Review: Grand Theft Auto V
It’s been five years since the events of Liberty City, Nico Bellic and his rather irritating cousin, Roman are old news and we’re back on the west coast of this faux America with a bigger world, bigger story and well, bigger everything. Grand Theft Auto V promises to be huge, with a five year development and an apparent $250m budget it’s surely going to be the best way to send off a generation of consoles.
Grand Theft Auto V follows the story of three main characters, Franklin, Michael and Trevor. The game opens with Michael, Trevor and two other accomplises coordinating a bank heist, which doesn’t exactly go to plan. The police show up, bullets go flying and Michael ends up taking a bullet to the gut, with Trevor making a quick exit. We then skip to nine years later and enter the eyes of Franklin, a gang member who’s working as a repo man for a dodgy car showroom. Through a certain turn of events Franklin ends up meeting Michael and then in turn Trevor gets involved as well. I won’t go into any more details of the story as I’ve probably already said too much but all you need to know is that it’s fantastic.
Missions work much the same way as the previous games, you’re given someone’s initial who you can visit and complete tasks. The three different characters have separate missions to get involved in and they’re all shown on the map at all times, just colour coordinated so you know who’s got missions available. Once you’ve unlocked all three characters – which happens fairly early on – then you can switch between them at will, this is done by holding down on the d-pad and selecting the character from the radial menu that appears. When you switch to another character you’ll take control of them in the middle of whatever they’re doing. They might be sitting there, watching TV or doing something a bit more untoward – Rockstar suggests that the characters carry on ‘living their life’ when you’re not in control of them and you can bump into them if you’re controlling a different character.
On top of the main missions there’s stranger missions and random events. Stranger missions appear on the map as a question mark and these can be anything from races, tennis matches, paparazzi missions and so on. There’s literally tons of these and they’re definitely worth doing as you’ll not only get more money but also more contacts which can be useful when it comes to the heist missions. Random events flash up every now and again and these can either be giving a drunk person a lift home or by stopping a mugger and returning the victims wallet (or keeping it for yourself, if you want to).
As I mentioned briefly, there’s about half a dozen heist missions throughout the game, these are the best missions in the game and it’s a shame there’s not more of them. Basically, you’ll be given missions where you have to, for example, rob a jewellery store, to do this you’ll have to plan it out. You have a couple of options on how to do the mission, for example, go in guns blazing or smart and stealthy. Then you have to pick your team members, this is where it helps to have more contacts, the members have different skills and abilities which improve the more you use them. You can pick the best people straight away but you’ll have to give away a bigger cut of the profits, or you can pick a rubbish person and train them up, thus giving them a smaller cut. Once you’ve done that you’ll have to complete some mini-missions to collect the stuff you need for the heist, such as van or clothes, depending on your previous choices. Then it’s time to play out your heist, obviously the better your team members are the more money you’ll likely get away with, for example, on one of them I picked a rubbish gun guy, he crashed his getaway vehicle and we lost about $1m.
As I mentioned, there’s only six or so of these and it’s a shame there’s not more as they’re very enjoyable. It’d also be nice if you could arrange heists outside of missions, maybe rob a random bank or grocery store – this maybe something that’s included in Grand Theft Auto Online but we’ll have to wait and see. On top of heists, missions, strangers and random events we have activities. You can play golf, tennis, go to a bar or a strip club, watch a movie, do a triathlon, or some yoga and much, much more. There’s an absolutely incredible amount of content in here and the activities are really enjoyable, best of all you’re not being pestered to do them as you were in GTA IV, but you can still phone people and hang out if you wish.
Of course, you might get bored, even with all this content so on top of this you can get a hair cut, buy some new clothes, get a tattoo, take some photos, take selfies, browse the internet, buy and sell shares on the stock market, complete stunt jumps, go base jumping, trek up a mountain, fight a shark, customise some cars, go scuba diving and so much more. As you can probably tell, there’s so much content in here that I couldn’t possibly list it all here, there’s also a lot of stuff that’ll take you by surprise. You can even level up your characters, each one has their own stats which you can increase by driving fast, running a lot, getting in fist fights, playing sports and so on. Each character also has their own special ability, Franklin can slow down time when driving allowing him to slice through traffic or catch up on people. Michael can slow down time when shooting, allowing you to take out a room full of enemies, and Trevor can go into a rampage where he does more damage and takes less damage.
Since GTA IV, Rockstar have released Red Dead Redemption and Max Payne 3, both of which have influences here. Head out into the wilderness of San Andreas and it feels like a modern Red Dead, with wild animals roaming the desert, although unfortunately no horse riding. The shooting seems to be heavily based on the shooting in Max Payne, which is no bad thing by any stretch of the imagination. Holding the weapon change button will cause everything to go slow motion and you’ll get a radial menu where you can swap weapons, there’s also a heavy auto-lock on when you pull in the left trigger, although you can disable this if you wish.
Graphically, the game looks incredible, I still can’t work out how this game is running on the current gen hardware. Okay, there is a hefty, mandatory, install but that’s not the end of the world. After the initial, quite long, load there’s no loading screens at all (unless you die/get busted), you could grab a jumbo jet and blast from one end of the world to the other and it’ll load smoothly although there are times of mild pop-up and the occasional frame rate hiccup.
Grand Theft Auto V is all about the details, for example, flip-flops, they actually flip flop when your character walks, which as minor as it’s sounds is something I don’t remember seeing before. Also, clothes will get wet if you go in the water, shirts will ripple when you walk, if you’re wearing shorts you can even see their calf muscles flexing. It’s not all land and air either, there’s water, a lot of water, you can swim underwater and explore the reefs or slap sharks, there’s impressive wave technology as well, you’ll rock back and forth on the waves, crashing on the coast.
Of course, there’s a couple of downsides as well, as I’ve mentioned there’s the occasional graphical hiccup, there’s not enough heist missions and some cars go missing from garages. However, there’s also a few things which aren’t really a big problem just niggles, for example, there’s limited character customisation, sure you can change their hair but there’s only a handful of options. Also, changing their clothes is pretty much pointless because when you’re not in control of a character, they’ll quite often change their clothes, so when you switch back to them they’ll be wearing something different. Sure, it’s realistic but why bother buying clothes when you character will keep changing them? Also, you’ll die a lot, if you go below 50% health then it’ll recharge to 50%, above that and you’ll need a health kit or food. Which in itself isn’t a problem but I struggled to find places to get food or health packs. In previous games you could buy a hot dog from a street vendor or visit a restaurant but that’s been almost completely removed this time out – the only really guaranteed way to get health back is to visit your safe house, which is a bit of a pain.
However, saying that, those things are just niggles more than anything, Grand Theft Auto V is still a fantastic title. The story is sublime and the new protagonists, especially Trevor, are all brilliant. The sheer amount of content is insane, and that’s without counting the impending Grand Theft Auto Online that starts soon. It’s a technical marvel and the absolutely perfect way to send off the current generation of consoles, to put it simply, Grand Theft Auto V is sheer brilliance and if you’re over 18 then you should definitely pick it up.