GRAND THEFT AUTO V As is the case with all heists, it was the monkey's idea.

I'M SPEEDING DOWN the San Andreas freeway in a stolen Bugatti, or something so close to a Bugatti it doesn't matter. A dozen cops are on my tail. A sniper in a helicopter takes careful aim and blows out my tires, causing my supercar to flip and roll off the side of the embankment. I leap out, sprint toward a nearby bicycle, and out of nowhere a cougar eats me.

Up until that last moment, this all seemed like typical Grand Theft Auto fare—but then you notice the level of detail packed into Rockstar's latest open-world crime simulator. Rockstar's version of Los Angeles isn't just a surprisingly apt re-creation of reality. It's also riddled with all kinds of new people and places to keep you entertained. Want to go hunting? Want to race jet skis off the coast? Want to set up a lucrative weed empire on the boardwalk and live out your latent Mary-Louise Parker fantasies? That's all available in Grand Theft Auto V's massive virtual world. Rockstar even swiped the gunplay mechanics from Red Dead Redemption, making shootouts in GTA V much easier than they've ever been.

Despite offering such diverse content, GTA V is likely to offend players: One mission sees your character waterboarding a terrorism suspect with gasoline. This would be appalling enough, but then you start beating the man's kneecaps to pieces with a giant wrench—all in a fully interactive minigame. Topical or not, it's hard not to grimace at the graphic torture; while GTA V generally revels in light-hearted chaos, the squeamish may want to turn away from certain scenes.

That said, the scope of San Andreas—and the 100-plus hours of content Rockstar has packed into it—make GTA V a top contender for game of the year honors (even without its multiplayer component, which debuts in October). If you can't stand brutality, so be it. But by skipping this game, you'll be missing what may be the best release of the modern console generation.