The series that popularised the open-world sandbox action genre is back after a notable five year absence, but Grand Theft Auto V now lives in a world where inFamous and Assassin’s Creed are real and exciting alternatives, while Saints Row has carved out an identity of its own. What has Rockstar Games created in order to once again stomp its authority on the videogame world?
What You Need to Know
At the heart of Grand Theft Auto V is its story and characters, surrounded by the sprawling city of Los Santos and the desert of Blaine County where you’ll find the game’s three main protagonists, namely Michael (a rich and retired bankrobber, now dissatisfied with life), Franklin (a low level gangster out to make his mark on the world) and Trevor (Michael’s former partner in crime and a raging psychopath).
Together, they will shoot, curse, steal, destroy, maim and drive through a story that weaves through sinister, humorous, gaudy and topical situations, touching on subjects that concern the real world. It’s also a tragic tale and oftentimes I found it affecting me pretty deeply, making some scenes difficult to watch.
Other than the sheer production values that afford Grand Theft Auto V the chance to be set in a living city with detail unlike any game before it, the game lets you swap between playing each of the main characters (almost) at any time, either while roaming Los Santos or on a mission, allowing you to jump from one perspective to the next which is most effective in the thick of a shoot-out to gain advantages over enemies.
The game’s set-piece heist sequences are also a highpoint and rely on your own decisions, preparation and setup to determine how successful your crime spree ultimately turns out to be, with chances to rob a jewellery store, raid a government building, loot a bank vault and more, all with varying degrees of intensity.
What’s the Same?
As an open-world game, in Grand Theft Auto V you’ll be carrying out many of the activities that you would expect to see from the genre including fetch quests and travelling from one corner of the city to the other in order to complete missions, find side quests (like helping a paparazzo take celebrity snapshots, or gun down clowns during a drug-fuelled frenzy) and, more or less, run errands for people who need your help and vice versa.
The chance to cause absolute chaos in the streets with a rocket launcher, gun and some well-placed grenades is still an option in GTA V, but not only will the police take you down very quickly if you try, the tone of the game makes this kind of destruction feel out of place.
You’ll Enjoy Grand Theft Auto V If You Liked…
… Previous Grand Theft Auto games, with a good mix of the realism from GTA IV and the freedom of GTA: San Andreas
… The open world adventures of Saints Row, although GTA V is grounded much more in reality (except for a small selection of side missions)
… The involved story and intricate city of Sleeping Dogs
What I Liked
- .5) Dynamic missions can pop up at any time while driving around Los Santos, which let me choose whether or not to help a mugging victim, protect a security van, answer a call for help in a dodgy part of town, escort a celebrity hounded by paparazzi and other interesting diversions, all fully voiced with possible story ramifications.
- .4) The world of Los Santos is the most believable I’ve ever encountered in an open-world game, made all the more real with fake brands (with matching billboard, radio and TV adverts), movies to watch, a working and interconnected internet system, and a stock market that reacts to in-game events to let you benefit from your actions.
- .3) Swapping between main characters on-the-fly during a mission and while poking around Los Santos gave me a great sense of gameplay freedom, and even though it’s been done before, it’s used effectively in GTA V.
- .2) The attention to detail in GTA V is astonishing, all the way from being able to use ‘dim’ and ‘bright’ lights in the cars you drive, to hearing passers-by conduct full cellphone conversations and witnessing the incredible recreation of landmark areas of real-world Los Angeles.
- .1) GTA V’s story is as involving and complex as you’re likely to see, with characters brought to virtual life thanks to extraordinary voice acting performances and dialogue filled with personality and authentic slang that really helps sell their individuality.
Standing on the coastline looking out over the ocean at sunset and seeing the festive lights of the Vespucci Beach pier dancing and rippling on the water below, which solidified the illusion of Los Santos existing as a believable place in my imagination.
What I Didn’t Like
- .5) The dissonance between your actions in GTA V and the resultant dialogue and reactions from other characters in the game can be very distracting. You can act like a lunatic on a slaughter rampage or an absolute saint, and whoever you’re with at the time will praise or despise you before having their mental state wiped clean when saying goodbye.
- .4) Mission checkpoints can be very inconsistent and quite often set me back much further than I anticipated if I failed a mission, forcing me to carry out some or other banal task again.
- .3) GTA V tells a huge overarching story with dozens of cut-scenes and dialogue sequences that build up the characters and their history very well, but it’s all wrapped up extremely quickly in about two short missions at the end of the game, somehow cheapening everything that came before it, and then rushes to an unsatisfying ending with hardly any resolution between its characters.
- .2) Character movement in GTA V is very twitchy and imprecise, and I could never find a happy medium with the game’s different shooting systems which range from rigid lock-ons to complete aiming freedom – I never felt fully settled and confident in my actions even after over thirty hours of game time.
- .1) My biggest problem with GTA V is that it gave me a chance to notice the game’s slow pace and become frustrated with tedious tasks and long stretches of quite frankly dull gameplay. When I think of my time in the game, extended driving sections, waiting for taxis and controlling incredibly slow special vehicles come to mind. I have to dig a little deeper into my memory to remember the high points, like the heists and character performances.
Least Favourite Moment
An unskippable torture scene in which I played as the torturer, using waterboarding methods in concert with tooth-pulling techniques to get answers from a desperate, pleading captive.
Grand Theft Auto V – Launch Trailer
Every mission in Grand Theft Auto V rates your performance based on a set of criteria, and you’ll have the option to replay these challenges to improve your rating by meeting these conditions (although it’s not entirely clear what the purpose of the rating is).
Once the main story is complete you’ll also be able to clean up any side missions you may have missed and enjoy all-new challenges, drive around finding dynamic missions, and generally explore the gigantic world looking for any hidden extras that Rockstar has tucked away.
The game’s multiplayer component, GTA Online, is also due out on October 1st for owners of GTA V.
The Bottom Line
The detailed open world, realisation of the story and exhilarating heists in Grand Theft Auto V are astounding achievements and act as towering benchmarks for videogames, but the sprawl of this world and its adherence to realism was often a detriment resulting in some extended periods of tedium.