Grand Theft Auto V

With the release of the goliath called Grand Theft Auto V already upon us, we decided to wait a few days after the release date to get a feel for life in Los Santos and see what it has to offer. Read on to find out why Grand Theft Auto V is the ultimate open-world sandbox experience of this console’s generation.

Grand Theft Auto V’s story is a well-crafted tale with outstanding voice work and direction across the board. The game’s story tells the tale of Michael (an ex-bank robber who is forced back into the heist game), Franklin (an up-and-coming thug who wants to be a better criminal), and Trevor (a psychotic maniac with no remorse); all who, under certain circumstances, have to work as team to make a lot of money through well-constructed heists. The interaction between the characters is fun but make no mistake, each character is a criminal and do very little to make them seem like good guys. It does take a while to warm up to them and one of the characters may seem too cruel at times but, whether you like them or not, you can’t deny that they are extremely interesting to watch. A fair warning, the game is a lot more graphic (both sexually and violently) than previous Grand Theft Auto games, and a mission or two that involve Trevor can make your stomach turn.

The game world itself is a living Los Angeles full of great parodies from Call Of Duty to Facebook and Google. The humour from previous games returns in full force through the game’s news stations, TV channels, and advertising. The Internet plays a stronger role in this game as you can use it to read emails about new upgrades in the garages, weapon stores, and trade stocks as well as look at some very funny website parodies. There’s so much humour in this game that it feels like the game is holding up a funhouse mirror to modern society and its culture so that it effectively delivers a game world that feels almost like a parallel universe to our own.

The missions (and more importantly the heists) in the game are genius and have an excellent variation; no two missions feel the same. Sure, you do the usual “Go here,  watch a cutscene, drive to this spot” formula GTA is known for from time to time but overall, each mission feels unique and there’s no carbon-copies to be found. You can trash a meth lab as Trevor, crash a yacht party as Michael or attempt a kidnapping as Franklin. Missions that involve all three characters are the highlights as switching the characters really helps if you’re not strong on flying, shooting etc. Overall, the main missions are fun and the side-missions can be just as great. Be sure to do as many side missions as main missions as they offer rewards that can help you for future heists.

The controls in the game are very tight. The game’s shooting controls borrow heavily from Max Payne 3 and it’s a lot more difficult to secure that well placed headshot but it’s much more satisfying to shoot in the game than ever before. The driving has improved significantly since GTA IV and it no longer feels like you’re driving a boat on concrete. Sports cars are fast and can drift tightly around corners, trucks are slow but powerful and planes/helicopters are rather awkward to fly at times but after a few hours or so, you’ll be flying like you’re in Top Gun. The three characters special abilities in the game (Michael slows down time, Franklin drives in slo-mo and Trevor can go rage out and become invincible) are useful and can help you out a lot in a tough mission.

GTA V also marks the return of skills and brings a certain RPG element to the game. How to level up skills is very similar to Skyrim; the more you use an ability, the better you get at it. The most important skill is driving as it can help make the car handle better and navigate around tight corners. Other skills include shooting, strength, stealth, stamina, flying and lung capacity. While all the other skills are present, they’re not necessary to complete missions. You will never have to swim around for half an hour to get your stamina up to finish a heist. The skill set is there to give each character a different play style. Michael is a good shot and can be stealthy, Franklin drives excellently and can weave in and out of traffic and Trevor can turn into a bullet sponge and deal a lot damage with his fists. Each character’s skills are initially set but you can increase all of them by doing certain activities like driving into oncoming traffic, swimming underwater and going to a shooting range. Like I said, it’s not necessary to upgrade your skills but it is just another thing to do in this huge game.

Grand Theft Auto V is chock full of things to do. There are so many activities stuffed into the game that it can feel overwhelming and hectic at times, but Grand Theft Auto V is like a fine wine that you sip slowly and savour the taste, not chug it in one go and wonder why there’s none left at the end. The game is made up of numerous activities from races, buying clothes, owning stores, learning to fly, golfing, hunting, diving, customising cars… the list goes on and on! You get your money’s worth with the activities alone, even without the main/side/random missions. The game feels so jam packed with stuff that you’ll be amazed you managed to buy it for $60… And we still have the online coming up. GTA V is probably the ultimate “value for money” game this year.

The world in Grand Theft Auto V feels alive and constantly moving. The world is not focused on you. If you stop, the world around just keeps on moving. GTA games always help capture the feeling that you are an insignificant speck in a huge world and this is certainly true in V. You can be driving down a neighborhood and suddenly hear a loud siren go off and see the cops chasing after a car and urging it to pull over. The game feels like a beehive, constantly buzzing and full of activities which don’t necessarily involve you. It’s almost like looking at a digital version of a real time city and its inhabitants and it is absolutely fascinating.

The game’s soundtrack has a huge plethora of songs to choose from. The radio has stations that play a big variation of genres from country to experimental and hip hop to rock. There’s a good few songs to choose from but don’t expect a huge number of classics on the game like San Andreas’ “Welcome To The Jungle”, “Fools Gold” or “Killing In The Name Of” that help capture the feel of the generation the game is set. I’m not saying that the soundtrack is bad, there’s just not many iconic popular songs in the game as previous games aside from Queen, Rihanna and Snoop Dogg. While the radio has a lot of tunes, the game’s score stands on its own. The score will play from time to time and features some electronic music (which sounds a bit like the music from Max Payne 3 : HEALTH) and rock music that pipes in at appropriate times to help urge you on and pump you up. There’s no feeling like executing a heist while an electronic song blares in the background. The score definitely adds to the game and Rockstar did a top notch job with it.

Grand Theft Auto V is a gorgeous living and breathing game, no doubt about it. When you’re driving along, you can feel the heat of the San Andreas sun beating down on the cracked pavement and illuminating the beautiful white buildings. The civilians chat amongst themselves or on the phone and the graphics help make the game feel like a living world. The variations in environments is welcome after hanging around IV’s concrete jungle for so long. You can expect to see forests, mountains, and beaches. All look very nice and the weather and sun can dramatically change the landscape. The hot white desert can turn into a cool, blue plain at midnight and the exotic beach has a pink/purple sky by the time sunset rolls around. The game has a lot of sights to inspire and it’s one of the prettiest looking and varied environments in open world gaming since Just Cause 2. However, the game can have a few bad textures in places such as car interiors or buildings but it’s such a small thing that you won’t even notice. The game is just jaw-droppingly gorgeous to look at. From the dusty plains to the pretty beaches and to the lush forests to the expensive mansions, GTA V boasts some impressive visuals and is an absolute treat to see. I recommend checking the sites out from the sky in a plane to truly appreciate the scale of the environments in the game.

What else can I say about this game? Besides being a feat of technical brilliance, it has witty and sharp writing with genuine fun that is addictive as it is expansive, Grand Theft Auto V smashes it out of the park with just about everything we love about gaming and towers above many of the essential games of this console generation. Rockstar outdid themselves with this one and managed to make a perfect marriage between the activities of San Andreas and the great storytelling/world of IV, but still take it an extra step further in terms of fun, visuals, and mechanics. Believe the hype; Grand Theft Auto V is one of the legendary games of this console generation and will still be played, discussed, and enjoyed far into the future of the gaming industry.

(Review copy provided by Rockstar for review, thanks from OnlySP)


Story – 10/10

Gameplay/Design – 9/10

Visuals – 10/10

Sound – 10/10

Lasting Appeal – 10/10


Overall – 10/10

(Not an average)

Platforms: PS3/Xbox 360

Developer: Rockstar North

Publisher: Rockstar Games

Nathan Hughes
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