Oct 102013

I absolutely love Grand Theft Auto V. The world of Los Santos is massive and has so much detail that I spent the first few hours driving, flying, and biking around the map, doing nothing more than soaking in the gorgeous detail of the environment. The three protagonists actually have compelling stories, even though I wish that Trevor would stop yelling at everything! Cars (finally) behave well instead of behaving like a shopping cart full of rocks on icy roads. Even the most innocuous things, like telephone cables swaying in the breeze, are a testament to the levels of detail that have been added to GTA V.

So far, I’ve reached roughly 95% completion over more than 90 hours of playing and for the first time in a long time I’m actually looking forward to multiplayer with Grand Theft Auto Online once the server bugs are worked out. It truly is an amazing game and as someone who loves open-world games I am not surprised that the game pulled in $1 billion over three days.

That said, there are a few issues that are providing quite a bit of aggravation, especially for those like me who feel the bizarre need to get 100% completion and the platinum trophy.  Unfortunately, there are things in GTA V that are overbearing, irritating, and risk turning the game into a plodding, frustrating grindfest for those of us who strive for the platinum trophy. (In fairness, as far as the game is concerned 100% completion is only a part of getting the platinum trophy, but for the sake of this article I’m putting them together.)

No clue about goals

Following in the steps of the GTA IV expansion The Ballad of Gay Tony, Rockstar has added a gold/silver/bronze medal to every mission and side mission. The idea behind this is to entice you to get the trophy/achievement to have 70 gold medals or to encourage you to complete a mission a different way. The problem, however, is that the player has no clue about what is required to get the gold medal until after the mission has ended and the mission summary is displayed. Unless you’re really lucky or you check the Brady Guide first, you’re guaranteed to have to play the majority of missions at least twice if you want the gold medal. This is nothing more than artificial replayability because for most of the missions you will not get the gold medal the first time around, sometimes for really obscure reasons.

Need to use a checkpoint? You can forget the gold…or so it seems


It would seem that Rockstar has decided that for the vast majority of missions, including missions that can be quite difficult and take a long amount of time, if you end up getting killed and you need to use a checkpoint you automatically lose the ability to get a gold medal. Some of these missions require a gunfights with a lot of enemies. Even if you have powerful weapons, you can get swarmed by so many enemies in some missions that surviving in one run-through is very difficult.  But instead of letting checkpoints be a rescue area for your mission, you are immediately punished by being denied a gold for the mission for having the audacity to get killed!

Whether or not this is truly a gold-breaking issue is debatable.  Using a checkpoint appears as an “x” in the mission summary, which is generally an indication of failure; however, the Brady guide doesn’t show that lack of a checkpoint is required for missions. But if it’s not a factor for the gold medal, then there is no reason to list it in the end summary. At this point I’m going to go with what I see on the screen and assume that having to use a checkpoint means an automatic denial of a gold medal.

Want to restart entirely or replay a part of the mission without exiting? You can forget the gold.

This is either a serious bug or a massive dose of arrogance on Rockstar’s part.  Let me describe the situation first.

One early side mission highlights Franklin’s special ability to have extra control while driving by having you run a street race that unlocks more street races when completed. It’s not a particularly difficult mission and the gold medal requirements aren’t difficult to achieve.  One of those requirements, however, is that the entire race is finished within a certain time. Thanks to some rather irresponsible attempts at shortcuts, I ended up crashing and restarting the race three or four times. Keep in mind that these aren’t checkpoints but rather full restarts from the beginning. The last attempt at the race, however, not only ended up with the fastest lap I’d driven, but it also beat the requirement for the total racing time…except that it didn’t.

What should have been just over two minutes showed up in the final results as being almost eight minutes! That means that the times from all of the restarted races were also included in the final time!

This is a disgraceful inclusion in the gameplay. Restarts, especially from the beginning of the level, should not be cumulative when it comes to the final completion time. Including total time played when starting from a checkpoint is cruel as well, but it’s at least somewhat more understandable.

However, there is one part (trivial spoiler ahead) in the final heist that requires to you hack into the traffic system and change the traffic lights to allow you to have an easy escape.  If you screw up and go back to a checkpoint during this segment, everything from the previous run is included in the final total.  The heist is long enough as it is without having to be forced to go through the whole thing again because you changed too many traffic lights to get the job done!

Once again, this smacks of artificial replayability that turns the wonder of GTA V into an infuriating grindfest. The frustration levels get ramped up even higher when you take the next part into consideration…

Forced return to story mode after a replay

Once a mission or side mission is completed, you can replay the mission at any time (especially since you won’t know the requirements for gold until after the mission is done). However, restarting a mission requires a rather lengthy load time.  What’s worse is that when you complete a replayed mission, you have no choice but to be thrown into story mode even if you want to try the level again!

Not only do you have to deal with the load time to replay a mission, you then have to deal with the load time to get back to story mode at which point you have to deal with another load time to get back into the mission that you want to replay! There is no option to restart a replayed mission that you successfully completed. If you completed the mission, regardless of whether or not you’re happy with the results, you’re going to back to story mode. Period.

Of course, you could always try to get yourself killed before the end in order to force a restart. But thanks to cumulative time as mentioned previously, if that mission has a time requirement for the gold medal you’ve effectively guaranteed that the gold is now unattainable anyway and you will have to completely restart the mission at some future point – and deal with load times once again.

Cheating but calling it “a challenge”

Since the days of games like Mario Kart 64, one of the most despicable tactics in games is “rubber banding”. This occurs when the game’s AI always finds a way to get ahead of you or at the very least immediately behind you regardless of how much effort you put into the race or how fast you go. Someway, somehow the AI always manages to put you out of the top spot or threaten your position. Sadly, certain parts of GTA V are loaded with rubber banding to the point that it makes you want to throw the controller in rage.

Nowhere is this more evident than on the third triathlon, which is a monster that will take you roughly 30 minutes of painful button mashing. But unfortunately no matter how much mashing you do, the challenger AI will always find a way to get ahead of you.  And if one of the AI manages to get ahead any distance of you, you can’t catch up no matter what amount of button mashing you do.

This kind of racing AI is the very definition of frustration to gamers. It’s not challenging. It’s not fun. It’s frustrating. It’s cheating. It’s disgusting that gamers have been complaining about this kind of AI tactic for decades, but developers still think it’s okay to put it in their games.

Unfortunately, because you have to be in the first, second, or third place in a triathlon and you need medals in all three triathlons to get 100% completion, you need to suffer the 30 minutes of pain-inducing rubber banding with no clear indication if you’ll be able to win, courtesy of the rubber banding, and hope that one of the AI doesn’t decide to stop in front of you.

(And don’t accidentally hit the right D-pad button  because the game will immediately end the triathlon without  confirming that you wanted to do that.)

Yes, I did! No, you didnt!

Unfortunately, the game is also loaded with some infuriating bugs (or what I hope are bugs).  The biggest one that I’ve encountered comes from the requirement to fly under 50 bridges in an aircraft. I own the Brady Guide for GTA V so I copied the pages for all of the bridges and crossed off every bridge that registered when I flew under it.  Those bridges that didn’t register were left unmarked so that I could verify later if I had truly flown under that bridge or not.

I flew under several bridges several times at various speeds and mostly without damage to the aircraft. Yet three bridges still would not register. Eventually I purchased a small, military attack chopper and tried again.  This time, two bridges finally registered although I still had to pass under them three times. I now have one bridge remaining, even though I have flown under all of the remaining bridges multiple times.

I don’t know if this is malice on the part of the developers by disqualifying the run if a single chopper blade dares to scrape the bridge supports or if it’s a genuine trigger bug. Either way, it leads to an infuriating experience for the completionist.

I still love the game

Don’t misunderstand this post.  The fact that I’ve put almost 100 hours into this game already (and that’s without GTA Online) is a testament to how much I’ve been enjoying it. But for many games there is a line between replaying for enjoyment (like with Saints Row III and IV) and replaying due to pointless difficulty. Sadly, GTA V not only crosses that line into pointless difficulty, it takes a running leap.

I’ll still keep playing the hell out of it, but the frustrations due to the bugs and other unnecessary difficulties to reach 100% completion have tarnished the polish that I’ve been gleefully looking at up to this point.  I’ll still try to satisfy my OCD need for that platinum trophy, but it’s going to be a much longer, plodding chore than it otherwise needs to be.


  One Response to “Grand Theft Auto V: A Completionist’s Nightmare”

Comments (1)
  1. Excellent post, extremely informative and confirmed many suspicions. I play exclusively offline and, it bugs me how little garage space you have.