty to do, and it feels like the single player game with additional sociopaths thrown in. Maybe one session in 5 you’ll encounter some clown who’s just out to wreck everyone else, but then every so often you’ll be the one larking about. When that happens you can get stuck into the impromptu deathmatching, or switch to a different server.

          The online game is what you make of it. Get some friends and play on a private server and the fun keeps coming.

      • senae says:

        I bought it during one of the sales on PS4 a few months ago, got about 2 hours in, and put it down forever because I hated everything about it. It controlled bad, none of the jokes were funny, some of them were so bad that I had to put the game down. They carefully handcrafted this beautiful world, and then filled it exclusively with trash people.

        I hated GTA5 and you don’t even know how much I regret not getting it on steam (so I could have gotten my money back)

        • Unclepauly says:

          People hating an entertainment item makes me wonder about how well their personal lives are going. Hope things aren’t too bad for ya.

          • kament says:

            People defending entertainment items with snide personal remarks are much more puzzling… ok, kidding. Nothing puzzling about them. They’re just human. “These fucking humans, Archidi.”

          • Urthman says:

            YES I ALSO AM A HUMAN BEING PUZZLED TO HEAR HUMANS CRITICIZE AN ENTERTAINMENT PRODUCT. IS THIS NORMAL HUMAN BEHAVIOR (Y/N)?

          • Bogie Ben says:

            I’ve finally created an account after lurking since ’07 just to reply to kament’s comment. Its great to find another Morgan fan in this splendid place.

          • kament says:

            Hey, Ben. May the gods of RPS look kindly on your attempts to log in.

            I may be wrong, but it might well have been here at RPS where I first heard about Altered Carbon. That or over at Watts ‘crawl.

        • fish99 says:

          I can understand people not liking the story/characters/humour, but the game plays beautifully.

      • Cyrus says:

        I haven’t purchased it yet either, and that is from someone has played all GTA’s on PC. Don’t know if it has to do they would no acknowledge a PC version until long after consoles, or the fact Red Dead has yet to see the light of day on computer.

        I’m unsure whether if GTA is was it used to..
        Vice City is still the highlight.

    • Gothnak says:

      Me too, I tend to want to get it on my Xbox One though, and the price will never come down and my stack of shame is still too high!

  2. Red_Fox says:

    “RAAAAAUUUUUUULLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

    ~DrDisrespect

  3. Sin Vega says:

    One day, just maybe, Rockstar will finally make a GTA city and not spoil it with a GTA game.

    • fish99 says:

      Why would they do that though when it’s not what fans of the series want, and when the latest installment has just sold 80M copies? Without the missions there really isn’t that much to do.

  4. Artiforg says:

    I think the word you’re looking for is “piqued” not “peaked”.

  5. LivingfortheNight says:

    I wish Assassins Creeds worlds were so detailed. No buildings to enter that aren’t sell all general stores or taverns, no personalizing anything (maybe a diff color robe, there is really zero world interaction besides find the marker. I can only dream of how cool 1780 Boston would be if you could do anything besides, say, walk the street. It’s weird, UBI obviously puts every resource into creating these wonderful time machines, yet leave you with nothing to do besides mission/treasure hunt/marker hunt. SIGH

    • CartonofMilk says:

      I feel the same about GTA V honestly. There really isn’t that many places at all to go in compared to the amount of buildings the game has. Both game series give you a nice world you never really feel you’re inhabiting. I havent played origins but Syndicate kinda broke my heart that it had this super immersive victorian london but all i was ever gonna get to do in it was climb buildings and kill people.

  6. TheAngriestHobo says:

    I’ve done a fair bit of this myself. It’s how I discovered that you can creep out NPCs by following them and staring at them. Do it long enough and they’ll start power-walking to put some distance between you; keep being a creeper and they’ll start running and screaming for help. XD

  7. Hyena Grin says:

    I was going to make some smarmy remark about how GTA is still getting coverage after.. how many years?

    But boy do I have egg on my face. It’s been just two and a half years since the PC release.

    Why does it feel like the game has been out basically for all of time? It’s downright uncanny.

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