GTA V – Review
Follow Genre: Action
Developer: Rockstar North
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360

GTA V – Review

Site Score
9.7
Good: Controversy at its best, huge improvements to gameplay, preparing and executing heists is plain old fun.
Bad: Pop-in issues on digital versions.
User Score
9.3
(11 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.3/10 (11 votes cast)

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High-speed car chases that have you jump on a yacht loaded unto a truck? Blowing up some poor yokel’s barn out of spite? Enough quotes and innuendo to make professional comedians weep? Yup GTA is back in all its glory with its fifth installment and it’s just as controversial as you’d hoped it would be.

Story

Things are different this time around. Instead of building your way up to the top of the local crime scene, you’re actually switching between three crooks. First off is Franklin, a ‘homie’ from Los Santos’ ghetto, who’s stuck with his feminist aunt and some scheming friends, whose plans to make it big never succeed.

Coming up next is Michael, a retired thief, whose last job went horrible wrong, leaving him no choice but to cut a deal with the government. A nasty case of mid-life crisis left Michael stuck in a rut. Not that you can blame him, since his he’s stuck with the most obnoxious family you could possible imagine. His wife’s spreading her legs for nearly any kind of instructor she can get her hands on, be it yoga, tennis or otherwise. Michael’s son is a lazy bum who smokes weed and plays videogames all day, and his daughter who’d been on a ‘teenage moms show’ if Michael didn’t get her out of trouble every time.

Last of our trio is Trevor, one of Michael’s old buddies and a deranged psychopath. Trevor inherited the over the top GTA-spirit the most. Everything he does ends with someone dead or at least severely injured. Yet he’s also the one character that develops the most during the entire story. Trevor, in some ways, is the most human of the gang. This is saying a lot, because he’s also the character that won’t hesitate to torture people for fun. To be blunt, Trevor is a satire on modern society, he embodies every bad instinct, every wrong decision a person could ever make, but does so while giving a clear, if somewhat deranged, reason to his actions.

The Fact that you’re switching between three personae makes GTA V a more dynamic game compared to its predecessors. Missions will have you alternate between Michael, Trevor and Franklin, offering different insights in their past and motivations.

There’s a lot of scheming going on as well, because while Trevor and Michael used to be old partners in crime and Franklin is somewhat the (proper) son Michael never had, their characters never fall flat. There’s more than meets the eye. Trevor’s and Michael’s friendship is colored all kinds of grey, while Franklin starts out idolizing Michael, until doubts cloud his mind after things didn’t go as planned a few times too often.

In short: this fifth part of the GTA-series has managed to develop it’s story from a satirical menace to a compelling tale that, in my opinion, would do just as well as a first-rate gangster tv-series. The plot this time around also never forgets its part of a Grand Theft Auto-game.

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Graphics

As before, GTA is set in an enormous city and this time around, it feels more alive than ever. Even compared to the already gorgeous fourth game in the series, GTA V looks absolutely stunning. When the ingame weather is decent enough, you can see Los Santos’ mountain range from miles away.

Everything just fits. Los Santos looks and feels like an actual city. From neighborhood parks, to shopping centers, the more abandoned outskirts of the city, it’s all there.

There are, of course, limitations to what our current generation of consoles can handle. While the game ran smooth enough, the framerate is noticeably lower than it could be. It’s nothing major, and most of the time you won’t even notice it, but when there’s a lot going on, it’s clear that GTA V demands the most from our PS3 and Xbox 360.

On other graphical problem I encountered was a bad case of pop-in. Just to be clear, this was mostly because I was playing the PSN version of the game. Anyone who’s been keeping an eye on the reports surrounding this game, will no doubt have heard about its problems when fully installed to a hard drive. GTA V is just that demanding and requires the reading speeds of both your console’s disk drive and hard drive.

Install it, or play a downloaded copy of the game and you’ll notice details on buildings loading much slower, the more you progress. In most cases it doesn’t hamper the experience too much, but I’ve had a few occasions where I was in a high-speed chase with the local police, thinking I could escape through a convenient alley, only to find out that what seemed a good escape route, was in reality blocked by a concrete wall that just hadn’t loaded yet.

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Sound

GTA is famous for its radio stations and that doesn’t change even now. There’s a radio station available for close to every genre you could want. Rock, metal, pop, country, jazz, hip-hop, you name it it’s there.

With, give or take, 250 different songs there’s also enough to keep you interested in the game’s audio. Somewhat different this time, is the fact that individual missions have their own soundtracks, even when driving around. It’s great and often adds a certain sense of urgency with frantic music or gets your adrenaline pumping with some sweeping rock music during scripted car chases.

No complaints here.

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Gameplay

Let’s start off with everything that remained the same. You’re still controlling your character in a third person perspective; every car in the game can still be stolen by pressing triangle or the Y-button and GTA V still offers plenty of unbridled violence to unleash on its inhabitants.

The game’s over the top, just as you would expect a Grand Theft Auto game to be.

Things have improved quite a bit though.

First of all, driving hasn’t gotten more arcade-like. GTA V abandoned the somewhat realistic car handling from the previous games, instead offering cars that are easier to handle – although in many cases still difficult to master. – Turns are sharper and drifting occurs more often when taking corners. It’s a major improvement, since it fits GTA’s fast-paced style better.

Then there’s the shooting. Guns handle much better, offering more precision when aiming, while still offering an auto-target mode to accommodate for using a controller during chaotic shootouts against an overwhelming force.

Missions have gotten a makeover as well.

As before, you’re still going to spots marked on the game’s map to activate missions. Flashing, colored circles still show where you need to go or park to start a task. What’s new is that each mission has its own achievements that can range from completing them within a time limit, to employing stealth tactics or raining down utter chaos upon your adversaries.

Things do get more varied than that though. For instance: while sneaking into a celebrities’ home to film an secret sex-tape, your partner in crime mentions the idol’s swimming pool. Taking a quick dip will ensure you get a hidden achievement for that mission. The fact that you don’t know what these achievements are until the mission has ended, means that there are plenty of reasons to try a task all over again, maybe even with a different character. That’s right, you can now replay any mission as often as you like.

GTA V’s mission structure is divided among story missions that lead up to big heists and smaller side quests that usually introduce some quirky characters.

The heists require some explaining.

Heists are the big jobs, ranging from robberies on a jewelry store or bank, to stealing a secret super weapon from the government with the help of both a submarine and a helicopter.

Most of the time you have to select a crew to help you during a heist. Franklin, Michael and Trevor are obvious candidates who are virtually omnipresent, but extra help, like a hacker or gunman can be hired to make thing go smoothly. The more skilled the hired help, the bigger the cut he or she requires.

Each heist also gives you a choice in how to handle them. Do you apply stealth or do you go in guns blazing? Or in the case of the super weapon: do you approach from under the sea using a stolen submarine, or do you take over the large freighter the government’s mercenary force has parked in the local docks?

Choice is good. I love choice. It’s a welcome addition to add yet another incentive to replay the story missions.

Side missions then offer some time away from the gung-ho shootouts. Things like deer hunting, going through celebrities’ trash in order to satisfy a couple of retired British tourists, running an aerial smuggling ring or participating in several car and boat chases add plenty of flavor to Los Santos and ensure that you’ll never get bored.

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Conclusion

To me, GTA V is the game that, once more, got me excited about the franchise. I’ll admit I never quite got into the fourth installment, and even San Andreas wasn’t as enjoyable as my previous favorite, Vice City.

Part 5, though, takes everything you know and love about the series and takes it to the next level. A great story, compelling and interesting missions end improved driving and shooting mechanics. If this doesn’t turn out to be game of the year material, I don’t know what would.

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Rating: 9.3/10 (11 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
GTA V - Review, 9.3 out of 10 based on 11 ratings

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