As quite possibly the single most anticipated game of all time, Grand Theft Auto V had a lot to live up to. Fortunately Rockstar demonstrate a level of confidence and creativity that I have simply never seen before and push the idea of open world gaming and story telling to a whole new level, making last gen tech feel like next gen tech in the process.
As I'm sure you all know GTAV stars Michael, the retired con man, Franklin, the struggling street kid and Trevor the absolute nut case. They each have their own story but also have one overarching story tying them all together. Michael's is the most relatable, Franklin's the most GTA-ish and Trevor's the most fun, but it's the one tying them together that is the best. As always with GTA games though it's the world, it's detail and it's biting satire, that is the main event. GTAV breaks from GTA tradition by focusing on the American reality rather than the American dream. It's world is a world of economic instability, internet based social connectivity and political turmoil. Facebook is LifeInvader, Michael's daughter hangs around with pornstars, talent shows exploit the ignorant and the lower classes struggle to stay afloat. And Trevor? Trevor allows for a psychotic outlet that doesn't upset the narrative in the same way going on a my serious rampage as John Marston did in Red Dead. In other words the satire is incredible and Rockstar avoid the open world trap of ultra-violence upsetting the narrative. This allows for the world, it's story and it's satire to be amazing.
The main thing though is that the world is alive. It's people are distinctive, the roads are cracked from use and graffiti is never repeated. Cars damage realistically but you can still drive like a psycho, radio stations are filled with great music and hilarious adverts, shops are all unique and in some cases can be robbed. In short, this world is truly alive and is the greatest open world gaming has ever seen bar none. The fact it's wide open from the start only makes things better. Right from the word go you can mountain bike to the top of Mount Chiliad and harass campers, land a helicopter on a blimp, stick up petrol stations, raid military bases and drive from Los Santos to the surrounding towns. The world is truly a sandbox and with a simple Google search you can read about countless 'only-in-GTAV moments'. Some of these moments aren't even created by you! The Google maps style switch system works in such a way that the characters you aren't playing carry on with their daily lives. Michael might be on his way to see his therapist, Franklin might be grabbing a burger and Trevor, well once he was in a gym trying to make a man take off his pants and when I took control of him I found myself in a fist fight with several men far bigger and stronger than me. I gunned them all down, hijacked a sports car and raced through the sub way system to lose the police.
Thankfully the gameplay is all corrected from GTAIV. Everything that was annoying about the gameplay from IV has been removed or improved. No more irritating phone calls, no more shoddy walking and running and no more terrible shooting. The movement controls and animations are top notch and the fighting borrows from Red Dead and Max Payne 3. The driving is also improved, striking a good balance between realistic and fun. The 3 characters' abilities also add to the gameplay and make each handle in a unique way, Trevor can deal and take more damage, Michael can slow time and shoot and Franklin can slow time while driving. They are all simple abilities but all greatly add to the experience and help distinguish between the characters. Another way this is achieved is through the player. While playing as Trevor I played as a psychopath, while controlling Michael I listened to old rock music and played tennis and while playing as Franklin I'd try and earn money and 'better myself'. I don't know if Rockstar intended this but either way it's a great thing to experience.
Don't think all this glowing praise means the game is flawless though. There are plenty of issues. The usual problems with open world games, pop in, frame rate dips, objects passing through objects etc. are all still present. These don't really ruin the experience but they are noticeable and seeing a train speed through a derailed train is a bit jarring. The real issue though is that there are some pacing issues. The majority of the missions are fun but during the middle and end stages of the game there are some incredibly tedious missions to complete. I know the game couldn't be full throttle from start to finish but that doesn't mean it has to be boring. My biggest criticism though is the mandatory 8GB install. If games as good as Red Dead don't need it then neither should this, it's a real headache and I feel it's totally unacceptable because it out right stops some people from playing it.
It has it's faults but all things considered GTA V exceeds all expectations and takes pride of place as the second best game I have ever played. It is certainly worth your time and if you are on the fence I say go for it.
Verdict: Simply one of the best games you will ever play.