Putting the ‘Grand' in Grand Theft Auto
There are scenes in this game which I didn't expect, there are moments that made me genuinely uncomfortable and there are moments which blew my mind. It's hard not to give a game like this a 10/10 but numeric scores are largely ‘Eye of the Beholder' things and I would prefer to concentrate on the reasons to play the game, why I like it and why it's the greatest Rockstar and Grand Theft Auto game yet.
Rampant 80's movie misogyny and racist commentary aside, the game is a blockbuster title and jam-packed with content in the single player slice of gaming history. The various gameplay mechanics and tight controls/systems are what make the game shine along with Rockstar's fastidious attention to superlative detail, from character design to mission structure and world creation.
There are a few flaws that can mar the experience a little and at the moment the game seems to have an issue with saving cars in player owned houses. This is especially annoying if like one of our readers you spend a fortune on a custom car only to have it vanish, not turn up at the Impound and take your hard earned cash invested in it.
Rockstar has done the impossible and managed to create a game that brims with detail on the current gen, they've layered Los Santos and the outlying regions of this sprawling crime laden metropolis with more activities, things to do, people to meet and random events than any other game that's come before it, either from their own stable or the stables of other developers.
This is a MASSIVE 100 hour action/heist movie with every glorious Hollywood action moment borrowed or replicated. There are nods to Heat, On Her Majesties Secret Service and more in the game and right from the get-go the game earns that 18 rating – this is not a game for kids, and we put this disclaimer right now – if you have kids and they're playing this one - they shouldn't be.
Your choice as parents though, so any lobby groups who read this – don't blame the kids.
Grand Theft Auto V is a stunning achievement though and comes alive in every single layer of gameplay and open-world activity.
This is a game which took 5 years to make and it shows in the way it's all come together.
From the opening action-packed start to the later stages of the game, it never lets up and weaves an intricate complex narrative around 3 semi-unlikeable characters – to begin with. You may have your favourites between the washed-up bank robber turned-witness Michael De Santa, the gangbanging ‘trying to make good' Franklin and the sociopathic violent murderous Trevor Phillips. Yet as the game grows Rockstar hopes that you can find something to like in each of them.
Each character has layers and it's the way they all come together and interact that really ties everything together. Don't expect to start the game being able to access all 3, there are story reasons and there are dozens of missions to get to before the crime-crew can get cracking on their big scores. Yet the character design for the 3 amigos is fantastic and regardless of your feelings on many of the taboo culture, race and societal issues in the game Rockstar has not been subtle in presenting these – they're a company that doesn't care how many sensitive toes they tread on really. Or perhaps they do and they're poking fun on so many different levels.
It's hard to tell, but as much as I was disturbed by some of the content – there are movies which are MUCH worse and they get a free pass from the concerned crowd.
The whole game flows with this kind of character design and many of the strangers (?) and freaks that you meet will have a similar kind of impact. Some are played for laughs and some are just downright well, freaky.
The characters change as the game progresses, their lives change and their situations prove they're not just stagnant cut-out 2d standees.
For example: Trevor is a complex character and as the game picks up pace, he's not as black-white as he might first appear – capable of sudden turn-around moments and pure genius, he's not our favourite but we no longer despise him as we did at the start.
Complicated story aside, what we have here is an absolutely engrossing game which will disturb, delight and entertain every moment you're doing something in the massive game world. Rockstar has outdone themselves in that regard.
What Rockstar has managed to do is create an immersive living/breathing game world with so many layers it's hard to discuss them all, without missing something important amongst all the by-words and shiny-words that reviewers have been used to writing for years. What you really want to know is – does it play well and does it play better than GTA IV did?
Every aspect of the previous GTA game's flaws has been addressed and fixed. The combat system both in terms of firearms and melee has been vastly improved. There are numerous settings which allow you to refine the shooting to taste, with soft-lock on all the assisted options. So even if you lock an enemy down and smoothly switch between targets with a flick of the right stick, you're able to adjust that aim for the perfect headshot or change tactic immediately.
Red Dead Redemption's weapon's wheel makes an appearance and allows you to fluidly switch weapons mid-combat, picking the right tool quickly and cleanly.
The game's motion has been adjusted in combat too, so you can jog and fire from your hip. Being able to move smoothly in-out of cover is the icing on the cake along with a vastly improved blind-fire system. This is thanks to games like Max Payne 3 (which was fantastic) showing Rockstar like to iterate on their franchises beyond the main game.
A combat roll is another useful addition, and very quickly you can roll into action, slide into cover and blaze away hitting targets until you see the handy red-x which signifies that enemy is dead: another holdover from Red Dead.
No longer does entering a gun fight feel like a chore and that's one of the biggest/best changes to GTA V compared to the previous game.
Here's an example from a later mission. Trevor is racing towards an army convoy of two jeeps, one truck. In GTA IV I'd have been dreading this encounter, in GTA V I am actually looking forwards to it because of the improved combat system.
I skid Trevor's vehicle to the side and smoothly leap out right into cover at the front of my ride, seconds later I've dropped three army guys with snap-shooting pop-cover tactics. The red-x's confirming the kills. More bullets rain down at me and four more guys act intelligently to prolong the combat more than Trevor would like.