Grand Theft Auto V – Review
The Grand Theft Auto franchise has been with us since the early days of 1997, with each title making their mark in the video games industry and within common gaming culture by pushing the boundaries on where games can go. With Grand Theft Auto V, the trend continues with a new world for gamers to explore.
Published by Rockstar Games and developed primarily by Rockstar North, Grand Theft Auto V is the latest title in the franchise, with Los Santos and the fictional state of San Andreas as the main setting for the game. Both are based on Los Angeles and Southern California respectively. Throughout Grand Theft Auto V, the story takes you on an adventure throughout the greater San Andreas area, dealing with gang members, corrupt government agents, and performing high-value heists.
There are three protagonists you play as in Grand Theft Auto V – Michael, Franklin and Trevor. Michael has a shady past with bank heists, and is the most experienced out of the three. While Michael comes off as wealthy and living nicely in Rockford Hills (the Beverly Hills counterpart), his personal life is failing. With two children that do not spend time with him and a wife that does not tolerate his ways, he tries to do everything he can to keep his family together.
Franklin grew up in the ghetto of Los Santos and dreams of starting some form of career which will hopefully take his life away from the notorious number of gangs. Michael meets Franklin early in the story and sees potential in him, with his eager attitude to learn and participate. As such, Michael brings Franklin along on a number of jobs to show him the ropes. Franklin is also the most level-headed member, especially when disputes occur between Trevor and Michael.
Trevor is one of Michael’s friends back when the two regularly performed bank heists, but went their separate ways after a falling out with each other. He introduces himself later in the story to Michael and Franklin as a filthy and unhygienic person, living in a trailer out in the desert area of San Andreas. Trevor is also very unpredictable and relentless in his actions and who he interacts with.
The gameplay in Grand Theft Auto V has improved dramatically when compared to its Liberty City predecessor. There is a lot more interactivity in this world with the player being able to engage in a number of hobbies such as playing golf, managing property, playing the stock market and flying aircraft to name a few. Players can also go diving by the beach or go hiking up the mountains if you’re into that sort of thing. These activities all have some sorts of benefit to the character you are playing whether it is increasing their stamina, improving their flight skill or producing extra funds for the crew, everything you do has an impact one way or another. Pictures can be taken in-game using your phone, as well as they can be uploaded to Rockstar Social Club for viewing outside the game.
Fixed-wing aircraft return in Grand Theft Auto V, and is a welcoming addition to the existing list of helicopters to choose from. Fixed-wing aircraft that can be flown range from a small single propeller plane, all the way up to the 747 jumbo at Los Santos International Airport. The flight mechanics are excellent and often you will feel the aircraft kick to the left or right slightly. The camera also tilts with the orientation of the aircraft. Similar mechanics also occur with helicopters, where the aircraft will sway left to right. At first it can take a little while to get used to, but it all adds to the immersive experience of the game.
In this game, law enforcement has really bought everything to the party and evading them has now become quite a challenge. Players must become inconspicuous and use alleyways to remove your wanted stars, rather than driving straight ahead until you are out of their chasing range. Gone are the days where you could go to a Pay-N-Spray or enter your safehouse to be acquitted of your wrong doings. It’s a nice change from the previous games because it means that the law enforcement are actually enforcing, rather than being a busy fly that becomes more annoying than anything else.
Grand Theft Auto V has one of the longest storylines I have ever seen, with 69 missions and an average time of 23 hours in order to complete the main story. If that isn’t enough for you, the remaining half of the game comprises of the standard GTA mixture of side missions, stunt jumps and collecting hidden items scattered all over San Andreas. Engaging in hobbies such as street racing, playing sports and parachuting will also contribute towards 100% completion. Side missions in Grand Theft Auto V are labelled as Strangers and Freaks, where the selected protagonist can engage with a shady character for extra money and some added humour. In the pause menu of Grand Theft Auto V, the Stats section is quite remarkable, detailing the hours you’ve spent playing each character, how many missions you have completed, what your skill levels are and most importantly, how close you are towards achieving full completion of the game.
Mission loading screens no longer exist upon starting, which add to having a streamlined experience with a mission from start to finish. The music soundtrack in Grand Theft Auto V is incredible, with 240 licenced tracks to listen to across 15 radio stations. The score was created by Alchemist, Oh No and Tangerine Dream.
The library of vehicles to select from is vast, with many resembling cars from real life and some with convertible functionality. Vehicles that are difficult to obtain or rare to find can be purchased through web browsing on your phone. In addition to the vast library, cars can also be customised, a popular feature brought back from GTA: San Andreas. Performance enhancements can be added to your car such as suspension, turbo, transmission and change of wheels. Cosmetic modifications can also be made, including changing your number plate, paint job, exhausts and horn to name a few.
I first imagined that playing three characters in Grand Theft Auto V was going to be a cumbersome and difficult experience, especially during heists however I was quickly proven wrong with my scepticism. The controls are highly user friendly, with switching between characters a breeze with the press of two buttons, and with the game alerting the player should one of the characters be in trouble. When you are controlling one character, the AI of the remaining two chumps is good enough for them to be able to look after themselves. Unfortunately for you however, the same applies to the enemies and the other NPCs in the game which leads to some intense fire fights. This is also evident outside combat, where the two characters you’re not controlling will be in a different spot at each time.
When you toggle between characters, the camera zooms out from the current character in a bird’s eye view, pans across the map and drops into the selected character. This effect gives the game a real-time vibe to the events occurring. Each mission is indicated on the map by an initial of the mission initiator, and is coloured light blue, orange or green to show that only Michael, Trevor or Franklin can start the mission respectively.
Combat controls have also been improved, with the use of selection wheel to change weapons and the dedicated ability to hide behind walls and objects. The selection wheel is also used when changing radio stations while driving, which is always nicer in comparison to the right and left bumper scroll mechanic used in previous games.
Given Michael and Trevor’s past, as well as Franklin’s aspirations, the key point that revolves around the storyline is wealth, through whatever means necessary. As such, the complexity behind each character’s personality and the depth of the storyline combine superbly to uphold the central desire. The storyline depth is complemented by the immersive design of the world, and how much of it the storyline takes to its advantage. Exploration is a core factor built into the story missions in Grand Theft Auto V. Quite frequently, a story mission will take you from one side of the map to the other, allowing for the player to take in the sights of what San Andreas has to offer. The personalities behind each character are quite interesting, elaborate and humorous at times, and this is shown especially in Trevor. While he may come off as a mentally-deranged psychopath, Trevor is certainly not an idiot, where he will go to unimaginable lengths, including manipulating his friends in order to get what he is after.
Grand Theft Auto V adds a great deal of realism into the franchise and pushes the bar to where no open world game has gone before. With a deep storyline and elaborate character construction, along with major improvements to gameplay and control mechanics, Grand Theft Auto V is a masterpiece where you will get your money’s worth.