A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
Parents and caregivers: Set limits for violence and more with Plus
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Grand Theft Auto V is an M-rated action game brimming with gang violence, nudity, extremely coarse language, and drug and alcohol abuse. It isn't a game for kids. Playing as hardened criminals, players kill not only fellow gangsters but also police officers and innocent civilians using both weapons and vehicles while conducting premeditated crimes, including a particularly disturbing scene involving torture. Women are frequently depicted as sexual objects, with a strip club mini-game allowing players to fondle strippers' bodies, which are nude from the waist up. Players also have the opportunity to make their avatars use marijuana and drink alcohol, both of which impact their perception of the world. None of the main characters in the game makes for a decent role model. All of them are criminals who think of themselves first and others rarely at all. Few games are more clearly targeted to an adult audience.
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What's it about?
Rockstar Games' decidedly adult-oriented GRAND THEFT AUTO V puts players in the shoes of a trio of criminals in Los Santos, a fictionalized version of Los Angeles. One protagonist is a middle-aged gangster who begins the game as a recently retired criminal; another is an unpredictable, drug-addled psychopath; and the third is a young man just starting out on a life of crime. Players have the ability to switch freely among these men as they work through a dramatic criminal saga that sees them carrying out heists, stealing cars, taking revenge on rivals, and killing anyone who gets in their way, including police officers and innocent civilians.
The immense world they inhabit is sprawling and free for players to roam, providing them the liberty to do anything they want -- from piloting boats and ATVs in rural settings to playing golf and tennis at local country clubs -- whenever they like. Though story-progressing missions, which are usually major criminal acts, are always available, a primary part of the game is exploration, allowing players to find side quests ranging from tow-truck jobs to murder mysteries. An online mode not yet released at the time of this writing will allow up to 16 players to engage in many of these activities as a group.
Is it any good?
From a technical and design perspective, Grand Theft Auto V sets new bars. The world it presents is unrivalled in authenticity and vibrancy. It feels fluid and alive. Time passes organically, characters' lives progress, and there is a simply astounding quantity of side activities in which to engage. It's quite possible to explore the state of San Andreas for hours without moving the main story forward a stitch. In fact, that's part of the fun. And it's all been polished to a glossy sheen. The controls feel great, the visuals are lush, and a brilliant graphical interface empowers players, giving them all the information they need -- and only the information they need -- exactly when they need it. However, the writing isn't quite as sharp as it has been in previous installments; the humor is a bit broader and less sophisticated, and the main characters aren't as well developed (probably because there are now three), but this only impacts the overall experience a little. It remains a very impressive game.
Keep in mind, though, that much of the content is unequivocally geared for adult audiences. And even then it will not be for all tastes. Grand Theft Auto V puts players in the roles of criminals who show little remorse for their evil actions, and often even take pleasure in them. It's a dark fantasy with the potential to prove immense fun for those who are mature enough to properly appreciate its adult humor and able to clearly distinguish between right and wrong. It is not a game for younger players with developing psychologies. And adults who don't have a taste for role-playing a life of crime should probably give this game a wide berth.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the impact of violence in media. Do you think violent games have a different influence on the behavior of those who consume them than do violent movies, books, or music? How do you decide when violence becomes too much for your kids?
Families also can discuss role models in games. Antiheroes make for popular protagonists across all media but might be viewed differently in games since players actually perform their dirty deeds rather than simply observing them. Can an antihero ever be a good role model?
- Platforms: PlayStation 3, Windows, Xbox 360
- Subjects: Social Studies: cultural understanding
- Skills: Collaboration: cooperation, meeting challenges together, teamwork
Thinking & Reasoning: strategy
- Price: $59.99
- Available online? Not available online
- Developer: Rockstar Games
- Release date: September 17, 2013
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- ESRB rating: M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Mature Humor, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs and Alcohol
- Last updated: November 11, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.