The Grand Theft Auto series is one of the most beloved, most pervasive, and most controversial video game series of all time. These qualities also make Grand Theft Auto 5 one of the most anticipated games, not just the Fall 2013 season, but of this whole console generation. Rockstar have a lot to live up to but they seem to realize how high the stakes are as they are ready to roll out the biggest GTA game to date, with a world map that makes some real world cities seem small and whole crew of main characters in place of their usual singular anti-hero. Grand Theft Auto 5 might be Rockstar’s most ambitious game to date, but is it their best? Let’s find out.
Grand Theft Auto 5 takes place in the semi-fictional city of Los Santos, an analog of real world Los Angeles. If this sounds familiar, it probably means you’ve played 2004′s GTA: San Andreas. Yes, some of the same territory will be revisited but it’s going to look very different this time around. You may remember thinking that San Andreas was one of the biggest games you've had ever seen, but GTA V has it beat by a distinct margin.
Instead of focusing on one character’s actions, like previous entries in the series, GTA V has three playable main characters. After a certain point, early on in the game, you’ll be able to switch between characters on the fly, performing missions as each member of your crew and experiencing the very different lives of Michael, Franklin, and Trevor. You'll find these three characters far more interesting than those of the previous GTA games. Michael is a retired criminal who can’t relate to his normal life or his family, Franklin is a gang-banger who is tired of the small time, and Trevor is a psychopath with a drug problem and some semi-justified abandonment issues.
Playing through the story as three different characters really helps the game have purpose. Instead of having to shift the main character’s focus and motivations to follow those of whomever is handing out missions at the time, Rockstar achieve the kind of variety we’re looking for with the missions by having three separate stories going. The three men meet up frequently and, when they do, you really get to see how much fun Grand Theft Auto 5′s missions can be.
A number of the missions are set up in the form of heists. Heist missions are larger operations that require more planning and preparation than the typical driving and shooting GTA missions you may be used to. Heists will often involve a number of prerequisite missions before you can go ahead with them and some will offer a few different options when deciding your plan of attack. Do you go in the front, guns blazing, or do you take a stealthier approach, you decide. You will then hire a team, which you can choose to skimp on and give up a smaller portion of the take or hire the best and share more of the loot with your team. Heists are the one real standout feature that sets GTA V apart from prior games in the series and man are they a lot of fun.
When you jump into GTA V you will be thrust right into the action as Rockstar cleverly disguise the game’s tutorials as fast-paced missions. You’ll likely also notice that the driving mechanics have been improved upon since GTA 4 and the combat system has been tightened up as well. The game isn’t without it’s small issues though as aircraft are still horrendously touchy, a problem that is exacerbated by the fact that a number of missions require some precision piloting. Controlling your character doesn’t always go the way you want it to and problems here mostly arise from trying to use the climbing system. Often when you hit X to jump up and grab a ledge your character will jump forward instead. It isn’t game breaking but it can be quite annoying.
The city of Los Santos, and its huge surrounding area, represent Rockstar’s largest and most compelling sandbox to date. This is one world that offers so many possibilities that it would be hard to ever see them all. When not completing main story or side missions players can play full featured games of tennis and golf, practice at a shooting range, play the stock market, learn to fly, or compete in street races. These are just a few of the activities to keep you busy and the best part is there are no annoying cousins bothering you to go bowling every ten minutes.
Rockstar have split multiplayer into a separate entity for GTA V, one they’re calling Grand Theft Auto Online. This will be a free download for anyone who owns the game and will be covered in a separate review when it is released in a couple of weeks.
The wait between Grand Theft Auto games always feels like forever but the wait has never been more worthwhile. Grand Theft Auto 5 outdoes the rest with a great story, three interesting main characters, and a world that is just begging to be explored. This is the biggest and best GTA game yet and, whether you’re a long time fan or thinking of picking up your first GTA game, you need to get yourself a copy of GTA V.