These days it isn’t hard for a video game from a big name publisher/developer or even an indie developer to build some momentum and hype – in fact it has become second nature to most involved in the industry! Create some energy around your game and watch it spread like wildfire… if the market is over-eager for your product then you’ve done your job. 2013 has been a big year for the industry, some high profile releases, the launch of the next generation of consoles but nothing compares to Rockstar Games latest title Grand Theft Auto V available from Argos.
From record breaking pre-sales to world record shattering release sales, it has become the game so many love and many more love to hate!
The fifteenth instalment in the GTA franchise, Grand Theft Auto V is also the first main series game to be released since its predecessor GTA IV in 2008. Five years of rumours, development, media spinning, community aggro and celebration before the world could finally hold it in its hands on the 17th September.
Since then it has received both fan and critical acclaim, disdain, dissection and discussion on many levels, it’s depiction of race, class and gender, the sensational use of violence and glorification of it and criminal lifestyles.
That isn’t what I’m here to talk about though because first and foremost GTA V is a video game and a video game is more than just a talking point and while it certainly offers its fair share of topical discussions it has be to played too and that’s what I have been doing!
The events of GTA V take place in the city of Los Santos, San Andreas, the city of Saints and your time here can be split in to two: single player and online multiplayer. In the single player role you take on the identities of three connected protagonists, Michael, Trevor, and Franklin with the game progressing through their lives and actions bringing them closer and deeper into the criminal underbelly of Los Santos. Online multiplayer gives you the freedom to create your own character, make your own mark in Los Santos and develop alliances with fellow players or bloody rivalries with others.
For all the bashing the series has taken it never falls short of telling a great story and Grand Theft Auto V does just that. Michael, Trevor and Franklin feel like they are real people, each with distinct personalities and goals and while they set about to aid each other and pull off an unbelievable heist each does so for their own reasons. While each of the characters is necessary for the story to advance it was Michael who really seemed to stand out for me – Franklin is trying to make a name and a living for himself nothing we haven’t seen in the GTA franchise before and Trevor is the crazy violent one with a gold plated heart… Michael and Trevor were former partners who were separated after a bank job gone wrong nine years previous to the current events while Franklin is taken under his wing, a sort of surrogate for the son Michael deeply resents.
Together this trio must manoeuvre their way through unstable crime lords, shady FBI agents and warring gangs all while maintaining their fragile alliance and crumbling personal lives if they are to succeed.
There is real heart to the narrative and while the biggest selling point of the game has been it’s online world, it’s important not to overlook the story or these characters – for once I found myself actually engaging with the story in a GTA game not to unlock bigger weapons or faster cards but to learn more about Michael Trevor and Franklin, to see where my decisions would lead them and to see how they would develop and grow.
Moving on before any spoilers occur, the gameplay has had a bit of a facelift while retaining the core functions/controls. Like every other game in the series, Los Santos is an open world environment and you are (regardless of what character you are controlling) playing from a third-person point of view.
You can employ the use of everything from brute strength to firearms, cars to bikes, helicopters to boats to make your name as well as your way around the city. As each character you will complete specific missions some solo and others with the aid of AI characters to pull off everything from illegal street races to kidnappings, vandalism, corporate espionage/sabotage/assassination (still my favourite mission in the game) to robbery.
By doing so you will increase your skills in everything from shooting to stealth and your stamina and while each character has the same eight skills at their disposal each has a unique ability that they can activate when the ‘special’ meter is full; Franklin can slow down time while driving, Michael can enter a bullet time mode when in combat and Trevor can go berserk increasing his damage while reducing it from enemy fire.
I guess I should have made something clear from the start, I can’t drive… I can’t drive in real life and I’m even worse then it comes to driving in video games, I have avoided the racing game genre (save for Mario Kart) because in my eyes cars go fast or they don’t go at all and when they do go fast I tend to go too fast and forget about the brakes, handling and that bend coming up in the distance… so when I did manage to pick up GTA V I did so with a sense of trepidation. However my fears have since been put to rest and while things got off to a shaky/crashed start I have managed to get my head and hands around the controls and out of everything in the game I feel the controls for operating vehicles handles the best (now if only real cards could be driven like this).
The game also allows you to play your own way and while some situations will require you to come out all guns blazing you can approach each with your own style and I’m not just talking about the fully customisable arsenal of weapons and vehicles! If sneaky kills and the silent approach is more to your taste then you can forego a full frontal assault and turn to stealth. You are able to swap between the trio (and your own character) at any time undertaking tailored missions depending on who you’re playing.
Now as I said earlier one of the biggest selling points of GTA V was ‘Grand Theft Auto Online’ as the streets of Los Santos are opened up to the online world and you share/fight for your own patch of the city against other players. In this mode there is a smaller story that allows you get your footing in the city, set two months prior to the events in the single player mode, you’ve come to Los Santos to make your fortune. Online mode allows you to engage other players in challenges from death matches to street races, helicopter fights to all out crew warfare. In this mode you can create and join crews, build your reputation and generally make life miserable for the people, particularly convenience store owners all while splurging your hard earned/stolen cash!
Online mode is brutal and my first steps in the world of Lost Santos online thought me some pretty harsh lessons, namely, people are mean and afford you little time to get your bearings before they shoot you dead, run over your freshly respawned body and rob your blind. Take it from me while GTA Online is certainly a unique and a great experience don’t even think about going there until you’ve polished your skills in single player mode because you’ll need them – there is no starting area for new players, you are thrown to the level 120 lions (all armed with miniguns and heavily armoured cars!) without mercy and as tempting as it might be to chase your killer down and pistol whip them for picking on you, you are outmatched and out-gunned so stick to robbing and running for a while or alternatively join a crew and ask them to beat the tar out of your stalker/killer!
You are spoiled for choice and that really is Grand Theft Auto V’s only problem and it’s hardly unique, most open sandbox games when you can pretty much go anywhere and do anything why even bother playing the game for real? Los Santos is your playground and with three additional almost fulltime characters to take into account you can feel overwhelmed at times. It’s a case of too much of a good thing but that being said it is your game and your world so if you can take it all in at a steady pace then you can move through it without too much complication or getting lost that enough!
As we prepare to say goodbye to the seventh generation and hello to the eight, Grand Theft Auto V stands out as a testament to the development and achievements these consoles made in strides, serving as a reminder of where the industry has come from and hopefully heralding a new era of expansive, creative and above all else enjoyable games.
[easyreview title=”The Arcade Verdict” cat1title=”Story” cat1detail=”One of the best in the series entire history” cat1rating=”9″ cat2title=”Graphics” cat2detail=”Clean, crisp and perfect” cat2rating=”9.5″ cat3title=”Gameplay” cat3detail=”Lacklustre skill system but better handling of weapons and vehicles” cat3rating=”8.5″ cat4title=”Online Mode” cat4detail=”Offers extended playtime but needs an equal level system” cat4rating=”8″ overall=”true”]
Editor-in-Chief, part-time super villain and hoarder of cats. If you can’t find me writing, I’m probably in the kitchen!