Franklin Clinton – The Gangbanger
I wake up and leave my house in Vinewood Hills. I hop on the motorcycle I kept after a repo job with Lamar and ride down into the city. Los Santos is peaceful mid-morning. I drive down to the city to meet up with a friend at the airport. He’s an adrenaline junkie.
This time, our stunt is to take two ATVs and board a commercial airliner as it takes off. Easy enough. The hard part is getting back to the ground, riding our ATVs out of the airliner and straight down toward the Alamo Sea.
Apparently I bail much sooner than my partner expected. I guess he wanted me to crash into the lake. Instead I slowly parachute down, trying to land as close to the shore as possible. After a short swim, I find myself an unoccupied truck.
I’m driving through Blaine County, still wet from the sea, when I come to a stop sign near a motel in the middle of the desert. You know the kind. The ones in the movies where people hideout, buy prostitutes, sell drugs or kill someone. Police cars block off the entrance. There’s a car pointing out, a failed escape. Gunshots ring as I watch from the stop sign.
An ambulance drives up moments later. The medics check out the two bodies on the ground. Dead. They only managed to take one cop with them. Another cop threatens me with “complications” if I stick around.
I leave and drive back into Los Santos on a dirtbike I found abandoned in the hills between Los Santos and Sandy Shores. I’m looking for a car that had a cooler of weed in it somewhere in the west side. Someone offered to pay me some fat cash if I get that ganja to him.
Turns out the car is a piece of shit and I end up having to tow it to his residence. By the time I get there, darkness had fallen over Los Santos. From outside the heart of the metropolis, I watch as it unfolds before me, all the big city lights hypnotizing me. Making sure that I know, that I believe that this was my home. It’s like a casino. Those bright colors and appealing patterns hook you. As I watch the orbs of headlights flow through the latticework of highways, I realize it’s absolutely enchanting. I just don’t know if it’s for better or for worse.
Trevor Philips – The Madman
Trevor’s coming fast down the Senora Freeway with cops hot on his tail. The pigs shout through the megaphone for him to stop the car. According to Trevor, smoking crack is an American right that should be cherished.
In an effort to find an offroad place to hide from the cops, I get stuck. The cops fly down the nearby traintracks. I have no other choice but to bail out and head to the freeway on foot. I manage to avoid their sight long enough for the search to cease. The stars fall off my screen and I’m no longer wanted.
Or so I thought. With their vehicles of oppression stalled on the freeway, the cops get out and chase me. On foot. Too much fast food means they’re nowhere near fit enough to keep up with me. A couple of them get hit by cars that can’t stop in time.
I steal someone’s bike and drove past a hitchhiker who needed a ride to visit her boyfriend that works security behind the big Vinewood sign. On the way there, she gets a call from him. She tries to deny everything, but the gist is that all of her self-proclaimed bohemian adventures are trysts to Sandy Shores to do drugs and sleep around.
Her boyfriend, smart enough to know his girlfriend isn’t entirely faithful, isn’t too happy to see a man driving her up the mountain. He runs out of his post and attacks me. I have no choice but to beat him down. In self-defense.
I flee the flurry of threats and slurs and ride back down the mountain on my motorcycle, leaving the hitchhiker to pick up the pieces of her broken relationship and boyfriend. Vinewood Boulevard Radio starts the day off right.
Michael de Santa – The Retiree
I’m driving through the Tongva Hills north of Los Santos in my Coquette. The purple silhouette slips through the bends until I get on the Great Ocean Highway that runs up the left side of the sister counties.
As I cross a bridge over one of the rivers that connects the Alamo Sea to the ocean, I notice several red dots on my minimap. When I get down there, there are several trucks facing inward. Horns blare nonstop with lifeless bodies slumped against the steering wheels. Several corpses litter the ground. A gang deal turned standoff, gone bad.
Two people are still bleeding out. I find them both down a steep slope, collapsed on the ground, a briefcase beside them. As I move to grab the briefcase, one of them speaks.
“Don’t touch that briefcase.”
I take it. $25,000 dollars inside. A pretty nice find for not that much work.
“Fuck you,” one of them barks. They bleed out.
That was easy. There was no trap, just the spoils of a deal gone wrong. I get back in my car and resume my trip to the Sonar Collections Dock. The dock is off the Great Ocean Highway, down another dirt path and then a rickety wooden staircase. It’s dusk and the evening light glitters on the crashing waves.
About halfway down the path a truck slams into the back of my Coquette. The windshield of my car shatters and spills out over the white hood. Bullets pierce the back window and lodge into the leather seats.
I pull a shotgun from my car and step out. They bolt, desperate to find cover, and eat a shell each. Losing their lives probably wasn’t worth trying to get $25,000 back, but smart people wouldn’t have tried to kill a far more experienced criminal than them.
A shame about my car, though. Gonna have to take her back to Los Santos Customs for some more bodywork.
What makes Grand Theft Auto V special are the little stories like the ones above. These aren’t the most interesting or most exciting things that have happened to me in my 41 hours spent jaunting across Los Santos and Blaine Counties. These are some of the events that stuck with me.
I’ll remember the main story, sure. There’s a plethora of flashy set-pieces: bank heists and torture scenes. Really gratuitous, AAA blockbuster type stuff. But only a couple a months after completion, I forgot some of the major plot points. Why things happen, who’s who and so on. What does stick with me are all of these little moments. The random events, calling up another main character and going to hang out at a bar, or just driving around and listening to the radio.
Attention to detail makes Grand Theft Auto V truly special. Rockstar did a magnificent job of making Los Santos feel like a living, breathing place, eerily similar to the Los Angeles it’s based on. There’s a sick wonder sparked from seeing piles of trash under an overpass, the foreclosure signs that mark the 2008 financial crisis and the way the raindrops splash in real time in a moody night. The urban sprawl contrasts with the untamed wilderness of Mount Chiliad and the rest of Blaine County above, all to give the player plenty to discover around every corner.
This is truly a world you can get lost in. More importantly, it’s a world whose mundanity can suck you in. Whether it’s walking down Vinewood Boulevard, past the shops with clothes that cost more than South Los Santos apartments, or driving around the desert listening to Rebel Radio playing “Whiskey River.” There’s a simple pleasure to be found in the pristine polish of this game’s most minor parts.
I probably won’t ever play Grand Theft Auto V’s main story again. What keeps making me boot it up is the opportunity to explore Los Santos, even if it’s just to drive around and enjoy those Vinewood nights.