The latest instalment in the popular Grand Theft Auto franchise, Grand Theft Auto V is here and it’s stunning. It’s by far Rockstar’s biggest achievement to date. Rockstar always go loud on small details and massive on scale and GTAV is no exception. The open-world of Los Santos is breathtaking and rich with quality and attention-to-detail. This looks like an early eighth generation game on old systems and it’s unbelievable how Rockstar have pulled it off.
The main opening cutscene introduces us to two of the central characters as the camera captures scenes of sunbathers lying on the sun soaked beach. The intro theme sounds like a mix up of Vice City, San Andreas and a new quite jazzy element. Michael, an ex bank robber turned family man, is with psychiatrist explaining his life problems and Franklin, a dealer in stolen cars, is on his way with his friend Lamar to steal a car and take it back to the showroom. We are thrust into the world as Franklin, controlled by the player is immediately enabled to jump in a stolen car and get a feel for the new driving style, following and hopefully keeping up with cocky Lamar.
The typical Rockstar humour is also present. One mission for example, you are tasked with bluffing your way into the “Life Invader” offices which are an obvious parody on the Facebook offices. Billboards are often poking fun at real-world products or life-style choices and references to modern culture are entertainingly used. You can watch TV again which is populated with a few channels playing various hilarious parodies of real life programmes and brutish cartoons or visit the cinema and watch animated shorts. The internet is also back and with more options than ever. There’s even a virtual stock market if you fancy yourself as the next Gordon Gekko. Property is available to buy and missions attached to them to earn more cash. Clothes can be bought from a number of different clothes shops to customise your character. Haircuts, even tattoos can be purchased.
The three main characters each have different personalities. Trevor is pretty much the poster boy for the GTA series. No stranger to havoc and all the symptoms of a psychopath. Michael, a bank robber who has worked with Trevor in the past but has now retired into a family man and settled in Los Santos but tries to conceal his temper. Franklin a clever young man brought up in a gangster environment and often finds himself picking up the pieces of everyone else’s problems. We can always rely on Rockstar to deliver a cast of outlandish characters. It’s also an ambitious concept seeing as Rockstar has never made a game such as this where you have the ability to control and follow three characters, but it works. All three characters will eventually work together on missions, aiding each other with their special skills.
Los Santos and Blaine Country are monumental sprawling environments complete with beaches, cities, military bases, airports, clothes shops, gun shops, you name it. Even the underwater coastlines can be explored.
Vespucci beach is dazzling, One mission in particular set in Vespucci beach I particularly enjoyed. Vinewood is sprawling with expensive houses and amenities to accommodate the lavish lifestyle look of the California inspired location. Sandy Shores is a small desert home to rednecks and Blaine County is an idyllic rural environment that looks like it stepped out of the film ‘Walking Tall’.
Cars have had a revamp. Fans weren’t especially pleased about the handling of cars in the previous instalment which felt less responsive and more difficult to corner. There’s also a huge variety of vehicles to uncover.
The adrenaline junkie lifestyle is realised in video-game form. From jumping out of a plane with a parachute, diving underwater with scuba equipment, to speeding down Mount Chiliad on a dirt bike. There are so many activities to choose from, tennis, flying, racing to name a few, each holding up very well considering it’s only side options.
The graphics are such an achievement on old hardware and the leap from Grand Theft Auto IV is instantly recognisable. The sun reflects off the surface of car bodywork, explosions are alluring orange and black clouds, characters all look unique, the draw distance is unfathomable.
It’s easy to just get lost in GTAV and completely lose track of time because there is so much to see and do. Your brain will become fooled by the games excellent day and night cycles, if it’s horrible weather outside, stick on GTAV and take in the beautiful beaches and holiday destination experience. That’s why we play GTA. Pure escapism. One of the reasons GTAIV probably wasn’t appreciated as much because it had a rather dreary atmosphere. Cloudy, rainy weather. Quite a miserable looking destination to visit. People want to feel like they’re on holiday in a pretty, yet charming sandbox environment. And yes they want the freedom to blow it all up and cause carnage and let of steam if they wish.
The police are an intelligent foe this time around, not to be underestimated. They will patrol an area you were last seen to try and find you. They will drag their wounded behind cover, devise strategies to flank you and set up road blocks to stop you from getting away.
The music, mostly down to person preference, its pretty good in my opinion. It’s hard to live up to the likes of Vice City and San Andreas which it doesn’t but still has a nice selection. One thing that became noticeable after playing for so long, is there isn’t enough music on the individual stations an extra perhaps 2 songs on each would have been better. This is likely changed on the remastered ports.
To conclude, if you don’t already own a copy of GTAV, you’re missing out on something incredibly special that only Rockstar can deliver. You owe it to yourself to play GTAV if not to play it for the wacky characters and insane havoc you can wreak on the environment, then to just explore the insanely-crafted world and take in the sites and visit the beautiful landmarks.
Grand Theft Auto: V is available now on PS3, Xbox 360 and available soon on PS4, Xbox One and PC