SPOILER WARNING: In case you didn’t realise it with the pretty obviously named article, we’re about to talk about the ending to Grand Theft Auto V. If you haven’t gotten there yet, you may want to come back when you have.
Did Rockstar feel obliged to include multiple endings in Grand Theft Auto V? It certainly felt like it.
Given that the game has three playable leads, three endings with a fatal outcome for each seemed plausible and likely. To an extent this plays into the finale – which has Franklin choose between killing Trevor, Michael or neither.
Neither is option C, labelled Deathwish, and it implies Franklin’s sacrifice to save his two colleagues. This isn’t how it happens of course, all three survive, but the chance of it happening weighs on the minds of players when they’re forced to choose.
Option C is also the most satisfying ending, rewarding players with all three characters in the post-credits game and a mission worthy of being the finale. On its own it is a good ending, but take all three conclusions into account and suddenly things look different.
Just how much better option C is compared to the alternative finales is laughable. The only conclusion to reach is that Rockstar wanted people to choose the more heroic ending – a notion which goes against having multiple endings entirely.
Options A and B see Franklin meet Trevor and Michael at the same location before a chase sequence that leads to their respective deaths.
A is a logical choice for Franklin to make. Trevor is a psychopath and a liability who could kill anyone at any given moment. His death too is fittingly grim and Michael plays a role in putting him down, a bigger one should you take too long, though he seems to despise Franklin afterwards for doing it.
Franklin killing Michael in B makes no sense at all given their relationship. Michael gives Franklin opportunity after opportunity in the game, setting up his life in the Los Santos hills in the process. The lapse in logic is compounded when, completely out of the blue and moments before Franklin intends to kill Michael, the father of two discovers that his daughter – a vapid fame-obsessed girl – is suddenly set to enrol in college.
Its poor writing preceding a poor ending in which the player does nothing but chase. A at least lets the player pull the trigger, in B Michael’s fall is in a cutscene and by his own design. How terrible the endings are, and the lack of comeuppance they dish out to anyone other than Trevor, is a slap to the face of any player who chooses them.
As the game reaches its conclusions we see the Michael/Trevor friendship reach boiling point when Trevor discovers what Michael did to ensure his own survival. Their paths set them on a collision course that would seem to end with either one of their deaths.
This very important aspect to the story only figures into the first two endings in the smallest ways. Whoever Franklin chooses to kill, he calls the other for help. Michael decides to help, seeing Trevor as a rabid dog that needs putting down, and Trevor refuses to help, displaying how much loyalty ultimately means to him.
There are numerous ways Rockstar could have played with expectations or at least justified the deaths of Trevor or Michael with some level of creativity. Having chosen to kill Michael, Franklin could have had doubts leading the trio into a situation in which Michael sacrifices his life for Franklin’s.
Trevor too could have gone out in a blaze of glory (rather than just a blaze) having taken on the game’s villains and escaping Franklin’s assassination attempt.
Failing that, what if a lead character killed another, but instead it was you looking down the barrel rather than pulling the trigger? To have one of the characters turn suddenly on the one you’re controlling and kill them would have been a shocking and memorable moment.
It seems that Rockstar saw that they had three characters and felt compelled to include multiple endings, which could well have worked wonderfully. When two of those endings seem throwaway however, it lessens the impact and calls Rockstar’s intentions into doubt.
With three characters and the precedent set by Red Dead Redemption’s incredible finale, Rockstar could have created something special in Grand Theft Auto V, instead they dampened a great game.