GTA is back and in my opinion, better than ever.
- Well told story.
- Lots of stuff to do.
- Looks great, sounds great.
- Isn’t as funny as it probably thinks it is.
- Mission waypoint issues.
I’ve gotta admit, I wasn’t particularly sure about it.
I mean I liked GTA IV but it wasn’t without issues.
And I feel like Saints Row was scratching the open world, crime game itch just fine, at least until it went delightfully insane and became something else entirely.
GTA V isn’t something else entirely.
It feels like it was largely built upon the ideas present in GTA IV, but it has few of that games flaws that I can recall.
But I’m getting ahead of myself I guess.
Unlike previous games in the series GTA V gives you three characters and for the most part this works great. You could argue Franklin isn’t as fleshed out as he could be, whilst Trevor and Michael steal a lot of the screen time - but all the characters are likeable enough.
Over the course of the first few hours the game will introduce the various characters, as well as the switching mechanic that allows you to jump between them. There are missions where it is handy to swap, there are missions where you’re obligated to swap. And during free roam there are times where you’ll have to swap to a specific character to do their own, specific missions to progress.
When you switch characters the game zooms out to a overhead, satellite view of the gameworld and then back in on the character you swapped to going about there business. For instance you might swap to Michael and find yourself waking up from dozing poolside, or swap to Trevor and find yourself surrounded by dead bodies. It’s a pretty awesome effect that gives the impression that the characters are actually doing stuff when you’re not controlling them, which goes a good way toward making me feel more immersed in the world.
I wouldn’t be Grand Theft Auto without some uh, Grand Theft Auto.
And there are plenty of vehicles to jack though I felt less inclined to do so here, as characters start with their own specific vehicles and for the most part they are fine.
GTA IV had some vehicular control issues, but I feel like they’ve been rectified here. Cars don’t handle as arcadey as they might in say, Saints Row. They feel like they move with real weight. But at the same time they’re nowhere near as clunky as they were and they don’t take anywhere near as long to get a handle on.
As far as shooting stuff goes by default the game retains the lock-on system of the last game. You CAN choose to free aim, but I tried for maybe thirty minutes or so and found the handling unwieldy. Locking on works fine and you always at least have some control of how high or low you’re aiming, so you can go for headshots if need be.
New to the series is the concept of “heists” which tend to be the larger, more set-piece orientated missions. I feel like a lot of pre-release stuff and reviews put too much emphasis on this part of the game. I mean the heist missions are great, but everyone made it sound like these made up the bulk of the game. They don’t. There are maybe four or five of them.
In heist missions you’ll be given some choices about how to proceed with them. Basically you’ll either go in silently, cleverly or in the front, loud, with guns. On heists you’ll get to hire getaway drivers, gunmen and hackers to help you out. Better skilled men take more of the cut, but increase your odds of success - so when building a crew you’ll probably try to make a balanced crew of expensive, trained guys and cheap rookies. The thing is that as you use crew members on the various heists, they’ll skill up and get better at what they do. But their pay stays the same. So if you pick the crappy hacker for your first mission, but stick with ‘em for the rest of the game it’ll pay off eventually.
Ammu-nation returns as a place you can purchase weapons from if need be but with little exception you’ll get them given to you over the course of the game as you do the missions and I never ran out of ammo or felt fragile enough to procure a bullet proof vest, so their presence felt a little pointless - except that some of them have shooting ranges which can be fun distractions.
And the game has a lot of fun distractions.
Gun ranges aside you can also do some parachuting, yoga, run in triathlons, play tennis, golf, race jet skis, race cars, go hunting, visit a strip club, play the stock market and probably more that I ain’t recalling.
And in addition to these activities there are also Red Dead Redemption-esque random encounters, which’ll usually involve killing someone or driving someone somewhere. I had more fun with it then it probably seems like you would have, but I had more fun with a lot of the above than you might think.
I don’t know how much of an audience there is for playing golf in a GTA game, but I know you can count me in it. For as much as I enjoy the missions and the story and indeed, they are the draw - I enjoyed the all of the side activities and distractions.
I know not everyone will play the way I do, but the way I approached the game I essentially roleplayed the character and went out of my way to do shit they might do outside of missions and had a blast playing it that way. Most mightn’t miss that stuff if they were gone, but they’re things that make it easier for me personally to immerse myself in the world which to me at least is as important in a GTA game as any of the story stuff.
Aside from having a lot to do and playing great, the game looks and sound great too. Voice acting is terrific across the board and it’s amazing how good the game world looks for being as huge as it is. They went all out with the details and it paid off.
Now for the bad stuff, but they’re minor points in my book.
Firstly whilst most of the game holds your hand and tells you exactly where mission objectives are as you are accustomed to, there are some that give you vague directions or locations without really telling you where said location is.
For instance I don’t think it’s too great a spoiler to say that playing Trevor you’ll get side quests to catch or kill some bail jumpers. The lady will tell you there’s a fellow at the quarry for instance, but I have no idea where the quarry is. The game hasn’t told me. I’ve driven around a while and not seen any signs to point me the right way. I’ve heard you can look it up on the map that came with the game, but all I can think is that it’s gonna be a bummer in the future for the poor sap that buys the game used and it lacks said map.
And also the games humor.
Firstly a lot of it is sexist and misogynist. Which isn’t a problem to me exactly. I’m not offended, I’ve never been offended and am of the opinion that it’s often hard to be funny WITHOUT offending SOMEONE.
But there’s a lot of that humor there. Given the current prevailing attitude regarding stuff of that nature I’ve kind of gotta hand it to Rockstar for having the balls to have that stuff there and not kowtow to popular opinion.
MY problem is that it just isn’t very funny. I maybe chuckled at a couple of lines, but not as much as I feel like they wanted me to. There were good, humorous character moments I liked but the stuff on the radio is where most of the “offending” material is and it just doesn’t do anything for me. I’d go as far as saying it feels out of place.
Thankfully it does little to detract from the overall experience and I currently struggle as to whether I’ve not I’ve had better. I adore this game. I think if you liked GTA IV you’ll like this. I think if you didn’t like GTA IV you should probably still give it a look, because I wasn’t so big on that game either and I feel this a vast improvement.