Adult content in game's new version means this far is far enough, writes Karl Puschmann.

With barely a second thought I swerved my car off the road and ploughed straight into a procession of chanting Hare Krishna devotees.

As I mowed them down their peaceful entreat twisted into bloodcurdling shrieks, their tambourines and faith little defence against the tonnage and speed of my late model sedan. It was all over so quickly, leaving only a grisly silence and the light crackle of the radio.

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Getting out of my stolen car I surveyed the carnage. A crimson river flowed from the orderly line of flattened bodies on the footpath. Somewhere in the distance a dog barked.


Perhaps, I thought, they are now at peace. It was a good thought.

And I held on to it as I got back in the car.

Shortly after I saved my progress in Grand Theft Auto (GTA) and turned off my PlayStation One. I went outside and didn't steal a car. Instead, I hopped into the one I was slowly paying off and drove to the bakery without incident.

True, I didn't see any Hare Krishnas along the way but if I had I'm positive I wouldn't have thought to run them down.

And that's for two reasons:

1) The world I'd just left and the actual world bore no resemblance to each other. Sure, both had roads and cars and Hare Krishnas, but one was clearly a cartoonish videogame and the other clearly was not.

2) I'm not a psycho killer.

Even for the time GTA's graphics were rubbish. They were incredibly basic and the game's overhead view, looking down from the sky, kept you entirely detached from your increasingly outlandish criminal actions.

But moral crusaders will find whatever they can to cry about and GTA's R18-rated, crime-does-pay storyline ensured plenty of scandal and outrage from the get-go. The objections to the series have only grown in tandem with its popularity and now the laundry list of criticisms that greet each new entry in gaming's biggest franchise almost read like a feature set.

Too violent, too misogynistic, too inappropriate, too available to kids, too not very nice. Well, credit where it's due, the crusaders aren't wrong. GTA is all of those things.

But it's also a lot of fun. And unlike way back when, it's now one of the most graphically cutting-edge games around.

GTAV, which came out this week on the new consoles, is a technological achievement.

All the next-gen grunt of the PS4 and XboxOne being put to use powering an all-new first person mode that, for the first time in a GTA game, allows you to see the world through the eyes of your character.

This means that detachment has now been replaced with total immersion. GTA has always been a criminal simulator, but now it actually feels like one.

And that's a little terrifying.

Revelling in the slaughter of innocents is a series trademark, but now, up close and personal, you can see the very real fear in your victim's eyes when you pull a knife or a gun or point your accelerating car at them.

Maybe this is a good thing? Humanising victims and making the players think twice before gleefully running down pedestrians or robbing a store. Maybe it's a bad thing? Simply expediting the increasing desensitisation of our modern age.

I don't know. But I do know that an online gameplay clip showing the "hero" and a prostitute crossed all sorts of lines between being an adult videogame and being flat-out porn.

How far is too far? Right about here, I reckon.

Yes, there's an R18 sticker on the box. Big whoops. About the only thing more routinely ignored by society than the videogame rating system is the Labour Party. And that's saying something ...

I guess it's just a sign o' the times. All I know is that I miss those innocent days of carefree killings and random rampages. Whoever would have thought they would lead us here?