Published on September 25th, 2013 | by Cory Wells, Contributor
Grand Theft Auto V Review
Platform: Xbox 360 , PlayStation 3 [Reviewed]
Release Date: Sept. 17, 2013
The Grand Theft Auto series is arguably the face of gaming in today’s age. Everyone knows what to expect with the series, now in its fifth installment, as it has raised a lot of controversy over the years.
Setting a record for day one sales, Grand Theft Auto V goes above-and-beyond its own standards by raising the bar for open world games. On top of that, it also raises the bar in terms of mature games. GTA V is not only the best game in the series, but it is the most adult-oriented title to possibly exist in mainstream gaming.
Grand Theft Auto has always been the open world, do whatever you please, shoot whoever you want, game for the past 15 years. Even with the most recent releases in the Saints Row series, Grand Theft Auto seems to drive in a class all of its own. While a lot of people focus on the shooting and robbing aspects of the game, doing so tends to get stale. This is why GTA’s character-driven stories have helped separate itself from anything else that attempts to recreate this type of open-world style.
For those not familiar with the series, GTA V returns to Los Santos, a satirical representation of Los Angeles, CA. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas took us there on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox during the previous generation in gaming.
Upping the ante in the fifth version, GTA now stars three different characters with different backgrounds. Thanks to the setting of Los Santos, this type of story arch was able to be achieved. The main character, Michael, is a retired bank robber that lives in the Beverly Hills equivalent of Los Santos. Michael wastes his days away by day-dreaming by the pool, watching movies, and being yelled at by his family to go out and do something. He lives in a home where his wife and kids do not appreciate him, or his past.
The second character, Franklin, is a young man who lives with his aunt in the hood. He works as a repo man with his buddy Lamar (LD, call and listen to his voicemail). Franklin aspires for better things in life and once he gets his first taste of a big pay day, he never looks back. The story begins with Franklin walking with Lamar on the beach. This is actually where he and Michael first meet, but not officially. This feature also ties into the main storyline of the game, in which, over the course of the game, players will grow to see how many peoples’ lives intersect with one another.
The third character is the most unique out of the bunch. The entertaining psychopath known as Trevor hails from a meth-filled trailer park on the north end of San Andreas. On a whim, Trevor decides to take over the drug industry on the outskirts of town. Upon hearing that someone from his past is still alive, he makes the jump to Los Santos to track them down.
The chemistry between any combinations of these three characters is spectacular. In fact, the banter and dialogue between any characters in the game is smooth and near flawless. No matter what issues the main characters may have, they are so entertaining to follow and listen to. It’s hard not to enjoy how brilliant and funny Trevor’s character is, until he says something that makes you feel uncomfortable (which is 90-percent of the time). Everyone will have a favorite of the three, but Trevor just seems to stand out the most.
Like San Andreas, the three characters skill traits will actually progress and improve through gameplay. There is no need to go out of your way to lift weights or eat food to improve stats, rather, the more you run, drive, and even ride bikes will grow your character. Things like stamina will allow you to run for longer distances, which can prove helpful in catching, or losing enemies. There are shooting ranges and even flight schools to help boost traits, as well.
For the first time, the multiple playable characters can be switched to in real time. GTA V features live character switching with the use of the directional pad. Certain missions will pop up at different times, requiring you to switch between characters. On the other hand, group missions will make you switch on-the-fly making the experience much more interactive and intuitive.
Other improvements coming to the world of San Andreas include improvements to the core of the game. The driving physics have been re-tuned to be more realistic. They are definitely improved upon, but still suffer from a lot of issues. Cars do deteriorate as paint gets scraped in accidents, on top of the damage modeling that’s already there. Every car in the game resembles its real-life counterpart extremely well, even though there are no licensed models available. Other vehicles include helicopters, airplanes, ATVs and jet skis. The helicopters and airplanes certainly have a learning curve, which can be eased with a flight school lesson.
The player controls are the best Rockstar has offered to date, however, they are far from perfect. It still controls like a Rockstar developed game, which, at times, leaves you controlling your player through tight areas (especially when running on foot) that can become frustrating. Hopping walls and entering cut-scenes are seamless and smooth. There’s no loading or transitioning to a separate sequence, which provides symmetry for immersion. It all flows naturally as it feels like it was intended to.
Graphically, this is a beautiful game. It’s not consistently beautiful, but the cut-scenes and player models look fantastic and detailed. Gunshot wounds and blood remain on your clothes, and little details like flip-flops will become noticeable as you progress through the game.
The lighting system has vastly improved. Lighting hasn’t brought out a game so much this generation like it does in GTA V. However, there are some bad textures in the game, and the shadows can be downright atrocious. In terms of the lighting system, it can at times highlight the flaws. The draw distance and pop-in textures can also leave a lot to be desired, but overall it runs great on current-gen hardware.
As mentioned previously, the dialogue in the game is possibly the best in any game ever. This is some of the best voice acting known to man. The fact that it’s so tight, fast, fluent, and smooth really makes it stand out. It’s not so much the acting, as featured in games like The Last of Us, but the dialogue is so confident in its delivery it will get you excited. Yes, there is an abundant amount of cussing, but this is an adult game and earns it’s ‘Mature’ rating. On the other hand, the car, gun and other sounds are nothing to write home about.
The soundtrack is phenomenal. Much like other GTA games, entering a car will allow you to access and listen to various radio stations. Channel X is possibly the best custom designed punk rock station ever assembled. The old school rap station is also very fitting. Much like the games mass appeal, there are enough stations to offer something for everyone.
The interruptions by the DJ’s and their scripts are equally hysterical, and that doesn’t even touch on the advertisements of fake products. All of these things live up to what GTA’s radio stations are accustomed to. On top of the soundtrack, the specific music that plays during character missions really adds an intense feeling to the game. It helps to really enhance the immersion of the story. One last note, the little detail this reviewer really enjoyed was when you wreck hard in your car, the conversation doesn’t stop. It will be interrupted and then picked up right where it left off.
Besides the main missions and heists, there are plenty of side missions for each character. Not to mention, each character can buy properties and other storylines of the game. Medals can be achieved through accomplishing certain tasks in missions. The problem with this is the lack of notifications beforehand or during the mission. There’s no way of telling you are supposed to achieve, and then no way to go back in and do the mission after completing. Stocks can be purchased, and manipulated, racquetball and golf can be played, and races can be run. This equals out to hours of things to do in Los Santos.
There are a few notes and *ahem* gripes with GTA V. The traffic can be really annoying, but hey, it comes with the territory.
In the past, the local police could be seen patrolling on foot or in their cars. That’s simply not the case this time around, and that’s a bit strange. The only time you encounter the police is when a star is warranted. Police are now have a visibility indicator and notifies the player which direction they are facing. Once the stars are cleared by avoiding the cops, they simply disappear. The police and general direction can be seen on a square map in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. The map is more important than ever. Shootouts in the dark can be tough, so the map shows you where enemies are in your proximity. It’s also very direct in assisting in finding a particular person or place.
Much like the GPS features of the map; other technology plays a role in the city of Los Santos. Each character has a cellphone where they can surf the web, communicate, and even take selfies. More times than not, selfies would not upload to the server, and these pics will not save locally.
Despite the few gripes, GTA V is the best in the series, and one of the most entertaining video games of all time. The game is more detailed than ever, and it feels more natural than any other GTA has. The entire experience has a lot of dynamic properties that you will appreciate such as irate drivers chasing you down, and the interruption of conversation when in an accident.
The lighting is incredible as it really helps make the cut scenes look amazing. The action is smooth, and the overall physics are severely improved. The dialogue is the best in any video game, period. GTA V makes you want to progress through the missions just to continue what might be the best gangster-related story, ever.
Summary: Despite the few gripes, GTA V is the best in the series, and one of the most entertaining video games of all time. The game is more detailed than ever, and it feels more natural than any other GTA has. The entire experience has a lot of dynamic properties that you will appreciate such as irate drivers chasing you down, and the interruption of conversation when in an accident. The lighting is incredible as it really helps make the cut scenes look amazing. The action is smooth, and the overall physics are severely improved. The dialogue is the best in any video game, period. GTA V makes you want to progress through the missions just to continue what might be the best gangster-related story, ever.