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Grand Theft Auto V Review

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Five long years since the release of Grand Theft Auto IV, Rockstar Games deliver the next instalment of the franchise that centres on Los Santos, the LA-like virtual city with three very different gangster protagonists. Meet Michael, Trevor and Franklin – each with a shady past who are set on a journey that could change their lives completely. A criminal underworld waits in the stereotypical world of Grand Theft Auto V – all you need do is jump right on in!

Immediately the opening scenes are the learning curve for some new dynamics in GTA V as you take aim of both an improved auto-aim and cover system whilst getting to grips with switching between characters during gameplay – something that the later missions will require more of when you reach them. If for some very strange reason you are not familiar with Grand Theft Auto, the game is open world and in the third person allowing you to undertake gameplay missions in the order that you choose. For those who have waited five very long years for this – it shouldn’t be too disappointing as the interaction and environmental distractions have been hit on high voltage. Basically, it’s a massive improvement over GTA IV and the ability to switch between players is a completely new concept that really works well in the franchise as each player has their own set of skills. Although with their own unique story, their lives become entangled in the main plot that is to completely change their lives forever by undertaking six very dangerous bank heists. Heavy on the obscene language, filled with over-the-top-action it is hard not to enjoy a day in the life of a man with a plan to reap the rewards of a cash filled bank.

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Whilst escaping from a heist in the games’ early introduction you daringly flee from the cops as your get-a-way vehicle sits in limbo awaiting your arrival. This first mission ties you into the criminal mind-set as you get familiar with handling your weapons, taking cover from enemies, protecting yourself and most importantly – taking chances. Many a decent mission on Grand Theft Auto is about the danger involved and the risk to life, stealing vehicles, punching the living shit out of your enemies and earning rewards. Whilst Los Santos is set up to resemble a living breathing world with people going about their daily business; traffic filling the streets and many random scenarios that unfold before your eyes (muggings, stabbings, robberies, weather changes) there are many interaction opportunities with other people you meet along the way as you provide assistance to their criminal needs. Drive cars through windows, scuba dive under the sea, parachute down from above and fly the skies in a plane – the endless amount of exploration in Los Santos is nothing short of amazing. I found that I wanted to explore the city more than I wanted to engage in the missions for the early parts of the game to get a real feel for the environments and all the little alleyways where you might meet some interesting tramps!

The topic of conversation from your neighbours, friends and random in-game meets is a real eye opener and although I haven’t put GTA IV back in for comparison purposes,  I felt that in GTA V I wanted to cringe more at the obscene dialogue that ‘must’ be more shocking and consistent in its gangland tones compared to GTA IV. It’s more rogue and cut throat – something you might not even hear on the TV from a show, so the in-game usage of such violent talk further adds to the deeper story of the gangland within the bustling lively city of the wealthy. There seemed to be a divide on rich and poor in the city as the game edges on some sociological mystery with a psychological purpose. It has its posh neighbourhood, its poor ‘hood and a massive urban lifestyle; yet some really scenic out of the way places. Take a drive on the streets and you see a different atmosphere within each different section of the city. Noticeably, hijacking a car in the more slum looking places and no one even so much as bats an eyelid, but steal a jeep from a mansion in the well-presented area’s and the cops are on you in a flash. In fact, the more criminal activity you undertake whilst randomly going about your routines, such as mowing down pedestrians, getting into fights, stealing cars and taking photographs of celebrities having anal sex in their own garden! (Yes it’s all going on) you will build up a Wanted Meter that is monitored by the city law enforcement. The more crime you commit the higher your Wanted status is and you could see yourself chased by some aggressive police force with their cars, helicopters, guns all aiming at you – and the only way to survive is to flee the area or just hide somewhere as fast as you can!

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There are a lot of some really insane and “out there” moments that will leave you either in a little bit of shock, or just amazed at the actual inclusion within a video game. I really feel I have to further mention that the map is absolutely MASSIVE and can be explored at your own free will too in its entirety. No waiting for areas to unlock depending upon mission outcomes, just drive as far or as fast as you can to see what lies ahead in other nearby sections of the city. The enormous map combined with the switching of characters to partake in their own separate missions really takes Grand Theft Auto up a gear with a whole new direction of gameplay. It feels truly less limited and enhanced by the option of even more freedom and choices than ever before. Some of the missions within GTA V do feel quite short and within the earlier part of the game it plays out more of a driving experience than a campaign or story to follow – but there are some spectacular intense police chases to be had! Within parts you could be left wondering what your next mission is, where do you go, what do you do next and end up just hijacking a car for the fun of it. It really is a beautiful obscene game centered on such a large city, but it’s as if Test Drive Unlimited met The Sims gone horribly wrong.  It is not until you get to play as all three of the characters that you being to feel immersed into the overall scheme of things because for those times when all three characters come into play at once (as you choose who to control) this is the magical moments of GTA V where three different stories combine into the lives of the others.

Each character that you play is benefited with their own Skills associated to how they Drive, Shoot, Swim, as well as how well they perform both Stealth and Strength wise. Trevor (ex druggie ex-military-mad-man) has the main skills of a Pilot, Michael (the retired criminal)is an outstanding shooter and Franklin (the repo man) has the most stamina with great driving abilities – so as you can see, if you’re looking for a getaway vehicle driver it would be Franklin, where as you would rather Michael took aim with the weapons – and Trevor, well I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but once seen never forgotten! Reverting back to how you control your characters abilities, shooting within the game is great with each using the auto-aim feature where you simply aim slightly towards an armed character and can just fire your shotgun, but the reticle is that of a tiny small dot on screen which definitely needed to be a little bigger. Driving on the other hand is near on perfection and just as well too since it feels there are a million cars available to you from just about anywhere. It’s a smash ‘n’ grab free for all as you can just take mostly whatever car you want and drive it using the same controls as most popular racing games, however with a character that isn’t skilled highly in driving you will find the car a little rough to control as it tends to swerve more frequently and erratically. Even though each character performs well in different areas, they do also have their own unique personality too represented by their shocking dialogue which not suitable for those who are easily offended.  If you’re a parent and your child wanted this, yet you completely ignored the 18 Rating on the box there might be some awkward questions to be answered as GTA V is offensive, graphic and definitely not for children! I don’t really want to fill this page with spoilers, but this could be the most shocking GTA dialogue yet in the series! Additionally the cut-scenes can be quite comical and very imaginative to say the least!

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Visually I didn’t find GTA V to be all that attractive as the city of Los Santos as MASSIVE as it is, looks very basic. There’s certainly a whole lot of activity going on, but it doesn’t feel graphically much of an improvement (if any) over GTA IV. Visuals aren’t everything, but the quality here is noticeably imperfect. It also is riddled with glitches as you may find cars crash into invisible objects, as your character steps out of a car he is somehow able to walk through it and many more random visual anomalies on your exploration which doesn’t hinder the gameplay, but I’m just saying it’s not perfected well and I expected a lot more polished visuals for a game that was held back for as long as it was.

The main focus of GTA V is to be everything that you can’t be in real life. It’s like being a perfect criminal without the worry of getting caught. The obscene dialogue suits the nature of the game, but it tends to feel thrown at you intentionally for the purpose of raising a few eyebrows, or to get noticed. I was a little disappointed at the length of some of the missions which felt short in parts unfortunately, but I am so damn impressed with the size of the map and the level of exploration and interaction that missions tend to feel a secondary element to instead cruising the streets in a top-down coupe style vehicle deciding which pedestrian to crush under the wheels! There’s no denying that Grand Theft Auto V is a great game and offers more action and satisfaction than most others which in turn you can forgive it for its minor bugs and annoyances. Where else can you play tennis, race in a car, perform bank heists, assist the paparazzi and fly the skies looking down over one of the biggest interactive cities in any videogame? For that alone, GTA V is pure genius.

Based purely on the solo missions because the online multiplayer mode is not available until October 1st 2013, our score on that alone is below.

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