After five long years since the last game we finally have a new instalment in the Grand Theft Auto series and it makes a grand return. The first thing you have to do if you own an Xbox 360 though is that you have to install 8GB to your hard drive because it’s a massive game and very impressive for this console generation – this takes around 20 minutes so enjoy that.
From here you jump right into the story of this game where (without spoilers) you begin as Michael. You are thrown straight into the action and this acts as a good tutorial because they let you get to grips with shooting, driving, and the new feature of switching between characters. Compared to GTA IV’s start this game doesn’t feel like a three hour tutorial which was an annoying aspect of the last game.
As Michael you are in the middle of a bank robbery which took place nine years before the events in the actual game. When you’ve completed this tutorial/mission it’ll take you nine years later where you find Michael is no longer in the bank robbing business and is retired in the glorious hills of Los Santos.
Rockstar have done things a bit different this time around in GTA because as you know you don’t play as one protagonist but you play as three. This really adds variation to mission structure because you can attempt missions again but do with another character if they are available for that mission, it has also got rid of the glorified errand boy structure from GTA IV.
Let’s go over a brief introduction of the characters; You have Michael who is a retired bank robber that has had enough of his criminal career and wants to settle down with his family. Franklin is a gangster from the ghettos of Los Santos and does small time repo jobs and is looking for an opportunity to get out of the mundane gangster life. Finally there’s Trevor he is a psychopathic and mentally unstable individual. Trevor is strange character because he is portrayed as complete scum of the earth, but you can’t help liking this character. He is so despicable and the character is very convincing also his introduction is very extreme.
The game has taken the same approach as Payday 2 in the sense that you will be pulling off a lot of heists, it is a fantastic addition to the mission structure because before you even engage in the job you have to set up the heist through various smaller jobs. This can involve stealing getaway vehicles, hiring people to hack security systems, and recruiting extra gunmen to help you.
You will be presented with a plan before you go in and steal the goods. For example if you want to go loud, fine, but you will bring more attention to yourself and there will be more police alerted to your exploits. You can also choose to go in quiet by knocking out every in one in the location by flooding the room with gas then you can take the loot and slip away unnoticed. Every mission in this game feels different and I don’t think that this game gets repetitious compared to the previous instalment because you meet new and interesting characters and the missions return to their outrageous roots like in Vice City and San Andreas.
You’ll gain substantial amounts of money from heists and there are plenty of things to invest in. You can buy property and businesses making this game a lot more in depth than it’s ever been. If you buy businesses you’ll receive emails or phone calls at random times that will require you to do a private fare for a cab company or getting supplies for a bar depending on the business you buy.
The stock market plays a role in this game as well. At any time you can access the internet on your smart phone and buy shares and like in real life if you leave it for a while you can make a huge profit (dependant on how much money you invest) or you will lose money if the market plunges. Money plays a big part in this game and there are always fun ways of spending. One in particular is that you can customise your car again, it’s brilliant to be able to create these outrageous cars with inconvenient bumpers and spoilers. There are plenty of weapons to pledge your money to as well and just like the cars you can customise those to from scopes, extended magazines and changing the colour.
Gameplay wise it really feels that the games in the past three years from Rockstar were a building-up to this project. Every element in this game you can see where they’ve pulled it from. In the shooting you can clearly see it was implemented from Max Payne 3, it’s smooth and never loses its fluidity, hell, even Michael can use bullet time as his special ability. The open country side was taken from Red Dead Redemption and it really gives you a sense that you are in a living, breathing and organic world. Another aspect that they took from Red Dead are the strangers and random missions. These are really interesting because you meet some crazy and wacky characters (even crazier than Trevor) and after you have done some of these side missions they turn into activities which you can visit such as the base jumping.
They have improved the driving hugely in Grand Theft Auto V. It felt a bit sluggish in GTA IV because they tried to go for the realistic approach, but the steering is tight and controllable which makes car chases tense and action packed you really feel like you are in an action movie when you are in a fancy sports car.
I love Rockstar’s attention for detail, they take time and effort on the smallest details down to the puddles when it rains to a piece of rubbish on the ground. The draw distance is insane for this console generation you can really see that this game pushes the current generation to its limits I stood upon the top of Mount Chiliad and I could still see the skyscrapers from the top of the mountain. This is probably one of the most photorealistic games that I have seen with these environments, I had a lot of fun just driving around and exploring the city and witnessing its beauty and then experience the awe of the country side with its woodlands to the empty deserts of Sandyshores.
Sound design is exquisite because similar to the visuals they have taken pride with the subtle details such as noise changing when you are running or driving on a different surface. Even down to the environment and background sounds such as hearing cars driving in the distance or car stereos booming as they drive past you.
The cars and character model animations look natural even when you are out of cutscenes it still looks as if the animations are from the cutscenes which you have just watched. The loading times are short and they do not exist within the cutscenes because when you walk or drive to a mission it transitions into the scene rather than there being a short loading scene. All the voice acting is superb especially from Trevor’s character you can really tell that the voice actor put some effort into this mental unstable psychopath feel real and give the conception that he is suffering.
This game easily earns a flawless score and is game of the year if you have not bought this game go out and get now. It’s a fantastic close to the current generation but at the same time it shows that the current gen still has life in it and developers can push it to it’s limit. It’s not over yet though don’t forget that Grand Theft Auto Online is launching October 1st.