- Real Estate
- Paris Flash
The developers at Rockstar North have really outdone themselves with this one. The king of open world games returns with Grand Theft Auto V, the biggest game this year, and arguably the biggest game this generation. The latest entry in the GTA series aims to shake up the genre by presenting the most ambitious open world game to date, filled with tons of things to do and see, all tied together by a gripping crime drama surrounding three main characters. Sounds like a lot, and it doesn’t skimp on anything to get there either. This game is so packed full of content that’d it’d be impossible to cover it all in a timely manner in this review. So this time I’ll be labeling the different parts of the review to keep things more organized!
In a first for the series, Grand Theft Auto V stars three protagonists. There’s Franklin, the young gang member looking to get out of the hood for more “legitimate” business. Along the way, he meets Michael, a retired bank robber that finds his way back into the game. And then there’s Trevor, a disturbed, raging psychopath, who turns out to be a great character to reflect the common gameplay experience that most players have with a Grand Theft Auto game. Trevor takes the hot topic video game issue of ludonarrative dissonance (the issue of gameplay not matching up with the game’s narrative) head on.
You’ll experience the story of GTA V from these multiple perspectives, and it works out surprisingly well, covering all sorts of ground. Franklin’s problems in the hood echo the ghetto gangster atmosphere of the original San Andreas, with drug deals gone wrong and issues of gang loyalty. Michael’s problems as a bored rich white guy are more family-related. You’ll learn to hate his dysfunctional family as much as Michael does. And Trevor just gives you an excuse to go on a murderous rampage at the drop of a hat. The writing is sharp, witty, and entertaining. Characters like Franklin’s friend Lamar will stick with you just because of the ridiculous things coming out of their mouths.
The story of GTA V generally has a much lighter tone than that of the previous game, which should come to a relief to those displeased with GTA IV’s serious nature. Despite that, the game goes into some really dark places, especially in relation to the character of Trevor, often acting as a tool of violence and torture. It’s not surprising if you end up hating the guy once he’s introduced. It’s imperative to remember that this is a game for adults. Graphic depictions of sex, violence and all sorts of wicked acts find representation in this game in a higher fidelity than seen in most video games. Having said that, it’s totally an enjoyable experience if you have the stomach to handle the content of an R-rated movie.
Throughout the story, the game will have you switch between the three main characters characters, each with their own special specialties. Franklin is the best driver, with the unique ability to slow down time and gain better control of his vehicle for tighter turns and last second evasions. Michael is a skilled gunman and has the ability to slow down time while aiming his gun for more precise headshots. Trevor, oddly enough, has the bet piloting skills of the three, and his special skill involves using his rage to take less damage and deal out more.
Switching between characters in the open world will introduce each character with a small vignette, showing what they’ve been up to since you last played as them. Switching from Franklin to Michael might show a scene of Michael arguing with his spoiled family before you take control of him. Characters might not even be wearing the same clothes that you left them with the next time you see them. I once found Trevor half-naked in a drunken stupor on the beach, surrounded by dead bodies as a result of what, I assume, was one heck of a party. Small little touches like this give a sense of realism and personality to these characters, as they go about their own lives when not under your control.
Every once in a while, the characters will cross paths in special storyline missions that require you to control all three characters, switching between them regularly as they perform their own tasks. For example, one character will be flying a helicopter, while another shoots pursuers down from the backseat.
Throughout GTA V, you’ll mainly be shooting, driving, or flying. Rockstar has taken notes on lessons learned from their older games, like Red Dead Redemption and Max Payne 3, and incorporated some of that gameplay into GTA V, making for a smoother experience than GTA IV. The cover shooting system in a way seems ripped right out of Max Payne 3, though with an incredibly effective auto-aim system. Aiming is trivial, as the lock-on system makes things a little too easy, but it can be turned off if you want more of a challenge. Cars no longer control as loose and heavy as they did in the previous game. Driving in GTA V is slightly more reflective of an arcade-type experience. Flying is a different story, however. Helicopters and airplanes simulate turbulence, forcing you to take more deliberate and minute control over the vehicle. The game even forces you into a flight school tutorial partway through the game, and it can be a frustrating experience for new players. I eventually got to the point in which landing a helicopter was no longer a nightmare, but it certainly took some time to get there.
When not goofing off in the open world, you’ll be running jobs, or missions, for various people. The missions are structured into different sections, with a checkpoint between them, which is a godsend for those frustrated by previous GTA games. If you mess up a section, you no longer have to restart the entire mission. In fact, if you mess up enough times, you’ll be given an option to skip that section entirely and move on to the next checkpoint. Similar to GTA IV, retrying a section of a mission will often result in different dialogue exchange between characters, in attempt to prevent the feel of monotony. Taking a cue from GTA IV’s The Ballad of Gay Tony, each mission has its own optional challenges and awards you a bronze, silver or gold medal for them accordingly.
I found myself screwing up a lot, as many missions have very specific requirements to complete them, and deviating from them the tiniest bit will cause a failure state. Maybe you’re not supposed to kill a certain someone, a certain car isn’t supposed to be destroyed, or your dumb AI buddies get left behind. It’s kind of a shame, as more freedom in missions would be more appealing. There are some scenarios in which you’re given some creative control. In one instance, I had to assassinate a particular individual at a hotel, and it was up to me to figure out how. I could’ve sniped him from a distance or just ran in and gunned him and his security team down up close. I ended up planting sticky bombs all around the hotel’s exit, and as soon as his convoy drove out onto the street, they all went up in flames.
And then there are the heists, which have more depth and setup to them than the average GTA mission. These multi-sequence heists have you make preparations to rob jewelry stores, banks, and other financial opportunities. You’ll have multiple ways to go about a heist, usually either in an elaborate infiltration plan, or a more straightforward, high profile execution. You’ll also recruit non-player characters to be part of your crew. Their level of skill determines your chance of success, but it also affects the amount of money you get. Skilled workers request a bigger cut of the take, while the less skilled will do their job for less money. For instance, a better driver will select faster vehicles for your escape, but a poor gunman may go down on the job, leaving some unrecoverable money in the dust with his dead body. The heists will be your major source of income in the game, so you’ll need to do what you can to maximize your take.
Outside of the heists, you’ll have the opportunity to take on various other jobs. These range from innocuous tasks, such as towing trucks, doing yoga and running triathlons, to the bizarre, such as finding celebrity trash for an eccentric tourist couple or joining a cult over the in-game Internet. There’s your fair share of nefarious drug trafficking, mass murder, and street races. There’s also a series of assassination missions tied to the in-game stock market, which is probably where you’ll make all your money outside of the heists. You’ll be tasked with assassinating key executives in particular companies. The idea is to invest in their competitors and watch their stock prices skyrocket once the rival CEO goes down by your hand.
GTA V is a grand return to the city of Los Santos, San Andreas, the virtual reimagining of Los Angeles. While exploring Los Santos, you’ll be stealing cars, helping or hurting random pedestrians, shopping or robbing stores, stealing cars, and the list goes on. Then when you’re tired of the city, you can venture to the surrounding countryside of Blaine County, where you can take an ATV to the hilly terrain and fly planes over the mountains. You’re free to wreak whatever havoc you want.
New to the series are random encounters. While driving to your next mission, there’s a chance you’ll come across a random non-player character in need. You might come upon a woman who’s had her purse snatched by a thief. You can chase down the criminal and keep the money for yourself or return it to the lady for a small reward. You might come across someone screaming for help in an alleyway, only to realize that it’s an ambush mugging. Maybe while traveling through the desert, you’ll find some hitchhikers. You can give them a ride to wherever they want to go or, in Trevor’s case, take a detour and deliver them to a cannibalistic cult in the mountains. All these small encounters are a welcome break from the deliberately segmented and storied missions of the game.
That’s not even the end of the activities to partake in Grand Theft Auto V. I’ve barely scratched the surface of it. I didn’t even mention watching in-game movies and television shows, surfing the in-game Internet, purchasing businesses to supplement your income, taking your friends out to the bar or strip club, or playing fully working games of tennis and golf. The amount of content in the game is overwhelming, and in a good way.
Like Liberty City before it, Los Santos really feels like a living, breathing city. People will go about their business when you’re not staring at them down the barrel of a gun or speeding at them with your burning wreck of a car. You’ll find body builders working the outdoor gym on Vespucci Beach, hikers taking pictures on Mt. Chilliad, and tourists star searching in Vinewood. It’s all this amazing attention to detail that makes the world presented in GTA V an incredible piece of work.
Thanks to the scope of the world, the graphics of GTA V are very impressive. It looks a lot brighter and livelier than GTA IV. The environments are highly detailed, car damage is realistically modeled, and the lighting is gorgeous. Los Santos in the evening sun is a sight to behold. Taking a plane into the city at night is a stunning capture of realism as the darkness of the countryside gives in to the light pollution of the city, the blurry streetlights emerging from the distance.
The presentation especially shines in a more controlled environment of the cinematic cutscenes. The character models are very detailed, facial expressions and body movements are highly emotive, and coupled with the superb voice acting, you’d swear you were watching a stylistic movie. Even during gameplay, it looks amazing. Euphoria, the physics engine that governs the realistic resistive motions of human characters, returns, and the animations look great. You’ll also notice small things like the physics on a character’s clothing or the fact that they sweat when pushed to physical exertion. There are all sorts of tiny graphical details that go a long way to making the world feel believable.
The audio is another outstanding achievement by Rockstar. There’s the usual licensed soundtrack that’s come to be expected of a Grand Theft Auto game. There are 17 radio stations in the game, featuring genres from hip-hop to pop music, DJ’d by some entertaining personalities. You’ll hear all sorts of comedic interludes in radio talk shows and faux news reports, which include direct references to your own criminal exploits and hints for stock investments. But what’s most special about the soundtrack is the original score. For the first time ever in a Grand Theft Auto game, missions now feature their own original soundtrack, which dynamically changes in response to player actions. The music really goes a long way to enhancing the experience during tense moments in the lead up to a heist, high-speed getaways, and action-packed shootouts.
Performance wise, the game runs fine, for the most part. The framerate dips a bit when driving at high speeds, but I barely noticed it. There’s also some noticeable aliasing and jaggies. Overall, the game seems to run and play much more fluid than its predecessor, and it’s amazing that Rockstar was able to eek these kinds of visuals and performance out of gaining hardware.
I’ve put more than 34 hours into Grand Theft Auto V, and I still have a ton of stuff left to do. Considering the amount of content packed into the game, at $60, it’s a steal. This isn’t even the end of it. In October, Rockstar will be adding in a free online multiplayer mode that looks just ambitious as the single player game, so you can keep playing long after you’ve finished the game’s story mode.
Grand Theft Auto V is an incredible way to say goodbye to this generation of consoles. If you’ve previously been a Grand Theft Auto fan or are looking for a game to sink your teeth into for a long while, this is definitely a must-play title.
I give Grand Theft Auto V a 5 out of 5.
By Alfredo Dizon, eParisExtra