The Grand Theft Auto series has always been just as controversial as it has been innovative. Rockstar makes a habit out of crossing red lines in regards to both subject matter and technical limitations, and we've always sat and wondered just how far they would go with their legendary series. Going into the fifth numbered entry in the series, I was prepared for some fairly controversial material. I didn't quite know what to expect, I just knew I was going to be in for a fun-filled and potentially compelling adventure.

Well as far as fun goes, I couldn't have been more correct. Grand Theft Auto V is by far the most fun I've had with any Rockstar game, and might be the most enjoyable open world game out there. Detail is something that is going to become more and more prevalent in our open world games come this next generation, and Rockstar has set the new status-quo.

Los Santos is brimming with life, and a ridiculous number of activities. During my fifty-six hours of play time, I'd spent three just playing tennis with one of the three main protagonist's wife, and another two racing out in the desert in a dune buggy. The world itself is enormous and gorgeous. While it has some texture issues when up close to certain environmental objects, you won't notice because you'll be too busy driving at a breakneck speed along a gorgeous mountain path at sunset on a dirt-bike. I found myself marveling at little things like the dents in my car made from a pretty traumatic wreck, and at bigger things like shadowing, and lighting that coated this beautiful city.

You'd think with all the size and beauty that the game would have some rampant glitching issues. That isn't the case fortunately. Rockstar has lovingly crafted and then relentlessly polished this game, and I didn't run into a single noticeable glitch during my play through. That's not to say that they don't exist, it's just a testament to how well put together this game is.

The biggest jaw-dropper, are the heists. Grand Theft Auto IV sported a bank robbery mission that fans (including myself) adored. Rockstar payed attention to what worked best, and then based an entire game around it, and it couldn't have gone any better. Whether I was covered from head to toe in thick body armor, shooting down helicopters while lugging around several million dollars in cash, or I was taking an Ocean's Eleven-esque route, and gassing a jewelry store before running away with the goods I was having one hell of a good time. My only issue was that there weren't enough of them. When the credits rolled I was left craving another adrenaline pumping bank-job.

What's more is that the awe-inspiring moments aren't restricted to the heists. There were several situations where I found myself standing still. One such moment was small. I sat and watched a crop duster fly across a warm sunset, carrying a man who had his list of things to do for the day that had nothing to do with my in-game goals. It's those moments I enjoyed the most.

Aside from the visual splendor, the game handles like a dream. Driving and shooting have been vastly improved since Grand Theft Auto IV, and the driving in particular is the best it's ever been in the series. There are still some awkward walking and running problems when in the heat of a battle, and flight controls are completely unintuitive. As a whole though, Grand Theft Auto V is a magnificent experience when it comes to game play.

Now with all this good there has to be something bad...right? Without a doubt, yes. The story is by far the weakest Rockstar has crafted since...well ever. At the core of the story and the games mechanics, are three main characters: Michael, a bored ex-thief who misses his glory days, Franklin, a young thief who is tired of the social trappings of his hood-based neighborhood, and Trevor, who is the product of drugs, alcohol, insanity, and a disturbing childhood.

Rockstar claimed to have implemented a three-character system so that they could address the character inconsistency problems that existed in previous Grand Theft Auto games. And while the character switching mechanic is quick and intuitive, the characters are as inconsistent as ever. Franklin, who is the most mild-mannered of the three, still gives in to extremely violent acts, and is devoid of a real personality. He's likeable, but in the sense that he's the sanest of the three characters and at times means well. Michael has his moments, but spends every second of his screen time complaining about his family, or talking about how he wants to live a normal life...and that's basically it. The skeleton for a compelling character exists within Michael, but he never really takes an interesting turn. He just keeps complaining. And Trevor is the worst of the three. While his portion of the game boasts some of the most insane and bizarre missions, he's completely inconsistent. One second he's smashing a character's head in over pretty much nothing, and the next he's off helping people. You can't claim that he's secretly a good person, because he's not.

That's evident when your pulling out a man's teeth with Trevor, and he's enjoying every minute of it. He even explains that the torture wasn't for the person being tortured, but for the person committing the torture. While that's an interesting point, the interactive torture segment was unbearably gratuitous, and unnecessary. While it might sound redundant to complain about torture in a series that allows you to go on a bloody rampage through it's cities, I would have to disagree. It felt forced, and of course was ridiculously hyper violent in a game that was actually the tamest in the series up to that point. Instead of feeling edgy, or making a statement through violence, it felt like a repulsive and childish attempt to draw some press coverage. What's worse is that you're not given the option to skip the scene. For people who just want to play GTA V for the glorious open world, or because they want to experience a story akin to Red Dead Redemption, or Max Payne 3, it'll be a completely distasteful experience.

As far as the story itself goes, it's "okay" at best. Rockstar starts off by bluntly listing off America's problems through satire, but they pretty much just let it go there. They never go anywhere with the criticisms or black humor, they just poke fun and leave. The ending in particular is very disappointing and cliche, and is decided on a cell phone...yeah.

I could forgive the uninspired story if there were some interesting side characters, but there aren't any. They're all unsubtle characatures, who are bland and devoid of humor. The biggest crime here though are the horrible female characters. If you were going into Grand Theft Auto V disappointed by a lack of a female protagonist, don't play this game. Every single female in this game is either scantily-clad, or an enormous, whiny buzz-kill. What happened to the likes of Bonnie McFarlane? She was a very strong, normally dressed female heroin, who could fend for herself. The vision of women in Grand Theft Auto V is singular and disrespectful.

There were many moments in Grand Theft Auto V that can't be replicated unless you're doing it for real, which is something truly special. Unfortunately those unenjoyable moments that I listed above brought what should have been a special installment in gaming history down. I can't tell if I've grown up since the days of Vice City, and San Andreas or if Rockstar's maturity has taken a turn for the worse. Either way, I found myself constantly wanting to check out of what was otherwise a landmark technical achievement in gaming. Because of the hyper-violence, and some pretty ridiculous sexism, it's really hard to recommend it to anyone. I give it an 8.5/10.