• You can read GTA V review for PS4 and Xbox One here.

Grand Theft Auto V follows the lives of three uniquely different characters, Franklin, Michael and Trevor.  Each come from completely different walks of life, but all share a similar goal, they want to make money.  Franklin is a gang banger from the hood, he was born into the life of the street code, wearing the colours and living the real ‘thug life’.  But Franklin knows that he can do so much more, he knows he can live the American dream and this is his opportunity.  Michael is a retired bank robber; he has the big house, cars, money, everything that Franklin longs for.  Though it’s fair to say that all is not what it seems beneath Michael’s exterior life, ungrateful spoiled kids, a cheating wife, therapy sessions and no excitement in his retired life.  They may come from different walks of life, but both Franklin and Michael are looking that opportunity to escape their current lives and live life as one big exciting rush.

Last, but certainly not least we have Trevor.  Trevor is a trailer park meth dealer with no morals and has a past with Michael.  Trevor is the character that you shouldn’t like, but you can’t help liking.  If you’re fans of Prison Break and The Walking Dead, then the chances are that you’re also fans of Teabag and Merle.  Trevor is in that mould, but the less said the better, but what I can say that he’s a very interesting character indeed.  So join this crazy cast of characters, as their stories intertwine and they will stop at nothing to make loads of money, no matter what the cost may be.

Let’s start off with GTA V’s eye candy and I can only say that the visuals are nothing short of stunning, this is a prime example of the current gen console being pushed to its absolute limits.  The character animation is of a very high standard, from the facial expressions to lip sync.  Normally the phrase “read them like a book” refers to someone in real life, not always so much in the digital world.  That rule certainly does not apply with GTA V, but because this is some of the best work that you will see on the current gen console.

The eye candy doesn’t stop at the character animation either, because Los Santos is an absolute joy to behold, it’s full of so much to see and do.  Whether you’re cruising the streets of Vinewood, riding low in Grove Street, mountain hiking in the glorious hills or being lost somewhere in the middle of the desert, there’s some to explore in every corner of Los Santos.  The GTA series has always offered beautiful and wondrous cities to explore, but nothing ever to the scale of GTA V.  Los Santos is simply a joy to behold and if Rockstar Games can work such wonderful visuals on the current gen console, just image to what they can do on the next gen or even if that rumoured PC port of GTA V ever see’s the light of day.  It’s certainly a nice day dream to participate in that’s for sure.

The core combat gameplay mechanic is very similar to that of GTA IV, though it’s fair to say it does run somewhat smoother.  Max Payne 3 was an excellent all out action game, if John McLain had his very own game today, it would be just that game.  The run and gun mechanic complemented the game almost perfectly and GTA V has adopted that element from Mr Payne himself.  GTA V even has special abilities in which you can slow down time (particularly when driving and gunning), which allows you to run and gun with the utmost precision. Sound familiar right? This is something that I welcome into the latest GTA instalment, because I was only playing GTA IV the other week and I’d forgotten how not so great the shooting is in that game.  So this is a mechanic that has most certainly helped to improve GTA V’s combat, but what’s not so great in GTA V and is something that has plagued the series somewhat, is the hand to hand combat.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s improved over the previous games, just not quite as much as the shooting side to the game has.

Punches and kicks will often miss the target, but this is otherwise a very minor gripe in a game full of so many positives.  Though the GTA series isn’t known for its stealth, this is a mechanic that has been implemented into the game.  It’s not particularly that great, but it does allow you to take a different approach in some missions, even though your stealth skills are pretty much limited to a crouch, judo chop and silenced weapons.  But while I’m talking about the few negatives that this game has, I might as well continue on, before moving back to the happy positives.

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While all the main characters are full with life and personality, the computer A.I is somewhat lacking in comparison to other games on the market.  I know this has been a familiar trend with GTA games, I was just hoping that with the current gen console reaching its peak with the next gen around the corner, I had hoped this would be one side to GTA that I would have seen drastically improved.  It would have been nice to see cops and gang members attempting some kind of flank now and again, instead of simply running towards you, firing on all cylinders.  Again this is a minor gripe and doesn’t dampen your enjoyment at all and after all, no game is truly perfect.

Now let’s get back to the positives.  As we’ve already established and you should have known for months now already, we have three main characters.  Franklin, Michael and the friendly neighbourhood Trevor.  Not only does each of the characters have their own stories to tell, they also have their own set of skills too.  Franklin is the best driver, Michael is the gunner and among many worrying skills, Trevor is a very handy air pilot.  Each character has many other skills, other than their main set.  All of these skills can be improved as you make your way around the crazy world of Los Santos.  Simply walking and running will improve your stamina, swimming under water will increase the amount of time in which you can stay under the water, the firing range will improve your firearm skills, driving about in various land, sea and air vehicles will improve your skills for each respected method of transport.  You can also increase your skills by partaking in the many activities that Los Santos has in store for you, such as triathlons, stunt plane trails, street racing, tennis, golf and so much more.

Speaking of tennis and golf, these are far better mini games then I could have ever had hoped.  As you would expect with tennis, you can play over a number of sets, you can also perform a number of skill shots such as top spin, back spin, backhand lob and the power of the serve can be determined via the accuracy of the serve bar.  Each character will taunt their opponent in their own way, but in my opinion none are funnier then Trevor.  It didn’t matter how often his comments were recycled, they made me crease every time.

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The golf also works surprisingly well, while its nowhere near in depth as the Tiger Woods series, the gameplay is very similar.  You have to move the analogue stick up and down to determine your power, just as you would in the Tiger Woods games and after the ball is hit, it’s up to you to apply your desired amount of spin.  The tennis and golf mini games (if you can really call them that) should cause you to lose many hours and it’s a more then worth distraction from the main and side missions.

Each character will have their very own missions, but as you would expect, they will intertwine on more than one occasion.  With three characters to play as, you may be worried that GTA V will suffer from an overcrowding problem and lose focus to where the plot is going, but never fear.  A clear sign of knowing when to switch, is when your main mission objectives will start to dry up on the map.  At some point you may find that a certain character has plenty of mission options open to him, then after time they will start to deplete.  This is when it’s a sign of when to switch and when you do this, it brings to you one of the many fun aspects of GTA V.

While you’re going about your business completing missions or participating in certain social activities, the characters that you are currently not controlling will be going about their daily lives behind the scenes.  So when you jump into a characters life via selecting them on the D-Pad, there is no telling to what you might find yourself jumping into.  Franklin could be taking his dog for a walk or chilling with a friend; Michael could be in a middle of a family row or counselling session, while Trevor might be in the middle of giving someone a good kicking or being chased by the cops.  So when you do switch over characters, for that split second in-between switching, it’s an exciting prospect of the unknown.

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Every mission you play, you will of course earn a varied amount of cash.  The difficulty of that particular mission will often determine the amount of in-game cash you will earn, whether it’s a main mission or side.  At the end of each mission you will be graded and you will earn a Gold, Silver or Bronze medal.  You will typically be scored on mission time, accuracy, headshots, all of which will differ depending on the mission at hand.  The main aspect of GTA V’s missions, will involving earning some big bucks by performing a number bank heists.

Without giving too much away in regards to GTA V’s plot, each heist you will require careful planning and will give you a A or B option in approaching each job.  Adding the right team members to your squad if you want the heist to go as smoothly as possible is of the utmost importance.  Each member of your heist team will have their own unique skills, varying from shooting, hacking, driving and planning details.  You can pick members with higher or lower skills in a certain area.  Depending on the member’s skill, you depend on their final earnings cut that they will want from the heist, the better they are, and the more they will want.  If you continue to use the same members for each heist, their skills will improve, but there pay cut wont.  So with that in mind, it’s important to pick the correct team early on and if you can, stick with the same members as much as possible

The voice acting is also some of the best that you are going to hear in the video game industry, each characters voice are just as unique as the characters themselves.  This is a great testament to how far story telling has come in the video game industry, so much so, this is likely the reason why we are seeing some many video games being turned into movies and seeing so many Hollywood big names turning to video games to air their talents are broaden their acting CV.  Just take a look at Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe being the stars of the Playstation 3 exclusive, Beyond: Two Souls.

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Though of course the GTA franchise is no stranger to having Hollywood big names joining in on the fun, as we’ve seen the likes of Ray Liotta and Samuel L Jackson join the GTA ranks, to name but a couple.  But in GTA V’s case, no big name cameos are needed as the voices behind the games main characters are truly the stars of the show and you will struggle to find many games that have just a superbly well acted cast of characters and credit goes to Shawn Fonteno (Franklin), Ned Luke (Michael) and Steven Ogg (Trevor) for a job well done.

Visuals and voice acting are just two of the main forms of storytelling, the other third comes in the form of the soundtrack and my god does GTA V have an amazing soundtrack to share.  Whether it’s the real life hits playing on the in-game radio or the epic original score plaything in the background for each mission, you would again struggle to find a game that manages to beat GTA V to tell a musical story as well as Rockstar are telling with this one.  As you would expect from a GTA game, there is a wide variety of Radio stations, each with their own tracklist and DJ humour.  So many times I found myself delaying approaching a mission, just so that I can listen to a certain song until it finishes.  The stations range from chat shows, Rock, Pop, Dance, Hip-Hip and more.  You can flick through the radio stations listening to NWA, Brittany Spears, Stevie Wonder, Muse and so much more.  It’s quite possible the most comprehensive tracklist t that I have ever known to be in a video game.

GTA V’s original score kicks in during each mission.  While it is the job of the radio stations to entertain in-between missions, it’s the job of the original score to entertain and set the tone during.  With three stories to tell, Rockstar have decided to bring in three composers to add their own style’s of storytelling, which results in impressive work.  We have Edgar of Tangerine Dream, Hip Hops Alchemist with Oh No and Woody Jackson, the brains behind the soundtrack of Red Dead Redemption and L.A Noire.  Now if you’ve played both of those games, then you will be familiar with the high standards of work that Woody brings to the table.  Whether it’s a high speed car chase, a frantic showdown or a tense heist, GTA V’s original score does an amazing job at setting the tone for each and every situation.

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GTA San Andreas was always the game in my opinion that had the most to offer, a huge world broken up on different counties, seemingly endless activities to participate in, I could go on forever.  Well the best and simplest way that I can describe GTA V in a nutshell, is that it’s San Andreas on a serious amount of steroids.  The world itself is bigger than any GTA game; you could even throw the mighty Red Dead Redemption in there too and even this wouldn’t touch the surface.  You can play golf, tennis, triathlons, go hunting, sky diving, scuba diving, go for a bike ride, pimp out your car, and buy property (in which a lot of property purchase will open new missions) and much more.  It’s insane the amount of activities you could get up to in this game, there’s plenty that I haven’t even discovered myself and more so that I will not mention for the joy of discovering them for yourself.

GTA V will also expand outside of the actual game to, via the iFruit app.  At the time of writing this review, you can only download this app for Apple devices, but it will be coming to the Android very soon (hopefully).  As I don’t own an Apple device, I obviously haven’t used the iFruit app as of yet.  But basically what this app will allow you to is train your dog, upgrade your own and personalise its number plates (which can be used in both the singleplayer mode and GTA Online) and allow you to connect to Rockstars Social Club and more.  Though I really wish that Rockstar would hurry up and get this app released for the Android sooner rather then later, because in the mean time we are seeing fake apps appear on the Google Play store and with constant in-game reminders, you’re being told to do something that you simply cannot do.

All the above I have mentioned and that’s not even considering the fact that there are three character campaigns to playthrough and GTA Online that will launch on October 1st.  I would normally say with the normal game that you have all the secret items to find, acquire all the achievements slash trophies, but GTA V is so much more than that and the single player campaign will keep more busy for a very long time, even long after you’ve hit that 100% completion mark.

 

Obviously I can’t say too much about GTA Online, as at the time of writing this review, it’s not been released and therefore I haven’t played it, but apparently Rockstar plan to support this mode well for three years.  So even with the next gen around the corner, GTA V will still be taking much of your time as you discover new wonders in the singleplayer mode and causing havoc with friends online for quite possibly years to come.  Not many games can boast that kind of accolade.

By now you would have seen some of the other reviews floating around on the internet, giving GTA V all the high plaudits, well after losing many hours in Los Santos (and many more to come, especially when GTA Online hits town next month) it’s fair to say that GTA V deserves all the praise that it’s been receiving.  It’s been five long years since GTA IV arrived to our consoles and while I enjoyed the last game somewhat, it had many issues that left many gamers disgruntled.  Those annoying buddy missions, in which you would receive a phone call just as you trekked from one side of the map to another.  Yes those missions were optional, but the constant phone calls and being penalised for not taking them up was a game breaker for many.

I know there are many out there that loved Niko Bellic, but for many (including myself) I found him to be quite boring and uninspiring, which made him difficult to warm to at times.  It wasn’t until arguably the second piece of story based DLC arrived for GTA IV with ‘The Ballad of Gay Tony’ that fans started to feel satisfied with their GTA fix.  Many fans felt that this should have been Rockstars main focus for GTA IV in the first place (myself included).

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So between those five years since GTA IV’s release it seems that Rockstar have gone to every effort to make sure that their fans are more than satisfied with their latest instalment.  We have not one, not two, but three interesting characters that make us want to come back for another fix, interesting characters that surround their world, and an amazing soundtrack.  There are so many positives and very few negatives for GTA V that I could seemingly go on forever singing its praises, but I won’t.  Instead I’ll leave that privilege for you to do yourself.  If for whatever reason you are yet to play GTA V, then you’re missing out of pure gaming gold.

Legendary Hip-Hop group once told us not to ‘believe the hype’, but trust me when I say, believe every word of hype that surrounds Grand Theft Auto V.  Rockstar have spent many years perfecting their game and the end results are stunning, so I could urge you enough to pick up this game.  2013 has been a generous year for gaming so far, with the likes of The Last of Us and now GTA V sure to go down as this generations gaming greats and gives is a sure fire sign that even with next gen just around the corner, current gen is more than alive and kicking and won’t be going without an epic fight.



Author

Richard Lee Breslin
Richard Lee Breslin

Gamimg has been my life for 30+ years and will always be my passion. I have a BDes Hons Games Development and Digital Media, and I hope to one day turn my passion for gaming and writing into a living. My favourite gaming series are Resi Evil, Metal Gear Solid, Silent Hill, Assassin's Creed, Uncharted and The Last of Us. I collect gaming merchandise, comics and movies. I love football (namely Aston Villa) and WWE. I can also often be found wondering the outskirts of Raccoon City. Follow me on Twitter @Solidus5nake and you can check out my Patreon here: https://www.patreon.com/solidus5nake