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October 02, 2013

Grand Theft Auto V Areas of Concern (Blog Anniversary Edition)


(Read the outro for a special message.)

It's like they make these games to receive a bashing from a site like this. Unfortunately for them, I don't bash..... 

Parental Guidance is advised for the review ahead.

Intro: 

Doesn't this kinda look like a very twisted version of The A-Team?


What a coincidence! Two years of blog service, and this Areas of Concern could not have been a better celebration. A major game with major content to discuss. Let's get that out of the way first:

So, Grand Theft Auto. Heh.

Yes, heh. Heh is all I have to say. There are so many articles criticizing, defending, moralizing, clarifying, proselyting, and anything else which ends with a "ing", so I'm not gonna add another word to the debate.

In fact, I consider this Areas of Concern the middle ground, the place where everybody gets their facts straight. And with that, we get started.

Basic Plot: 

Michael Townley is involved in a failed heist which almost turns lethal, forcing him to fake his death and go into Witness Protection in order to check out of his crime riddled life.

Ten years later, Franklin Clinton, a repo man and ex-gangster operating in a city Los Santos, breaks into the house of Michael De Santo. The plan seems to go off without a hitch, until Michael shows his face in the car they just stole. Michael and Franklin eventually form a friendship, and not long thereafter they take part in a heist.

Said heist tips off old associate and partner of Michael in the fateful heist, Trevor Phillips, who realises that his old friend didn't die so many years ago.

All three main characters eventually get together, forming a rag-tag team of bank robbers, hitting banks all over Los Santos. But what they don't know, is that with great success, comes huge challenges.....

Okay, enough of the plot. Let's get cracking!

Release Date: September 17th, 2013.

Developer/Publisher: Rockstar Games

Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3.

Genre: Open World Action.

Reviewed By: Kyle van Rensburg.



Areas of Concern:


Violence:

Mild Moderate Heavy Very Heavy Extreme Offensive

General Violence:

--Shootings: Blood sprays, staining the environment, the person cringes, and cries of pain are heard. Blood splotches colour the bodies of wounded people. Some shootings are shown in slow motion, depicting more detail in the kills.

--Automobile Carnage: Vehicles can be destroyed, with wreckage being strewn everywhere, explosions and realistic deformations shown. In keeping with Grand Theft Auto tradition, you can also hijack cars and run over people, sending them flying or crushing them beneath your vehicle, blood trailing behind your vehicle.

--Beatings: Punches, kicks, and stomps are shown with blood spurting out and cries of pain being heard.

-After people are killed, they fall over, and blood pools out underneath them.

Storyline Violence: 

--The game features a long and detailed torture sequence which requires extensive interaction from the player, who can (and is forced to) choose from various grisly tools to interrogate the restrained man with:

-Pliers: Your character inserts the pliers into the man's mouth, pulls around for quite some time, and eventually pulls the man's tooth out after much button mashing. He screams in pain, but there's very little blood.

-Water: The torturer flips the man over, places a hand towel over his face, and pours water over it, torturing him by nearly making the man drown. (This scene may be unsettling for some because of its resemblance to "waterboarding", an actual interrogation technique.)

-Wrench: Your sadistic character can have a go with a wrench, swinging it at the man and hitting him in the arm, with a crack being heard and he screams in pain.

-Jumper Cables: Your pathetic, wretched, piece of low-grade trailer trash filth of a character decides to shock the man with some jumper cables. The man spasms and gurgles, and we see vapour rising from him. 

--A man is cut in half with a meat slicing machine; we see a lot of blood spray and hear crunching, but it is not shown in detail. Later on, a man falls into a machine and is chopped into paste; we only see copious amount of blood spraying out and hear him scream.

--A woman is sucked into a plane engine; we see blood spraying out and meat chunks fly out the back of the engine as she screams briefly. 

--A man has an argument with two people. We cut to black and see that his shirt and face is covered in blood, implying that he brutally murdered them.

--A man is shot in the head; we see the back of his head, brains exposed, as lots of blood leaks out into a pool on the ground. This happens very quickly.

--A man is shot and set on fire; he rolls around screaming in pain, but it's surprisingly not that graphic. (More emotionally disturbing than anything.)

--A phone explodes in a man's face, partially blowing his head off. We see a mist of a blood and a blood pool on the ground. This scene is very brief.

--There are several sequences where explosions go off, knocking people back and strewing wreckage everywhere.

-In one sequence, two trains collide head-on as a man jumps from them, with lots of wreckage being shown.

Sex/Nudity:

Mild Moderate Heavy Very Heavy Extreme Offensive

NOTE: Read the conclusion regarding this section.

--Players of the option of going to strip clubs: We see many scantily clad women wearing only pasties and g-strings. You can also get a fully topless lap dance, breasts being shown in detail, and players can choose to grope the women. A few times in-game, you are forced to go to strip clubs, but never forced to stay there or engage in any of the preceding.

-One mission has you trying to work on a computer, with several very suggestive pop-ups being shown involving topless women (with a tiny bit of censorship), and we hear suggestive noises.

The mission in question is called "Friend Request".

-We see several suggestive posters of scantily clad women, some naked, but with no detail. One scene features a few women in a strip club wearing thongs.



--A man is shown having his way with a woman whilst fully clothed: We see the motions and hear grunting.

--Another optional sexual encounter is the infamous prostitution: You can pick up prostitutes and perform sexual acts in a car, with noises being heard but not being seen in much detail.

-An optional mission depicts two people having sex in the back seat; we see movement, but no detail at all.

--A cult features male members with full nudity shown in detail.

-A man drops his pants to show another man his "size". We see his bare buttocks, and very briefly see his genitals when he pulls up his pants.

--Several lines of dialogue reference sexual acts in crude ways. There are far too many to mention, so I'll list the one's that stand out in my mind:

-A man mentions that his son plays with himself all day, a man crudely tells another man to go "stroke it" with mock motions, and a prostitute rebuffs a man, saying he can get on a bus and stimulate himself instead.

-Two gangbangers discuss one gangbanger's aunt, talking about how she "got that A**", her being obsessed with sex and men's anatomy.

-The F-word is used as a sexual slang very frequently, especially amongst the African American gangsters.

-Some references to shooting porn films, and it is mentioned that man's house was rented out for it a year earlier.

-A man tattoos a male member on the chest of another man.

-A man talks about a woman's profile and mentions that he would like to play with them all day.

--A dog runs over to and mates with another dog, the motions being shown. Your character eventually pulls him away from the other dog.

--One of the main characters' wife is serially unfaithful; nothing explicit is shown, but it is clearly implied that she had sex with several men. We see one man in his underwear jumping out of a window, and he is promptly chased down. In a later sequence, a yoga teacher pushes up against her posterior in a suggestive way.

--The character Trevor, which the player can play as, makes several strong sexual remarks referring to sex, crude slangs for genitalia, and every second thing he says is otherwise crude or indecent. (This becomes noticeably less frequent as the game goes on, however.)
 
-He makes several crude references to sexual activities: He jokes about having sex with a man, using the F-word, and mentions getting oral sex in crude terms, his assistant asks him to "come over here" to which he replies "I'll [expletive] in your [censored] when I get there!", and he makes a joke about being "[censored] off" and remarks that he would rather get "[censored] off".

-In one sequence, we see him waking up drunk, wearing a dress. 
 

Language:

Mild Moderate Heavy Very Heavy Extreme Offensive

Uses of C**t, F**k, S**t, with several anatomical terms used profanely throughout the game. Obscene gestures are also shown.

Some name calling: Idiot, Moron, Scumbag, Turd, etc.

--God and Jesus' names are used in vain.

Racial Slurs: Several uses of the N-word, however, it's used by black gangsters in a non racist way.


Spiritual Content:

Mild Moderate Heavy Very Heavy Extreme Offensive

--A Catholic priest is shown doing a funeral for a criminal, speaking about things like being born of sin, Jesus being crucified with two thieves, and so on. It's worth noting that no offensive remarks are made in this scene.

--Apparently the game contains a drunken bearded man who claims to be Jesus, who resides on a beach.

--One sequence features a tongue in the cheek interactive Yoga session. Yoga is an Eastern Hindu practice, taken on by some Christians for a weird reason. 

-In this sequence, a woman makes mention that a man's Chakras are blocked.

(Please note, this is just a video game, and you're not really doing Yoga in this sequence. This part is really the least of your concern.) 


--Several mentions of Darwinism, and it seems to be a recurring theme in the game.

Drugs/Alcohol/Smoking:

Mild Moderate Heavy Very Heavy Extreme Offensive

--Lots of drug references:

-Several lines of dialogue reference dealing and smoking various kinds of drugs (Marijuana, Crack, Meth, etc.), Marijuana posters are shown plastered on walls,

-We also see a few meth labs, with drug paraphernalia being depicted.

--Some drug use is depicted, with a man snorting drugs, and marijuana can be smoked by players, and seems to be legal in the game's city. (One sequence apparently depicts your characters going on a drug trip, complete with freaky visuals.)

--You can drink and get drunk, with your character stumbling around and you have the option of driving under the influence.

-A few scenes show people drinking, high on drugs, and being drunk.

--Characters are shown smoking tobacco products.


Gross Stuff/Crude Humour:

--A man is shown covered in raw sewage, staining his clothing and skin, the walls of his apartment and the couch he is sitting on.

--A man yells insults whilst playing a video game: "You're a waste of [sperm], b**ch!", "I'll cut your [anatomical reference] off if you call the adminstrator!", "You suck [censored] for fun!", and so on.

--A woman reinvigorates her femininity by yelling, screaming, and chanting the word, vulva, over and over.

--One character is repeatedly shown urinating, with accompanying sound effects and a urine stream, in one scene he is shown defecating behind a dumpster, groaning being heard. In another scene, he is shown throwing up graphically.

Discrimination:

Due to multiple racial slurs in the game, you may be tempted to call this game discriminatory towards several ethnic groups. However, it's worth noting that certain characters confront other characters about being racist, and several of the racial slurs are used as gang lingo.

Morality:

Abysmal Bad So-so Okay Good Very Good

Surprisingly not entirely bad: One of the characters is shown to care for his family, and even makes an effort to reconcile with them. Other characters are shown to value friendship over their lives of crime. But overall, you are playing as criminals, and at the end of the day, you will commit a lot of (virtual) crimes.

Themes: 
-Conspiracy Theories: A man is an avid conspiracy theorist, with Illuminati pyramids plastered on his wall, a few people mention the Illuminati, surprisingly frequently, but in the conspiracy theory sense. A man mentions the "New World Order" and government conspiracies several times.

Thoughts & Impressions:


Well, the story is intriguing. I'll give it that. And sharp writing makes the characters stand out with witty dialogue and banter.

.....and it gets pretty tiring after a while. Most of the lines spoken between the three main characters are bickering to each other about several different things, and much information is repeated.

I seem to be in the minority with this, but the writing is just not as sharp as it should be. The game lacks a coherent story structure, and the final mission doesn't have any build-up. Two of the three endings lack any kind of sense, but do in fact feature some emotion heavy events.

All in all, while the gameplay does look fantastic, the story is okay at worst and good at the very best. Nothing very memorable here, save the characters.

Conclusion:

So.....you made it through the mountain of objectionable content, right? And maybe you just skipped ahead to the verdict in order to know if it got a BANNED, right? Well, I've changed what the BANNED rating meant recently: Games which only feature objectionable content and are impossible to enjoy without extreme content popping up everywhere.

GTA V may deserve a BANNED....

You still with me? Okay, good. Now, on the flipside, Grand Theft Auto has slowly become the bogey man of the video game culture as a whole, scorned for it's mass amounts of sexual content by people who often haven't played the game, and also scorned for it's gratuitous violence.

Does Grand Theft Auto V contain gratuitous violence? Not that much actually. There are about five moments in total to the best of my memory which go beyond the pale, but this is a massive game and seem very small in comparison.

Does it contain sexual content? Yes, however, the actual sex is in skippable cutscenes or optional "pastimes", like going to the strip club, and nudity is restricted to the strip clubs and a cult which features nudity in a non-sexual manner. (Apparently a few parties thrown in the game feature topless women; this is not compulsory.)

The sexual references which pervade the game are not avoidable, but they can be considerably toned down by not playing as Trevor often. The scene with pop-ups on a computer is mandatory, however, and there still are several sexual references uttered in the game.

Does the game have lots of strong language? Yes, every word imaginable is used in this game, oftentimes in a sexual context. If you are easily influenced by hearing language in a game, then you should avoid this at all costs.

Does it have strong spiritual content? Not really. Some may consider the cult in the game an issue, but there's really more to worry about here than a few whack jobs muttering nonsense.

Now for the important question: Can a Christian play Grand Theft Auto V without being affected by it's content? I undoubtedly believe some of my readers will have the maturity to skip over cutscenes when necessary and not be influenced by the game's vulgar language.

Some of my readers may be throwing sharp objects at their monitors right now because I even suggested that a Christian can play Grand Theft Auto of all games. To you, it's understandable why you object to the game.

If you have been following me on Twitter, you may have noticed that I said I'll still buy GTA V in spite of it's content. I recently recounted that statement. I'm not going to buy this game. The content is just too much.

At the end of the day, encouraging individual responsibility is what the blog is all about. You have to go before Jesus and ask him if this is appropriate for you or not. And don't just say "yes" because you like the game. Make dang sure its not affecting you in ways you don't want to be affected.

If you want to argue with me that it doesn't, well, then it's between you and Jesus. Personally, this game is not for me, and I won't recommend it to other believers in Jesus, but if they were to own the game, I definitely won't call them out on it.

Verdict: 18+

Read the Conclusion!

Outro:



Another one goes...

Thanks to my loyal readers for two years of great times and worthy conversations! You've been there to support my blog even when I felt like giving up, which happened several times, in fact.

There's a lot more to come, and don't be surprised if the site gets a massive overhaul before hitting year three.

Coming Attractions:

-More Community, Forums, and Connections.

-My YouTube Channel will intersect with the blog on a very regular basis.

-A massive site overhaul: Don't expect it soon, but I'm planning the next big phase in the blog's development. Stay tuned!

Until next week, Kyle van Rensburg proudly signing out, and here's to many more years!

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