How good is Rockstar’s latest entry in it’s controversial series?Few companies know how to push the limits of game consoles like Rockstar. Instead of waiting for the nest generation of consoles to arrive, Rockstar stood defiant and showed everyone how much they could pull off and get away with during the waning months of the current generation as we know it. Grand Theft Auto V is a return to form, and beyond, for the series.
Grand Theft Auto IV’s Liberty City was praised as feeling like a living city; it feels absolutely dead compared to GTA V’s Los Santos and the rest of Blaine County. Though you can go anywhere as any character each has a specific part of the city they call “home” and each offer a unique feel. Michael lives in the upper-class area of Los Santos, Franklin begins in the hood and feels the most like you’re playing San Andreas again, and Trevor calls the small desert town of Shady Shores his home, a place that feels like a modern-day Red Dead Redemption.
With GTA V, Rockstar blended elements of their past open-world game into one magnum opus. This is one of the first games that has truly earned the term “sandbox game.” There are so many choices and so much to see that after 10 minutes you’ll be asking yourself, “where do I even begin?”
Even though it’s a bit overused you can’t talk about a Grand Theft Auto game without mentioning the satire. GTA V is brimming with satire and some of the best stuff to date in the series comes from this game. Michael seems to be a direct reference to Rockstar. He is a wealthy man who tried like hell to get out of doing what he was known for but gets pulled back in because of the demand and he’s so damn good at what he does. Trevor, another playable character, seems to be the embodiment of what so many people hate about GTA rolled into one convenient package.
No topic is safe from GTA. Whether it’s gay rights, gun control, Facebook (in the game it’s Life Invader), or even torture GTA pushes the envelope to its breaking point with both success and hilarity. One of my personal favorite’s is Michael mentioning he is a movie guy and another character asks why because “it’s all superheroes, remakes, and romantic comedies.”
The game’s story is the strongest it has ever been as well. GTA IV’s story went much darker in then any of the previous entries but GTA Vmanages to have a darker story but feel much lighter throughout.
All the characters have their own stories as well as missions that intertwine with one another. Michael is a struggling family man who spends his days at home bored and drunk next to the pool. His wife commits adultery on the regular (though Michael is certainly not blame-free in that area either) and his two kids have become spoiled ass-holes.
Franklin spends his days as a shady repo man and gangbanger. He has intentions of going places and doing things above lifting cars but hasn’t had much luck. It’s not until he meets Michael that he starts pulling the high-end jobs he always dreamed of.
Then there’s Trevor. Trevor is easily the darkest and most depraved character I have ever played as in a video game. The things he does and says while just walking the streets makes you feel almost dirty but his oddly chivalrous (for him at least) attitude toward women and his unending loyalty to his friends make him much more complex than he gets credit for.
All three characters feel wildly different from one another and their stories, both individual and intertwined, sport some of best dialogue and acting in games this year. All the character’s missions feel specific to them, whether you are hunting down The Lost as Trevor or rescuing Michael’s daughter from pornstars, they all carry a voice that hits home with the character you’re playing as.
The world of GTA V is the real scene-stealer in the game, however. Gone is the dark and gritty feel that GTA IV had and in its place are color, vibrancy, and a hell of a lot of variety. The first time I jumped off a pier into the ocean as Michael and crashed beneath the waves I was breathless. I’ve watched more suns set over Los Santos than I have in real life. GTA V sports one of the most, if not the most, believably alive worlds out there for you to romp around in.
The game’s controls also saw a marked improvement over it’s predecessors. The vehicle handling is much tighter then past games. The cars no longer feel slippery on the road and each car’s handling feels more unique and varied. The cover system also lost most of what made it problematic GTA IV. Your character snaps to the cover you intended with much more ease than in the past and only very rarely did I hide behind a wall I didn’t intend.
The controlling does feel a bit stiff when running around on foot. More than once I would have to circle back around to make it through a door because of the slow turn time. This isn’t a huge deal but the missions on foot feel more tank-like and stiff than any other handling in the game.
The only other complaint I have with the game is with the shooting. The shooting isn’t bad, far from it, but it is so simple that it gets boring with time. Too often I found myself just mashing the zoom button and auto-locking from enemy to enemy. Many times this gives you a power trip but it quickly devolves into just snapping through victims as the repetition rises.
Although games are following the release of GTA V this entry into the series will be remembered as the closing of a generation, and that’s a good thing. The game has so much to do, so much to see and it’s executed tremendously. Two months before next-gen consoles release you can get your first taste of what to expect with GTA V.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.