Developer(s): Rockstar North
Publisher(s): Rockstar Games
Platform(s): Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Review Platform: Xbox 360
Release Date: September 17, 2013
Gamers play games as a form of escapism. Gamers play Grand Theft Auto to indulge in socio-political taboos like blowing up cop cars with a rocket launcher or running a helicopter into a strip club. Five years after Rockstar gave us the fourth installment of GTA, Grand Theft Auto V promised us a massive open world, gorgeous graphics, and a bunch of missions to help fulfill your bloodlust and thirst for virtual gold. GTA V not only surpasses all of these expectations, but gives you the chance to live in and explore the thriving city of Los Santos anyway you choose.
In GTA V, you will play as three unique characters named Franklin, Michael, and Trevor. Franklin is a wrong-side-of-tracks, thug wannabe who has yet to prove himself in the hood. He's taken under the wing of Michael, a "retired" criminal, who's family issues are as deep as his pockets. And, of course, we can't leave out Trevor, the meth-dealing, explosive-loving psychopath. At any point in time during gameplay, you can switch control between these characters. You can even run into each other and take on certain missions.
The most important missions in GTA V are heists. Big, elaborate schemes to take down banks, steal from jewelry stores, and cause all sorts of other criminal mayhem. There are always two ways to tackle these high-risk missions. The options are somewhat limited though and usually involve a stealthy way and a "go-in-guns-blazing" way. Picking your team of accomplices is also very key. You always have to weigh the pros and cons between the quality of a team member versus how much the cut they are going to be taking when preparing for a heist.
After a few days of initial hiccups, server issues, and reports of peoples' single player saves getting ruined, GTA Online is finally functional as of update 1.02 and is all of the fun Los Santos offers offline...but online! You level up by doing Jobs and these jobs are completely customizable. Making a bunch of people race off-road vehicles is hilarious. Race, death match, and last team standing are just a few of the game types offered by GTA Online. Customizing your character, tricking out your vehicles, betting on races, popping caps in fools, playing tennis (if you're into that). No wonder people are calling this the new Second Life! Sixteen players can be causing havoc in the same Los Santos at a time. Whether you're randomly assigned a crew or rollin' deep with your homies, I can see people sinking hundreds of hours into this unique, multiplayer component of GTA V.
Los Santos feels like a living, bustling, cartoonish version of L.A. From the social commentary in the genius dialogue to the mind-boggling attention to detail in the lighting and adaptive weather, Rockstar has done it again. Not only does the world map include Los Santos proper, it extends to the suburbs and mountainous regions of California above. The scope is absolutely massive.
Luckily, GTA V provides you with planes, choppers, jet skis, submarines, tanks, bicycles, and automobiles to get you from point A to point B. Each vehicle handles uniquely and accurately. Modifying your cars, trucks, and choppers can help you outrun the cops when things get hairy. Instead of outrunning a circle of suddenly aware police a la GTA IV, the cops in Los Santos have cones of vision that you have to avoid when they chase after you. The RPG-style system of leveling up your character's endurance, driving, shooting, and flying skills from San Andreas is a welcome return. It forces you to diversify your gameplay when using either Franklin, Michael, or Trevor, all of whom have special abilities that can be activated during combat or, in Franklin's case, while driving.
The technology used in this game has finally caught up with the ambition of the franchise. The game allows you to sink hours into discovering and attempting to complete an endless wave of missions that it literally generates on the fly. Whether online or off, GTA V is a massive world to explore. The gameplay, the size and style of Los Santos, and the freedom to do whatever your heart desires only scratches the surface of the definitive swan song of this current console generation.
GTA V has amazing weather effects, superb lighting, and the sea and ocean look photorealistic. The game stays true to the franchise's cartoon-y, almost cel-shaded take on humans, but the attention to detail in such a massive city is unparalleled in modern gaming.
There is no shortage of things to do in GTA V. With a 69 mission-long story mode, a completely unique multiplayer experience, GTA Online, and more guns, cars, and stealing than you can shake a nightstick at, this will definitely tide you over until the new consoles come out.
While I was unsure about GTA Online at first, that's where this game will surely keep running with legs. The ability to pop into Jobs with friends on the fly gives Los Santos a living, breathing quality. You truly feel as though the city continues to ensue havoc even when you're not logged in. Again, you will spend hours and hours here.
As always, the soundtrack to Grand Theft Auto delivers. No matter what genre you are into – it's represented. Something for everyone! The ambient music also gives you a deliberate sense of exploration and discovery.
Review by Michael Engle
Raised on punk rock and video games, Michael Engle remembers a time when Mario was on his second birthday cake and when game reviews weren't biased and contrived. Engle hopes to bring his love of nostalgia and gaming honesty to you. He co-hosts his own video game news podcast, All Your News are Belong to Us. He loves games, writing, music, and not sleeping. All Articles by Michael.