Good news, everyone. Grand Theft Auto V is the game you were hoping for and a lot more. This is not just another open-world title that promises so much, but doesn't deliver. This is a game that surpasses your wildest expectations for what an open-world game can be, and should be.
For the first time ever, Grand Theft Auto V tells the story of three separate, very different protagonists whose destinies are intertwined in ways that two of them probably figured they would be, while the other was brought into the fold oh so fortuitously.
This story takes you on twists and turns, while providing action unlike any other installment before it. The story of Franklin, Michael and Trevor is compelling, rich, dramatic and will keep you enthralled even with the addicting open-world lure of Los Santos always being present.
When a series has had so many installments, like Grand Theft Auto has had, it's hard for a developer to innovate and bring new experiences that players have yet to see.
But this is Rockstar Games we are talking about and they managed to do just that.
When we first get our hands-on the game Grand Theft Auto V's install takes a little over 15 minutes to complete. Then when you start playing this game, you quickly realize how necessary the install is and how frustratingly broken up the experience would be if we had to get up and change discs every time we wanted to go from one side of Los Santos to the other. The experience is essentially seamless.
As we get into things, an interesting prologue provides a great lead for GTA V. We are then first shown the beautiful city, Rockstar Games does a rather poetic job of showing off a portion of Los Santos, as well as a couple of the main characters.
In terms of visual beauty, Rockstar Games has created a gorgeous, enormous and detailed world that is unmatched in any other installment before it. The detail is probably one of the most striking elements of this world.
While you are inside of say, Franklin's home, it's not just some place that is carelessly filled out with generic details. Rockstar made sure to create an environment that is interactive, entertaining and meaningful to the character's life.
In Franklin safehouse, we can do things such as sit next to his relative and watch some of the cooky TV she has on, and if players so choose, they can also have themselves an afternoon blunt and enjoy the effects while walking around his home.
The amazing detail can be found all over Los Santos, whether we are talking about the hilarious parody-work that the development team has implemented in the game's radio stations, to the general sounds and things you'll hear from people as you walk down the street or just stand on a sidewalk.
With the detail that Grand Theft Auto V provides, the feel of the game is simply stunning. Walking anywhere in this world with a pool, river, stream, lake or ocean by it, is one example of how magnificent this world looks. The water in GTA V is perfect looking and it's hard to imagine that looking anymore convincing.
It's not just going for a stroll that displays how beautiful this world is, taking a flight throughout the world is another wonderful way to explore and experience Los Santos. The mountains create a majestic feel as you fly through valleys and under bridges. Cruising through the barren, dried up desert of Sandy Shores brings out a very real sense of being in that sort of environment.
Explosions in GTA V, while they are naturally violent, they are another gorgeous, stunningly detailed aspect of the game.
There were times in GTA V where you would be flying or driving along in a certain part of Los Santos and you would forget that you were playing a video game. That is how beautiful and convincing this world is.
The tech powering the game also works overtime to preserve this immersion.
Unless you are taking a taxi from one side of the map to the other, we experienced no loading screens when going from free-roam into a cutscene for a mission. Seamlessness is one virtue that many next-generation games have preached they want to harness and well, Rockstar Games accomplished that already with GTA V.
In past Grand Theft Auto games, we would go to a mission and have to wait for the cutscene to load, breaking up the entrenched feeling you had of being in such a live world. With GTA V, that is a thing of the past.
There is no loading, no waiting, and no wondering what else you could be doing as you enter a location for a mission. It's simply walk into a given area and enjoy the always-captivating scenes that GTA V brings.
There were not many cutscenes where we were bored or disengaged with what was being said and happening in the story. As gorgeous and amazing as Los Santos is to speed around, the cutscenes were just as entertaining and almost made us want to experience this cinematics more than the open-world.
Animations are spot on with the voice acting, and by far, the set of actors and actresses that Rockstar compiled for this game are diverse in personality, and entertaining across the board. Yes, some characters are naturally more insane, profane and inane than others; every single one of them creates a scene worth waiting for.
This is by far the best set of voice-acting that Rockstar has integrated into a GTA game before and it will provide an enormous challenge for them to surpass what this game has accomplished, in more ways than one.
There are about as many control schemes in GTA V, as there are profanities. Every single activity, whether you are driving, flying, playing tennis, golfing or just going for a jog, has its own set of controls.
Take driving for instance, just about every car has the same set of controls. When you are driving a convertible though, there's a mechanic to drop the top down. When you are driving a tow-truck, there's a mechanic to lower the vehicle's hook. And when you are driving a metal container lift, there is a mechanic for picking up these enormous crates.
There are systems within the system of driving, and there is depth everywhere. When we talk about Grand Theft Auto V, the level of detail, depth and reality that Rockstar has placed in this game, is stunning and obsessive really.
Driving becomes an extremely rewarding experience once you have improved each character's driving ability. There is enormous fun to be had when you are cruising around Los Santos, weaving your way through traffic.
Each of the three characters in GTA V will have their own special abilities that assist players, especially when things get difficult during certain junctures of the game. Franklin's allows him to slow down time while he is driving, Michael's allows him to become a better marksmen and then Trevor's just turns him into a total psycho. But when is he not a psycho?
Flying of course has its own control mechanics and again, within different types of aircrafts and helicopters, there are various systems for each of them. Detail, detail, detail is what you will find all over this game, and you will love it.
Walking can be a frustrating thing to reign in at times though, and it has been probably one of the biggest nuisances in every single Grand Theft Auto game. An example of this is when we get out of the water and walk across the dock to a ramp up to the street. You have to very carefully control you character to fit within the narrow walkway going up, and can be infuriating at times.
While it's not a crippling aspect of the game, it's something Rockstar has never really nailed ever and will hopefully be something that is solved in future iterations of the franchise.
One of the aspects of GTA IV that was sheer agony was the incorporation of a cell phone. However, Rockstar Games did manage to give GTA V's cell phone a makeover, which resulted in a much more enjoyable experience.
Grand Theft Auto's cell phone has gone from an annoyance to an entertaining advantage for gamers to utilize. The color and size of the phone have been improved, not to mention the ease of finding contacts, surfing the Internet or checking emails. Everything makes sense and is easy to follow, which is what we want from a device that is designed to assist players.
But of course, of the three characters that players get to play as, each one of them has certain areas of expertise and certain areas where they struggle a bit more. None of them really struggle to the point of not being able to get anything done, but players do have to be mindful of each character having a well-rounded set of skills.
Trevor is not exactly a track star, so it's best to get him into shape by running often and perhaps even entering him in various running races. Michael is not your Mario Andretti behind the wheel, so making sure he gets plenty of time driving and flying around Los Santos is important. And then there's Franklin who literally could not shoot fish in a barrel. Okay, that's a little dramatic, but you get the idea.
Since heists are the main focus of GTA V, each character will need to have adequate skills in all areas, so the more you can keep up with the training and advancement of each character's skills, the less time you'll have to spend improving driving or shooting before each heist.
Besides, that's half the fun of this freakin' game is doing all of the side missions and activities.
While Rockstar does not give you immediate access to each of the three protagonists, you are given that liberty fairly soon into the game and this ultimately creates Grand Theft Auto V times three.
You literally are living three separate lives of individuals who are so different in a wide variety of ways, that GTA V eventually becomes three games in one.
With Trevor, you may be working on earning some extra cash by running guns from your airport in bf Sandy Shores to certain areas of Los Santos. Whereas you may then take hold of Franklin, and will be focused on customizing your ride to make it exactly the way you want it. Then with Michael, you may also be working several jobs to help find the funds to purchase that movie theater you've always wanted.
Speaking of finance, let's get into the finance system a little bit. The currency in this game works exactly how you would expect it to in real-life. Buying the aforementioned movie theater is not cheap; try $10 million not cheap.
There are a variety of ways you can make money in GTA V. You can invest your hard-earned cash into the stock market and let it grow into a fortune. To a certain extent, you can impact how a stock performs by the actions you perform. Players will experience at least one example of this in the main story.
When you purchase property in this game, it's not something you buy and then you never do anything to manage it. You will need to carry out certain missions in order to increase the profits of your business. These missions are indeed what you think they are and ultimately improve the performance of your organization.
Oh and yeah, drugs are an interesting, smaller part of this game. In one instance, we were free-roaming with Michael and came upon an individual who was trying to start a movement to get his "special plant" legalized. To try and entice Michael, he offered him a little taste and all of a sudden you were playing Saints Row IV.
Well maybe not quite that, but while players are hallucinating, they have to fend of hordes of aliens who are trying to abduct him. Armed with a heavy machine gun, Michael gets to enjoy the thrill of taking out alien scum after alien scum. Once Michael is through with his trip, it's safe to say he was not on board with the movement though. This seems to be a bit of a jab at Deep Silver though, but it's all in good fun, at least for us.
While there are endless amounts of activities in Grand Theft Auto V, the real experience and genius of this game is the total package. It's not just one thing that makes this game great, it's everything put together into one incredible world.
Rockstar Games has been upfront about the fact that they wanted to revolutionize the industry with this new three protagonist setup, and whether or not most games start mimicking this setup remains to be seen, but Grand Theft Auto V made it work.
You will easily spend close to 100 hours playing this game and will ultimately shatter that number once Grand Theft Auto Online debuts this October.
The best part about Grand Theft Auto V is also one of the worst parts of it. This game is massive, it's obsessively detailed and it is a world that you will not be bored with anytime soon. What's the bad part you ask?
Well the bad thing about this is Rockstar Games spent years investing the time into creating this amazing experience and it most likely will be years before we get to revisit this fascinating universe again.
Years in between installments are the price gamers, developers and publishers pay to create experiences like this. But as consumers, that's what we want, right? We want quality and value for the money we invest in a game. Rockstar Games has indeed raised the bar for the Grand Theft Auto franchise and for open-worlds across the board.
In a year that has seen a number of great games come to pass, Grand Theft Auto V stands out among them as the best, the deepest and the richest experience you will find. This is the best game we will ultimately close out this generation with, and while that is a sad thought in some regards, it is an extremely comforting thought to contemplate as we move into a whole new era of gaming.
Grand Theft Auto V stands alone, is unmatched and is nothing if not an epic, masterpiece on all accounts.
- Unprecedented detail in Los Santos
- Convincing, powerful voice-acting and a compelling story
- A game you will be able to play well past this November
- Walking is still a drag
- Shooting system is average
For purposes of this review, Rockstar Games provided us with an Xbox 360 copy of Grand Theft Auto V. For all of our latest exclusives, previews, reviews and features, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Game On.