Rockstar North once against reigns supreme with its flagship franchise.
WELCOME TO SUNNY LOS SANTOS
Grand Theft Auto V is a truly remarkable specimen, a crown jewel, and a game that all AAA game developers and publishers strive to produce. Amidst its chaotic, glorious mayhem, GTA V takes the series to new heights only previously dreamed about. Whether it’s the deep, enriching main story or its living, breathing Los Santos (a parody of Los Angeles), you won’t find a better bang for your gaming buck.
ONE OF THE GREATEST GAMES EVER MADE
Through its compelling, at times intense, at times hilarious story, GTA V doesn’t just seek to put on a good show, but also to provide a rather genuine social commentary for modern day America. Nothing is off limits, whether your political views swing right or left. In a sense, because everything is offensive, nothing is offensive. While driving through Los Santos, you get quite the number of options when it comes to what you want to listen to in the car. One station features news updates that hilariously “confirm your prejudices.” You know those Apple hipsters? They’re made fun of. Your phone in GTA is conveniently an “iFruit.” You’ll also come across the “F.I.B.,” a clever jab the FBI.
One of GTA V’s most prominent new features is the ability to play and switch between 3 main protagonists, all with interweaving stories and to some degree, pasts. The game features 69 main story missions, spread out somewhat evenly among the three characters. Michael is arguably where the most attention focuses. He is a middle-aged man in mid-life crisis mode, who got out of the game years ago to attempt and quiet down with his family that hates him. Franklin represents the most true-to-GTA authenticity of the characters in that he is the rags-to-riches guy we are used to seeing. Trevor Philips is the game’s comic relief, with a superb voice acting performance from Steven Ogg. In reality, Shawn Fonteno (Franklin) and Ned Luke (Michael) absolutely crush it with their performances as well.
The game never makes you feel like you’re grinding to get to the finish line – a problem lots of large, open world games have these days. This is partially due to the proper usage of the three characters. What’s also impressive is that they each have fully realized backgrounds and personalities – no one character is filler material. The way they relate to one another is all the more impressive. There’s also no shortage of mission types to take on. Assassinations, Stake-outs, chases, heists, and robberies are just some of what you’ll experience.
Michael is the glue that holds the story together. I’d imagine Michael Keaton playing him in a live adaptation. During this mid-life crisis, he inevitably gets pulled back into the life he tried to put behind. I’m not sure if he is incredibly relateable or if this says something about me, but his spouts of rage and anger always seem justified and never whiny. Speaking of rage, enter Trevor of Trevor Philips Industries. The most explosive and controversial character in the game, his constant outburts meant hilarity was about to ensue. It’s impossible to take your eyes off of him, never knowing what is truly coming next. He’s a trainwreck waiting to happen at every turn. His and Michael’s relationship drives the game. Trevor’s arch is fun to watch and in some ways, is the most relateable character in the game. Seeing him move out from his city home to his mansion in the hills was rewarding.
GTA does a phenomenal job of making you feel like you are in charge of the story. There’s really very little deviation in the endgame, but how you get there is definitely up to you. Which is deceiving in a way, because there really are limited ways for you to decide how to progress. This is a testament to the game’s versatility and spontaneous spirit. I’ve always felt that “playing your way,” customization, and choice for the sake of choice are overrated in games any way (this coming from one of the biggest fans of the Mass Effect franchise, Heavy Rain, and Telltale Games). So though you aren’t totally crafting your own story, the journey in getting there is an absolute, utter joy.
Los Santos feels more like a world than a city. Full of detail, the engrossing, massive city is the most impressive open world environment in any video game to date, which is saying a lot. There’s no shortage of citizens walking the streets. Strangers with stories to tell, prostitutes roaming the streets at night (it wouldn’t be a GTA game without them, I suppose), and side activities that help to progress each of the 3 characters’ abilities are all over. For such a high energy, busy-feeling game, I couldn’t help but feel relaxed each time I turned my console on. Just before GTA V initially came out on Playstation 3 & Xbox 360, a friend of mine jokingly stated “I won’t need a life when GTA comes out, I’ll be living many lives.” Rockstar builds worlds like no one else. I thoroughly cannot wait for the first DLC expansion.
There are plenty of ways to navigate the streets of Los Santos (or if you’re visiting Trevor’s hood, the Arizona-like sandy feel takes the place of the concrete jungle). I found it tough to adapt to the flight controls at first, but you can fly planes and helicopters throughout the game. The controls generally felt either too responsive or not enough, with little-to-no middle ground. This is one of the extremely small faults I found during my approximate 30-35 hours with the game. On ground level, if you can see if, you can drive it. I found myself at different times in a golf cart, a train, and a boat.
Of course, it could not be Grand Theft Auto without hijacking automobiles. I drove so many different kinds of vehicles throughout the game, from muscle cars, to SUVs, to anything you’d see on the roads today. When I found a car I particularly fancied, I’d bring it back to my safehouse for future usage.
Much in the sense that other franchises like Watch Dogs utilize their open worlds, GTA does a superb job of breathing life into it through their radio broadcasts that are heard when in-car. Just finished off a major conspiracy mission with the F.I.B.? You’ll hear about it. Just assassinated the CEO of a Life Invader (a Facebook parody) for your tech friend Lester? It’ll be all over the news. The sights and sounds mixed in with the perfect number of people roaming the streets should serve as a template for future open world games of any sort. GTA previously held the bar with GTA IV, but has now raised it to a new level.
YOU’RE GOING TO KEEP COMING BACK FOR MORE
The controls in GTA V are plentiful yet easy to catch on to, with every button utilized to the max in different scenarios. It only became problematic when attempting to fire a gun while driving for me, as I had to hold the LB on the Xbox One control, while balancing the RT and the RB to accelerate and fire respectively. This is a minor gripe in an otherwise impressive controller scheme. I felt the driving mechanics were tight and responsive, with my car’s handling ability matching the amount of damage I had sustained (ie, a blown tire). Seriously, it felt as if the team responsible for Forza Motorsport had created this aspect of the game. Though shooting mechanics and on-foot running could be slightly clunky at times, the overall production is otherwise solid.
GTA V is a game I intend to return to on and off throughout my post-story playthrough. This doesn’t hold true for most games that I play. The game gives you loads of reasons to return, whether it be trying to earn more stars on a previous mission, checking off some of the 100% list items, or to simply enjoy some time cruising around Los Santos. The feeling you get when playing GTA V is a hard one to truly describe – “blissful euphoria” comes to mind.
GTA Online is another reason to pop the disc back in your console. Essentially, you are getting two games for the price of one. As expansive as the offline gameplay world is, the online world matches it punch for punch. Compete against friends in races around Los Santos, orchestrate heists (arguably the most popular), and build a successful career out of the typical activities you would experience in the main story. It’s all about how much you earn.
Your online experience starts with a quick customization of your character. Earlier I said customization is overrated, but here is felt a bit lacking, mostly with the face generator. You don’t mold your face piece by piece, but rather you choose your parents. Most combos produce a less-than-attractive archetype, but it shouldn’t slow you down. Less options means you will get into the action faster.
**One scene that I thought was noteworthy involved a torture scene with Trevor, approximately in the halfway point of the game. You don’t have the option not to perform the 3 or 4 brutal sequential actions on your victim. It was certainly uncomfortable to sit through and the game could have made this an off-screen cut scene, simply implying that it happened. I’ve sat through scenes that were questionable before – the glass-in-the-mouth scene in Call of Duty: Black Ops and the finger scene in Heavy Rain with Ethan come to mind. The issue lies with a question of taste.
Grand Theft Auto V is a masterpiece, a true accomplishment within the art of game making. Often times, I’m itching for a sequel to a game that I adored. Right now, I’m content to revisit Los Santos as many times as I can over the next few years.
+ Interweaving stories of the 3 protagonists.
+ Strength of the characters, in writing and voice acting, make for a compelling story. Hilarious, engaging, and intense.
+ Variance of mission types have you feeling like each of the 69 main story missions plus the countless side missions are unique and fresh.
+ Los Santos is the most lively, vibrant location in any open world game.
– Sometimes clunky controls in various systems.
Grand Theft Auto V was reviewed on the Xbox One. It is also available for PC, PS4, Xbox 360, and PS3.
What is a hindsight review? It’s an article in which a Geekiverse writer reviews a game that they have never played before and is outside its launch window. It offers a fresh perspective and shows which games in your backlog are worth playing through.