Finally, after so much hype and pre-release press, Grand Theft Auto V has finally come out to massive fanfare. In fact, it’s so massive that it’s now the single fastest selling entertainment product ever, earning $1 billion in just three days. Whether it gets good press or bad, it only serves to have this monster grow in size and in number of tentacles for reaching further outside the usual gamer base. It’s a behemoth that would make the likes of Jack Thompson involuntarily defecate in absolute disbelief.
Exaggerated scatological joke about a disbarred lawyer aside, even when kicking dead horses can be fun in this case, it just goes to show how far the Grand Theft Auto franchise has come. Rockstar Games took their sweet time with this, and it really shows. The production value is just phenomenal, without any sign of compromise. Grand Theft Auto IV was a pretty big game, but this one topped it many times over. This is not just empty praise as the polish really shines through right at the first few minutes of the game.
Los Santos may not be the biggest open world ever in gaming, but it surely is the least boring since there’s so much to do in it. While you’re not engaged in the story, you can run around and have fun in places like strip clubs, shooting ranges, race tracks, and so on. It’s not a static world either as random events do occur quite a bit, which you can either try to avoid or get a closer look at. If you choose the latter, you may even take advantage and come out richer as a result if you play your cards right. This means that even when you’re not doing missions, you still get tons of entertainment in the open world, which is what Grand Theft Auto is all about in the first place.
Doing missions in this game is hardly boring at all as there is a staggering level of variety involved, both with main storyline missions with side missions that you can do whenever you have the time. Aside from the usual “kill them all”, there are plenty of car chases, and there are even some stealth ones thrown in between to keep things interesting. Going into stealth mode actually feels like that of the Hitman series, which is a good thing. The combat system is cover based, so you don’t have to take bullets like how a junkie takes drugs since the controls are easy enough to remember and has just enough assistance to not have you failing to hit the side of a barn, but not make you feel like a total noob while at it.
But perhaps the most compelling of them all are the heists, which gives Payday 2 a good run for its money. You go in, threaten everyone in the vicinity and take out those who threaten you, then open everything up to loot whatever is inside, and finally escape while trying to keep most of what you’ve just taken. As with any good heist, there are a ton of complications along the way and you may lose your cohorts along the way. You then lose money while you scramble for safety away from the sirens. There is so much going on in a heist, and you will be motivated to make as few mistakes as possible while not getting caught, which is what’s really fun about it.
The “auto” part of GTA is certainly fulfilled with a huge variety of cars you can find throughout Los Santos. Most of them are recognizable as they’re based on real life designs that have been put together in various ways, making up much interest for the car nuts among players. There are also plenty of other vehicles like tanks, helicopters, planes, and so on to ride in. All of this is bound together with the excellent controls that let you drive and even race. That’s to be expected from Rockstar, who had also made Midnight Club Los Angeles.
Its almost hyperbolic honesty makes for a story that dissuades people from living a life of crime with characters that are far from perfect and situations that are definitely not ideal. In the end, the “happily ever after” of every Grand Theft Auto game is never without the needless deaths of other characters. GTA5 is no different from that, but has improved upon that even more with three protagonists to tell a story from multiple angles. You not only feel for one playable character now, but three of them.
What really makes this game is not just the base GTA formula, but the new big feature they put in that is the three-character system. You can switch between them whenever you wish and experience Los Santos from their perspective. They also each have their own strengths, like Michael being the marksman and sneak, Franklin being the best driver and with the most stamina, and Trevor being the best pilot and the physically strongest. All three of them are interesting, but it’s Trevor who really steals the show as he is crazy, unhinged, and quite unforgettable.
GTA characters are mostly about criminal archetypes and their antitheses. For example, Michael is the criminal dream come true turned mundane nightmare, Franklin is a criminal who wants nothing more to do with the gangbanging lifestyle that is glorified in media, and Trevor is just a magnificent mess of a human being. They and the other characters are all deplorable in their own way, which is a lot like in real life, but it’s magnified in this game due to their mostly amoral nature.
This game’s ambition does not stop there as it extends to more novel ideas. It also tries to get mobile devices into the game to extend the experience. The companion app iFruit is only for the iOS and has a few issues with connectivity. They do add a new dimension to the gameplay to have something that you can have outside of your console, but that is kind of like the Pokewalker for Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver, wherein you have a device to supposedly enhance your gameplay. At least with this one though, it’s a mobile app so you don’t have an extra trinket to lug around. You also have your own mobile phone in the game, which you can use for various things. The most interesting feature is the Snapmatic camera, which you can take photos with, including selfies. You can then share these photos online in the Rockstar Social Club. You can also check your stats online and how many achievements/trophies you’ve unlocked in the game.
There are also various novel things like in-game stock market that updates in real time where you can invest your money and hope to earn steady returns, which is definitely more involving than the cache and store hacking from Saints Row IV. There are also plenty of other things that are already there and about to come out in the future that will enrich this game even more, especially the much-awaited Grand Theft Auto Online, which seems to still be in development.
If there are issues with this game, they’re relatively minor at best. For instance, with the Xbox 360 version of the game, Rockstar actually recommends against installing the second disk to avoid graphical glitches, perhaps due to hardware limitations of the console. The online services also were rather wonky upon release of the game, but that usually gets straightened out later on. But as for big bad faults, there’s not much to speak of. Perhaps some people may get problems regarding cars in garages, but it’s not really confirmed yet at this point, and most never encountered them.
This then goes on a tangent about how controversial this franchise has become, so much that it has become a part of pop culture and touted as the epitome of video game violence, which is rather shallow when you really think about it. Aside from the missions, you can play this game through the open world segments without really hurting anyone. It may be boring, but it’s totally possible, so it’s not like all players automatically start laying down machine gun fire on random pedestrians. There’s always choice to either screw around or not, and perhaps it’s all in the head. That’s what the ESRB rating is for anyway. But then again, there will always be people who have problems with its political incorrectness and its various displays of amorality and even misogyny, which is perhaps its less savory trait.
GTA 5 is guaranteed to provide hundreds upon hundreds of hours of fun and excitement, and there’s still more to come like DLCs and multiplayer features. Just think that if you can play with two other friends, then there’s so much chaos and mayhem you can unleash in the game for kicks (which stays in the game, of course). For the price you’ll be paying for this game, it’s totally worth it. All we need now is the PC version to make it truly complete.
Tested in PS3. Final Score: 9.5/10