There is not much to say about the Grand Theft Auto series that is not known. The controversial, sandbox-adventure series has been immensely popular since it switched to a 3D graphical style with Grand Theft Auto 3. Where other developers jump at the opportunity to turn a successful franchise into a yearly release, Rockstar has opted to take its time developing each Grand Theft Auto release, with Grand Theft Auto V taking nearly five years to be developed. All the time and money spent has paid off because Grand Theft Auto V is one of the best games on this generation.
After a lengthy install, Grand Theft Auto V kicks off with a bomb blast, throwing players into the middle of a heist mission set nine years in the past. Besides serving as a prologue for the main story of the game, this heist serves as a fast-paced tutorial for the shooting and cover mechanics. The gameplay is an area that has had the most noticeable improvement. Previous entries in the Grand Theft Auto have had decent but not good controls, to improve upon this, Rockstar has taken the excellent shooting and cover mechanics of Max Payne 3 and the driving mechanics of Midnight Club 3 and brought them over to Grand Theft Auto V. Gunfights and chase sequences are still very intense, but not frustrating due to imprecise controls.
The improved controls are a godsend, because GTA V features the most variety of missions seen in the series. Besides the standard chase sequences and gunfights, players will shoot a plane out of the sky, steal a super-secret military weapon, and participate in a number of heists. The heist missions are some of the best in the game. They give players two different paths to choose for completing the heist, and each path has different missions to prepare the crew for success. In between missions, the player is presented with many options to pass the time, with everything from playing a round of golf to trading on the game’s stock market available. Even when just driving around the city, the player can stumble upon a random event, like a purse being stolen. The player can decide to go after the thief, or to not give a fuck and continue to their destination. This is not Watch Dogs where every crime presents some morality choice, so ignoring one of these events just means a player may miss out on a potential reward from the victim.
The story that ties the main missions together lies somewhere between good and great. The story is a bit cliché, but presented well enough that gamers will still enjoy following it through to the end. The game’s three protagonists (a first for Rockstar) represents different types of anti-heroes. Franklin is a goblin gangbanger that is looking for bigger scores, Michael is a retired bank robber that is living off his mass wealth, and Trevor is a fucking psychopath. The voice acting for each of these characters, and the rest of the game, is superbly done, bringing life not only to the individual characters, but also drawing the player deeper into the story.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Grand Theft Auto V is how visually stunning it looks. From a technical standpoint, the game is a masterpiece, outshining most, if not all, of console games before it. From sunny beaches, to the individual sections of Los Santos, to the beautiful wilderness of Blaine County, each area looks fantastic and really sets the ground work for the player to feel immersed in the world. The graphical presentation is only marred by a few small issues. The one that sticks out the most is the low-resolution textures in the windows of buildings, these are a bit jarring with everything else being rendered so impressively. While the graphics are fantastic, the audio just is not at the same level. The voice acting is amazing as are the sound effects, but the original music for the game is a bit forgettable. It matches well with the situation at hand, but most players would prefer to have the in game radio tuned to a station instead.
The 3D entries into the Grand Theft Auto series have always striven to create a world that feels like it is alive, and this is another area that Grand Theft Auto V really delivers. It is not one single thing that makes this world feel so real, but the combination of many individually great things that merge into something amazing. The various radio stations, the televisions in the different safe houses, the in-game internet sites, the citizens and their reactions, and the wild animals roaming the forests all make the player want to walk around the city just to see what happens naturally. Citizens whip out their camera phones at the sight of a fist fight, police perform random stops that sometimes evolve into firefights, even switching between the main characters will drop the player in a wide number of situations. This all helps to create a world that feels shockingly real and at a level that has yet to be seen in other games.
Grand Theft Auto V, like the rest of the series, is a game that is greater than the sum of its parts. Past games in the series had good pieces, but GTA V has taken it all to the next level. The world feels alive, looks amazing, and lets players go crazy in nearly any way they can imagine. The biggest knock on GTA V is that it feels so real and is so open, it is a bit jarring when the player realizes that the story is linear, the fate of the protagonists is the same, no matter the actions the player takes during the course of the game. Grand Theft Auto V is violent, vulgar, beautiful, and hilarious. It is a masterpiece of a game, one that any gamer with a hint of interest should take a look at, even if it is just to experience what near perfection feels like.