Grand Theft Auto is a series that sparks excitement for pretty anyone who enjoys video games. The large detailed open worlds, varied missions, and great writing along with its controversial subject matter has earned GTA quite the reputation. The question is after five years does the newest entry in the series live up to the name?
Well let’s put it this way: From a technical standpoint, this is not only the most impressive Grand Theft Auto game I have seen, it is the most impressive open world game I have ever seen. It is absolutely gargantuan with tons of different terrain and sites to see. One minute you could be driving down the street in a superb recreation of downtown Los Angeles, then later on off-roading through the desert. It is all so alive and varied. One minute you could be in a car chase downtown, another you could be piloting a submarine. This is the best looking open world game out there by a country mile.
The sound, while impressive, could have been better. The voice acting is flawless and sound effects are pretty close. My main complaint with the sound effects comes from wanting more varied engine sounds for the cars and for more detail in underwater sections. The music in the game is also great but not perfect. The radio stations are really mixed this time around. Sometimes I felt that the radio choices were perfect, like the West Coast Classics station, but then others like the rock station felt pretty lackluster. Now the original music is all solid and fits the tone of the missions but none of it really stood out. There are also the talk radio stations which most of the humor for me fell flat except for Lazlow, and that is just because of all the jokes carried over from ten years of him being in GTA. GTA V’s presentation is superb while some minor parts could have been better as a whole it shines.
Now, the great presentation and world would be put to waste if the gameplay was not as superbly crafted as it is with plenty to see and do. Just like previous GTA titles, there is a main story with missions ranging from hanging out with your homies to murdering a bunch of bikers and blowing up their meth lab. The real treat in the story mode is the heists, like the jewel store robbery. You get two ways to plan the heist then you begin the setup. Once everything is set up, you pick your team and complete it. One thing I really liked is depending on the team you picked and their stats, they would perform differently. So let’s say you need someone to hack the security system to delay the alarm; the better the hacker the more time you have. If you pick a good getaway driver they will have the perfect route to avoid the police, but if you pick a poor one you will have a hard time. Because of the multiple ways of setup and doing things these heists are incredibly entertaining. They also can be played multiple times to see different outcomes.
Side missions are still a huge part of the game with returning favorites, like assassinations, to new ones, like bicycle races and playing the stock market. One thing I really enjoyed was how everything was linked together. So if you assassinated the president of a huge drug company, their stocks will go down. If you start stealing a lot of a certain type of car make, their stock will go down. You can also run businesses now such as a cab company to make extra cash and get free cab rides. There is just so much to do in GTA V beyond the story missions; races, taxi missions, the stock market, assassinations, bowling, strip clubs, the list goes on. You could be playing GTAV for weeks and not get bored.
If it weren’t for the changes to the core mechanics, then none of this would be as well done. Shooting has been improved, so that free aiming is actually a real option and cars no longer handle like boats on land. Some cars do handle a bit too loose, but after a while I was able to adjust pretty easily. GTA V’s gameplay is easily the best in the entire series thanks to refinements of the core mechanics and one of the most impressive open worlds ever.
The story is ambitious and entertaining, but fell flat in a couple of areas. It follows three main protagonists. Michael is an ex-bank robber who is in an off the books witness protection program living in Los Santos. He has issues with his family and misses the chaos of his old life. Then there is Franklin, a young criminal repossessing cars and hustling trying to make it to the top. He sees Michael as a mentor and eventually a friend. This is of course only after Franklin tries to steal Michael’s car and he puts a gun to Franklin’s head. Finally, you have Trevor, an ex-partner of Michael who is a total psychopath trying to start his own drug empire. These three end up stuck together thanks to trouble with the FIB (the GTA worlds equivalent to the FBI). They plan heists and, in the case of Trevor and Michael, work through their issues from a bank robbery that went bad ten years earlier. As a whole the story is well written but I feel that because of the three main characters, we didn’t get enough character development or time with each protagonist individually except for maybe Michael. Also the middle seemed to drag on a bit. As a whole, the story is entertaining but I felt it could have been longer. Hopefully, we see expansion packs expanding on Trevor and Franklin similar to what we got with GTA IV, where The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony expanded on the world of Liberty City.
If I had one word to describe GTA V, it would be impressive. Everything is so huge, detailed, and entertaining. GTA V lives up the standard of previous games in the series and even surpasses them in a lot of ways. It does have some minor issues with storytelling and the radio stations could have been better. These are such small complaints they really aren’t worth worrying about. If you haven’t yet, go pick up Grand Theft Auto V. You won’t regret it.
Final Score: 9.5/10