Grand Theft Auto V PS3 Review

Publisher: Rockstar  Developer: Rockstar North  Genre: Action  Players: 1-16 

Age Rating: 18+  Other console/handheld formats: Xbox 360

Grand Theft Auto IV was a disappointment in my view. True, I felt it was a very good game, although it wasn’t the strongest entry in the series. Released over 5 years after that game, Grand Theft Auto V has certainly been a long time coming, and it’s bigger and better than GTA IV in every conceivable way.

The biggest change with GTA V is that the story no longer focuses on a single character, although it doesn’t focus on two either, it focuses on a grand total of three of them. The game opens up with two of the characters, Michael Townley and Trevor Philips, in the midst of a bank robbery. The robbery goes wrong, and one of the robbers is shot and killed. Townley then stages his death, and is given a brand new identity in Michael De Santa. The story then fast forwards 9 years, and we meet Franklin Clinton, a repo man for a car dealership, and the paths of De Santa and Clinton soon cross, with Trevor returning at a later point. With its over the top characters and themes, the story is typical Grand Theft Auto and is highly amusing at times, and it’s also one of the strongest yet seen in the series, with a trio of distinct and impeccably voiced characters. Michael is a family man, but is also rich and has an impressive house and car to his name, although has criminal impulses that he is receiving therapy for. Franklin is a rookie just starting out in his criminal life, while Trevor is a homicidal maniac, and certainly one of GTA’s crazier and most amusing characters. The trio are memorable characters, and when they come together events are rather combustible. There’s also a memorable cast of supporting characters, and they’re just as crazy and silly as you’d expect from a Grand Theft Auto game.

The characters also bring their own things to the game itself, but first we’ll talk about the much improved driving. An annoyance to many in GTA IV, the instant gratification that driving brought in other games just wasn’t there anymore, and the vehicles felt heavy and awkward at times, with some overly bouncy physics also being present. With GTA V, the vehicle handling is a combination of that seen in GTA IV as well as the games in the previous generation, meaning that many will be able to pick up a controller and have instant success with their driving, but vehicles don’t feel overly light either. While I did like the handling in GTA IV, I do have to admit that instant joy works a lot better in a GTA game, and the vehicle handling is both fun and simple enough to get to grips with here.

When it comes to the shootouts, the game once again uses Euphoria, which makes for some very impressive and unscripted animations when putting bullets into the bodies of enemies who are just as determined to put bullets into the bodies of the three leading characters. The cover system has more in common with Red Dead Redemption than it does GTA IV. The blind-fire is no longer as accurate, and the cover system is also smoother than it was previously, although not amongst the smoothest ever seen in a third person shooter. The game has three aim options: traditional GTA, assisted aim and free aim. Traditional aim snaps to targets, while assisted aim is similar, and free aim is where the most challenge is to be found.

Now let’s talk about the unique things that each character brings to the game. Each individual character has their own special ability: Franklin can slow down time when he’s driving which makes tight turns and weaving between traffic all the easier, Trevor can go into an enraged state, making him do more damage with each shot he fires and he’s also almost invulnerable to enemy bullets during this state, and finally Michael goes all Max Payne during his special, in which time slows down and you are able to see bullets coming towards you in which you can get out of the path of, although there’s no Max Payne like shoot dodging here. The characters also have their own unique vehicles and missions in the game world to come across. Franklin gets street races to take part in, Trevor’s murderous temper is amusingly shown over rather trivial things in his Rampage missions, while Michael is able to attend therapy sessions with a doctor who obviously likes to make money.

Switching between characters is as easy as holding down on the d-pad and then selecting the character if the current situation allows for it. The camera then rises into the sky, before zeroing down on the location of the freshly selected character. So, yes, there’s a little wait following each character switch, although you never have to wait too long. Switching between characters also makes it believable that each individual is living out their lives while not under your control. Finding a drunken Trevor waking up in his underpants on a roof is one amusing example, or seeing Michael wake up from a nightmare, or witnessing Franklin playing with his friend’s dog for example. These switch situations make each character feel alive, and shows off a little bit of their personality in the process.

Having a trio of characters and seeing their different perspectives to the missions that they all get involved in is a wonderful thing, and it adds variation to proceedings. When the characters are in close proximity to one another during missions, switching between them happens instantly, which is all great as a break could have ruined the often exhilarating flow. You may be able to provide covering fire from a rooftop with one character, while the others fight it out below, which is just one example.

The missions themselves are typical of a Grand Theft Auto game, which means lots of driving and shooting, and there’s also some rather good heist missions in which you first prepare for the big robberies in various ways. Like LA Noire, repeated failure in a mission allows you to skip onto the next section this time around, which will come as a welcome touch for those who are easily annoyed and just want to progress the story. Sticking with and completing a mission will result in you earning a bronze, silver or gold medal at the end of it, and you can easily replay any completed mission from the menu screen to improve upon your previous performance.

With the city of Los Santos and the surrounding Blaine County countryside, Rockstar have created a massive living world. The developer have also made use of this large playing space, with missions, activities and random events to be found all over the place. The game has around 70 story missions, and then there’s the Strangers & Freaks missions, some of which unlock various objects for you to find in the city and the countryside, with the potential for the game to last you upwards of 30 hours. Activities on the other hand include golf, tennis, yoga, parachuting, browsing the internet, visiting the cinema and more. With all of this said, there’s certainly plenty of things to do, and with such a huge and wonderful world to explore, it would feel rude to not stay in it as long as possible in order to marvel at the beauty of it all as well as the amazing attention to detail.

In a break from tradition, GTA V’s entire map is open to you from the off. The map is so gigantic that it’s bigger than the world’s of San Andreas, Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption combined, which is one mighty feat. Firstly, there’s the sizeable city of Los Santos, which has been recreated from when it first appeared in San Andreas, and is once again inspired by Los Angeles. Then there’s the surrounding countryside that is comprised of green hills, the desert, dirt tracks, open roads, and more. You can also take a dive under the sea and there’s a large space under there as well, so this is truly one gargantuan world. Typically, Rockstar have once again created one of the greatest and most detailed open world environments in existence.

It certainly helps that the game is also immensely attractive as well. To think that the game is running on current generation technology is shocking, as Rockstar have really done some amazing things with the visuals. Not only is the frame rate generally smooth, but everything just looks so splendid: the character models, the vehicles, the ground textures, the draw distance, the ocean, the rain, the sky, the sun, it just all looks absolutely marvelous, and Rockstar have certainly got to grips with the hardware since the release of the rather visually disappointing GTA IV.

The game also has an online multiplayer mode which has been launched since its release, and Rockstar are promising updates to the mode over time. The mode has of course been plagued with various issues, although Rockstar have released a numbed of patches to smooth things out. The mode allows you to jump onto a server with up to 15 other players in the entire massive world of the single player game, and is so far showing plenty of promise. There’s story missions, there’s races, there’s parachute jumps, there’s arm wrestling, there’s death matches, you can join crews and more. Your stats will improve over time, and levelling up your character will also unlock new content. You can of course do your own thing in the open world, and just drive around causing havoc, and even killing other players and stealing their money. It will certainly be interesting to see how the mode evolves over the months ahead.

Grand Theft Auto V is a massive improvement over GTA IV in every way. The world itself is massive and gives you plenty of things to do, and I think many of us will get involved in the most dull tasks just in order to stay in this beautiful and detailed environment for as long as possible. True, the more reckless police driving of old is still missed, although this is still easily one of the best games of this generation, as the world prepares to transition into another one.