Reviews: Grand Theft Auto 5 is the pinnacle of open world games and squeezes every ounce of power out of the current gen consoles.
Grand Theft Auto V is one of those special titles that you only get once, maybe twice a generation. The team over at Rockstar North is without equal and they prove it every time a new GTA is released. GTA V is Rockstar’s biggest game to date with an impressive world that covers the greater Los Angeles area (called Los Santos in the game) as well as the mountainous region to the north. While I don’t live in the LA area I do visit it semi-frequently for a variety of reasons and while I was driving around Los Santos I was blown away by how easily I was able to recognize some of the areas. There was one instance that really jumped out at me where I was driving around on some random roads and then I paid attention to my surroundings. I knew I recognized the area so I scanned the environment and turned my car around to see the Santa Monica Pier (Del Perro Pier in the game). Out of curiousity I drove over to the Pier to see how well they did with it and it looked like the real thing. I drove down the incline over the freeway and then the road became wooden planks, just like the real one. The parking lot was in the same spot, the buildings were in the same spot, all of the rides in the mini amusement park were in the same spot and everything that I have seen during my visits to that area. You can even ride some of the rides such as the Ferris Wheel which will give you a bird’s eye view of the surroundings.
I’ve mentioned these examples to illustrate what an amazing job Rockstar has done with creating Los Santos. The game is gorgeous and looks like it could have been potentially on the next gen consoles as well. It is clear that Rockstar is using every ounce of power the current gen machines can provide and then they tried to push them to do just a little bit more. The draw distance in the game is phenomenal as I can stand on the Vinewood sign in Vinewood Hills and look off into the distance and see downtown Los Santos. The soundtrack is amazing as it usually is with any Grand Theft Auto game and there are so many radio stations to listen to that you should definitely be able to find something you like. The only times where I would really turn the radio off is if another character was in the car with me and they were having a conversation. I really enjoyed the dialogue in the game and how the characters interacted with one another so I wanted to be sure I didn’t miss any of that. The city of Los Santos is so vibrant and alive though it is really easy to get distracted. You could be driving down a road just minding your own business when all of a sudden a random event occurs. Maybe someone stole a woman’s purse and you had to get it back for her. Of course this is completely optional and you can ignore her pleas for help if you so desire. Generally, if I wasn’t in the middle of a big mission, I would help out and run the guy down to get the purse back. There was one instance I ran into recently where someone had got car jacked so I sped down the highway in pursuit and eventually got the guy to stop. He came out of the car guns blazing so I quickly eliminated him and brought the car back to its rightful owner. It’s a bit ironic that in a game titled Grand Theft Auto I was returning a car to the person it was stolen from but it illustrates the sheer amount of freedom you have in this game.
GTA V has three main characters with Michael, Franklin and Trevor. Along the way you’ll team up with a supporting cast of characters that will help you on missions but those guys are the main three. Each of these guys has individual missions for you to do as well as bigger heists that require the full team. When you aren’t in a mission you can generally play whomever you want. There are a few exceptions to this rule though. If, for example, Michael and Trevor pull a really big job together then there are a few times where they need to lie low until the heat is off. In this instance you will only be able to play with Franklin. That generally doesn’t last too long though as the “heat” will generally fade whenever you launch the next story driven mission. For some of the bigger heists that you will attempt to pull off there is some preparation work that must be completed beforehand. There is one job where you are trying to rob one of those big armored bank vehicles. To prepare for that heist you need to steal a garbage truck, steal a car to escape in after the heist and make sure it is properly hidden until you need it and more that I won’t spoil here. There are many layers to these types of jobs and they are all fantastic.
As I progressed through the game I really enjoyed seeing the relationship develop between all of the characters. I don’t want to really go into specifics as I don’t want to spoil anything but the development team did an amazing job creating three characters I cared about. These are by no means good guys or anything but it was interesting to learn about their different motives as you progressed and how, in their eyes, they might have seen themselves as the good guys in certain instances. Each character has his own personal issues that he needs to work through with Michael not getting along with his family, Franklin trying to turn legit and Trevor, well, being a bit of a psychopath. The character development here was great though and it made for a few moments that I wasn’t expecting and that might be why they really stood out for me. The missions provide for some really epic moments in the game such as when I had to fly one plane into another bigger plane to try and hijack it and then I had to parachute out of it before the Air Force completely shot me down. There were other missions where I could choose how I wanted to handle the situation whether I wanted to pull a heist cleanly or go in guns blazing and shoot the place up. Before really big heists you get to pick members of your crew which opens up some different possibilities. You could pick a person that might be very reliable but he might also only want 4% of the cut from your heist whereas this other person on the list is the consummate pro and will definitely get you out of tough situations but he might not 15% of the cut from the heist. You have to balance what you think is most important. For me I went the cheap route on my first heist and the guy almost screwed things up for us and was killed in the process. Later on in the game I picked someone that was highly qualified for the job and when we ran into some trouble he had some ideas on how we could escape and even got us some last minute transportation to get us out of the tight spot we were in.
The main storyline between Michael, Franklin and Trevor is obviously important to the game but it is just one segment of the open world Rockstar has created. You could spend hours upon hours simply fooling around in the world. You could go play a game of Tennis if you want, go for a bike ride in the hills, go shopping for a new wardrobe or new guns and much more. There is a strip club that you can go to and get lap dances or simply watch the girls dance on stage. If you are someone who really enjoys the financial aspect of things you can also play the stock market as well as invest in some real estate. If you know what you are doing you can even learn how to manipulate the stock market to help out your cash flow. Once you acquire a nice sum of money you can buy properties like an airport hangar or a helipad. This opens up a wide range of new activities for you as you can fly a plane all over Los Santos and even jump out of one to skydive down to the city below. Another way of getting some cash is to use your hangar as a place to do some arms trafficking whether it be on the ground or through the air. You can race jet skis on the Pacific or scuba dive and see what treasures await you on the ocean floor.
There are also a bevy of optional side quests for you to do as well. Playing as Trevor you will come across these two people who are fascinated with celebrities to the point of digging through their trash. They mistake you for a famous celebrity and try to enlist your help in their endeavors. Both of them are quite psychotic but the missions were fun to play and the way Trevor acted around them was a nice change of pace too. Later on you come across them and they have decided that they want to kidnap their favorite actor and enlist your help in doing so. As Franklin you come across some really interesting characters, both from your personal life and one guy you happen to meet on the street. Some of Franklin’s side quests include towing cars for his cracked out friends that can’t seem to get their life together to helping out the Paparazzi get the scoop on some of Los Santos’s most famous residents. There was one instance where I had to sneak into a hotel with Beverly (the Paparazzi I was helping out) to try and get a picture of a young actress that was getting nailed and while everything was going on she was talking about how she only played the part of a virgin on television and in the media but in reality she was very “active” in her personal life. After we recorded some footage we were discovered by the two and had to race out of there which turned into a car chase as this celebrity was determined to get that footage back. There were also other instances where someone in the desert tried to enlist Franklin’s help in find parts of a space ship that had abducted him. Michael’s side quests are completely different than the other two. There is one where he can talk to an activist that wants to legalize weed. Michael will take a hit off of the sample he is given only to be sent on a trippy journey where you will have to kill waves of aliens with a minigun. There is another side quest where you are racing someone next to the beach and you need to beat her to unlock her as a contact. Use your stamina wisely throughout this foot race and you should be able to beat her without a problem. As you can see there are a wide range of side quests that range from completely insane to simply taking up a challenge and beating someone at their own game.
I could honestly go on and on about every GTA V has to offer. There are tattoo parlors if you want to get some ink and Los Santos Customs if you want to upgrade your vehicle. There is a flight school you can attend where you can learn tips and tricks on how to fly a plane and/or a helicopter. You can go out into the wilderness and hunt the wildlife or go improve your gun handling capabilities by visiting an Ammunation with a gun range. It should also be noted that check points work really well in GTA V as I was never put too far back in a mission after I got killed. The gameplay is really well done and the auto aim works well. Rockstar has learned from some of their previous titles such as Max Payne 3 when it comes to weapons and how to handle them. Grand Theft Auto V is an amazing game and, in my opinion, the pinnacle of this generation. It is amazing what they have been able to do with these current gen consoles and it makes me really excited to see what they have planned next. Grand Theft Auto V is a game that really should be in everyone’s library. This is a title that really nails the open world concept and is the game that keeps on giving with everything that you can do in Los Santos.