GTA always draws a massive amount of attention from both fans and media alike, it is arguably one of the video game industry’s most loved and controversial series. In 2008 Rockstar released GTA 4 to much critical acclaim, yet it fell short of the expectations of many of GTA’s loyal fans. It marked a change of direction in GTA, with Rockstar pushing the series ever closer to simulation territory, and while it was technically brilliant, it felt dull and depressing. Has GTA 5 shaken off the demons of its predecessor? In short yes, by a mile.
One of the first things you will notice about GTA 5 is its visuals, it looks incredible and you will be constantly surprised that your soon-to-be obsolete console can actually produce the kind of visual fidelity on display. Dynamic lighting, weather, physics (both on land and in the water) are executed perfectly. There are some minor issues with the frame rate that pop in at times, but it’s nothing that will distract you from your enjoyment of the game. There are also some issues with jagged lines on distant objects, but considering the scale and depth of GTA 5’s world, this is due to console hardware limitations, but regardless Rockstar has done an incredible job to get GTA 5 to perform as well as it does. You really have to see it in action to appreciate how Rockstar has squeezed out every last drop of performance from your console.
The sounds and audio design in GTA 5 are again nothing short of spectacular, from the radio stations, which never fail to amuse, to the tiniest of audio cues, such as the sound of a car engine ticking as it cools down after a long drive. The ambient sounds of the city and countryside are well executed, and the random NPC dialogue is of the usual hilarious variety. There always seems to be something new to hear, which is refreshing. If you buy GTA 5 pay close attention to the sounds of the world, because many developers overlook the importance of ambient sound in game design, but GTA 5 is a testament to the immersion gained from excellent and deep audio tracks.
All of the above can be applied to GTA 4 – it was technically brilliant, but what about the actual gameplay of GTA 5? Fear not, Rockstar has pulled out all of the stops to rectify the failings of GTA 4. For a start the car handling is perfect. Cars are responsive and fun to drive, yet have a weight and feel to them that are unique to each vehicle. It’s still entirely possible to drift around corners and lose control, but the whole driving experience has been tightened up and feels much less of a struggle than GTA 4’s driving mechanic.
Planes are also fun to pilot but require some skill to master as GTA 5 features air turbulence, which can catch the more inexperienced pilots off guard. Helicopters are a little bit tricky and never seem to be completely stable in the air, whether this is due to turbulence and cross winds is unknown, but piloting a chopper feels much more difficult as you will be constantly fighting to fly in a straight line.
Combat has been significantly improved; it feels fluid, responsive and visceral. Rockstar has taken cues from other games in their catalogue such as Red Dead Redemption and Max Payne 3, and rolled them into GTA 5. Thankfully they did, because GTA 5 is that much better because of it. Gunplay is much more fun than it had been in previous entries in the series, and gone are the frustrations gamers may have experienced with GTA 4’s gunplay.
The characters and story of GTA 5 are sublime. The three interlocking protagonists are all unique and have their own agenda’s, and you will find yourself playing out the roles of each of them, even between missions. Trevor is definitely the standout character of the three. His schizophrenic-like manner will often catch you unawares, and you will find yourself constantly unsure where you stand with him. Michael might be the family man, and Franklin the more traditional rising through the ranks character of past GTA’s, but its Trevor who represents how the vast majority of people play Grand Theft Auto games. The character of Trevor is a genius move by Rockstar to put up a mirror of sorts that reflects back the despicable acts we all have committed in GTA’s history.
There are some small issues with the main story, namely the interactions between Michael and Trevor in certain cut scenes. Are they friends, or are they not? In some of the cut scenes it’s possible to see them bicker, threaten each other and then reminisce about old times in the space of three minutes. This leads to you never being entirely sure how the dynamic between them works. This could be due to Trevor and his erratic behavior and emotions, but it only happens a few times and doesn’t distract from the enjoyment of the main story, which you will surely appreciate.
GTA 5 is packed full of activities in its vast and detailed world; there always seems to be something to do, and each has been carefully constructed to ensure maximum enjoyment and fun. Golfing, tennis, triathlons and races are just a few of the activities available, and all of them will help build the stats of your selected character. You can spend so much time in Los Santos and Blaine County just wasting that day away enjoying the meticulous world that Rockstar has created. If physical activity isn’t your thing you can even surf the hundreds of amusing pages of the game’s own internet, or maybe hike to the top of Mt. Chiliad. If you get bored of those activities you can always cause some mayhem to see how long you can last with a five star wanted level.
GTA 5 is a game that really must be played to be appreciated. Rockstar has produced possibly the best game of this console generation that is sure to have people talking about it for months, if not years, and this is without the multiplayer element in place, which is to be made available on October 1st. It’s a game that ooze’s class and high production value, and for many gamers GTA 5 will be the perfect swan song of this current generation of consoles.
The reviewer purchased their own copy of this game for the PS3 for review purposes.[#ff entbuddha] “Making you a better geek, one post at a time!”