Rockstar Games latest effort does not disappoint. In the era of the franchise yearly release games, studios have substituted quality with quantity on the gaming market. Year after year we are treated to the same type of game in a different location with the same mechanics, a slightly different story, and just enough new content to keep us buying into the game. Where this lack of quality is the widely accepted status quo for the gaming industry, Rockstar Games is a studio that releases their games when they are ready. They are able to learn from their mistakes, improve their mechanics, and give enough new content to make every one of their games a revelation in some way.
Grand Theft Auto V takes place in Los Santos (a reimagining of Los Angeles and the rural California desert) in the present day, telling the interwoven tale of three very different criminals. Franklin is a gangbanger from South Central looking to aspire to be something more than his lowly criminal companions. Michael is a former bank robber living in the witness protection program whose dysfunctional family life and need for money drive him back into a life he tried to leave behind. Trevor is a psychopath, a man looking to build his own drug and gun empire from his trailer park home and a former accomplice of Michael. By having the three stories intertwine, Rockstar is able to pull of one of their most solid and entertaining stories yet, as each character holds a piece of the greater narrative, and the combination of the three makes for a story that rips off some of Hollywood’s finest moments while creating something that on its own is one of the most entertaining game stories out there.
Grand Theft Auto V also takes all the new mechanics and features Rockstar has been using since the release of GTAIV in 2008 and adds them into their newest game for one of the most enjoyable video game experiences I have ever had since I picked up Crash Bandicoot in 1997. Gone is the clunky, boat-like driving mechanics from GTAIV, replaced with the more tight driving scheme of Midnight Club LA. While some cars do still fishtail constantly at higher speeds, cars handle like you would relatively expect them to. Characters are customizable, allowing you to choose their hairstyles, wardrobe, tattoos, and cars (which are also customizable). The shooting in GTA V benefits from both the weapon wheel of Red Dead Redemption and the crisp, fluid gunplay mechanics of Max Payne 3. It also introduces the new mechanic of switching between the three main characters. When not on a mission, you can switch between Trevor, Franklin, and Michael at any time, and the characters will be realistically living their own lives. You may witness Michael working out with his son, Franklin cruising around downtown, and Trevor in the middle of a vicious gun battle with a biker gang. The transitions are fluid, almost instantaneous, and interesting to see. The switching can also be done in the middle of certain missions, allowing players to play the same mission from a different perspective each time (all missions are able to be replayed once they have been beaten).
I won’t say too much more about the game, as any spoilers may ruin the experience, but the key part of the main story are the heist missions. These are planned out by the player, and you are given options as to how you want to pull off a heist. You can pick your crew (whose skill level affects how much of the haul they get), plan your approach, and gather the materials needed to make it happen. These missions are incredibly tense and also incredibly fun and serve as the highlight of the game. As stated before, each one is able to be replayed so you can mix up each heist to see how different crews and approaches would have played out.
Grand Theft Auto V is an expansive game on its own, pushing the current systems to their limits while showing us the potential the next generation of consoles can have, It is a must play game for any fan of the series, and a great starting point for people who may have been shy to the series before. The game boasts an impressive amount of content, along with an online component that launches on October 1st (a review on that will be out later) for players to experience. Grand Theft Auto V continues the series legacy of impressive gameplay mechanics, creating huge, living worlds, and one of the most fun experiences you can have on a console. Grand Theft Auto V will be remembered as the swansong of the PS3/Xbox 360 era, and, in my opinion, one of the greatest games of all time.
Score: 10/10. This game is simply a must have, must play experience.