Very engrossing story with memorable characters and an unparalleled open world experience. Tremendous number of activities to participate in and having 3 protagonists was executed wonderfully
Helicopter control feels somewhat flimsy in terms of steering. Can't turn stock options into real life money that Rockstar Games owes you
Rating ( 10 )
- Total score
Grand Theft Auto V is the latest iteration of the wildly popular open world action adventure series by Rockstar Games. It takes place in the state of San Andreas including the city of Los Santos and the sprawling countryside surrounding it. It features 3 protagonists, Franklin, Michael and Trevor, living separate lives that will intersect and leave them all changed forever. However it opens up nine years prior in Ludendort, North Yankton in the middle of a bank robbery with Michael and Trevor among the crew. Things are going relatively smoothly until a cop surprisingly jumps out and grabs one member of the crew and holds him at gunpoint. From this point on things go terribly awry as the cop is killed and this only leads to the crew being confronted by, and then subsequently pursued by angry cops shooting to kill. As the crew makes their way to their getaway point things become even more complicated, such as the getaway driver getting killed and the helicopter they planned on using not being there even though Michael insisted on the crew sticking to the plan. A sniper takes out the third member of the crew and seemingly shoots Michael as well. And with more cops descending on the area Trevor is left with no choice but to flee. A funeral is held for Michael and a body is buried, although Michael isn’t dead despite what everyone else believes. He establishes a new life and identity in Los Santos with his wife and kids, who are obviously much older now, but he can’t forget or completely shake the urge from his former life. Trevor is somewhere out there believing Michael to be dead. And Franklin is a young man who wants to make bigger moves with bigger payoffs, and is tired of the daily grind and small jobs that aren’t worth the risk. When his life crosses paths with Michael things change and not just for the two of them, but everyone that has been connected to them as a situation arises where they have to do one big score together.
I don’t believe there has ever been a game as hyped before its release in history as GTA V was. And I was among those looking forward to it so that statement is to show the importance of distinguishing between the hype put on the game and what Rockstar was actually promising it would be. There isn’t a huge difference because Rockstar was promising that this game would pretty much let you do everything in its open world environment as well as having a solid main story. So the difficulty, or rather the fun, in reviewing a game like this is there’s so much to cover in order to review it properly. And I’m aware of some of the discussions regarding the choice of protagonists in there not being a female character but that would be a different post and not a review of the game itself. So did it hold up?
The prologue was basically the tutorial for the basic game play mechanics. There isn’t much change from previous GTA games including the default setting for shooting automatically targeting an enemy when you aim. One main difference, obviously, is the ability to switch between main characters with ease. In this initial bank heist you have to switch between Michael and Trevor, and this works seamlessly. There are instances in the game where you have to use a specific character as part of a mission but more often than not you’re free to use a specific character. There’s also a taste of driving here too, and vehicle use is a big part of the GTA experience, especially when completing missions from the main story line.
And each character has a unique special ability so using one or the other might be advantageous depending on the situation. Michael’s ability slows down time so he gains the upper hand in situations such as shoot outs. Trevor’s special ability allows him to enter a rage mode where he inflicts more damage with his attacks as well as takes less damage. And Franklin’s ability slows down time while he’s driving so he can maneuver unlike any other driver. And it’s not just one ability that differentiates the characters, think of their abilities as an extension of their personalities and life because they couldn’t be more different in those ways, and the missions for each one reflect that. Michael is a family man with a wife, a son and daughter; Franklin is an up and coming criminal trying to move out his hood with bigger scores but getting brought back in due to friends and family; And Trevor is best described with a quote from Michael because he’s “hell walking on earth.” And one of the brilliant things about Grand Theft Auto V is the way the characters are used, brought together, and the brilliant story that results as well as excellent game play.
The prologue sets the stage because there was some obvious double-crossing that took place especially with Michael faking his death and being able to establish a new life but the extend of that isn’t clear. It’s also tough on Michael in the sense that he can’t fully let go of his past life and misses aspects of it, and that causes tension with his wife and kids, with not much help from his psychiatrist. So he crosses paths with Franklin as a result of his son getting involved in a bad auto deal and Michael has a unique way of solving it. This leads to them becoming acquaintances as Franklin takes him up on an offer, and one thing leads to another with Michael’s family and before you know it, he’s at the mercy of a powerful Mexican gangster, who wants to be reimbursed for the cost of Michael’s actions. This begins the partnership with Michael and Franklin.
So the characters aren’t just thrown together, as Franklin starts off as a repo man prior to meeting Michael, and there’s an entertaining sequence with his friend Lamar, as well as an introduction to Franklin’s special ability. There are RPG elements as your stats improve the more you do certain activities. The stats are Stamina, Shooting, Strength, Stealth, Flying, Driving, Lung Capacity, and Special Ability. The starting stats for each character are different but you can obviously max out the stats of each character. So Franklin starts off with a higher driving stat than Michael or Trevor, for example. And the initial solo missions the characters get are suited for their lifestyle, with Franklin’s missions involving more driving and less shooting. There was really excellent voice acting and not just for the main characters as every character is memorable in some way and this is one of the strengths of this game. I started off using Franklin more but the number of towing missions reached a threshold for me and felt limited, especially since there weren’t any revelations after a while with a particular character. But of course you don’t just have to do the main missions as different activities are unlocked, or you can just travel around the city. And you can switch between Franklin and Michael at anytime to get a change of pace and the characters you’re not using are basically going about their lives. You can find them partaking in various activities and never once did I encounter a problem when switching. The number of missions available for a particular character at that stage in the game is shown in the character selection wheel, and the overall story won’t advance until you complete all the main missions for that particular character.
The characters are well-defined but one of the biggest stars is the open world of GTA V, or in the beginning of the game the city of Los Santos. The city has various personalities depending on the area you’re in, and for a good portion of the beginning of the game you can only use Franklin or Michael. Now you’re free to go wherever you want whenever you want, however the main missions give you a great tour of the city as well. Even with the early tow truck missions with Franklin you still have to go to different parts of the city so you get to see more. And Los Santos is as close to a living, dynamic city in any video game I’ve ever played, and it’s a wonderful place to see and explore (and yes you can get on a tour bus). It is massive and you can drive for miles without leaving the city limits. It’s a living city not just because of the random encounters that you can choose to get involved in or ignore, and not just because of the conversations you can hear while just walking around. It’s a living city because you can establish a life for your characters by partaking in numerous everyday activities as you see fit. And I can’t go through all 40+ activities but you can participate in sports including tennis and golf, hunting, sea races and parachuting. And all of these activities are extremely well done and it’s possible to spend hours just enjoying them as there is depth to keep you entertained and wanting to improve. I would drive to go play golf from time to time and it never felt tiring. You can even do yoga and the controls for that even make it fun. There is even a nightlife, although it pretty much just consists of a strip club, but even that is interactive with game play mechanics and that speaks for itself. There are also numerous side missions that have you interacting with citizens and one particular category of side missions, Strangers and Freaks, has you performing eccentric tasks or participating in extreme hobbies of random characters. For example, as Franklin, you’ll be able to play the role of the paparazzi and the twists you’re involved in are nonstop enjoyment. You gain contacts in your phone you can use whenever you want, although you’ll usually get a busy signal if not calling for a specific reason. There’s also a world-wide web that includes social media platforms you can view, and you can buy and sell stocks online. And yes you can buy property and depending on the property you can participate in side missions once you purchase them.
Those who’ve never played a GTA game can misunderstand the entertainment value to such a wide audience if it’s just assumed that it’s all about mindless violence and sex. The characters in GTA V are very well fleshed out, however an example of driving in a car with the radio on and listening to a commercial or commentator, depending on the station you’re listening to, make satirical observations of society shows the intelligence that can be overlooked because in some ways it’s a form of societal commentary. Another example is a few main missions where you have to partake in torture including waterboarding, and the absurdity of it all is shown as you’re forced to do work for government agencies. And considering there are “legitimate” news outlets who refuse to acknowledge the reality of that let alone have serious discussions about that, this says a lot.
But it’s still a game, so it’s done in an entertaining way as part of a cohesive story that holds up extremely well. Michael getting in trouble with a Mexican gangster as well as his longing to be back in that lifestyle opens up the game tremendously in terms of the main story. You’re introduced to heists, which require planning, a crew, and an approach you can choose depending on your style. Heists always lead to the biggest scores and were always a blast to do. Lester, a former crime partner to Michael and Trevor, plays a huge role in this as his genius-level intelligence makes him a necessary asset. After being shown the goal of a heist and what would be needed to make it successful, you have to select your approach based on the options given. Next you select your crew, who sometimes you can meet during game play, and they play an important role in how difficult a heist is for you based on their level of competence. For example, if you have to hack into a system and you choose a really good hacker, the time it takes for you to hack into the system while on the heist is shorter so you have to hold off cops, etc for less time. However the higher the level of competence, the higher their share of the score will be. So you have to choose wisely. Crew members do improve with each heist but their cut of the loot won’t increase so re-using crew members has its benefits. And you don’t just go on a heist after making these selections, you have to perform missions in the city in preparation of this heist, such as buying masks, or hijacking trucks with specific materials and stashing them, until you acquire everything necessary for the heist. And in the meanwhile you can still explore whatever you want in Los Santos.
Trevor finally becomes a playable character after you start performing heists as one thing leads to another and he becomes aware that Michael is still alive. And his missions and starting area in San Andreas are completely different from Michael and Franklin. At this point, all the missions become better and you have access to entire map.
I can’t go through everything that takes place in the game and not just because of spoilers but because there’s so much to do, however you do get involved with government agencies and have to do work for them. Everything from the prologue starts to come into play once again and the story itself becomes very engrossing. Trevor is a very, uh, unique, character and he’s definitely memorable for good or for bad. However he definitely does fit in perfectly with the story and his missions are also a lot of fun too. He also becomes a part of the social commentary in the game as it explores personal relationships and friendships. And when you have to use all three main characters on missions it’s unlike anything else. And since the switching is seamless it’s very exhilarating, and to switch to Michael to keep track of the progress of a computer virus, while holding off guards, or Trevor to fly a helicopter or plane, or Franklin who’s serving as the sniper for that particular mission takes everything to a completely new level. The number of different people you encounter during this game is breathtaking and none of the missions felt redundant at this point. And it’s not just heists or other jobs but personal missions involving family members or friends so none of the main characters feel one-dimensional even in the later stages of the game. There are some missions where you have to use specific vehicles such as when you’re using Trevor, and the controls were solid for the most part, but the helicopter controls seemed a little too flimsy at times when navigating even with the flying stat at 100. However it was consistent so once you get the full hang of the controls you can at least rely on the result based on your input.
As the story unfolded and everything started to come to light, the characters do grow and not just in terms of stats but in their personal lives too. And as I played through the entire game not only did every single character grow on me in some way but the entire open-world of GTA V earned a special place in my gaming heart.
Grand Theft Auto V is an amazing gaming experience and absolutely lived up to the hype it received prior to being released. The characters are memorable and distinct, not just in personality and backstory, but through the missions in the game. The open-world experience is tremendous, and it’s not massive only in size but in the sheer amount of things taking place independent of your character but the number of activities you can partake in, making this the liveliest open world experience to date. And I didn’t mention any bugs, game breaking or otherwise, because it’s astonishing to me that I didn’t encounter any of this in all my hours of playing it. And so I gave this some thought because what is it that a gamer wants when he or she turns on a game other than having an incredibly engrossing experience that is entertaining throughout and also works when it plays? I couldn’t think of anything because nothing added to this game felt half-assed, and knowing how difficult this could be, I could definitely appreciate that. So I’m rating this one differently from other games I’ve reviewed since the graphics can’t be considered better than next-gen (current-gen) and the honor of my first perfect score for a game goes to Grand Theft Auto V. So yes, I highly recommend it.