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Grand Theft Auto V Review

by Diogo Miguel September 24, 2013

It’s not difficult to think of Grand Theft Auto V as the most anticipated launch of the year. It’s a force of nature so big that even the mighty studios of Hollywood take notice. It’s difficult to imagine a Western gamer out there who isn’t aware that GTA V came out this week.

This new GTA iteration takes place in the fictional town of Los Santos – which feels like it’s loosely based on the city of big dreams, Los Angeles. In Los Santos, criminality seems to have a completely different meaning from the real world. It’s apparent that the police force is more preoccupied with protecting valuables. Accidentally run over a human in broad daylight and no one will usually even bat an eyelid. Steal a posh store and half the police force will give chase.

At one point, a random police face off with some gangsters materialized right in front of the character. A cop died and traffic merely proceeded to drive over his corpse – all whilst Mis-Teeq played in the background. Such is life in the world of GTA where it feels like getting away with murder is just as easy as going to the store for milk.

New players may find this peculiar, but it seems like it’s the standard behavior for seasoned GTA players. Still, it’s these random encounters that make GTA fun to play.

But the real meat of the game lies in missions which the three main characters must complete. Most of these missions revolve around one objective – point a gun and shoot anyone or anything standing in the way. Strangely enough, shooting someone is as simple as pressing a trigger to automatically lock in to the closest target. Attempting to shoot anyone in any other way takes practise and quite frankly is not for everyone. Especially since the gun’s cross hair is so small, that it makes it really difficult to target far away enemies. Unfortunately this ends up making some of the missions feel too similar.

GTA V is very strict when it comes to how missions are played. Merely stepping out of the mission path will usually result in failure. This makes it more apparent that there is only one way to conduct a mission.

The focus on certain activities also tends to make it somewhat less enjoyable to get through certain missions. It may even make some question as to why it is necessary to go through with some of the more extreme activities.

It’s the missions that break out from the norm that truly stand out. The heists are a perfect example of this. Everything is conducted in such a manner that will captivate the player from the planning to the very exciting getaway. If anything, it shows that sometimes GTA V ends up sacrificing ideas like to focus on criticizing the very world that it is set in.

This is truly confusing because even most of the side missions are really enjoyable. It’s difficult to not get invested when one of the objectives in a side mission involves shooting aliens – whilst high on drugs. Another involves being chased by a furious actress – after recording her having sex with a fellow actor – which actually makes really good use of the setting.

There are various vehicles available to get to these missions. Well, most of these vehicles have owners, but a quick press of a button and they have a new owner. There’s also other ways to own vehicles without resorting to theft. Taking control of each vehicle isn’t particularly difficult – although turning round a corner is not as easy to master. Perhaps the only real challenge comes from attempting to control an aircraft. This is particularly hard when attempting to land one – since there are so many controls and not much time to react.

The characters themselves are the typical anti-heroes that fans are familiar with by now. There is the psychopath (Trevor), the kid from a poor background (Franklin) and the once brilliant criminal mind (Michael). What is confusing is how sometimes they act as if they yearn to break out of character types. Michael in particular is a curious case since he is the one that has the most to lose.

Those that just want to take in the life of leisure, that Los Santos offers, are in for a treat. There is plenty to do around town for those who are truly into GTA. The likes of golf, tennis and the traditional strip club are all activities that players can take part in. Then there are management tasks such as taking part in the stock exchange or even own different properties. It’s all very interesting and becomes part of the experience whenever playing GTA V. There is also the upcoming online mode that fans are eagerly awaiting for.

Additionally, just about every modern life stereotype has also come to town. Anyone not used to some of the slang used will feel… a bit uncomfortable. Especially all the swearing that sometimes feels overused. Hardly any of the female characters encountered have major roles compared to the strong alpha males that surround them. This isn’t a rant because it’s nothing new to GTA – it just feels like a missed opportunity to move such a popular franchise forward without relying on the same material. Indeed, there are times where GTA V can feel as vacuous as the modern trends that it successfully mocks.

Funnily enough, it’s such ideas as a mobile phone that can take the trendy selfie or using the Internet to update fictional social websites, which really demonstrates the power of GTA. It gives the player tools that make it possible to create some of the most surreal scenes found in video-games. Already there have been several fans that have uploaded various in-game photos that prove this point.

Where GTA truly shines is the technological wonder that is the living city of Los Santos. It’s a vast city playground just waiting to be explored. Next hardware generation is just around the corner, but GTA V manages to push the current hardware to its limits. There is hardly a moment where something random is happening right in front of the player. Other characters will go about their lives and it truly feels like a city that is moving on – even when the player isn’t there to witness it. There is a point where a character dives into the Pacific Ocean and the view is mesmerizing. Visually, GTA V is one of the highlights of the current generation.

The story is mostly fine but it feels like more of a tool to get to the fun activities. Having to play as three characters at the same time does make it longer. Yet it means having to go through some of the less pleasant moments. At least all three characters are connected to the point that it makes it easier to keep up with the various story twists.

The soundtrack works really well and it’s all because it caters for different types of gamers. There are the usual GTA radio stations and each cover a different music genre.

Those that loved the previous GTA video-games will most likely praise this one to their last dying breath. They will excitedly come up with ways to push the game to its limits and rejoice in its juvenile humor. There is no doubt that it’s an excellent source of entertainment. Yet to someone who isn’t heavily invested in the series, it isn’t particularly easy to get into.

Rockstar have accomplished something incredible, but there are times where it feels like it’s relying on more of the same material. Grand Theft Auto V will dazzle the player with its satirical take on modern culture. This is perhaps, a fitting tribute to a generation that is obsessed with its fifteen minutes of fame.

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