(Note: This review of Grand Theft Auto V is purely based on the single-player campaign. A miniature review/impressions of the multiplayer will be posted in a separate article upon its release two weeks from now. Thank you.)
Grand Theft Auto V is the fifth installment of the main Grand Theft Auto series and has been highly anticipated ever since Grand Theft Auto IV was released five years ago. Personally, I’ve never been much of a fan of Grand Theft Auto as a I played a bit of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Grand Theft Auto IV; I thought they were fun yet repetitive. However, Grand Theft Auto V has definitely impressed me and has exceeded every expectation I’ve had of the series and, in particular, this game.
Aesthetics (Story, Graphics, Sound)
Grand Theft Auto V follows the story of three men from different walks of life who work together to pull of dangerous but rewarding heists: Michael De Santa, a depressed former bank robber turned family man; Franklin Clinton, a bright, street-smart kid who wants to get out of the ghetto; and Trevor Phillips, an insane meth and arms dealer who somehow appears to be pretty moralistic. The three main characters, and their accompanying secondary characters, are exceptionally well-written, well-voiced and, most importantly, feel real. As I continued to play the game, I felt myself getting extremely attached to these characters and becoming more and more intrigued about their plights. Their crazy and weird adventures find the right balance between comedy and solemnity, bringing life to their amazing and gripping stories. Grand Theft Auto V showcases a beautiful narrative through the lens of some of the most interesting character’s I’ve ever played as in a video game.
Yet what truly amazes me every time I sit down to play is the graphics. Los Santos and its surrounding areas are a spectacle to behold as the level of excruciating detail Rockstar put into building the city and the area is dazzling. The three instances where I found the graphics truly shined were during nighttime, while flying through Los Santos area and the water effects. The first time you see Los Santos lit up as a whole is stellar when you drive up into the nearby hills. The city looks phenomenal as the Southern Californian inspired metropolis feels like the real Los Angeles at night, sparkling and alive. Flying over Los Santos at night, as well as through the outlying areas, also provides an exhilarating view of the world and the graphical capability of Grand Theft Auto V. But what truly impressed me was the water in the game, especially in backyard pools. The light physics hitting the water and the glossy surface illustrate how much detail was put into the game and makes it stand out in the graphics department.
Gameplay (Combat, Systems, Mechanics)
The combat in Grand Theft Auto V has been greatly improved upon since its predecessor, Grand Theft Auto IV. Right off the bat, you can tell that the shooting sequences are much more satisfying as gun control is tighter and carries more of an impact upon hitting a target. Coupled with a closer, third-person, directly-over-the-shoulder view, shootouts are no longer mundane or tedious as they were in Grand Theft Auto IV. The cover system, as well, as been modified to be more fluid and less of a hindrance. After playing the game for a while, I could definitely tell that Rockstar has learned a great deal from Red Dead Redemption and Max Payne 3 as the combat feel in this Grand Theft Auto is akin to those previous projects. Now, instead of dreading the idea of another major gunfight in Grand Theft Auto IV, I actually look forward to dueling it out with fellow gangsters, thieves and police officers.
Outside of shootouts and various other violent shenanigans, Rockstar has brought their A-game in creating a vibrant, animated world with plenty to do. Getting from place to place takes a bit of time, but with the improved driving mechanics (such as tighter steering and heavily upgraded physics), it doesn’t feel as monotonous as compared to other open-world games. What truly impressed me, however, is the amount of activities that are available to do in Los Santos. Everything from tennis, to running, to golf, to stock trading, to real estate investment is possible; you name it, you can most likely do it. The sense of freedom in Grand Theft Auto V is on such a grand scale that it will undoubtedly provide hours upon hours of content and fun.
Customization, an important feature that has become essential in modern other open-world RPGs, forms a major part of Grand Theft Auto V‘s ecosystem. The game gives you three major things you can customize along with playstyle: your characters’ cars, appearance, and stats. Customizing cars is an intensive, in-depth affair that provides a multitude of parts to change so you can ride in your own personal style. Appearance customization is far more impressive than its predecessors in terms of choice, yet feel a bit lacking compared to other games of the genre. Where the game really steps up its customization is with the characters themselves. Each main character has a board of stats that can be improved upon that boost actions and skills like flying capabilities and sprinting distance. Additionally, you get a slew of heist characters that have their own individual stats that can be improved which includes an interesting RPG-management angle to the series which I thoroughly enjoy (akin to Assassin’s Creed‘s assassins’ guild system).
Furthermore, on the topic of customization, the game really shines when heists come into play. The new heist-building system is an enjoyable sub-mechanic that gives the player the ability to control every aspect of the robbery, from who gets to participate to how the heist itself should be carried out and everything in-between. For each heist, you choose your method of attack, whether it be blunt, stealthy, destructive or complex. From there, you decide who you want to hire as your Hacker, Gunman and Driver; each, as mentioned above, come with their own stats which can be improved. The heists provide a fun, tantalizing RPG aspect to the game that I have found to be very enjoyable as I am given the freedom to build the perfect heist crew and become a daring pack of thieves.
From its spectacular, awe-inspiring graphics to its smooth, robust gameplay, Grand Theft Auto V is a captivating experience that I would wholly recommend to anyone, even those who aren’t regular gamers. Rockstar has proven once again that they are particularly talented at creating a rich, content-filled world inhabited with deep, three-dimensional characters and memorable stories. These aesthetics, coupled with a vastly improved, enjoyable gameplay and a wealth of activities in and around Los Santos, make Grand Theft Auto V a sure-fired contender for this year’s “Best Game of the Year”.
Written and edited by Tim Atwood
Chief Editor at The Pixel Pen Review