Grand Theft Auto V Review

Rockstar finally returns to San Andreas.

Review by Darren Cartledge
Published 4th May 2015

Grand Theft Auto V

  • Developer: Rockstar
  • Publisher: Rockstar
  • Release Date: 14th April 2015

When ever Rockstar adds a game to one of it's franchises it seems to reach new height setting the bar ever higher. Such was the case when in 2008 GTA IV released it quickly became the biggest selling game ever. Now it's follow-up is here and has Rockstar once again has raised the bar to new heights.

GTA V takes a slightly different approach to the past games in the franchise. Instead of one main character we have 3 Trevor, Michael and Franklin. Trevor and Michael are old acquaintances with Franklin being the new comer to the group. As you play the game you are prompted to switch between the different character during the main story's missions so that you can utilise each character unique skills that can be honed throughout the game through various means. It's a system that for the most part works very well, although the skill levels of the characters didn't really seem to come into play and maybe it's something the developers could of made more prominent within the game.

In addition to been prompted to switch characters during missions, during free-play you are able to switch between characters at will. Upon on first switching you will encounter Michael, Franklin and Trevor living their everyday lives. The situations you find your characters are typical of the GTA franchise and range from being funny to outright bizarre! If I'm honest, when I first heard about the character switching option in GTA V I was a little concerned that it would detract from the playing experience. Those concerns though were largely unfounded as the system works well and definitely adds to the franchise. It can however, make the main story a little hard to follow at times. Most notably when you have been undertaking a number of each character's side missions you can easily lose track of what was happening and sometimes it felt as though things were happening out of sequence.

Driving has always been a big part of the GTA games and in V, it's no different. The game offer a huge choice of vehicles to get to grips with. Ranging from luxury cars to exotic sports cars. Clapped out bangers and even golf buggies. Helicopters, planes, boats, ATV and push bikes are also available and unlike in past Grand Theft Auto games the entire world is available to explore from the outset which means you don't need to progress to access the various vehicles . Having said that some do only seem to spawn in select locations.

The vehicle mechanics have been improved since GTA IV, vehicles are much more responsive and you generally feel more in control then in the previous game. What is even more impressive is that fun hasn't been compromised as a result of these improvements and you can still lose control of your vehicle should you push to far. This of course results in some spectacular crashes, something that is handled much better in GTA V. Crashes now result in much more extensive damage being done to your vehicle, the level of damage is also determined by the type of impact. Small impacts may only result in a few scratches to the vehicles paint work or maybe a smashed headlight. High velocity impact in comparison result in much more extensive damage, just as you would expect. This can result in your vehicle losing bumpers, panels or just been completely useless. The carnage doesn't end there, if you not careful crashes can also lead to your demise as extremely heavy impacts can result in your vehicles exploding into a fireball leading to your untimely demise.

Missions in GTA V follow the standard Grand Theft Auto mould and you'll be driving around, stealing, killing and beating at the whim of the various non-playable characters you come in contact with. Some missions are fairly simplistic and can feel a little tedious and boring, whilst others offer a much more intense experience and you can find yourself involved in some pretty explosive gun fights. The missions often require you to team up with one or more of the other playable characters, and during play you can switch in order to take advantage of each characters special abilities. Franklin in a specialist wheel man and his skill sets comes in useful when the authorities are hot on your heels. Michael a specialist marksman is often needed when a precise trigger is need, whilst Trevor is able to enter a state of rage that temporally makes him invulnerable. A very useful attribute whenever you find yourself overwhelmed by enemies.

One aspect of the games missions I really liked was planning heists, this is a new feature in GTA V and allows you to choose the approach you take. There are two options stealth and guns blazing. Each character is given different responsibilities to undertake during a heist and you are prompted a key points to take control of each character in order to support the other characters. In addition to choosing the approach to a hiest you can also add additional non-playable characters to your crew. These characters all have different skill levels, the higher the skill level the big chunk of the take they will take. Using a higher skill level NPC can make hiests run smoothly and can also help get you out of difficult situations. Using a lower skill NPC can add unexpected twists to hiests, for instance I had a getaway driver who forgot the way to the safe house so stopped in the middle of the road for what seemed like an eternity whilst the police closed in on us. Luckily he remembered the way and we were able to escape, but its a nice feature that can offer a slightly different playing experience to other players.

One criticism that many gamers levied at GTA IV was that you could earn lots of money, but once you did the game didn't really allow you to spend it. This is something that Rockstar has addressed in GTA V. The game offers several customisation options for the three characters, you can go shopping for new outfits, get a tattoo or get a new hair style. The game also allows you to buy an extensive range of weapons and armour. The also extensive vehicle customisation options. If you fancy, you can even purchase new vehicles. Just like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, GTA V allows you to purchase businesses. These act as an alternative revenue stream for which ever character you purchase them as and certain businesses can only be purchased by a particular character. Purchasing businesses also unlocks additional missions for the purchasing character to undertake, so there's always plenty of things to do in Los Santos.

If you're a bit of chance taker or just running low on funds GTA V allows you to buy and sell stocks, it doesn't always work out, but a few missions give a few tips on which stocks to buy and the rewards are often well worth reaping.

Another area of the game that has seen improvement is the visuals. Rockstar has definitely started to move away from the exaggerated character features seen in past games in favour of a more realistic and life-like look. Even the way characters have been animated is more realistic. Environments in the game are varied and range from busy city streets of Los Santos to the shitty desert trailer park setting of Sandy Shores. There is also mountains, forest and beach front areas to explore and it's fairly easy to lose an hour or two trying to find some hidden surprises.

One area where the Grand Theft Auto games have always excelled is the games sound design and GTA V continues the trend. The game includes an impressive sound track with modern and classic songs. Voice acting for the most part is spot on, and filled with the kind of humour we have come to expect from the franchise. Although, at times it can be a little to over the top and even cringe worthy although that may mainly be down to the script writers rather then actors themselves.

Many people expected GTA V to be one of the smash hits of the year and they won't be disappointed. The improved visuals and extensive customisation options really helps push the franchise on and overall GTA V seems to expand and improve on most aspects of Grand Theft Auto IV, offering a more well rounded playing experience that is simply unmissable!

Review Score: 9/10

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