It’s finally here, as I’m sure most of you will already know. If you haven’t returned to Los Santos yet – you should. At the time of writing this I have managed to finish up the story, but damn – I’d like to go through it all again.
Rockstar broke $1 Billion in sales across the span of three days with Grand Theft Auto V, a world record for any video game release. Releasing alongside the ever present bombardment of media ‘controversy’ claims and the scarily large collection of parents who seem to think that ‘M’ stands for “mild-mannered” rather than “mature”, and whom then see fit to blame anyone other than themselves for their own parental stupidity. If your child is impressionable enough to be influenced by a video game, research what you’re actually going to be buying.
Social commentary rant aside, Grand Theft Auto V is the latest in the GTA series and seems to be the culmination of every awesome bit of technology they’ve been working on in their games since the release of GTA IV, five years ago. They’ve taken the combat engine from Max Payne 3, a lot of the vehicle physics from Midnight Club, the facial recognition from L.A. Noire and most thankfully of all, the character control from Red Dead Redemption (so your character no longer controls like a boat). This comes alongside a new Police AI, more vehicles and a customisation system that will appear very familiar to all those who spent many, many hours in the world of San Andreas with CJ. All these assets together have certainly helped to produce something that is nigh on immaculate.
The game world is truly huge. Spreading across what would be 49sq miles in the real world, Los Santos is a huge and beautiful place. It’s not overbearing in it’s size, but it will certainly take even the best in-game navigators a while to really grasp their way around. The in-game score certainly adds to the feel of this game and I have to take a moment to really express how impressed I am with the voice acting in this game before I dive into the bulk of this review. The characters of Trevor, Michael, Franklin, Lamar – everyone really, are all voiced incredibly well. The audio work in this game is absolutely immaculate, and as a Music Technology student, I really have to express just how well it’s all done. But let’s dive in.
GTA V allows you to control three characters throughout the game, Michael, Trevor and Franklin. All with their own very distinguishable personality traits, level-able stats and their “special abilities” to aid you throughout the game. Each have their own sub-stories to go alongside their conjoined story and it works surprisingly well. It does take a little while to really grasp the mechanics of switching characters and keeping track of three different stories at once, but Rockstar handle it very well.
Steering away from spoiler territory, the game has a great set of side missions alongside some random encounters within the city that certainly help keep the feel of a classic Grand Theft Auto game. These random encounters can also give you access to additional crew members for your Heist jobs, including an old favourite from GTA IV. The story and side-missions certainly have more shock value than any GTA game I’ve ever played before but these sections are often combated with something that holds very close to the GTA franchise. Be it an over-the-top heist level, or a simple bit of Rockstar humour, the story is certainly well balanced and never boring.
The heist missions in GTA V are the central focus of the game, and are certainly a lot of fun. Allowing you to pick your approach to the heist, as well as your crew members. The crew members will have an allocated “cut” of the heist score, which is fixed throughout the game. All non-player crew members also level up their skills by 25% after each heist, so it may be an idea to approach the first few heists with low-cut, low-skill crew members. However, picking the right crew members really does make a difference to the way a mission plays out, which certainly adds an added pressure to picking the right character for the job.
If I do have one criticism of the story, it’s that it is slightly too short for my liking. With only 69 main story missions in the game, you can find yourself very quickly blitzing through it. Although thankfully, there is still a lot more to do to try and grab that 100% completion, and Rockstar have taken the mission replay system from ‘The Ballad of Gay Tony’, allowing you to go back and replay your favourite missions over and over, whilst trying to get yourself a Gold medal ranking.
Rockstar have really been pushing the ‘Social Club’ aspect of the game and are really trying to get people on board. The game includes an Instagram style ‘Snapomatic’ feature to share your in-game photos as well as a global stock system, ‘Bawsaq’, that provides in-game stocks based on how players from all over the world behave in-game. Joining the Rockstar Social Club gives you access to an extra car from your storage garage, an additional gun in Ammunation, and some extra hairstyles and beards for your characters. Rockstar have promised more to come alongside these Social Club benefits with the addition of the Online mode. However, the Social Club has been very buggy so far, and connections to this service have been somewhat hit and miss with the launch of this game. It’s certainly gotten better as the days have gone by and Rockstar are working incredibly hard to make sure this system is up and running to it’s full potential with the addition of the Online mode.
Ah, the Online mode. We’re still waiting to see if it will live up to the hype, but it certainly looks like it will be absolutely awesome. If all works as described, the way the game is built in single-player will transfer over to an incredible multiplayer experience when October 1st comes around. Any multiplayer score in this review will have to be hypothetical, but it’s looking very promising. It’s understandable as to why Rockstar have staggered the release of the GTA Online mode, especially with the sheer volume of units this game has sold, but I wish it would come along sooner.
Some other noteworthy aspects of the game include a great new radio changing system that tells you what song is playing on which radio, a quick-save feature through the phone and an incredible amount of in-game activities. This includes a Triathlon, Street Racing, Jet-Ski Racing, Off-Road Racing, Golf, Tennis, Darts, Parachuting and a Shooting Range. The Tennis and Golf mini-games actually hold up very well in comparison to a game dedicated to those genres. Although not perfect, you won’t be disappointed with the control system they use and the way they play.
There have been a few bugs I’ve seen in the game but on the most part, it’s practically perfect. You can forgive a few bugs when you have an awesome story, a huge array of side-missions and activities to go along side what is an incredibly large, sprawling world to explore. Rockstar have given us an incredible send-off for this generation of consoles and I cannot recommend grabbing this enough. Now if you excuse me, I’ve got some GTA V to play.