NOTE: Due to the problems that have hit GTA Online I am basing this review off of the offline play only. I might do a brief GTA Online review in the future, I am still figuring that out.
On September 17th the gaming world was hit with Grand Theft Auto V’s release, a game that many critics and gamers were eagerly awaiting for. The series that layed the ground work for other sandbox type games such as Saints Row and Sleeping Dogs (formerly the True Crime series that made its mark on PS2/Xbox and was originally supposed to be another True Crime game before being dropped and scooped up by Square Enix) to be released this console generation. Grand Theft Auto V had a huge bill to live up to but does it hit the mark?
First of all let me lay down the basics, Grand Theft Auto V is based in the of Los Santos which is Rockstar’s name for Los Angeles, California and you play as three different characters, you can play as either Franklin who is a young black male who is a street hustler at night and he has a job of a repo man during the day, Micheal who is a retired bank robber and now family man, and then there’s Trevor who is a crazy middle aged man who lives out in the middle of nowhere and has an explosive personality.
The games map is enormous, as I write this I still find myself having to use the marker on the map to figure out where I am supposed to be. I find myself enjoying the city the most, and the rural areas the least. I also enjoy the views from the games version of the West Coast Highway which is a nice body of water along the road side and it runs for awhile, not just in real life but also in the game. Rockstar did a great job with Los Santos’ looks, and feel.
From a looks standpoint, the city looks great during the day with the sun shining off of cars, which actually creates the effect of having a hard time seeing tail lights of people stopped at red lights, and it is hard to pick out if Ambulances and Fire Trucks are passing you heading to an emergency or not. The only way to know is by the siren. Police cars are different because they have LED lights and are easier to see during the day, plus the light bars are much more pronounced on police cars than on other emergency vehicles. The lighting in this game is well done, as are reflections from the sun, whether on cars or the water, it is beautiful to look at.
At night the city is also stunning, if you take a trip out to Vinewood Hills (think Hollywood Hills) and got on top of the mountain and took a view of the city from that vantage point, you will be in for a treat. It is just as visually appealing at night than it is during the day if not more so appealing just by the grand scope of the view on the hills. If you don’t feel like making a trip to Vinewood hills, you can also get a good view from atop the parking garage and get the same feeling, but you won’t see as much of the city.
The game isn’t just visually appealing, but it is also alive. There are tons of things you can do to kill time, such as tennis, and swimming just to name a couple. But you will also notice random events. Such as random police chases going down through the streets, which is fun to watch to the end because if the suspect gets out of his or her car the police in the game will typically shoot them dead. But it isn’t just police activity. You will also run into random situations that you can intervene in just driving around the town, or walking whichever you prefer. For example I was driving in Franklin’s hood as Michael one time and I drove past a purse snatching, and I had the choice, do I stop and help the woman, or do I ignore the situation and continue on my way. Being the gentleman I am, I stopped and I caught the suspect, and I eventually ended up returning the stolen goods. Unfortunately for the woman, once she didn’t pay me anything for my good deed, I hit her in the head with a gun and killed her on impact and collected the payback that way. I tried to do a good deed, I really did.
The gameplay is also solid, the weapons wheel is awesome, at first it was a pain trying to remember how to use it but once you get used to it you will enjoy how much easier it is to use over the top of the controller scrolling through looking for a particular weapon. I also like how you can carry more than one type of weapon in a given slow, it adds to the mayhem. Gun play in general has been improved, the cover system is pretty top notch as well, though a couple times I have made a mistake using the system but it was more user error than it was the cover system. The police in this game is much harder to run from on foot, the battles will be intense and fun. Though running from them in a car is still kind of a joke if you have 2 stars or less, 3 stars is a little tough, but 4 or 5 stars is very difficult.
Random events and random violence aren’t the only things this game has. It also has missions and two of them really stood out to me at this point about 1/3 through the missions.
First has to do do with Michael and his wife. Michael caught his wife in bed with her tennis coach and the tennis coach runs out of the house and into his car, so Michael and Franklin chase him through the streets and the tennis coach heads into a house on a hillside and Micheal and Franklin stop at the residence that the tennis coach ran off into. The Tennis coach than reappeared on the deck of the house, so Micheal instructs Franklin to tie a rope around the support beam that holds the deck over the hillside. Then Michael got into the truck and pressed on the accelerator and eventually the beam gives out and the deck falls and the stuff on the decks falls into the road and down the hills towards downtown Los Santos. The only problem with this is the fact that the house did not belong to the tennis coach, the coach had made his way over to his next clients house, so then the client sends their posse after Micheal and Franklin in what ended up being a shootout on Michael’s front lawn. Once all of the guys posse ended up being killed, the home owner ended up driving onto Michael’s property during a cut scene and they talked and Michael ended up assaulted but nothing else really happened. The thing I remembered most about the mission though was the shock of how awesome the deck coming down looked. That was the first indication to me of how awesome the game was going to be.
Another mission I really liked and again included Micheal was when a guy named Lester giving instructions to Michael to go to the Life Invader office, but before you go to the office you have to hit up a suburban street clothes shop and buy some for Michael. After doing that you can head over to Life Invader headquarters. You will pose on an IT Tech, upon arrival wait outside and a hippie look alike will come outside and chat with you while enjoying a cigarette. After that he lets you in and asks you to fix something else while you are there that there was not a ticket for. You berate him about not having a ticket, and you end up doing the work anyway which requires you to click X on the adult web site windows that appeared on the screen. Once you click through them you run Anti-virus software and the problem is “fixed”, but as anyone who has dealt with issues like that knows, it isn’t always that simple. Regardless after you do that work he invites you to check out the prototype phone that will be unveiled on live TV soon, so you are let in by yourself, and you reach for the back pack Lester gave you and you plant a device into the new smart phone and you leave. The game will prompt you to race home to watch the reveal, so you race home and you watch it on TV. Once the phone is revealed you will be instructed to call your new tech buddy, and once he answers the phone bullets come out of the phone and go into the CEO’s head.
Without revealing too much, those are the two missions that really stood out to me. I am about 40% through the missions at the time of this review and all of the missions have been pretty good. The heists are also fun, but kind of a pain since there is a lot of yes boy work to be done before the fun begins. Such as stacking up on bullets, getting a get away car, or even some masks from a stand on the beach.
Grand Theft Auto V is the best Grand Theft Auto out on the market today, and also the best game released this year in my opinion. While it will have a lower score than The Last of Us because it does have some minor issues with physics, it is still the most fun I’ve had with any game this year. And if Rockstar can figure out the issues with GTA Online, the game could have some of the most lasting appeal ever for a video game.