Think of everything you love about Grand Theft Auto, multiply that by a few hundred, and then you have Rockstar’s latest creation; Grand Theft Auto V – a game of such large scale is difficult to breakdown in a single review due to the sheer depth of what’s available to do in the world of Los Santos. It’s been practically five years since the release of Grand Theft Auto IV, with the odd DLC here and there in between, and its safe to say – the wait was well worth it.
The game startswith a prelude involving Michael and Trevor, two of the main playable characters, which takes place during a heist 9 years prior to the actual games events – essentially this is a glorified tutorial, enabling players to familiarize themselves with the various gameplay mechanics.
That is just a small part of the narrative, the game revolves around the lives of all three characters, which eventually relate to each other in some way or the other. There’s Michael – the once serious criminal, now turned family man, Trevor – a meth dealing red neck who isn’t quite all there in the head, and finally Franklin – the stereotypical gangster who wants more than dealing petty drugs in the hood.
Each character has a unique ability – Michael’s shooting can be enhanced, Trevor is able to conflict more damage whilst reducing damage taken, and Franklin is able to drive with superior driving skills, making chases and races much easier.
There is so much to do in this massive environment, from little things such as getting a tattoo or playing tennis, to finding yourself in intense gun-battles, torturing someone for information, or taking place in heart-pounding illegal street races at max speeds.
Missions start off at a pretty slow pace just like previous games, eventually moving onto far more complex tasks that reward you much more, you’ll start doing things such as delivering cars, helping out friends, then you’ll finally do your first heist job – one of the most distinguishing features of the game.
Heists allow you to earn a lot of money as long as you have the right preparation – before performing a heist, players must go through various tasks including finding the right getaway vehicle, hiring the appropriate people for each part of the job, and so on.
The amount of money earned at end all depends on you – there is a time frame in which you are able to steal lucrative items shall we say, if you’re not quick enough, only a small amount of cash will be rewarded, however if you manage to actually steal every item available, expect a large deposit in your virtual bank account. Using the option to replay missions comes in handy here, especially if you don’t do so well on your first try.
Some missions won’t be so straight-forward, and will actually make you continuously switch between characters depending a part of that particular mission, for example Michael could be planting sticky bombs on a boat, Franklin could be keeping watch from a building in the distance with a sniper rifle, whist Trevor waits around in the getaway car preparing to pick the other two up – this is definitely something new in the series and it should be welcomed with open arms as it proves for extremely entertaining gameplay and a sense of real teamwork.
Core gameplay mechanics are generally good, driving vehicles feels a lot easier, the cover-shooting system works well, especially in gang fights, but the option for auto-aim makes the game way too easy – you can literally shoot every enemy without practically no manual aiming – of course there are options to turn off auto-aim, it depends how much of a challenge you really want.
Each characters stats can be upgraded by performing certain tasks i.e. reaching top speeds, playing sports, swimming – almost everything you do will effect stat progression in some way or another, this reminds me of San Andreas, only more advanced.
There is so much to talk about in terms of gameplay – the rampage missions we’re familiar with, taking part in triathlon events (actually more fun than it sounds), teaching your dog “Chop” new tricks, taking part in random events – giving you the option to hunt down criminals who have mugged citizens, and either keeping the money if giving it back like a decent human being. I usually keep the cash for myself.
From the very first GTA, music and the radio stations have played an important part, adding not only entertainment whilst playing, but also giving the series a sense of uniqueness – GTAV has a total of 16 radio stations, offering rap, punk rock, reggae, heavy metal, and so forth, catering for almost everyone’s music tastes.
The graphics are visually pleasing – riding through the greenland with the sun on the horizon is actually really relaxing and takes you away from the chaotic life of San Andreas temporarily – for the most part, the visuals are fantastic, although there’s lack of detail in some places due to such a large sandbox, which is completely understandable.
Each area of the enourmous map has its own personality, for example the rundown ghettos (including the infamous Grove Street) have their own look; chain linked fences surrounding cramped housing conditions, with gang members dotted around the place, whilst the upper-class suburban locations offer large expensive houses, perfectly catered for gardens, and trendy cars driving by almost constantly.
The sheer scope of this game is incredible, Rockstar have created something that will be played for years to come, just like past titles in the series are, having all three characters narratives play out is such a simple, yet effective way to improve the series – offering fantastic and entertaining gameplay, beautiful visuals, humorous themes, and a rich world offering so much to players, this game is truly epic in every sense of the word