shacks's Grand Theft Auto V (PlayStation 3) review

My Grand Theft Auto V Review

The Grand Theft Auto series is one of the biggest in video games and Rockstar proves that a franchise doesn’t need to saturate the market by having a new game release every year. It has been five years sense Grand Theft Auto IV and although Rockstar has made other games in that time, the world of GTAV alone feels like they have been working on this game that whole time.

As of GTA IV, Rockstar went for more of a series tone with the franchise and it didn’t fit well with all the anarchy that players could get into. Now with GTAV the story is serious again and this time told in a more exciting way which lends itself to having some lighthearted moments that mix with the serious moments smoothly without feeling out of place for the most part. The story works well and that is helped by some of the best characters in the series and once again great depth to the world around you, but GTAV still leaves room for improvement with the characters as well as how things work in the world.

Instead of playing as one character running amuck across town, this time you take on the role of three different characters. You are introduced to all three characters over the first few hours of the game one at a time, getting a small piece of their lives while doing so and learning a little about them. There is Michael, who was a career criminal that has now slowed down, retired from the life with his wife and kids in Los Santos, which is game's version of Los Angeles. He has been spending his time bored out of his mind sitting around his house drinking; meanwhile his wife and kids hate him. Then there is Franklin, who is a low rent gangster. He and his best friend Lamar are the more typical style for this kind of gang as they are doing basic crimes trying to step up to bigger things.

Franklin and Lamar at the time though are working for a crooked car dealer stealing cars for him, which is what leads to the meeting between him and Michael. From there the main story really starts going as Michael takes Franklin under his wing and they start working together and making a name for themselves, at least enough to catch the attention of Trevor, who is an old partner in crime of Michaels. Trevor is your typical loose canon, basically his whole life is lead by acting out like when you get bored in a GTA game and run around causing havoc. He swears, drinks and kills as he pleases with little remorse. His main gig is running a meth lab operation in the country/deserted area north of Los Santos. Trevor has spent the last ten years thinking Michael is dead until now, leading him into town to see for himself that Michael is still alive. This leads to a shaky and uneasy relationship between these three characters.

Rockstar has done a great job of making it easy to switch between these three characters, unless you are in the middle of a mission. Some missions are for just that one character you have selected, while others are for two or maybe all three. Most of the time you can switch to any of the three you’d like and be introduced to whatever is going on in their life at that time. You can switch to Michael as he wakes up screaming from night terrors or walking out of a coffee shop throwing his cup on the ground. You can switch to Franklin playing with his dog Chop or trying to keep his friends from fighting or you can switch to Trevor puking into fountains or in his underwear chasing girls out of the strip club. It is nice giving the idea that all three of these guys are out living their lives even when you are not controlling them at all.

The mission structure is pretty standard for a GTA game. There is a letter on the map that pops up and you drive to it, have a little cut scene and most likely end up driving someplace else to really get going. Some missions have multiple parts to them as well. Those types of missions usually end up mixing it up with one or two of the other main characters from the game. For example there is a chain of missions were Franklin is boosting unique cars and Trevor comes in to help and they take off with the cars on the back of a truck down the highway and as Trevor you have to try getting away from the police that catch on. However you can’t shake them so the game has you switch to Franklin to climb into a \car on the back of the truck, drop it off the back and shoot the police are that are in pursuit. There are other missions where the characters find themselves in a shoot out and you can switch between them making it kind of tactical when it needs to be.

This also plays into the game’s special abilities and stats for each character. All the characters have a list of stats for things like driving, shooting and energy. Again for example, Trevor is better at shooting then Franklin. However stats like the shooting don’t make any difference seeing that there is an auto-aim that makes picking off enemies (or the police) just as easy for everyone. The only statistic that seems to make any difference is the character specialty ones. Each has their own, such as Trevor goes into a rampage-esque mode and takes less damage, Franklin can use his while driving and slows down time to make better moves on the road and Michael has the ability to become more focused when in a firefight, having kind of a Max Payne feel to it, but not as dramatic. These all come in handy, however when it comes to the combat oriented ones if you use the cover system along with the previously mentioned auto-aim you will easily make it out of most encounters with enemies.

There are times that missions deviate from the normal style such as when your crew takes on different heists. These missions take some extra planning and happen at pivotal points in the main story. These missions usually start out by getting information on the building or area you are going to have the heist happen and then choosing a “Plan A” or “Plan B” and depending on which you decide on you will make plans from there. You can play a sloppy way that is more dangerous or a more laid out plan that is less risky and makes for a more smooth in and out situation. From there you choose a crew (outside of the main three characters). You will higher a shooter, hack and a driver. Some of these missions you won’t need all three, maybe one or two. You will choose these people on their stats and those with higher stats will cost more money that is received from the heist. If you choose a shooter that is not as experienced he might die during the job and the money he was caring is gone and taken out of the total at the end. However, whoever you choose and make it through the mission the stats can go up, but the percentage of their take will stay the same. So it is possible to use inexperienced people and keep from paying them more as they get better.

Some heists will need extra steps to complete before starting the heist. Maybe the job requires masks, clothing and weapons. You can have one of the main characters go buy it all or have one of each do a few steps making it feel like it was a team effort to get everything set up. You will sometimes also need to get yourself a getaway car and find a good place to stash it for once the job is done you can get away easily and quickly. Sometimes the job will call for specific vehicles like garbage trucks or maintenance vans and you will have to steal those as part of the set up. All this is a nice and welcome changed from the typical mission structure of the GTA series and they come a long just in time to keep things fresh and different. The only complain about this is there should have been a lot more of these types of missions.

So you have your story missions and heists and of course there are side events. Outside of that there are random events that pop up when you are cruising around, these are usually simply things like someone stealing a purse from a woman or stealing a car. You can stop these from happening and do one of two things, keep the money you pick up or keep the vehicle that you get from the thief. After all you are playing as one of three criminals in their own right. There are also missions referred to as "Strangers and Freaks". These missions have little structure to them, but just enough to be something different. They are pretty typical for an open world game and each character have different events that unfold from them. Trevor for instance runs into some border control nut jobs in the desert bent on locking up whoever they assume is an illegal alien. Michael lets some random woman talk him into a footrace and Franklin gets mixed up with a weirdo that wants to get marijuana legalized. It is missions like this that keeps GTAV down to earth and brings in some humor. It keeps the game from feeling too serious all the time. There are also other things to do like street racing what not to do in the world, like any game of this caliber. Of course there is the simplest thing to do like joy ride around and see how long you can last with five wanted stars.

As mentioned and of course expected there is a ton of driving that happens in this game. Unfortunately Rockstar still doesn’t seem to grasp the concept of gravity when it comes to the driving. The GTA series sense turning into a third-person game in GTA3 has had an awful time with the driving. Even now in GTAV it feels like you’re driving on icy roads while there is hardly any gravity. It is something that you do get use to, but really shouldn’t have to after all this time. I hate to bring it up, but the Saint’s Row series has had a better handle on driving the entire time compared to the GTA series. Also the flying is still a problem and like driving only becomes bearable after getting use to it. Although, when it comes to flying there is also the landing which is even more of a chore. Landing a plan in GTAV reminded me of trying to land a fighter jet on the aircraft carrier in Top Gun of the NES.

GTAV is by far the best game in the series. Rockstar is so great a creating a world to live in and great characters to play as and they have out done themselves here once again. Driving is the only real downer about this game and even though you shouldn’t have to get use to it, once you do it works pretty well. There is also an online component to the game, but that is not out until October 1st. With all that GTAV offers though it is alright for Rockstar to take their time and get the online done right. There is no need to rush it with some much in the world already. GTAV might not be as surprising as it seemed like it would be, playing as more then one character and having such a huge open world, but it still makes it the best. I can see already other games trying to bring in the multiple main character aspect that GTAV has and they already perfected it as far as I am concerned. I just wish that GTAV came out earlier to help get through the summer drought of no game releases, but it is here now and worth picking up right away. It will also keep those afloat for awhile that don’t plan picking up next-gen systems anytime soon.

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