Monday, 4 November 2013

Grand Theft Auto V review

Grand Theft Auto V, Rockstar's most ambitious and anticipated title yet, is here. From the various trailers and gameplay videos, we've seen many new mechanics and features, and there's no reason that this game should disappoint. It not only has the biggest world that Rockstar have created, but three playable characters, upgradeable skills, massive customisation options, a bucketload of optional activities and much more. Let's hope that Michael, Franklin and Trevor can deliver on the promises that Rockstar have made. 

The game starts in North Yankton, a decade prior to the events that occur in Los Santos, and you get to experience one of the heists that Rockstar have been telling us about instantly. Three masked men are robbing a small town bank, and this is where you first get to control a character in GTA V. The transition between cut-scene and gameplay is seamless, as it was in Max Payne 3. Immersion is unbroken, and it's going to be hard to go back to playing games with loading screens after cinematics. You are told to detonate a bomb on the vault door, by bringing up your old, Nokia 3310-like phone and calling a number. The door blows, allowing you to run in and bag huge sums of money. It's not long before the cops show and you get to try out the improved shooting mechanics first hand. All of the guns are much more accurate than they were in GTA IV, and combined with the ability to run and gun, gunplay is just a lot more enjoyable in general. After taking down a few cops, you make it to the getaway car and try to escape. After a few complications, this section is over, and it's almost time for your trip to Los Santos to begin. 

The first thing you'll notice is just how good this game looks. Los Santos looks utterly incredible; it's sharp, insanely detailed and beautifully colourful. It's a far cry from Liberty City which, whilst still being visually impressive, was a collection of mainly browns and greys, with a few other faded colours thrown in. It's hard to believe just how far Rockstar's technology has come in five years. Los Santos doesn't just look good though. It's huge. Like, seriously huge. It doesn't come close to the likes of Just Cause 2, but you wouldn't want it too. Games on a scale like that just don't have the attention to detail that Rockstar are renowned for. It is a manageable size, but is still far bigger than anything Rockstar have attempted before. And it's all hand-crafted, from the mountains and forests to the skyscrapers and Rockford Hills mansions. Everything is unique. There are no copied and pasted structures here, and the result is mind-blowing. The city feels like a real, living and breathing city, the desert is derelict and isolated and the ocean could be another game in itself. The waves are unbelievable, as they move and look ridiculously realistic. As you head further away from land, the waves get bigger and rougher. The same is also true when the weather is bad. It's not advisable to be sea bound when it's windy and stormy. The underwater world is also magnificent in both scope and beauty, with marine life, wrecks to explore and secrets to find. Never before has a videogame world been created so perfectly. 

Los Santos is expansive and beautiful. You won't want to leave!

The story and missions in GTA V are also better than ever. The intertwining plot of the three characters is a thing of beauty, and right from the moment you start the game, it keeps on escalating, to a thrilling and satisfying climax. You get staggered introductions to the characters, each being brought in only when necessary, and they're all so very different. Franklin is the first character you'll play as in Los Santos, and he's a young, street savvy guy. He's also the most level-headed of the three, often diffusing problematic situations. He's initially working as a car repo man for Simeon Yetarian, a "legitimate businessman" who owns a car showroom. He persuades people to buy cars on credit that he knows they can't afford, just so Franklin, along with his friend Lamar, can steal them back. It is on a repo job where you meet Michael. Retired from the crime game, Michael is trying to live a family life in Rockford Hills, but he is drawn to chaos so it doesn't always work out the way he wants it to. A few missions later, you'll meet Trevor, who is by far the most insane Grand a Theft Auto character ever made. He is completely unhinged, making rash decisions and putting no value on human life, but he is also the most compassionate character, in his own weird way. Yes, he may be utterly despicable, but he has principles and some sort of twisted morality. Once you have all three characters, the fun really starts. 

Some missions give you all three characters to choose between, allowing you to play exactly how you want to. One mission sees Trevor high on a vantage point providing cover fire with a sniper rifle, whilst Franklin and Michael are down on the streets, each covering a different direction in an alleyway. There are so many possibilities for awesomeness, and it's really handy for getting out of sticky situations. Some missions have each character doing something completely different, giving the game a massive amount of replayability.

The cops are better than ever, and remember your face after a crime

Overall, the missions have been vastly improved over all of Rockstar's previous games. There are less missions that require you to drive somewhere and shoot people. The majority of them have something unique to that mission, that you won't find elsewhere. One sees you playing as Michael, whilst Franklin climbs onto the front of the car, before jumping onto a stolen yacht. Another has Trevor piloting a small plane into a larger plane, before killing everyone on board and driving back out in a military jeep. Your mind will be blown repeatedly. If there's one thing wrong with GTA V, it's that you only really get big money for the last heist. You get paid well before that, without a shadow of a doubt, but there are some businesses for sale that cost much more than you can ever earn through the story heists. It would have been awesome to be able to utilise the big money before the story's end. 

Grand Theft Auto V could well be the best game ever made. It has everything you could ever want from a sandbox game; interesting characters, an amazing story and script, heaps of activities, improved core mechanics and the best graphics that this generation has seen. It's easy to waste hours marvelling at the waves breaking just off-shore, the mountainous forest regions and even the city itself. This is Rockstar's masterpiece. Forget Game of the Year, GTA V is the greatest game that we've seen in many years, and probably will be for a few more.

10/10

by Louis Gardner

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