But as I said, being bad people isn't necessarily the problem with the characters. What could be the problem is that their character arcs do not involve them having to change into better people; if anything, they all seem to be about other people having to accept them for who they are. But then again, changing into better people is kind of a lost cause while the player's still in control. No, what really makes me dislike the characters is that they're just not consistent.
Trevor switches back and forth between monster and free-spirited rogue. Relatedly, Michael can't seem to decide if Trevor is a dangerous threat to him or an old friend with whom he must bury the hatchet. Does Franklin want to escape from the dead end that is 'tha hood' and make something of his life, or does he want to stay true to his fellows? And while being conflicted isn't the same as being inconsistent, there's still the problem of motivation.
Motivation is central to a protagonist's character. As long as we, the audience, can in some way share the personal goal of our protagonists, whether it be to strike it rich or watch pedestrians sail hilariously through the air, then engagement can follow. And the question that keeps coming to mind when I think of the protagonists of GTAV is this: What could possibly happen to these characters that could finally make them happy and satisfied with their lives?
Because it seems like Franklin could find something to whine about in a consequence-free life of hedonistic sex with a pile of warmed-up partially-set meringue. Michael's eventual goal is to strike it rich through crime and then retire happily in luxury, forgetting that this is precisely what he already did, and apparently it didn't stick. It could be that he wants to reconcile with his family, but I'm not sure why, because they're a bunch of tossers. Trevor mainly seems to want to expand his criminal operations, and absolutely nothing places more than a momentary barrier in the way of him achieving that, but again, it doesn't seem to help him clean up.
See, for all the problems GTAIV had, Nico Bellic was not one of them. He was probably in the wrong game for him, but he was a strong character. He starts off as a blank slate, arriving at Liberty City with nothing except the desire to build a new life from absolutely nothing. A clear motivation that all life-forms can sympathize with: the desire to get by. As the game goes on and we learn more about him, we find that he's trying to fill a hole that goes far deeper; to move on from his old life of poverty and horror to achieve the promised American dream. His tragedy is that he can never truly escape from the darkness of his past, because it's a part of him, which he carries everywhere he goes.
Niko could carry a game all by himself, but none of the GTA5 bunch can. They can't even do so through a combined effort, 'cos three mediocre story arcs do not add up to a good one. It's like taking three lukewarm showers because you figure that adds up to a hot one, and not a massive water bill and stubby nipples.
Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn't talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.