Grand Theft Auto V Review

By litepink, 3 years ago
After a great deal of hype and anticipation –probably the most we’ve ever seen for any videogame– Grand Theft Auto V has finally been released on Xbox 360 to record-breaking sales. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get down to discovering what makes Grand Theft Auto V so satisfying.
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Grand Theft Auto V differentiates itself from all other previous entries with the inclusion of three main protagonists to follow: Michael, Franklin, and Trevor. You have Michael who is a hot-headed middle-aged man that has been out of ‘the game’ for quite some time before ultimately getting pulled back in. He has quite the dysfunctional family but he cares about them no less. Franklin is a looking to distance himself from his criminal ways of the ‘hood'. That’s not to say he plans on leaving the criminal life, he's just looking to get in on something more organized, more lucrative. Then there’s Trevor, a trashy, psychotic, and dangerously manipulative individual who has a moral compass that is way of out whack; not to mention crude, disgusting, and very violent. The sum of these parts creates a dynamic trio of characters. You may find a favorite but you’ll also appreciate their personalities individually.

Each of the three main characters has a unique Special Ability that adds diversity when causing chaos. These come in handy and have strategic value in gun battles and missions. Michael has a Max Payne-like bullet time ability which enables him to see things in slow motion, perfect for headshots. Franklin has a similar ability, only it’s for driving. Given the number of cars that just happen to pull out in front of you it’s a much appreciated skill. Trevor enters a rage mode where he deals additional damage and receives less. All three are great and although they aren’t absolutely necessary, they’ll make difficult situations more manageable and more fun.

The big selling point of the three main characters is that you have the freedom of switching between them on the fly. This works a lot of the time, while other times it falls a little flat. At its best, it works as advertised: allowing one character to take out enemies on the ground and then switching to another character at a higher vantage point with a sniper rifle when the need arises. Sometimes switches are triggered automatically and sometimes it’s up to you to make the switch. The feature is really cool when it works or when the mission was designed for it, but there’s also times when it feels either forced or unnecessary. There are also moments where you wish you could switch, but the other character(s) are faded out and you find yourself unable. All-in-all, the player switching is a good mechanic of the game, although it isn’t entirely earth shattering by any means.

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Gameplay is improved over Grand Theft Auto IV but still feels quite similar. GTA veterans will be accustomed to the controls and the feel of the game while being able to handle anything new the game throws at you. One of the new mechanics is stealth movement, which actually works in the few instances that you need it. Don’t expect to be a pacifist all of the sudden, though; you are going to need your guns and plenty of them. There are several new bits of weaponry and you can test them all out in the Shooting Range which has a series of delightful challenges and medals to be earned. Some missions grant you access to special, one-time use weapons, too. The gunplay is improved and worries about the Aim Assist making it too easy can be cast aside, especially because it can be turned off if desired.

The Grand Theft Auto series is gaining a bit of reputation as of late for developing characters and storylines, a long way from the times of playing as an unnamed protagonists in the series' earlier titles. The story takes a little bit longer to get going in this one, though, as the narrative gets split between the three characters. Over time, when the three characters begin to mingle together more, the vision of three parallel yet connected storylines is realized. The plot is compelling and you’ll be eager to know what happens next. One gripe with the story is that none of the characters have that “rags to riches” feel to them. In Grand Theft Auto IV Niko Bellic got off the boat with practically nothing, and the game was spent building your reputation and ultimately, your fortune. In GTA V, each of the characters feel like they already have some pretty intense dealings from the get-go. This is good since the excitement level is high from the beginning, but as far as the story is concerned, it feels like you’re along for the ride rather than building something from the ground up.

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The quick start affords the missions in this game an immediate intensity. There are missions and moments in this game where you may inadvertently yell out an audible, “whoa!!” Then there are times where the action slows down a bit (especially when you are required to drive a long distance) but the ‘whoa’ moments more than make up for these. The new heists, essentially big-time scores, are particularly exciting. There’s a bit of a decision presented to you ahead of each heist, which allows you to customize the caper by picking crew members or attack procedures. Some decisions don’t seem to play too big of a factor but it’s nice to add your personal touch to the planning stage. The real fun is getting your hands dirty and executing the heists; where the objectives are grand and the payoffs are just as big. Despite your careful planning, curveballs are thrown at you to make things interesting. There are also regular missions that aren’t so regular, and offer up action-packed gaming moments on a grand scale.

Much is made about the amount of hobbies and activities that you can partake in Grand Theft Auto V outside of your storyline missions. Some of these efforts are throwaway mini-games that won’t hold your interest past an initial try, while others can be quite addicting like the aforementioned Shooting Range. Combine these with the plethora of side missions, random events, races, and other extra-curricular activities on top of a compelling story and you have one heck of package. Once your single-player adventure is over you’ll have so much more to do in the open world, and you’ll want to continue exploring. The world is incredibly massive and detailed. You could spend hours just driving or flying around just like in past entries of the series. Going for 100% completion may not be for everyone, but the parts that make it up are so much fun it may very well not be a chore.

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Rockstar squeezes every bit of power out of the Xbox 360 to produce the game’s grand setting of Los Santos. Granted, the graphics aren’t the best and there are noticeable pop-ins, but given how massive and detailed the world is these things are forgiven. Characters are brought to life with facial expressions and body language more so than their graphical representation. In typical GTA fashion the streets are alive with a variety of pedestrians and loads of traffic. The voice acting itself is great, but at times the script can be a little obnoxious. If you’re playing a GTA game, you know you’re going to get swearing and vulgarity, but sometimes it’s a little over the top and doesn’t add to the character or plot. There’s already a lot of shock value in Grand Theft Auto V; it didn’t need swears and racial slurs in every sentence. The game’s score adds to the intensity and the radio stations feel so natural that they can become background noise. It’s a nice touch when the radio news reports on recent happenings you were involved in.

While achievements are an important facet to every Xbox 360 game that gets reviewed here, this is one of those instances where you could easily say, “Who cares!?” in regards to whether the achievements are good or not. Overall the list includes some challenging and time consuming tasks, but they’re absolutely fair as far as single player is concerned. The story provides a handful of achievements, but like any good list, it relies on it just enough to encourage you along rather than giving them away. You’ll have to earn the rest of the achievements through completing missions on Gold, completing side mission, working on achievement-exclusive tasks, and more. Dedicated GTA fans will seek out every achievement and won’t be bored for one minute. Others may find things like the collectible aspects a bit too much, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy all the game has to offer for you, completion or not. This is just too great of a game to pass up.

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Grand Theft Auto V deserves its title as a blockbuster. Rockstar has crafted an absolute masterpiece and produced a clear Game of the Year contender. Other games contending for this award will have their work cut out for them to produce something this special. With this kind of hype, a game often falls short of the high expectations, but Grand Theft Auto V meets them. Grand Theft Auto V is a game you absolutely need to have in your collection, something that everyone should experience and enjoy.

The reviewer completed the game’s storyline, which totaled around 25 hours according to the in-game clock. The multiplayer portion, GTA Online, doesn’t go live until October so it did not factor into the score. A copy of the game was purchased by the reviewer.