Discussing a game like Grand Theft Auto V is a hard thing to do. It isn’t very often that a game that has both such a grand a scope with its world, while also having a pinpoint focus comes to be. Seen by many as the last big release of the current generation, Rockstar Games have created a game so ferocious and sharp in its design that it doesn’t ask to be played, but demands you to sit down and experience it.

Set in present day Los Santos and the surrounding countryside of Blaine County, it acts an amazing backdrop for the carnage and chaos. From the free-ways to the mountain trails, the world is rendered with a careful eye for attention and beauty that it reflects the dark nightmare of present day Los Angeles with a shocking amount of graphical prowess. Boasting a world the size of Grand Theft Auto: IV, San Andreas and Red Dead Redemption combined, Rockstar have wrung every ounce of power out of the PS3 and Xbox 360 to make sure it runs at a steady pace. Unfortunately at times that power isn’t enough, with frame rate issues which appear rarely, but enough to be noticeable. While it doesn’t mare the wonderful sense of exploration as you wonder the streets San Andreas, it is enough to detract slightly from the otherwise stellar technical performance.

Much like its predecessor, Grant Theft Auto V shines a spotlight directly on the idea of the American Dream and satirizes it, while reveling in its every absurdity and the extremes it affords. Where Grand Theft Auto IV had the story take place around this sea of hyperactive consumerism and narcissistic personalities, GTA V lives and breathes these ideas. Characters are a mockery of western ideas, such as materialism, and the game never lets up in its constant barrage of satire that occasionally borders on mean spirited.


Rockstar Pushes The Ageing Tech To New Limits In Both Detail And Scale

Almost every instance of moment to moment gameplay follows these core themes, and rarely does a moment go by without a well-aimed jab at some part of US culture. Doing this the game casually walks over highly-controversial lines, including moments of sex, violence and torture. These snippets will spark conversation, which is most likely what Rockstar aimed for. None of these moments are throw-away however, and are designed to drive home the absurdity of the world we already live in. Rockstar casually saunters over barriers that most AAA games would run from, and it just about succeeds in it. The game is not for those easily offended however, with moments even those who love digital violence may find uncomfortable.

The three main characters, Michael, Franklin and Trevor, all embody a different outlook on the usual GTA formula. Franklin is similar to San Andreas’ CJ, the gang-banger who wants more from life. The ex-criminal mastermind Michael is a violent man having issues dealing with a peaceful retirement. The final character to be introduced is Trevor, who is both irredeemably dislikeable and the most entertaining character. Both Franklin and Michael’s missions follow a more personal path, similar to Nico’s from IV. Trevor’s however harken back to the time of over-the-top actions from the pre-GTA IV era, with missions involving him being the most memorable due to there sheer audacity, including the return of Rampage objectives.

On their own, each character could be a protagonist of their own game. Each story becomes interwoven as time goes on, but the overall narrative doesn’t take advantage of this mechanic as well as it could. The story doesn’t truly pick up until the final third, at which point it can seem a little scatter-shot and lacking an overall point. This is can be forgiven however because of the games razor-sharp script, backed-up by Rockstar’s high production values that make even otherwise throw-away lines entertaining.


The Back-Country Of Blaine County Is A Welcome Break From The Cramped City Streets Of Los Santos

Secondary characters are more numerous than before, but this comes at the cost of character development. Gone are the likes of Brucie and Roman, with personalities that are developed over the course of the game. Instead new characters flit in and out of the narrative, reducing them to quick stereotypes as the story demands them. This approach works better with Rockstars focus of lampooning American culture, with each face being a new facet of western weirdness, but may leave some players longing for more.

With 69 core missions, the main story will take more than 30 hours to complete. Each mission are unpredictable and well-paced to show off all of the games array of features and mechanics. Surrounding these are multiple other smaller objectives which introduce a slew of minor characters, including a memorable pair of elderly celebrity chasers. Other activities such as tennis and yoga are part of a massive range of mini-games and money making side-jobs, as well as developing character stats. These smaller parts are all up to the high standard Rockstar upholds in every moment of gameplay.

A more controlled use of the Euphoria physics engine has stripped back some of the series previous features. Vehicles no longer easily crumple like paper after a head on collision, and take a much larger force to cripple. This also means the removal of the effortlessly entertaining drunk-walk physics from GTA IV. This lessened focus on procedural animations however have led to more responsive controls and improved animations.


Shops Can Also Be Bought Or Sold For Extra Missions And Funds

Both the driving and the shooting mechanics have received a minor overhaul. Stepping away from the more sluggish realism of GTA IV, driving is now much more responsive with cars no longer cornering like a drunk cow. This is further exaggerated by Franklin’s special ability to achieve super-human feats of driving in slow-motion. Running and gunning have also been given the upgrade of cover-based mechanics which benefit Trevor and Michael. Both have the abilities that give them an edge in gun-fights, which usually pit you against a dozen or more enemies. The number of guns has almost tripled since the last game, and the faster pace of combat makes the moment to moment action instantly gratifying, primarily as the generous auto-aim makes it hard to miss. With all of the attention given to these two parts it allows for a a much faster paced game, and allows the mission design to have a wide amount of variety.

Grand Theft Auto V is a game of almost insurmountable scope, topping Rockstars previous efforts in Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto IV. Pushing the boundaries of open-world games and game narrative, GTA V has a remarkable level of polish. This is made even more impressive by the size and depth of the world. From the top of Mount Chiliad, to the depths of the Alamo sea, there is no AAA title with this much care and attention put into it, This may well be a game that defines a generation for the legion of gamers who will now be waiting for where Rockstar will be going with the series next.