Hi, folks. Matt Cohen and Shawn DePasquale here, sipping hot chocolate and snacking on s’mores, while wearing our cozy wool sweaters, seated next to the comforting warmth of a cracklin’ fireplace. We’re in a small cabin, on a remote plateau high in the Rocky Mountains where Nerdist.com sequestered us while we played and then reviewed the newest release from Rockstar Games, Grand Theft Auto V.
Matt Cohen: Man… these are some delicious s’mores! All right… GTA V, let’s talk about it.
Shawn DePasquale: Okay. How long did it take you to beat the game?
MC: Completed in terms of storyline… two and a half days.
SD: But you didn’t complete to 100%, right?
MC: No, I beat the game at like 72%. Then I watched the credits for like 45 minutes and debated if I ever wanted to play it again.
SD: The credits were really long.
MC: Incredibly long. But look, we both got the game at roughly the same time, but I’m curious as to how our experience was different because you’re a weird person, you play video games like a weirdo…
SD: I think you’ll find quite the reverse. I play the game as intended. I’m a completionist in that I like to unlock all the secrets of a game. I got to 100% and would not have felt satisfied if I hadn’t. Whereas it doesn’t seem to bother you that you finished the story at 72% and there’s still a ton of other content you have yet to experience.
MC: No. I wish I could have completed it at 15%. I do this with every video game though, Shawn. My first playthrough is just shock and awe. I want to complete the game as soon as humanly possible with as little effort as possible.
SD: See, and I think that’s the weirdo way to play… I mean to not want to see and play with all the elements available to you…
MC: Yeah… for people without dogs and jobs. Here’s the thing, it’s not like I don’t eventually go back and play and unlock everything, I will, but even with a game like Skyrim, my first playthrough is always just get to the end of the game as fast as I can. I’m not a big multiplayer gamer, I’m not a big DLC gamer… I’m not the biggest video gamer in the world. So, to me, the purest form of whatever video game you’re playing – the campaign – that’s what the game is.
SD: Sure, but that’s interesting where GTA V is concerned because, from all that I’ve read, it seems like Rockstar’s true intent for this game is the multiplayer aspect. The campaign serves as a giant tutorial, a lead-in, for the online world, which is vast and never-ending.
MC: Yeah, but I don’t want a never-ending world. I want to play a video game and then not play it. I’ve never played World of Warcraft or any MMORPG. I’ve never liked watching other people play video games. It’s always been something I do alone. It’s a singular, passive experience for me.
SD: Yeah, but the industry is moving away from that pretty rapidly. With a game like this, the driving concept for the developers is the multiplayer angle. They’ve announced that the online version will take the concept of heists, of which I think there are too few in the storyline, and allow the user and their friends to plan and execute them at their own discretion. So if that’s what their intent is, but not what you’re looking for, then how did this game play for you? Were you satisfied with the storyline?
SD: Because I actually thought it was too short. I enjoyed the characters and story, but if this game didn’t have the additional promise of the online world, I think I would have been disappointed. There were too few heists, not enough opportunities to make money, and no real sense of establishing yourself in the criminal underworld.
MC: I think it all comes down to what you’re looking for in the video game. I was really scared for a long time that this was gonna be the next Skryim, meaning it would completely take over my life for the next few months. Honestly? I’m thrilled it only took over my life for three days. I mean, I’m excited for the multiplayer, because I love the world they built. I love the characters, but I don’t even know my PSN name, so I don’t think the online aspect will appeal to me much. Am I satisfied? Yes. Is it the best video game ever made? No. Is it the best sandbox-style open-world game? No. I think that still goes to Skyrim, but this is pretty damn good.
SD: So what was your favorite element of the story?
SD: Yup. I agree. I think we both knew early on that Trevor, unlike Michael and Franklin, who both feel like GTA characters we’ve played before, is a wild card. He’s something new and totally unpredictable.
MC: I agree, but Niko was kind of a strange antihero too, so I would say Trevor has actually got a little bit of Niko in him, but he’s still the most unusual character we’ve seen in the franchise. Michael and Franklin are both kind of lame, in my opinion. They’re just video game guys. Trevor, I think he’s the lead character in this game, much like Niko (in GTA IV) and CJ in GTA: San Andreas. I’ve been playing GTA games since they were all overhead views on the PC. So, the real interesting thing is, where does this franchise go in the future? And I think what they’ve done here is the apex of these games. I’m not expecting nor do I want things to change drastically in the next version of the game.
SD: We both played Saints Row, which is sort of GTA on crack.
MC: If the developers were also on crack. Which means it’s a sloppy game. It’s fun, but the mechanics are not Rockstar level. It’s the best GTA clone around, but you can’t really compare them.
SD: But what we saw in this most recent GTA is that they see themselves as competitors. GTA V has this weird alien element to it, taking the storyline into a sci-fi area that really reminded me of Saints Row.
MC: Yeah, but other than the weed missions, it’s all Easter egg stuff. Rockstar does that all the time. It’s nothing new, but I don’t think it’s a reaction to Saints Row. I never even heard of it until a month ago.
SD: Well, I think you’re in the minority among other gamers. Saints Row: The Third and IV were pretty popular and heavily publicized.
MC: Yeah, but I’m a very casual gamer.
SD: Where does the next GTA go from here?
MC: Like I said, I don’t want it to go anywhere. I don’t want them to break this model. It’s the bestselling video game of all time. It’d be silly to break up the model. I guess we’ll see what the long-lasting effects of this game are. While it is culturally significant right now, it’s been out for two weeks and I don’t hear people talking about it anymore.
SD: I do. Lots. Plus I think once the online stuff opens up we’ll get another rush of coverage. The fact that you’re not an online player makes an impact on how you perceive the game. For you, it’s over and beaten and you’ve moved on, but a lot of people are just sitting in anticipation of the online stuff.
MC: Well, I’m fine with it being over for me, because there are like 5 video games coming out in the next few months that I want, so I needed to get this out of the way. And that’s the truth. I’ll spend three times the amount of time playing Pokemon in a few weeks than I will GTA V.
SD: That’s funny. The next big release I’m looking forward to is another open-world game, South Park: The Stick of Truth, which comes out in December.
MC: Oh man!! That’s it! We just came up with Grand Theft Auto 6… GTA: South Park!
SD: Ha ha ha! Yes!
MC: All right, well I think we’re out of time.
SD: Fine by me, it’s getting too hot next to the fireplace.
MC: Your pants leg has been on fire for most of this interview.