Review: Grand Theft Auto V

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Note: This review does not contain any heavy spoilers. 

Rockstar had a heavy burden to carry upon the announcement of Grand Theft Auto V. The need of a dramatic improvement over their fourth installation left many people salivating over the idea of returning to San Andreas, not to mention the extra complications of including a brand new online experience automatically made fans assume that this would be the greatest Grand Theft Auto game ever created.

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Characters

The game is exhilarating as you shoot through the story through the eyes of the three protagonists. Franklin is a young, intelligent driver who is struggling to find the necessary opportunities to build himself away from the pits of gang life. Inside of his intelligence is a constant presence of naivety which presents a necessary sense of morality that can’t be found in the other two characters.

Michael is a retired criminal whose failures as a father and husband have left him angry and desperate. The connection between him and Franklin is immediate, and the contrast between Michael’s family life and his relationship with Franklin is an interesting scene as the story continues. What is nice to see is Michael’s own mentality as he progresses through the story. He unravels and crumbles, providing a dynamic experience which really adds dramatic depth to his character. It’s easy to want to love Michael, but there is a dangerous insanity that lurks beneath the surface which can sometimes rival against Trevor’s blatant craziness.

Trevor adds in a humorous and frightening psychotic time bomb to the group who contains a perfect combination of gripping intelligence and violent insanity. His character alone presents a nice battle of morals for the player, particularly as the story line heats up, but it’s the tension between him and Michael that adds the complexity to his character. It provides a shocking sense of clarity of Trevor’s humanity.

 

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Story & Gameplay

Grand Theft Auto is known to be satirical toward the world’s state of life, and this shines inside of the misogyny and corruption inside Los Santos, providing a shocking and entertaining political message to players. Include this with the personal lives of the three characters and the trouble they get into and you end up with a perfect mixture of depth and chaos.

One quality that always seems true with Grand Theft Auto games is that every little detail, even when it’s random and seemingly misplaced, adds into the climax and conclusion of the story. Franklin’s wish to escape the low gang life, Michael’s struggles with his family, and Trevor’s unpredictable mental state all smoothly clicks together in the end, and it’s a nice roller coaster ride to experience.

 

The missions are all highly entertaining with a nice combination of gameplay action and wonderful voice acting, but Grand Theft Auto truly shines during heists. These big jobs, while minuscule in the grand scheme of the story, provide a nice opportunity to  switch up the scene a bit with your own planning skills and decisions.

Developing your own plan, picking out your essential teammates, and executing the job is extremely fun and satisfying. Heists are where your main funds come from, and while the heists that are available are really all you need financially, it would have been fun to be able to do more. However I assume this is where the fun of Online will eventually come in to play.

The gameplay mechanics are pretty much the same. Gunfights can be frustrating to the inexperienced and is only saved by the option of having auto aim. The crosshair of your weapon is a simple white dot which can be difficult to locate in the midst of a gun battle, but Grand Theft Auto’s gun play has always been overshadowed by the driving mechanics and story anyway.

Driving is entertaining and smooth even as it retains its similarities with Grand Theft Auto IV. The physics make off-road shenanigans fun, and exploring through the massive Los Santos map is nice, especially considering that the entire map is unlocked from the beginning, a first in the Grand Theft Auto series.

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Graphics

Grand Theft Auto V is a gorgeous open-world game that always offers a new sight every time you enter the map. From the isolated dirt roads of Blaine County to the paved and clean roads of the rich city life, there is always something different to see. There is a wonderful inclusion of diversity that makes Los Santos and Blaine County appear to be a living and breathing world. It successfully entices the player to explore and learn each feature that secretly lurks inside of the world.

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Online

Grand Theft Auto Online should be considered a separate title and a completely individual game despite the fact that it shares the Los Santos map. Despite the initial issues, Online is a constant source of hilarious entertainment. While the hereditary-based character creator is cool in theory, it lacks depth and customization, making it a bland and tedious experience that forces you to tweak all of the options in order to finally create a suitable avatar. I would have preferred the usual character creation seen in most other games.

Seeing your character fly into Los Santos is a cool experience, but the relentless blips of forced information are tiring and often unnecessary. However seeing your own avatar inside of GTA V’s world is immediately exciting, and the customization available outside of the initial character creation is nice.

Earning money is the main goal in GTA Online, and players can earn lots of cash by participating in different jobs. As you begin to climb levels, different familiar characters will contact you with different missions to perform. Other events such as races and deathmatches are available too which allow you to have fun with friends while earning money.

Money will unlock the ability to customize your character, mod your vehicles, and buy apartments and garages which will provide safehouses to essentially protect you from the other players in the lobby that may just be playing for a few aimless kills.

Modded vehicles can be used in certain races if the selection is unlocked, so saving up for a nice garage (or a 10-car garage that comes with any apartment over $200,000) is almost a must. Entering a vehicle in your garage will automatically place a tracker and insurance on it. A personal mechanic also comes with your garage. Pay him $50 a day and he’ll deliver a vehicle from your garage to you no matter where you are… as long as you’re on a main road.

One disappointing thing about Online is the selection of apartments. Everything over $200,000 is the same (with the exception of the location and view). Some variety and customization would be nice especially considering that you can buzz in friends and other people in the city to drink, shower away the blood on their clothes, and watch television.

However with the upcoming addition of the $500k stimulus package as well as the DLC which will unlock heists, it’s obvious that Online will be a constant update so I wouldn’t be surprised if more safehouse locations and customization is added in the future.

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 Conclusion

If you’re a fan of Grand Theft Auto, you will no doubt enjoy this latest installment in the series. Working through single player is enjoyable and will keep your eyes glued to the screen for hours. And when you’re done with that, you can continue to explore Los Santos with your own character. This includes a wonderful opportunity to continuously replay the game, an addition that didn’t truly exist in the past titles.

Despite the obvious flaws, GTA V is a solid and wild experience for anyone that enjoys the maturity and craziness often displayed in the Grand Theft Auto series.

Score: 8/10

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