GTA V (PS3) Review
Grand Theft Auto V, the sequel to end all sequels, hyped to the max it has the fans, the haters and the protesters out in force. Rockstar North the developer behind the hit franchise know when they’ve got a good thing, and boy do they have a good thing.
Grand Theft Auto has evolved significantly since its first two incarnations which featured top down graphics. In 2001 a transition began and at the time this reviewer wasn’t sure just how the game would translate into a 3rd person 3D game world. Thankfully all doubts were demolished when GTA III arrived. This paved the way for a plethora of sequels and even a GTA-esque Western franchise. Now five years on since the last main installment (GTA IV) what have Rockstar North achieved?
At this point, my only advice would be to immediately go now and pick up this game. Try to avoid hitting pedestrians and walk rather than jacking your neighbour’s car, you can save all that for later. But it has to be said that there are very few games in my memory that have lived upto the hype, Half-Life 2 being up there, but GTA V is now on that list.
You’d be hard pushed to find someone who hasn’t had at least some experience with the GTA franchise so i’m sure everyone knows what to expect but what you won’t be prepared for is the sheer scale of this game. We have the now familiar core gameplay, the open-world, cars, missions and various activities nothing new there. But the game brings in additions such as a variety of new vehicles including jet ski’s, pedal bikes, motorbikes and pets in the form of a loveable Rottweiler named Chop. Some of which have been seen through select titles in the past, but are now brought together.
When it comes to the core mechanics of the game, Rockstar North have been hard at work. The cars are a real treat, they still have that arcade feel to them but the physics seem to react so much better and that changes dramatically depending on the car. Nearly every vehicle has its own unique driving style, from the Mini-esque go-kart handling through to rear-wheel muscle cars and 50s Cadillacs. You’ll soon find yourself winding through traffic on busy freeways, pulling handbrake turns around the tightest of corners or woefully spinning out after clipping a telegraph pole. The character animations are silky smooth be it climbing ladders, taking the stairs or swinging a haymaker at a passerby… there’s a finesse behind all the actions that stands out.
Without going into too much detail the story mode is the main line of progression in this open world and serves to introduce you to various new features and activities in the game world. The opening scene, essentially, a play-through tutorial is especially good.
One factor that has been altered in the mission setup for GTA V is the use of checkpoints. No longer will you drive 40 miles across the map, commit a robbery, lose the cops then fail to park the car in time only to have to repeat the whole mission from scratch. If a multi-part mission results in failure players will be able to restart from a much more convenient point. We’ve all been chasing that motorbike only to graze a lamp post and spin around as they disappear over the horizon, it can be heartbreaking.
This time round the narrative focuses on three characters Michael, Franklin and Trevor, each with their own background story, style and abilities. Their stories intertwine at various points throughout the story missions and this change stands out as one of main adaptations to this title. Previously we’d have a single protagonist such as Niko or Claude. Players will also find the incessant social interactions that featured in GTA IV and were panned by many critics have been toned down, no more playing a game of darts in order to get your missions here.
Rockstar have touted the game to be around 100 hours, but it’s not clear what sort of percentage of completion they’ve put that at, more conservative estimates suggest around 30-40hrs to complete the story missions. Another fact Rockstar have been passing around is that the game world is larger than GTA IV, San Andreas and Red Dead Redemption combined. If you played those titles then that will put into perspective just what Rockstar North have accomplished here.
Elsewhere the technical achievements continue as the graphics are truly pushing this generation of consoles to the limit. We look forward to seeing a PC version in the near future and also the game’s debut on the next generation of consoles… hopefully Rockstar will tell us more about that sooner rather than later.
As far as audio goes the sound effects are just as polished as the rest of the game, the ambience noise from this bustling metropolis is captured impeccably. A fan favourite has always been the radio stations, and fear not they’re back as expected, Rockstar North have produced hours of audio to bring you a selection of 17 stations to choose from in-game from rock classics to pop right round to the talk radio shows of previous GTA fame.
Smartphone users can also look forward to iFruit, released on the App Store for iOS and planned for Android, Windows Phone, PlayStation Mobile and PS Vita. This is a companion app that allows users to access the Los Santos Custom shop to work on your cars and a virtual pet app for Chop the rottweiler which also has an impact in-game for the level of training the dog has, as well as providing access to LifeInvader… read GTA Facebook… with quick links to the Rockstar Social Club for accessing all your GTA V stats.
Outrageous fun, amazing detail in a world that truly feels open and a story which keeps us playing. GTA V should be in everybody’s game collection, go and buy it.
Note: GTA Online is due to launch in two weeks time, and if the single player is anything to go by it should be out of this world.