Grand Theft Auto is one of the most popular, and controversial franchises in gaming. Way back in November of 2003, Rockstar Games released a groundbreaking revolutionary title that essentially created the open world genre. Fast forward a decade and now Rockstar has released probably the most anticipated game of all time. Grand Theft Auto V. With such high expectations from millions of gamers around the world, can Rockstar yet again craft another revolutionary title and end this generation with a bang? Simply put. Yes. In the 20+ years I spent gaming, Grand Theft Auto V is the best game I’ve ever laid hands on.
Grand Theft Auto V revolves around not one, but three protagonist; Michael, Franklin and Trevor. Michael is a former bank robber who moved to San Andreas to start a new life with his family attempting to be a good dad. Trevor was his accomplice during their past life and now runs his own business out of Blaine County. Franklin on the other hand has next to nothing, boosting cars trying to make a dollar but wants bigger and better things. How these characters come together and interact considering their significant different current lifestyles is what makes Grand Theft Auto V so special.
Throughout the games 30+ hour campaign (not including side missions and activities) you’ll have to complete many different heist. These heist aren’t simple walk into a mission marker and rob a bank. Instead, you’ll have to choose how you wish to approach the situation, who to hire, and then get the necessary equipment to complete said heist. These decisions are very crucial because if you make a bad call when planning, it could cost you a lot of money. I would go into lots of details regarding heist, but considering they’re one of the very high points about the game, I’ll leave those for you to experience and enjoy. You won’t be disappointed.
When you’re not planning heist, the other campaign missions are some of the best, well crafted missions out of any Grand Theft Auto title. No more basic cookie cutter missions like in previous installments. While those missions were still satisfying, this time around Rockstar has gone more in depth and provided non-repetitive creative missions that will have you begging for more. Being able to also seamlessly switch between all three characters at almost any given time provides a new level of story telling gaming has never seen. Not only does it work marvelously, it’s not a gimmick either. You can choose how you want to play certain missions and the level of detail Rockstar has put into these characters making them feel like living, breathing human beings within the world is astonishing. The voice acting is top notch, but one certain individual by the name of Trevor is one of the most memorable characters in video game history. You’re either going to absolutely love him, or despise him. There’s no in-between.
The level of emotion from his actor and how believable and psychotic he is, makes for a character you’ve never experienced in any game. Trevor is someone you need to experience for yourself if you haven’t already. Even if you don’t like him, you’re not just going to not like him. You’re going to hate him. Which is why Rockstar has accomplished something many games would love to offer. When you’re not being shocked by Trevor, you’ll also want to check in on each character to see what they’re doing in their life. Even after 100 hours of playtime, I’m still seeing certain characters do things I haven’t seen before when checking in on them. You can even meet up with them. or their friends while free roaming. That doesn’t always mean giving them a call either. These characters are living their lives while you play. I’ve ran into all of them on the street while playing. I found Trevor drunk throwing grenades in his front lawn for fun. I’ve seen Franklin casually walking his dog. These tiny details are what makes San Andreas such an immersive world you’ll never want to leave.
Rockstar didn’t neglect NPC’s either. In Grand Theft Auto IV for example, there were tons of pedestrian, but they never really did much. Not this time. You’ll see NPC’s living their life as well. During the late nights, clubs and hot spots will be packs with people hanging out, speaking to each other or on their phones. Once the morning hits, you’ll start seeing people show up for work, taking lunch breaks and just enjoying life. You can also interact with every person on the street. Depending on who you’re playing as and the people you’re interacting with will determine the outcome. As Franklin, walking through Balla territory will often have you approached by gang members threatening you.
Go to the same place as Trevor, and you’ll be annoyed and hear people saying how crazy you look and not to mess with you. If you’ve played Red Dead Redemption, then you’re familiar with random events. These make an appearance and add to the already incredibly detailed world. You could walk into a convenient store planning to rob the place, only to have a gun pointed at your head while someone else attempts what you had planned. You might even see some vehicle theft or muggings happening in a dark ally. It’s not always criminal activity though. There’s also people lost out in the country or broken down, and sometimes even a wrecked car with a person asking for a ride.
When you’re not being overwhelmed with the great attention to detail, there’s lots to do around San Andreas. If you need some quick cash, you can rob some local stores, or do some towing jobs. If you’re feeling competitive, take on a race, a friendly game of golf or tennis, or get a personal lap dance at a strip club and hope for a booty call. Yes, they exist. You might even get some naughty pictures sent to you after your booty call if she likes you enough. Don’t worry, you’re not going to get phone calls asking for dates and have to keep up with them. Each character also has their own unique activities they can partake in. Michael can practice some yoga with his wife, or speak with his shrink and listen to his son play video games and replicate the underage kids you hear on Call of Duty. Which I must say, is spot on. Trevor has access to classic rampages or even bounty missions. Franklin on the other hand has his beloved pet Rottweiler named Chop.
This is the first time pets, or even dogs for that matter, have been in the Grand Theft Auto universe. Chop is actually extremely useful and can often save you. When Franklin’s not commenting on the massive dumps Chops’ leaving on the property, you can take him for walks, play fetch, or even take him for a ride then hop out and have him attack random people for fun. Each character also has a unique special ability; Michael has bullet time, Trevor goes into a rampage that gives you a damage boost and invincibility, and Franklin can slow down time while driving and the handling is altered in a way where you can perform impossible maneuvers. Which play out so well, both, during missions and within free roam.
One of my favorite additions to Grand Theft Auto V is the return of customization. Sure, you could buy extremely ugly clothes for Niko in Grand Theft Auto IV, but that wasn’t good enough. You can now fully deck out your character with a wide variety of clothing and grooming options while you build your stats up for each character. Some may have found them a chore in San Andreas, but I particularly loved them. This time the other protagonist may suggest you work on building certain stats up, but it’s never forced on you. Instead, you’ll get some change in dialog, further adding immersion to the game. You can also customize your weapons at the local Ammunation then take them for a spin at the shooting range. It’s not what you’d find in a military first person shooter, but the basic; grips, lights, scopes, silencers etc exist. Along with a nice selection of paint jobs for your guns. Pain jobs don’t just apply to guns, you can once again fully customize your vehicles.
In addition to a fancy new cosmetic look, certain upgrades will bring stat boost to your cars. I do have to admit, I was a bit disappointed when I installed nitrous to a sports car, went to click R3 and didn’t get any Fast and The Furious blue flames and speed increase like you saw back in Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. Instead, you get a nice little tuner sound effect when you switch gears and overall top speed increase. Although, being able to change your tire smoke and add bulletproof tires made up for it. You can also customize your license plate, which much like in real life, no two people can have the same plates. This is a community feature and a nice touch, unfortunately you’ll need an iPhone/iPad or you can’t participate. This is because at the time of writing, the Android and Windows version aren’t available yet letting all those iOS users possibly snag your plates before you even have the option to start. Thankfully, it’s not such a major feature, but I do feel Rockstar should have released them all at the same time to give a fair playing field.
Property management has always been a big deal to Grand Theft Auto fans. It does make a reappearance, but in some ways that might wipe the hype smile off your face. There’s close to 20 properties for sale in the game, but none of them are safe-houses. They’re businesses. You will get a different safe-houses throughout the game, but none are purchasable at your own will. Certain businesses can also only be purchased by a certain character. My biggest issue is that none of them can be entered. If I spend $150,000 on a business that I’ve also been into while on a mission, but can’t access after I’ve purchased it, really irks me. I’m not sure if this was a design choice, or hardware limitation. San Andreas has a lot going on, and everything is rendered so well that adding multiple interiors might have not been possible. I could be totally wrong and these interiors may open up once Grand Theft Auto Online launches.
Thankfully, instead of like in previous installments were you just get free money every week, the managers of the stores may give you a call and ask for help. One night things got really nasty at one of my bars and a fire fight involving gang members began. These aren’t forced on the player either, they’re completely optional. Personally, I’ve seen no significant difference by choosing either or. I’ve always received the same amount of money (aside from a couple places that money fluctuates regularly) for either option. I usually end up taking them just for the shear fun factor of the game. Which brings me to my biggest gripe I’ve always had about Grand Theft Auto. Gameplay.
Physics and controls have always been a nightmare for some, and ignored by others. While the series is one of the best around, the clunky controls and sometimes frustrating mechanizes have always been overlooked because everything else made up for it. Not this time around. Rockstar have vastly improved everything within the game. The on foot controls are solid and the Euphoria engine provides some of the funniest rag-dog physics I’ve ever seen. The aiming has also been drastically improved. Gun fights feel extremely intense since you’re no longer a bullet sponge. Instead, a couple shots can kill you. But don’t be alarmed! The same happens with NPC’s. This makes for much more interesting and tactical fire fights. The free-aim is a hit or miss depending on your reflexes with a controller, but I didn’t really have any issues and personally enjoyed it making my experience much more challenging.
The vehicle handling was massive deal in Grand Theft Auto IV. Some hated it, others fell in love with it. I personally loved it. But I enjoy Grand Theft Auto V‘s handling much more. While cars still have weight to them, you feel more in control. Top speeds no longer are a death wish, but instead fun. Even though I loved IV’s handling, certain cars had me taking a cab all the time. This time around, I avoid taking cabs. Even after over a hundreds hours of play. I love weaving in and out of traffic, running from the police, or grabbing a jet ski and hopping some of the most incredible waves I’ve ever seen in a video game. All of these things make for a much more enjoyable experience than ever before. Even evading the police which has basically been replaced with what many thought Grand Theft Auto IV was going to have.
You no longer have to be frustrated hiding in a deep dark ally, but because a cop come into a stupid little circle on the mini-map, they see right the walls and you’re being pursued again. This time, each and every copy has their own field of vision. If you break that line of sight, it’s all fair game. Ducking down in a bush, and you’ll see cops speeding down the street right past you. You can also hide in; a dark ally, behind a dumpster, inside a store behind the counter, under a bridge, on a roof etc. Unless you want to make things interesting. You can also lead cops right into gang territory and watch a heated gun battle go down. The cops don’t just ignore the gang members and come for you. They fight for their lives.
Sometimes they win, sometimes they don’t. It’s just a shame so much work went into improving the police force that you can’t help by participating. Vigilantly missions are not featured within Grand Theft Auto V, and easily my biggest complaint with the game. Everything has been improved so much that having these missions, and a possibility of calling for back up, would make for some intense, memorable moments for many gamers. I’m sure they could easily be reintroduced through means of DLC or even a free update. It’s just disappointing that such an iconic feature to the series, in the best game within the series, is missing.
Even after 100% completion, I can’t put the controller down. There’s so many things within Grand Theft Auto V that I have yet to experience and still finding. From the many easter eggs, to Rockstar putting themselves in gamers shoes, doing things gamers would do, then showing acknowledgement within the game. No other game I’ve ever played pays this close attention to gamers then reflect them within the game. What do I mean by this? Playing as Trevor, take Amanda’s (Michael’s wife) car and see what happens. Shoot rockets at Michael house, hang out with Michael and Franklin by picking them up in a chopper as Trevor. Gamers always find a way to manipulate features against the game or just trying crazy things, and never expect anything to happen. Rockstar has made it happen.
The laughter and smiles that go across my face when experiencing the little things is what makes Grand Theft Auto V such an unforgettable masterpiece. I’m still trying wacky, crazy things and receiving a response. It’s like my thoughts were on par with Rockstar’s development team and in return, I got the game I always wanted. A game for gamers, by gamers.
+ Trevor, Trevor and more Trevor
+ Amazing detailed unforgettable world
+ Fantastic non-repetitive mission structure
+ Lots of customization
+ Revamped police system
+ Incredible voice acting
+ Hundreds of hours of content
+ Genre defining experience
+ Oh, and did a mention Trevor?
– Lack of interiors
– Missing some iconic features i.e Vigilante missions
10 (TEN) represents a game that you would unequivocally recommend to all gamers. This score is reserved for games you consider to be not only the best of their genre, but to be one of the best games of the year. A 10 does not have to be absolutely perfect — we do NOT hold games up to an impossible standard because that simply is not fair. Ebert and Roeper did not give 1 and 9/10ths thumbs up.
Grand Theft Auto V was developed and published by Rockstar Games. It was released on September 17th, 2013, at the MSRP of $59.99 for Xbox 360 and PS3. A copy was purchased by the reviewer for the purposes of this review. The game was played for over 100 hours and reached 100% completion. Kifflom!