Reviewed by: Brady Ruiters
Reviewed on: PlayStation 3
Also available on: Xbox 360
Rockstar Games has finally released their much anticipated title, Grand Theft Auto V (or commonly known as GTA) and it looks like it could be the biggest GTA title that the developers have ever created. Let’s take a look under the hood and see what Grand Theft Auto V has to offer.
For the first time in the series’ history, GTA V’s story follows the lives of three different characters. They are all unique in their own ways and have their own traits and personalities. However, their lives do link up and the result is rather entertaining. Michael, a former con man in his 40’s, lives in a big house in Vinewood not really content with how his life has turned out. Franklin, a gangbanger, doesn’t want to conform to the stereotype but still takes every chance he gets to hit it big where cash is concerned. Finally, there’s Trevor; an unhinged psychopath who lives in the desert, sells meth and kills whoever stands in his way without batting an eyelid. This collection of anti-heroes makes for some interesting dialogue and also some hilarious situations. At first, the lives of these characters are mostly unrelated but once their paths cross, things really start to pick up.
GTA V has been dubbed as a “heist game” and that is exactly what the story entails; pulling off increasingly bigger heists, among other things. These heists can be done with different approaches; either go in smart, avoiding conflict as much as possible or use the “all guns blazing” approach, which is self-explanatory. Players will also encounter various characters throughout San Andreas who can be used as crew members for the heists throughout the game. Using the same members throughout the game will result in them gaining experience and becoming more skilled. The team also attracts the wrong kind of people and this makes for some sticky situations – often giving the characters a reason for the heists.
The three characters also feel a lot more real or rather, relatable. When switching between the characters in game, they are engaged in activities and are not just sitting around on one spot waiting to be active. Michael might be dropping his wife at a jewellery store while Franklin might be spending time with his dog, Chop. These occurrences are all random and give the player an idea of what the character might like doing in their spare time. I’ll admit that I was both worried and excited about the game having three playable characters but Rockstar has done a fantastic job at making it work really well and as always, they have created some memorable characters.
The story moves along at a good pace and this is also helped by a strong cast of characters. This is not only true for the main story but for the side missions too. Players will meet a range of weird and interesting characters around San Andreas. Missions are also more varied than ever, so much so that the player never knows what might happen next. No more driving to point A, engaging enemies at point A and then initiating a car chase at point B. Missions are more fun and unpredictable this time around.
Much has changed where gameplay is concerned; the game has received nearly a complete overhaul. Yes, it is still a GTA title in that it is open-world and functions as a third-person shooter game – but it’s just so much better.
The first thing that players will notice is that vehicles handle a lot better now, but not so much that driving every vehicle is perfect; it’s still possible to crash. Because of the improved vehicle handling, it’s a lot less tedious when driving to locations or simply exploring. Handling is also more realistic in that vehicles react more like their real world counterparts; they feel weighted and even struggle to gather speed when encountering an incline. When flying planes, the turbulence can actually be felt and will change the direction or orientation of the aircraft.
The combat mechanics have also been upgraded; the cover system is a lot more effective and taking part in gunfights feels more exciting as opposed to be a bit of a chore. Characters can also carry more than one weapon from a specific gun type; no more choosing whether to go with an AK-47 or a carbine rifle, you can carry both and decide on the fly. Weapons now also have customisation options including adding a suppressor or maybe even a scope. Additionally, paint jobs can be applied to nearly every weapon available in the game. Another new feature being used in GTA V is the weapon wheel, which was seen last seen in Red Dead Redemption. This comes in handy as it slows down time a little and also is less tedious than using the left and right buttons on the D-pad to find the right weapon.
Since GTA V has 3 playable characters, players will be able to switch between them at almost any time. It’s as simple as choosing who you want to play as from a selection wheel. The game will then zoom out, pan over to the part of the map where the character is and zoom in. As mentioned before, the characters will be going about their daily lives. The switching feature actually works really well and is practically seamless.
Michael, Franklin and Trevor each have their own special ability to utilise during the game. Michael has the ability to slow down time when using firearms, Franklin can perform focused driving in a slowed down state and Trevor goes into a rage mode where he deals more damage to enemies while taking less damage to himself. Filling the special ability metre is done by performing certain actions, with each set of actions being different for each character. For example, Michael pulling off headshots fills his meter while Franklin driving against traffic without being hit would fill his.
Making a return to the series is the stat system; each character has a set of stats representing their skills which can be increased by pulling off certain actions. The strength skill determines melee damage and also how much damage a character will take. It can be increased by fighting with enemies but also by playing sports such as tennis, golf and darts. Lung capacity can be would determine how long a character can stay underwater and can be increased by staying underwater for periods at a time. This system is definitely a welcome return as characters can be upgraded making for much smoother missions.
The amount of activities available in GTA V is somewhat astonishing. It seems that Rockstar have really gone out of their way to keep players occupied for a very long time. Aside from killing and stealing, players can also engage in recreational activities such as playing golf, tennis and even doing yoga. Triathalons also make a comeback after being seen last in GTA: San Andreas. Exploring the ocean is also now possible and can be done either using a mini submarine or scuba gear; just watch out for sharks when using the latter. There is just so much to do and it’s a little hard to mention them all here; it has to be experienced.
GTA V is a beautiful game. Visually, the title is rather impressive and this can be seen in both big and little things. Character models look good and cutscenes have been done well. The world of San Andreas feels like just like that: a living breathing world. The city of Los Santos feels alive and a lot more populated than any other GTA city before it.
The little things like sunsets over mountainsides and the ocean really immerses the player to a point where it hardly feels like they’re playing a game. Denting cars by kicking them, sweat on characters’ clothing and realistic weather are but a few examples. The little things in the game really make for a very pleasurable experience. The only issue I really had with the visuals were the seldom freezes while I was driving or the pop-in structures like a lamp post. However, it’s still a small issue and thus, can be forgiven.
Audio is pretty much on par with the visuals. Voice acting has been incredibly well done and makes for some interesting banter during cutscenes or even just on the way to a mission location. Weapons also sound like players would imagine them to sound. They feel like they have power with each shot fired and punches hitting their mark also sound like they hurt.
As always, Rockstar have created a soundtrack which makes for a pleasurable listening experience. The radio stations available in the game play a wide variety of music making nearly anyone feel at home. The music used during missions also fits each situation perfectly; frantic music plays for tense moments or adrenaline pumping situations while a track with a slower tempo might play during a stealthy part of a mission. Also, aside from the music playing on the radio stations, the hosts of the various shows are pretty entertaining with their politically incorrect humour and sometimes downright stupidity. Series staple, Lazlow, is back once again making both friends and enemies in San Andreas.
GTA V is an amazing game and is an absolute worthy addition to the series. The game may have a few hiccups in terms of some freezing and pop-in, but considering the fact that Rockstar has created an amazing world which actually feels alive; it’s surprising that there weren’t more issues. The world feels huge and it’s a lot of fun exploring every part of it.
The story and its characters are great and it’s nice to see that Rockstar can make a three character plot work so well. Also, the attention to detail that has gone into the game will immerse nearly everyone whether they’re just playing around in the world or are doing everything that the title has to offer. GTA V would be a welcome addition to nearly every gamer’s library.