Rockstar has a history of producing titles with enormous game environments, mature content, and hours of addictive gameplay. The newest installment of the Grand Theft Auto series is no exception. If you’ve played and enjoyed the past games thus far, you can stop reading and head on down to the store to pick up your copy. With all the new touches and additions, it still has a true GTA heart beating at its core. For those that have yet to delve into the illegal endeavors of Rockstar’s creation or have found that the criminal activities of previous titles weren’t their cup of tea, this new iteration has some new touches that may peak your interest.
The most obvious distinction between V and its predecessors is the triple cast role of the game’s protagonist. Where IV took one character, Niko, and attempted to create a more involved, personal story, V uses three (Michael, Trevor, Franklin) to give a multi-sided view into relationships born of misdeed. This is where the game truly succeeded, for this solved two problems the series has struggled to perfect until now.
The first is more human characters. While I enjoyed learning Niko’s history and taking him on his journey to overcome it in GTA IV, ultimately, he was larger than life. As the missions scaled with difficulty and intensity as the game progressed, Niko kept stride and took down the most outrageous of assignments. A single man doing everything, because if he didn’t, the player wouldn’t have been given the chance to experience it themselves. Breaking up the missions between Michael, Trevor, and Franklin not only spreads out the skill set of each of the characters, it allows for those over the top missions to be divided between three men. With these guys working together, they can accomplish something that is seemingly impossible, but also giving it a small dose of reality.
The other problem that was alleviated with multiple avatars was pacing. Sometimes, you can only swallow so much of the same thing. With our three new boys, you constantly can switch to something fresh, a new flavor to tease your gaming taste buds. You are introduced to the characters at perfect intervals. Just as you are becoming attached, the game tugs you with a cliffhanger and introduces you to the next star. Missions tend to take a lot of heat when GTA is being discussed. Repetitive and pointless seem to be the talking points of these conversations. With three characters, Rockstar can tailor the missions to their personalities making for more intriguing and hilarious antics as you race, kill, and steal. I found only a handful of missions that I could have done without, while the majority I wanted to show to friends and replay myself.
As far as an overall story, I enjoyed the arc. It wasn’t entirely innovative or awe-inspiring, but it held my attention and certainly made me laugh throughout its course. The game does have multiple endings, and when you reach this point of the game, it will be obvious what you are deciding. I loved the ending mission I chose. Afterwards, however, I couldn’t help but wonder what could have been. Luckily after you get back into the game, the Replay list includes the alternate endings, so you can load those up without spending hours on a different save file.
GTA has made strides in its narrative with each new game, and I can only imagine it improving from here.
What can I say about a game that is played in more ways than I can imagine? You can play through the main missions, search every crack for side events, ignore it all and wreck havoc, and even simulate everyday life trying to abide by the law. I even have a friend who has tried to see if he could establish himself as a Los Santos serial killer (as far as I know, he is genuinely sweet and friendly IRL).
If this isn’t praise enough alone, the controls are solid. The only complaints I have are in regard to driving and shooting simultaneously. It is extremely difficult to accurately shoot a driver or tires without hitting an obstacle in the process. This can be alleviated a little, however, through the use of Franklin’s “Special Skill.” Each character has a unique skill: Michael has matrix-style slow motion while in a firefight, Trevor increases the damage he put out while reducing the damage he takes, and Franklin has slow motion while driving. These may sound a bit powerful, but the game does a spot on job limiting their use and durations which makes them more of an ace in the hole than a constant advantage.
The game offers a multitude of options which vary from driving unique vehicles to a stamina draining game of tennis. The characters have stats that can be improved depending on the activity. It is pretty self-explanatory, and the improvements are slight but noticeable. The depth at which these activities go is absolutely outstanding. The tennis matches, if removed and released as a standalone game, would hold its weight. Same goes for many of the other extracurriculars, and it is a great touch for those who don’t simply drive from mission to mission.
Speaking of the road less traveled, the Los Santos that is presented is by far the most intimate, detailed experience wrapped in the largest box I’ve ever played. If you chose to take a break from the chaos, a stroll around ANY part of this extensive playground will provide you with gems that really speak to the developer’s almost molecular break down of the world. Unique pedestrians, comical spoofs, and seemingly endless dialogue await any that search for it. I personally strived for the 100% completion and, after finally reaching my goal, am still encountering new locations and people as I explore.
Finally, the biggest missions in the game are the heists. These heists are always presented with two possible plans of action, and, after hearing the plans along with their risks and rewards, you decide the route you prefer. Instead of going straight to the mission though, the game presents heist preparation tasks. This ranges from stealing the appropriate vehicle for the situation, or purchasing the proper equipment to get the job done. While this may seem like a grocery list, the missions are well written. The writing paired with the excitement of working towards your desired heist method seems to raise the tension level for the heist itself.
Once all is ready and have been given the green light, your party tackles its payday. Depending on how you chose to do any given heist presents various gameplay elements as well as who participates. Most heists also allow you to switch characters to experience different parts of the multi-tiered plan. Once again, the details become apparent as you complete these heists. A man on your crew dying will lose you a portion of the haul that he was carrying. If you aren’t timely or accurate with certain sections, it will cause your plan to go awry and possibly leading to alternate courses of action.
Overall, I found myself having a hard time putting down the controller and wanting to pick it back up when I was away from home. This brings me to my most personally anticipated portion of the title, GTA Online.
After completing the game and awaiting the release of the online portion of this game, it would be an understatement to say I was stoked. Customizing my own character, generating my own wealth, and exploring Los Santos with friends and foes alike certainly had its draws. So putting the highly reported launch catastrophes aside, let’s take a look at what we were given.
Right off the bat, I was a little thrown. The creation of my avatar was a chore. I just wanted a normal looking fella who somewhat resembled me. The system was beyond frustrating. After attempting to change features with my genealogy, I resorted to spamming the random generator to finally end on something with which I was just “ok.” Sure, it doesn’t matter really in the slightest, but if given an option to create, I’d like to create what I desire.
With GTA Groat created, I landed in Los Santos. Within the first hour or so, I saw a few familiar faces from the campaign and sampled a handful of jobs. I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but something wasn’t sitting right with my online play. While it was great that I would jump into a city with other people who were almost always up to no good, I always felt a bit of a disconnect. At any point if I decided to do any of the structured jobs from racing to deathmatch to co op missions, I was thrown into a new group of people who I would mostly only see for that single event. Unless you are playing with a friend or dedicated group, you are constantly being shifted between different sets of people with no real lasting connection with anyone.
The matches themselves, however, are quite enjoyable. The different forms of racing keep them constantly fresh. I rarely see anyone with distinct advantages and win my fair share of the rewards. Most people on the Xbox community use their mics as well. So when on a cooperative task or team mode, communication and plans quickly form as the assignment progresses. When I play a certain game type, I usually would like to continue that activity. With the voting system after a match, that is rarely the case, and I must reload and find another lobby with my intended match. It is hard to hit my stride while playing when I am constantly having to redirect where the game is taking me.
I find that if I am not playing with others, it is a little tough to slog through alone. Personally, I don’t really have a reason to spend my money on a bigger apartment or supe up my vehicle. My solo session revolve around quick searching jobs or randomly choosing to chase down player’s with a bounty, but alone I just wish someone from my crew or friends were playing.
Looking at the whole picture, this is a game worthy of most players’ libraries. The campaign has hours upon hours of possible content, which features undulating stories that keep long sessions from boring the player. With so much at the gamer’s disposal, GTA V can fit many different types of sessions whether those be mission progression or a soothing adventure of pure exploration. Online provides many of the same activities, but with the option of multiple users. While the online has not been as refined as the main solo portion, it has the potential for updates to expand and improve on a system that is by no means a failure. All in all, I have already put in more hours than I care to admit, and undoubtedly will tack on a few more.