- Platform: PlayStation 3 (reviewed), Xbox 360
- Published By: Rockstar Games
- Developed By: Rockstar North
- Genre: Action-adventure
- ESRB Rating: M for Mature
- Number of Players: 1, 1-16 Online Multiplayer
- Release Date: September 17, 2013
It’s kind of crazy thinking that it’s already been five years since we’ve last seen a new entry in the Grand Theft Auto series. It’s also crazy to think that we’ve been waiting a good two years to get our hands on Rockstar North’s newest entry into this extremely popular franchise. Be it for its controversy, massive worlds or memorable moments, Grand Theft Auto is known to everyone even more so than other popular franchises, such as Call of Duty. Make no mistake, games like Red Dead Redemption and L.A. Noire are well crafted and enjoyable games, but Grand Theft Auto always makes sure to raise the bars higher than ever before – and Grand Theft Auto V is no different
GTA V sees players returning to the beautiful western state of Los Santos. As noted well before the game’s release, Los Santos has seen a massive expansion, but let’s not question the logic behind a massive growth and instead praise Rockstar for crafting an incredibly robust and living world. Whether you’re swimming with the fishes (no pun intended,) soaring through the skies thanks to the much wanted return of airplanes, or getting flipped off by another driver on the urban streets, Los Santos is a living and breathing city that is a spectacle to look at and interact with. Save for some minor pop in and expected glitches, the game looks absolutely beautiful on a grand scale. Character animations are much improved from GTA IV, although certain features are a lot more blocky than others. All in all, the game is a huge leap forward graphically from past GTA titles.
Stories have never been Grand Theft Auto’s strongest points, but it did always give players a small reason to go around and screw things up in the open worlds in each respective title. However, GTA V looks to change the mindset of players as it brings it with a trio of characters that are memorable for all the wrong, yet somehow, right reasons. Michael, Franklin, and Trevor are all unique in their own ways, yet the best moments in the game are watching the three interact in missions. When tension increases, it feels genuine and the same can be said for the minor touchy moments of the game. The beginning of the game can feel a bit slow, especially after the fantastic prologue, but as players advance, the story does grow to become more and more interesting. Where Niko failed, the three new characters succeed in becoming some of Rockstar North’s best characters in the series.
Also worth noting is the fantastic satirical moments of GTA V. A sucker for satire, seeing the smallest things poked fun at – such as the Facebook clone, LifeInvader – to much more familiar concepts, like first person shooters and their constant milking of the same content felt both comical yet makes you realize the deep truth behind it. As I sat and watched Michael’s son, Jimmy, so focused on his multiplayer shooter that he began to rant about raping the opposing players, I realized that is isn’t too different from how my friends and even I sometimes play these games.
Fixing up a well focused and comical narrative is not the only thing Rockstar North made sure to fix as the game also features a massive overhaul in terms of gameplay. Gunplay and cover systems were properly reworked completely, and feels a lot more responsive and comfortable this time around. While it may take some time to get used to, after a few go arounds, it becomes a lot easier and feels incredibly smooth. Driving has also been slightly reworked, which can take a lot more getting used to as opposed to the shooting mechanics. Your first high speed chase or stroll may end in some huge wrecks if you don’t ease in on the changes. Braking is a lot more spot on and handling is a bit more loose, all fitting with the highly realistic tone of the game.
One thing that made GTA IV rather enjoyable was its lack of mission variety. Almost every mission felt very similar and the experience began to get rather repetitive. That is almost never the case with GTA V, with every mission topping the one before it. When I felt like a mission couldn’t be topped, I was proved wrong. Between riding a dirt bike on a moving train to take a submarine down into the depths of the ocean, each mission provided something wildly different to make for an extended enjoyable time. Also, while the concept of adding three playable characters into the mix was both jarring and worrisome at first, it turns out that it makes for incredible moments in gameplay. Caught up in a big bind with one character in a three character mission? Switch over to someone else and assist the other character’s AI. Switching is also a breeze, literally changing characters with the press of a button in a mission. Switching in an open world, however, is done by holding the button and choosing the character. Not difficult at all, but worth noting.
Mission variety was much needed this time around, but as if that wasn’t enough, the addition of heist jobs make for the game’s most memorable moments. Planning out jobs with the crew, laying down the groundwork, preparing for the heist, and finally achieving your goal after a truly epic mission is such a satisfying, incredibly fun and remarkable experience. It got to the point that preparing up for “The Big One” (you’ll catch that after you play) had me as a player feeling legitimately anxious and eager to make sure things went as smooth as possible. Players are usually offered one of two choices, a subtle approach and an all-out approach. Making sure to toy around with these options, these heists find you doing both outlandish things and surprisingly odd jobs to achieve your goal. One heist actually forced me to pick up a mop and clean a building to advance further. Throw in the fact that players are given the choice on who to bring along for the heist, the options available to you are superb and could leave players wanting to return to redo the heist in an incredibly different way.
Liberty City saw a massive expansion when GTA IV released in 2008, but one thing that made the overall result disappointing was the lack of things to do in that massive city. Los Santos more than doubles the size of GTA IV’s Liberty City, so is there still little to do? Quite the opposite, actually. Los Santos is littered with tons and tons of sports, races, events and more to tackle during or after the game’s conclusion. The game also comes packed with side missions for each character that are surprisingly awesome. Throw in the fact that each mission is replayable to earn better scores and tackle the 100% challenge that most completionists tend to reach to complete, and you are sure to return to Los Santos a plethora of times, even after the start of the next generation. Grand Theft Auto Online also looks to give players a whole new experience in the massive city, leaving for even more hours of playtime. Unfortunately, the online portion won’t be available until October 1.
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Grand Theft Auto V does a lot more than give players an enjoyable time in a massive city. This game proves that even with a new set of consoles on the way, the current generation has a lot more left to offer. It proves that Rockstar is still the reigning king of open world games, delivering a cinematic experience with superb writing, character interactions, and quality satirical comedy elements. The game delivers a beautiful looking, living, breathing massive world with the upgraded Los Santos. Grand Theft Auto V is not only the best Grand Theft Auto title released to date but is one of the best games released this generation and of all time.
FINAL SCORE: 10/10
[Note: A retail copy of the Grand Theft Auto V was provided by Rockstar for review]