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Grand Theft Auto V Review

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Ben-Dutka
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Graphics:
9.2
Gameplay:
9.7
Sound:
9.8
Control:
9.1
Replay Value:
10.0
Overall Rating:
9.5
Online Gameplay:
Not Rated


Grand Theft Auto V is a big game. Perhaps you consider this an understatement and of course, it is. But until you play the game, you can’t fully grasp the meaning of that common three-letter word. You may assume it pertains merely to the size and scope of the virtual environment. You might think it involves the attention to detail and the role-playing-like depth. If you believed both, you wouldn’t be wrong. However, it’s when you pause, step back, and cast an appreciative eye over the unparalleled vastness of GTAV as a whole that you begin to understand. Then you stagger, ‘cuz it’s just that overwhelming.

It’s never easy to issue a separate graphics score for open-world sandbox games, primarily because you know the developers were forced to sacrifice a bit of clarity and detail for the sake of smooth gameplay. But when you consider the ridiculous size of Los Santos and the surrounding areas, you can’t help but be impressed by what Rockstar has accomplished. Sure, zooming in on various parts of the world reveals minor yet outdated flaws, and the cut-scenes are hardly CGI quality. Again, though, step back a moment and view the enormity of this achievement. It’s all lovingly crafted, from the random shrubs on the outskirts of the city to the tallest skyscraper.

While it’s a challenge to appropriately analyze the visual presentation of such a colossal game (and compare it to other titles), it’s easy to evaluate the audio. It’s awesome. The voice acting on all fronts is superb, which is a definite step up for the franchise, the soundtrack is bigger and better than ever before, and the ambient city effects are unbelievable. It’ll take a while before you hear the same street conversation twice, the diverse soundtrack is a blend of modern music and throwback tunes, and even minor NPCs are voiced pretty well. Okay, so there are a few balancing issues between voices and the rest of the audio, but that’s about it.

It’s difficult to know where to begin. Do I start with the changes and additions to this particular GTA installment, such as the switching between three protagonists? Do I begin by assessing how the gameplay and specifically, the control, has evolved? Am I supposed to tackle the branching storylines, which admittedly have a few flaws? Do readers expect me to give them an idea of mission types, and if many of them seem similar or repetitive? What about the question as to whether or not we should wait to do a review, because the online multiplayer won’t be available until October 1? And hey, do all those hundreds of extras, like activities and outfits, actually have an impact? Or do they feel superfluous?

Yes, I suppose I could attempt to answer each one of those questions in logical, successive progression. However, I’d rather embrace the far-reaching scope of the game and tell you what it feels like to play GTAV, because there’s so damn much to do that it all coalesces into this absurdly immersive atmosphere. The immersion begins right out of the gate, as you’re involved in a bank heist, which soon spills out into the snowy streets. Here you will learn the basics, such as movement, aiming, taking cover, and switching between available party members. It’s all smooth, accessible and well-implemented. Then, before long, you and a buddy jack two sports cars, and you’re racing along the crowded streets of Los Santos.

It’s just the beginning but within a few hours, you start to realize the breadth of the experience. It isn’t just that you can change the clothes of each main character; it’s that they have everything from entire outfits to individual hats, shoes, pants and shirts. It’s not that you can bring any car to a shop and get a new paint job; it’s that you can upgrade and customize with mechanical (engine, brakes, muffler, etc.) and cosmetic boosts. It’s not just that you can switch between the characters at almost any time; it’s that each character has his own statistics, his own special abilities, and his own missions. It’s not just that you can participate in all sorts of activities, ranging from golf to the strip club; it’s that each activity feels fleshed-out and highly entertaining rather than tacked on.

Getting the idea? In terms of missions, you’ll be doing a little bit of everything. This is by far the most diverse array of mission objectives and types GTA has ever seen, and that goes double if you tackle the optional missions. Even early on, you’ll be ripping down a cliff-side deck with a tow truck (you thought the owner slept with your wife), and then you’ll be trying a questionable joint and mowing down aliens in your drug-induced haze. Tons of different vehicles await, as do plenty of colorful characters, and that’s not even counting the story-based missions that include all three protagonists toward the end. Factor in the extra stuff and you could spend a very long time with this one.

If you’re wondering why the game doesn’t get a perfect 10, I’ll tell you. While the control has been refined and updated, I still find on-foot maneuvering to be slightly slow and awkward. Michael responds to my commands with more vigor on the tennis court then he does in a gunfight, and that seems weird. Still, it’s a lot better than it has been before, as the gunplay is similar to Red Dead Redemption and the cover mechanic works very well. I also think the tutorials can be difficult to follow; you have to try reading the small print in the upper left corner of the screen, all the while trying to play. That could’ve been done better. Lastly, there are a few lingering bugaboos unique to GTA.

Those bugaboos include vehicles getting stuck in bizarre situations, as well as imperfect AI that is more noticeable in certain missions. For some, these small drawbacks are just part of the GTA experience and the final score shouldn’t be docked for their existence. The argument will be, “oh, that’s just GTA; we expect it.” All right, I’ll go with that, because it doesn’t hinder your enjoyment, but the bottom line is that flaws are flaws, as insignificant – or as expected – as they may be. Aside from this, the game is an eye-opening achievement on almost every level, and one that continues to expand and grow with almost every passing hour. The pacing is just fantastic throughout; it never feels stagnant or rushed.

The driving is the best it has been in franchise history, as every vehicle finally feels just about right. And remember, the more you drive, the better you get at it. The more you fire a certain weapon, the better marksman you become; the more you remain active and participate in sports like tennis, the more fit you become; the more you tackle alternate missions and invest in real estate, the more money you earn. On top of all this is the extraordinary dynamic nature of your environment. It’s not just about driving to available missions on the map. Maybe a thief snags a wallet, maybe an armored truck is starting its rounds (talk about an attractive target!), or maybe there’s a car chase. The cops don’t just chase you .

Exploring is made easy with the map, waypoints, GPS and a heads-up display that isn’t intrusive. You can turn all that off for a more immersive experience, if you wish, but I kinda like the assistance. For instance, when you’re being hunted by the police, each car has its own search cone after they lose sight of you. So, escaping doesn’t rely on madcap driving to get out of a single search zone; once you’ve lost them, you need to find a place to hide. Back allies and behind buildings are good ideas. This is a nod to the more realistic nature of the game, a direction Rockstar took with GTAIV and continued in GTAV. Well, at least to some extent. It’d be a big mistake to call GTAV a “simulator.” No, not even close.

The story isn’t amazing but it goes deeper than past narratives in the franchise, and involves more ins and outs. The characters are better defined and they do a good job handling the more complex, branching storylines. It can feel a touch muddled at times, but I think that’s partly due to the inevitable drawback of open-world games: Players spend a lot of time doing other things, and when they finally get back to the plot-advancing missions, they’ve forgotten a few points. And with so much to do in Los Santos, you’re almost guaranteed to occasionally lose track of the core story. I can’t say this is a design flaw, though, because there’s no really no way around it.

The game is absolutely bursting with content. And the most amazing part is that the vast majority of that content is great; it doesn’t seem pointless at all. This is helped by the RPG-like aspect of the game, in that much of what you do affects a character’s statistics or ability. I’m not just going to the shooting range for something else to do; I’m going to beef up my character’s shooting skill. Lastly, as you explore, driving, flying, sailing, diving, or just walking, you never seem to tire of the expansive, engaging environment. It’s not only because of the content, it’s also because Rockstar outdid themselves in the creation of this enchanting virtual world.

Grand Theft Auto V is a gargantuan accomplishment, with an emphasis on the word “gargantuan.” It may still have an assortment of inconsistencies, idiosyncrasies and eccentricities, but one could argue that such missteps still give this franchise a singular character. I say they still sort of detract from the experience, simply given the rapid improvements in the industry. But all in all, this is an amazing game, with an amazingly talented and driven group of developers behind it, and it all results in an amazing experience. There’s really nothing else like it and those who immerse themselves in GTAV will undoubtedly emerge with adrenaline-induced grins. Gotta love it.

The Good: Epic, sweeping, engaging world. Great soundtrack, excellent voice performances and dynamic effects. Unparalleled breadth and scope. Appreciated upgrades and refinements. Driving is the best we’ve seen yet for the series. Compelling characters. Obscene amount of content.

The Bad: Lingering control problems, and a few standard issues familiar to GTA fans.

The Ugly: “Los Santos has its fair share of ugliness but somehow, you just can’t look away.”

 
Posted : 19/09/2013 12:00 am
H0TSHELLZ
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Loving this game MORE than i thought, to me thats insane. I have no words for the JOY im having.

Great Review !


Last edited by H0TSHELLZ on 9/19/2013 10:26:50 PM

 
Posted : 19/09/2013 12:00 am
WorldEndsWithMe
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Sounds like an intimidating monster to pick up and play. It's a shame they still have those control problems, how is the melee combat?

 
Posted : 19/09/2013 12:00 am
Temjin001
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just can't get into these crime games. reality feels to close for me on this one. the D.C. shooting this week reminded me of how I feel about it.

I suppose it wouldn't bother me if GTA was like a cult game. But no, it's only the most popular single player game series ever made.. or thereabouts.


Last edited by Temjin001 on 9/19/2013 11:25:09 PM

 
Posted : 19/09/2013 12:00 am
Fabi
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Completely understandable. I'm not one to be affected much by violence in games, but when I first ran over a pedestrian in GTA5, it actually felt a little too realistic.

I have yet to go on a killing rampage because I usually leave that for when I pass the game, but there was a point where I wanted to try out my weapon and pulled it out in the middle of the street and shot some people down, and my goodness was it realistic as hell. Especially with the GTA5 graphics, they are close to being photo realistic.

 
Posted : 19/09/2013 12:00 am
WorldEndsWithMe
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I would find this whole thing amazing as hell if it were in a medieval nation-state-city from that time period.

 
Posted : 19/09/2013 12:00 am
Fabi
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Does anyone else feel like GTA5 feels next-gen? I didn't think games on the PS3 could get any prettier than TLOU, but I'm starting to think GTA5 looks even better.

I've been comparing the look of the world in GTA5 to Watch Dogs and Second Son, and I have to say, I don't see such a big difference. I think GTA5 is gonna make a game like Watch Dogs feel current and not so much next-gen.

It also makes me wonder where that theory about the Xbox not being able to pull off graphics like the ones seen in TLOU stands, when it can pull off GTA5.

 
Posted : 19/09/2013 12:00 am
WorldEndsWithMe
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Sorry but I refuse to believe that a huge open world game like GTAV can have the same visual quality as a contained, linear PS3 exclusive like TLoU. No offense good sir, I simply don't believe you.

 
Posted : 19/09/2013 12:00 am
Zemus101
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I'm finding melee combat incredibly fun. Lots of different moves. Though it's just 3 simple buttons. A dodge, a punch, and a kick. Though depending on where you're facing, whether you dodged an attack, or your momentum, your selected character will pull off varying moves. Really simple (especially compared to GTAIV) and fun to watch.

Oh, maybe a little like the Batman games I guess.

 
Posted : 20/09/2013 12:00 am
Ben Dutka PSXE
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Like I said, the control has been refined and updated. It's only slightly slow compared to other third-person games. To say it "still has the same problems" would be very inaccurate.

 
Posted : 20/09/2013 12:00 am
telly
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What Ben said -- it's not as tight as, say, Uncharted, but it is miles and miles better than GTA IV was. Very playable, very fun combat. The driving is just flat out awesome at this point, too.

 
Posted : 20/09/2013 12:00 am
WorldEndsWithMe
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Much improved, gotcha, it's weird how they have such a hard time making it just right though.

 
Posted : 20/09/2013 12:00 am
telly
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I'd always assumed it's just hard to get that ultra-crisp, nearly flawless control you get in a highly polished, linear third person game to translate to an open world game. So many possible pieces of cover to account for, so much "emergent gameplay" to play test, etc. This game gets SO much closer to that level, though.

Free editorial idea: The Last of Us and GTA V will both surely be in contention for Game of the Year, but which will age better? We always applaud and enjoy the ambition of an open world game like GTA but what makes it so special is what can drag it down over time -- the gameplay imperfections become harder to ignore during replays, the exploration grows stale once you know where everything is, etc. But Last of Us is such a perfectly calibrated journey, that whatever imperfections it may have are so minor, and the whole experience is so well curated, you have to think that's going to still be amazing to replay years down the line.

Anyway, I'm rambling, and this week is all about GTA V. An interesting question in my opinion, though!

 
Posted : 20/09/2013 12:00 am
Zemus101
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I've never been the rampage-y type with GTA games. However, I love a good crime story 🙂 So far, um... there was a scene that made me feel extremely uncomfortable. The interactive torture. For those that played and know what I'm referring to.

 
Posted : 20/09/2013 12:00 am
Underdog15
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Nah, if it were a medieval time frame, the whole town/city would rally together with pitchfork and torches in hand and stop you themselves.

And there'd be no bitches just witches!


Last edited by Underdog15 on 9/20/2013 8:00:29 AM

 
Posted : 20/09/2013 12:00 am
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