(*possible spoilers ahead*)
Throughout the first 10-15 hours of my first play through of GTA V I have been very reluctant to play the game as Trevor. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. Maybe it was because I found Michael more relatable, given that his current life is more akin to my own.
Well, at least closer to my own than a kid from the ‘hood and a meth-dealing lunatic.
But when I’d exhausted Michael to the point of wandering the map and watching Italian art-house movies, I would jump to Franklin and give him a few hours of my time. I find him a less interesting character but he comes across as a bright kid with a desire for something more than just a life of petty-crimes and drug dealing.
At the heart of both of these characters there is a desire to take what they can, while they can, and then get out while the going is good. The end-goal is always money and you suspect that once they have accumulated enough they will cut off any ties to the criminal underworld and disappear into the sunset.
Trevor Phillips though, is a totally different beast.
In crafting Trevor, Rockstar have created an outlet to all of our baser desires. Want to mow down pedestrians? He’ll do it with not a second thought. Want to ‘jack a firetruck and drive it off a bridge? Knock yourself out. Want to ruthlessly beat somebody to death after being found with their meth-addicted ladyfriend? Well, you’re in luck, because that’s the very first thing you’ll do as Trevor and, not only that, but you’ll also be planting your boot firmly into the skull of former GTA IV anti-hero, Johnny Klebitz.
There was something really uncomfortable in brutally murdering a former leading character and the guys utterly ignominious death seems to go some way to sum up the essence of Trevor’s personality.
Whilst wandering through the city of Los Santos with Michael or Franklin I’ve mostly tried to keep a lid on things. I rarely harm anybody unless I have to and I try not to wantonly steal cars or commit minor misdemeanors. I don’t feel like either character would go out of their way to draw any unnecessary heat.
I’ll always run red lights and often drive into oncoming lanes, as if you waited in line like everybody else you’d be playing the game well into your retirement.
Yet, once in Trevor’s boots again, the anticipation that I was now allowed to play GTA the way I used to, it made me feel… weirdly uncomfortable.
No other scene, up to now, summed up why better than the torture sequence during an early FIB mission.
Now, I’ve played through some of those very ‘controversial’ sequences in games, such as ‘No Russian’ (during which I only committed ‘mercy killings’ for those already dying), amongst others but I have rarely felt as much like I wanted to switch a game off out of sheer distress as during this scene.
The abandon, the almost casual disregard with which Trevor approaches the torture of what may – or may not – be a mostly innocent man is highly disturbing. The experience is torture in itself, given the vibrations of the controller as you’re pulling teeth or being able to choose between one or two nipples when you’re giving the man electric shocks – it starts to feel like you’re not just enabling the character to do this but you’re taking part yourself.
This isn’t a moral outrage or me saying ‘I’m too grown up now, I can’t do this anymore’, I’m simply stating that, in Trevor, Rockstar have created a character that seems to finally embody the spirit of the series. Trevor does, says and acts how he pleases and to hell with the consequences.
He doesn’t usually take a great deal of pleasure in what he does, but that makes him more unsettling. When critics and outsiders think of gaming, they tend to think of GTA, and GTA tends to mean mindless kids riding around with buses full of prostitute, cackling with glee as they drive the bus off a bridge into a large body of water.
But in actual fact, it’s probably more disturbing. If you need to get from A-to-B, you don’t want to be taking forever and if that means stealing a few cars, mowing down a few pedestrians and wiping out half the local law enforcement, then so be it, if it means I complete my mission. Trevor is the ideal avatar for that nonchalant attitude – if it’s in my way, I will go through it; if it’s something I want, I will take it.
I will continue my play through, I will enjoy it and I will undoubtedly go on several more driving and killing rampages as Trevor, as the game requires and I’m sure, from time-to-time, I will get a little perverse kick out of it.
I think Trevor Phillips is a superbly crafted lunatic and beneath that unhinged exterior, you can sense there is an intelligent, single-minded human being. He perfectly represents everything that is great and awful about the GTA franchise but that doesn’t mean I have to like him.
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