Review: Grand Theft Auto V

GTAVboxartGrand Theft Auto V (PlayStation 3 [Reviewed], Xbox 360)
Developer: Rockstar North
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Genre(s): Open World, Third Person Shooter
Released: September 17, 2013
Price: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M – Mature

* A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review.

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REVIEW NOTES:
– – Game was played to 100% completion using default controls.
– – It took roughly 35 hours to complete the main story and a lot of the side missions. In all, I’ve spent over 65 hours with the game to attain 100% completion and work on attaining gold medals in missions.
– – Encountered no noticeable bugs or glitches outside of the bugged garage not saving vehicles that Rockstar has warned against using.
– – GTA Online is a separate game launching on October 1st and as such, will be reviewed separately.
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GTAV-SS1

This has proven a hard review to even begin. Not because I don’t have anything to say about Grand Theft Auto V, as a matter of fact I could say plenty about the game, but rather because I haven’t wanted to stop playing it. We’ve seen some truly amazing games this year: BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us standing out for most folks (myself included), and I’d personally add Saints Row and LEGO City: Undercover to the list as well while others would include Tomb Raider, Splinter Cell, and Rayman Legends. And yet no game, not even The Last of Us, has completely become so addicting that I haven’t wanted to stop playing even after around 70 hours.

I used to say that Red Dead Redemption was my favorite game of all time, having toppled Knights of the Old Republic. I pumped in over 400 hours into the single player of RDR proper, probably another 200 hundred or so into Undead Nightmare single player, and over 500 into the multiplayer. In short, that game completely hooked me. Grand Theft Auto V has blown it away, and I couldn’t be happier. And even though the game has only been out about two weeks, I have zero issue going ahead and saying it truly is my new “favorite game ever.”

GTAV-SS5Yeah, it’s true that it has an advantage to the title since my favorite genre is the open world third person shooter. These are simply the types of games that I prefer to play, and Grand Theft Auto V has done it better than any open world game to date in my opinion. I’ve attained 100% in game completion; all the missions, all the side missions, medals in all the activities, found all the collectibles, and I’ve done all the pastimes. I’ve gone back and replayed missions, tried out the options that I didn’t take in my initial playthrough, and I can admit to spending way more time than I probably should have simply playing taxi driver or driving a wrecker to pick up cars. In short, I’ve been completely sucked into the beautiful world that Rockstar North has created.

I’m not someone who simply buys into the GTA hype either simply because it’s GTA. I have Grand Theft Auto IV, and never finished it. I laugh at all the perfect scores that game received, at least the PS3 version, and the fact that it sits so high at Metacritic. Why? Because GTA4, on the PS3 at least, was an ugly, blurry mess of a game that was completely devoid of fun for me and was almost unplayable. Grand Theft Auto V is completely the opposite of that; the game looks amazing, even on the dated technology, and it runs pretty great as well. The improvement that Rockstar has made throughout the generation has been impressive. Given the size and scope of GTAV, that it looks and plays as amazing as it does while being so big and so packed with life is highly impressive.

One of the things that I was skeptical about with GTAV was having three protagonist and switching between them. I was kinda concerned how exactly it would be pulled off and what effect it would have, and basically I was one of those guys who just wanted one character. Now that spent so much time with the game and with all three characters, I definitely feel Rockstar made a great decision to change the formula up and now it’s going to be hard to ever want to go back to just having one character.

GTAV-SS2

Of the three characters, Michael has been my favorite. He’s a middle-aged retired bank robber who made a deal with the FiB and faked his death and entered into a sort of witness protection program. He’s got anger issues and a family who loves to hate him and for good reason. His anger causes him to have to get back into the “business.” And so he reenters the criminal world of robbing places.

Franklin is the young guy from the street. He wants to be more than a gangbanger and get out of the hood, and tries legit work as a repoman (even though his boss is actually a criminal), but he’ll follow his friend Lamar into some shady dealings that end with him having to shoot a bunch of guys. He’s a mostly smart thrill seeker who does have some moral sensibilities to him, but he’s still a criminal obviously.

GTAV-SS6And then there is Trevor, the representation of basically the majority of gamers who play open world games. He’s a psychopath with no moral compass and is just a nasty, nasty individual. He smuggles drugs, weapons, and runs a meth business. He kills for fun and because he can, and he isn’t afraid to torture someone. Trevor stands for complete chaos.

What I like most about having three characters is that they all have distinct personalities and I can change the way I play the game around them. Yes, all three are criminals and there is no getting around that. Whatever likable qualities Michael and Franklin may possess means little when you factor in that they do steal and kill people. Sure, you could argue that both Michael and Franklin would prefer to leave as few bodies behind as possible, but the very nature of what they do and the situations it puts them in means they’re going to be killers.

Outside of being in a position where I absolutely have to though, I try to avoid killing anyone while playing as Michael or Franklin though. Sure, Michael has anger issues so I’m not opposed to randomly punching someone or flipping them the finger. For the most part though, since I’m in the endgame free roaming, when I’m playing as Michael I prefer to drive calmly, play golf or tennis, and hangout with the family or take him to his job and switch to someone else. In my game, Michael is once again retired from the criminal world and is a family man whose days of killing and stealing are behind him.

GTAV-SS4

When I’m playing as Franklin, I like to drive sports cars and bikes fast, hit stunt jumps, do some racing or base jumping, and play with chop. When I walk down the street or the beach, I’ll say hey to the characters around me. Franklin, in my end game, is also calm and retired from the criminal world. One of the things I like to do with Franklin is take a taxi (there is the bug that prevents you from being able to save the car in your garage, so I do have to steal a cab first… but then Franklin in my game owns the cab company so it really isn’t stealing if he takes one of his own cars) and just calmly drive around doing jobs. He’s a millionaire, sure, but playing taxi man is fun. So is driving the tow truck for the towing company that he also owns.

But when I’m playing as Trevor though, citizens and tourists of San Andreas need to watch out. No one is safe. As Trevor, I’m driving like a madman, going to bars and driving drunk (with friends!), robbing stores, shooting people, and causing all sorts of problems and deaths for the police. Trevor has been called “Rockstar’s out,” the character that likes to do all the things that players do without it breaking his character. I agree with that, and I think it was a smart decision. Outside of senseless crimes though, when I play as Trevor I do like to hit the mountains and hills in a buggy and go hunting.

GTAV-SS7To complete the main story, it’ll probably take the average anywhere from 25 to 40 hours. Yes, that’s a pretty wide margin, and that’s simply because it depends alot on how many times you fail a mission and how often you end up getting distracted and doing things other than the main mission. It took me around 35, give or take, but I did a lot of side missions during that time as well (though not all of them). I would personally recommend taking the world in rather than rushing and just doing the main mission and ignoring everything else. Rockstar really created a beautiful world that feels lived in and has an astounding attention to detail in it, so go explore it.

The game runs smoothly. I only encountered bad texture pop in once, and particularly one time where it took the entire world about two seconds to load. What I mean by that is I was driving a fast car, and then I just hit a stretch of the city where everything was sort of gray and then the whole world popped in. That only happened once in around 70 hours of gameplay, so it’s not really an issue. I never encountered any freezing or any glitches or bugs that caused me to fail a mission or boot up from the last save point. The framerate was perfectly fine for me. I’m not a PC master race guy, so the framerate was perfectly acceptable to me as a console gamer throughout. The only time I was even able to notice a decent dip in the framerate was while driving the little submarine. That isn’t something you have to do for the main story, so if you do it and it bothers you, you don’t have to do that mission.

GTAV-SS8The audio in GTAV is top notch. While you’re driving around, you have a number of radio stations to choose from with a nice variety of music. If you’re a fan of metal or classical, there’s nothing for you, unfortunately, but still the soundtrack is fairly nice. I usually kept the radio on one of the talk radio channels, the pop station, or rebel radio. While you’re in missions, there is a really good original score going in the background. Voice acting is top notch, and is sounds of driving. Shooting sounds are decent enough.

To say there is a lot to do in GTAV is an understatement. There are 75 missions (basically, and these can be replayed to your hearts content) and 58 side missions (45 of which can be replayed as much as you want). All of these missions that can be replayed have objectives to them that attribute to a medal score, so you have an incentive to go back and replay missions and try to get a gold medal for it. A lot of them are easy to get gold on, but a lot of them are also quite challenging. There are 58 hobbies and pastimes to complete (these include golf, tennis, darts, races, flying challenges, shooting ranges, drug running, yoga, lap dances, etc). As you explore the world, there are 57 difference random events to run across ranging from thefts, kidnappings, shoot outs, and even attempted rape.

And finally there are 30 miscellaneous activities to complete from the simple riding a ferris wheel or going through a carwash, to the much more challenging completing eight knife flights, flying under 25 bridges, or successfully completing 25 stunt jumps. For the collectible hunters, there are over 130 collectibles to find in the game. Of course you can also rob stores, watch TV and movies, play with your dog, get it on with a prostitute, hang out off mission with your homies, surf the Internet, complete property missions, and try your hand at a fully functioning stock market one of which is dictated by what the community at large is doing.

GTAV-SS3

Grand Theft Auto V is an ambitious game that is massive and absolutely packed with stuff to do. It is easily the most “lived in” open world that I’ve seen, and one that even after you finally complete all the missions (including side missions) and find all of the collectibles still has hundreds of hours worth of play to offer up. The game includes a great tennis game and an enjoyable golf game. There’s a fully explorable ocean that is filled with shipwrecks and treasures to find. Riding a boat or jetski is a blast, as is just cruising around the game’s world and watching/listening to the NPCs around you. I may not be any good at flying (especially the helicopter, which I avoid), but flying around in a jet or a blimp and marveling at the world below before diving out and parachuting down is also very relaxing. Basically, Grand Theft Auto V is a highly violent game during missions, but outside of missions the game can be incredibly peaceful, relaxing, and filled with beauty.

This is not a game children should play, at least those who aren’t teenagers, but of course parents will and have bought it for young kids. The game has nudity, sex, drug use, an uncomfortable torture scene, and tons of violence and death. It’s the kind of game certain groups and the media will ultimately have a field day with to use a the scapegoat for all of the country’s problems with violence. For those mature enough for the game, which is the vast majority of the games target audience, it is a highly enjoyable game that offers a ton of stuff to do. The next generation of video game consoles are just a month and a half away, and Rockstar has definitely saved the best of the generation for last. Personally, I don’t think any game releasing the remainder of this year (for any platform) will top GTAV, nor do I think any game that has released prior to it not only this year but also this entire generation has topped it. Grand Theft Auto V is simply an incredibly fun and addicting game that is the very best in the type of genre that I like most. It is the king, and it is completely deserving of all the praise and sells numbers that it has accumulated, and we haven’t even gotten to experience the game’s online mode yet.

If you’re one of the few gamers who haven’t already bought it, you should do so ASAP.

* In accordance with our ethics policy, this review copy also included a T-shirt (which was given away), some GTAV stickers, an air freshener  a keychain/flashlight, and a USB flash drive.

4 out of 4

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2 responses to “Review: Grand Theft Auto V

  1. I’ll easily co-sign everything you said. Hard to imagine this not being the GOTY for me when the year is done. Past that I’ll have “best of (insert genre here)” but I think is going to be it for me. I’ll be shocked if anything comes along to unseat this.

    Like

  2. Wow, your new favorite game ever? Impressive. I’m still playing through the campaign right now, but I’m loving nearly every minute of it. The addition of quick saves and mission checkpoints have been a godsend, fixing my biggest problems with the series. It also helps that the cars control *much* better this time. Now if only I could get GTA Online to work…

    Great review man.

    Like

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