GTA V review
by Craig Richards on 23rd Sep 2013, 10:05pm

It is finally here, the next installment in the long line of GTA games, GTA V. Grand Theft Auto 5 is one of the most awaited games of the year and its not hard to see why. Grand Theft Auto has always been entertaining and never fails to give a great story line along with the freedom to do whatever-the-hell you like, GTA V is no different in this matter. Rockstar Games has put some serious time, effort and money (almost £175 million, in fact) into this game and it really shows. The graphics are lovely, the story line is brilliant, the streets feel alive and the 'fun aspect' is very much there. But how is the game overall? Well, let's see shall we...

The beginning

You start off in the middle of a bank robbery- that unsurprisingly goes a bit wrong -and end up being chased by the cops. This active way of starting is similar to older GTA games but GTAV actually lets you play through what is usually just a cutscene. This is an effective way of teaching the user how to play while also letting them get right in to the action, as well as setting up the story line for the rest of the game. This 'introductory' mission also lets you experience some of the fine work Rockstar Games has put into this game; such as the superior graphics, fluid player motion and the weather effects (woo, snow!). It also lets you experience the new vehicle handling which is greatly improved over GTA IV (which could sometimes feel like you were driving a boat). Another thing that this mission introduces you to is the new concept of player switching (which I will explain shortly). Once you complete this first mission you sit through the credits of the game, which take you through a tour around Los Santos. These credits give you a nice view of the city that you will be driving, walking, cycling and flying around for a long time.

Missions

Once these credits are over you get into the proper game. You first start off playing as Franklin who does some 'repossession' work for an Eastern European car dealer which can be quite fun as you get to race a few cars around the city with your friend. I ended up smashing the car up quite a lot but I still managed to pass the mission. This brings me on to another new thing with GTA V. Upon completing missions you get a summary of how the mission went, along with things you could've done in the missions to get you more cash. For example, in the first mission you get more cash if you deliver the car back to the garage without damaging it (I wish I knew that before I totally trashed the thing...)

Some other new things that appear in GTA V with regards to missions is the ability to decide how the mission goes down, at least on the bigger missions. One such mission is a jewellery heist. In this mission you rob a jewelers and you get to choose between 'bursting through the front door with big guns demanding the gems' or simply being stealthy. Once you have chosen how you want it to go you get to hire your team. The team choices are a good idea as you get people with better skills but cost more or people with lower skills but who cost less. Word of advice, going for the cheap option sometimes results in you losing more money than it would've cost to hire somebody good but it's really up to you.

Players

Now, earlier in the review I mentioned a feature called 'player switching', a new concept for GTA even though it has been used before in other game franchises. The idea is that you have three protagnists- Michael, Trevor and Franklin- who can all be controlled by you at any time and each have their own missions to complete. Changing players in missions actually works really well and it enables you to approach missions from different angles. For example, in the introductory mission you start as Michael but when he gets taken hostage Trevor shoots the security guard. While you are escaping the bank you can switch to any of your players and it might be beneficial to do this, for instance switching to a certain player might give you a better angle to shoot the police who are chasing you.

All three of the players have their own stats which determine how good the character is at doing things. For instance, Franklin is a great driver but sucks at shooting whereas Michael is a great shooter but lacks stamina. These skills can be improved by practising or doing activities to help (such as going to a shooting range or doing a lot of running). The skills idea was originally intorduced in GTA: San Andreas but it is far more advanced in GTA V.

Something else that has been introduced with players is that they each have their own special ability which can be activated at any time. Franklin has a special driving ability which goes into a slow-mo mode to get through the tightest of gaps at high speed, which can be very useful in races. This is similar to Max Payne's bullet-time and works really well in GTA.

Setting

Anyway, enough of the players, how is the city? Well, the city is bursting with life and random events which will keep you entertained for hours. Being a GTA game you can do whatever you like (such as running people over, shooting cops in the head or getting in huge police chases) but the game will also tempt you into doing 'mini-missions' of sorts. A few times I have been driving down the road when I've heard some poor pedestrian scream 'HELP! He took my purse!' at which time you can choose to help out the pedestrian or ignore them and carry on with your day. This is the game's way of making you do something kind for a change rather than murdering innocent people and it sometimes works (although I have shot a few women in the face for flaunting their bag around in the first place...)

The city also looks fantastic but I feel it is let down by the consoles that the game is running on. For instance, on GTA 4 on PC you could see for miles which made Liberty City look simply stunning but GTA V on the console has a lot shorter draw distance with a lot of fog to compensate for the fact that the console is nowhere near powerful enough to run this game as it was designed. It doesn't stop models close up looking great, though, which is nice until you stand on top of a building overlooking the city.

Vehicles

And now on to the vehicles. The vehicle handling overall is so much better than its predecessor and vehicles now react how you'd expect them to and no longer feel like you're driving on ice or driving a boat. The vehicle models have also been upgraded since GTA IV and now look even better but once again the console limitations step in the way... In GTA IV PC vehicles had some great deformable bodies and you could really mash cars up to go from a long sports car to looking like a compact and I expected GTA V to improve on this. Unfortunately, it didn't. Vehicle damage in GTA V is pretty crap if I'm honest. You can smash into cars, buildings, lamposts etc and end up with nothing more than a scratched paintwork and pre-rendered broken glass (which looks terrible I might add). You can still lose bodyparts from the car like the older games but the damage model itself reminds me of GTA3 which is pretty bad for a new game. The only thing that would explain such bad vehicle damage is that the game is already pushing the current-gen consoles to the max and they would probably struggle to process a proper damage model.

Back on track, something that Rockstar has added back into GTA is the ability to customise your vehicles. This feature was last seen in GTA: San Andreas and it's only fitting that it returns in a game set in the new San Andreas (or at least a city from it). The vehicle customisation has gotten even better from the old days and there are far more options to make your car go faster and look better. You can spend a lot of time (and a lot of ingame money) pimping your ride to be the fastest, meanest looking machine on the road, which is really nice, but what happens when you take your awesome car to a mission where you leave your car somewhere? In the old GTA games your old vehicle would simply vanish never to be seen again. This would get really annoying when you've just spent $30,000 on customistaion only to have it vanish. Thankfully a new feature comes into play, impounding. If you leave your vehicle unattended in a public place or at a mission start then your car will be impounded. This allows you to retrieve your car without it vanishing into thin air. This will cost you $250 but its worth it if you're driving around in a super-rare fully customised car.

Other stuff

Another new thing that has been added in this game is the ability to interact with your game when you're not at your console via a companion app. The app (named iFruit) runs on your smartphone device (currently only available on iOS but it is coming to Android and Windows Phone) and allows you to train your dog and customise the cars in your garage when you are out and about and can't get to your console. This is a nice way of getting a small fix of the GTA world even when you're at work and can help out your character in the game. One thing I expected to see in addition to the companion app is Smartglass on the Xbox but unfortunately it doesn't support this. I feel Smartglass support would've been really nice for an in-game map or an easier way to view information about your character, such as his stats and cash, without having to press any buttons in-game.

Conclusion and rating

Overall, GTA V is a great game with an excellent story line (as to be expected) and offers fairly good visuals but unfortunately gets let down by the limitations of the current consoles. I have only played the Xbox 360 version so far but the graphics and damage models look worse than GTA IV from the PC (I have not played GTA IV on the Xbox but i'm assuming it was crippled too). My advice, if you're normally a PC gamer then don't bother getting GTA V just yet. Wait for Rockstar to bring GTA V to the PC and next-gen consoles so you can experience GTA V in its full glory. If I had to give this game a score I would say a very high 8 out of 10. The game itself is great but it's the console limitation that lets it down.

8 / 10
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