At its core, like with any game in the series, GTA V gives us a bustling playground to tear apart. Filled with the tiniest details, real world references, and pure ambition. Rockstar Games ditches the gloomy, yet almost cozy streets of Liberty City and returns to the west coast shores of San Andreas – Rockstar’s take on Los Angeles and the California hills. The sprawling sun soaked city of Los Santos, the area players will probably spend most of there time in, is bustling with culture, attention to the smallest of details, and nonstop fun.
If you thought Grand Theft Auto IV’s Niko Bellic was a handful, wait until you play its sequel. In Grand Theft Auto V, you play as not one, not two, but three different protagonists – all of them have their own personal lives, personal problems, and personal goals. There’s family man Michael, a retired bank robber sulking off past glories in witness protection, while dealing with his midlife crisis. Franklin, a young street hustler living in the ghetto, is waiting for his big score. Last, but definitely not least- Trevor Philips, the wild card of the three. Ready to f*ck shit up anytime, anywhere.
It’s no surprise when Rockstar brings innovation to the table. With Grand Theft Auto V’s three protagonists, you can simultaneously switch between the three in a flick of a button. This not only works in missions (whenever any of the protagonists are together), but also in the open world whenever the player is outside of a mission. Yep, that means you can switch between any of the three protagonists anytime you want, and barge in to what they’re doing. Let’s say you’re playing as Trevor, that means Michael and Franklin have active AI – you can literally find them up to their own business around the state of San Andreas. I myself switched to Trevor in his underwear, waking up in the beach next to several corpses. This is just one of GTA V’s many of random character switch scenarios.
Grand Theft Auto V’s plot goes for a dynamic storytelling structure. The story isn’t as long as San Andreas or even GTA IV, but Rockstar aimed for bigger missions, and bigger everything.
The story of GTA V focuses on Michael being forced back into the dangerous game of heists, when needing to pay off a Mexican crime lord, and being blackmailed by corrupt federal agents. Franklin, inspired by Michael’s tales of past glories, accompanies him in these heists in pursuit of the almighty dollar. Michael’s old pal Trevor Philips is later sunk in the pool of bad guys after learning Michael’s whereabouts, when believing Michael was dead for nearly a decade. It’s up to the three to settle the score and tie up loose ends. Players can expect fun, action packed missions that topple GTA IV’s repetitive drive-here, shoot-there mission structure.
For the most part, everything that can be done in previous Grand Theft Auto titles can be done in GTA V. Its gameplay is extremely versatile – you’ll never feel you’re doing the same exact thing more than once. Every game mechanic has a decent polish to it, whether you’re flying a fighter jet underneath a bridge, or performing a drive-by on a dune buggy, all while ramping off a cliff. Moreover, GTA V’s shooting, driving, and covering mechanics have all been enhanced. Shooting feels more tightly toned, with a run n’ gun mechanic; the cover system is more reliable and less twicthy than GTA IV’s, too. Vehicles, no longer handling like monster trucks with greasy wheels, are easy to control much to the players convenience. You can dart through traffic and take sharp corners without every losing your steering grip. New gameplay elements introduced to Grand Theft Auto V are character special abilities. Michael, similar to Max Payne’s bullet time, can activate a slow-motion ability when on foot. Franklin can drive vehicles in slow-motion, similar to Midnight Club’s zone mode – this is best used when escaping hordes of police cruisers or simply cheating your way through a sunset race. Then there’s Trevor. He can activate his rage mode, this pretty much turns Trevor into a pissed off walking tank, invincible for a short duration of time.
Minigames have always just been sorta there in previous GTA’s. A lot of a old minigames, have been removed. Instead, Rockstar aimed to deliver more fleshed out minigames like tennis, golf, and… uh, yoga. Yeah, can’t really say I had fun with the yoga minigame. Trevor – exclusively – can go hunting in the northern woods of San Andreas. Franklin himself owns a Rottweiler named Chop, whom you can play and train with, using Rockstar’s companion app, iFruit. The trio can interact in several minigames together through a brief phone call invitation. Furthermore, dynamic encounters returning from Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption appear in GTA V as well. Players can choose to completely ignore these instances, or check them out. There are over fifty dynamic encounters, and several unravel into little side missions.
Fans previously complaining about Grand Theft Auto IV’s lack of player customization can expect the opposite in Grand Theft Auto V. There are several clothing stores, barbershops, and tattoo fronts dotted around the map. Michael, Franklin, and Trevor can all be customized to their personal style, or two your own liking, with a range of clothing and accessories to choose from. You can also visit garage shops around the map and tune, as well as customize your personal ride. In GTA V, players can spend their deviously-earned cash on plenty of little trinkets. This alleviates the uselessness of a huge wallet with nothing to spend on, a previous complaint in Grand Theft Auto IV. The cellphone returns as well, but this time the player has access to an in-game camera and the holy grail of Rockstar’s satire – the internet (prepare for selfies, lots and lots of selfies). A real time stock market that reacts to changes in the world and crucial story missions as well is there for the player to invest in, and earn big bucks.
Grand Theft Auto IV was the first true next generation title I played on the Xbox 360. In 2008, GTA IV was simply ahead of its time with its technology. Fortunately, NaturalMotion’s Euphoria engine returns with its advanced AI physics. Unfortunately, it’s noticeably watered down compared to GTA IV and Red Dead. The compromise is obvioys though, Rockstar had to scale much more ambitious areas of the game to ensure a fully working world. Even so, it’s nice to see Rockstar making the most of the PS3 and Xbox 360. Sometimes you wonder if GTA V should even run on these aged consoles, because the game clearly betrays any technical boundaries these consoles have. It’s really an impressive work of optimization and top tier development work.
What else can be said. Rockstar nailed the atmosphere of Grand Theft Auto V thanks to exceptional lighting, attention to the tiniest details, and a masterful work of map design. Mountains and hills in the distance look great, and city streets are bustling with life. Every light source you see from a distance is actually there to walk up to. When it comes to art direction, this is Rockstar’s best looking game, but there’s no shortage of ugly textures or fuzzy aliasing. When it comes to a game this big, on consoles this old, there are apparent drawbacks. Grand Theft Auto V, without a doubt, offers one of the most detailed and immersive game worlds I’ve had the pleasure to mess around in.
For a game containing such a giant world with so much activity going on, it’s astonishing to see so few glitches. Throughout my first playthrough of the game, I only witnessed two minor bugs. Rockstar, as promised, delivered n incredibly well optimized game for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Couple frame rate drops here and there, but its easy to forgive Rockstar when they strive for the best on this hardware. There are a few complaints though. The police force in the game is relentlessly brutal and unforgiving to the player, and the story, despite the high production values, doesn’t have the same emotional touch seen in GTA IV and Red Dead.
Let’s hope gamers, casual or not, can appreciate Rockstar’s work and artistry displayed in Grand Theft Auto V. Not many games get to be this ambitious and this polished. It’s safe to say Grand Theft Auto V won’t be collecting any dust soon, and it’s another mark to proves Rockstar is among the best of the best in this industry.