Grand Theft Auto V : A Review So Far

One of the most anticipated games of the year by gamers and conservative critics alike (to criticize for its absence of morality, not its gameplay), Grand Theft Auto V was finally released after nearly four years of development, yesterday. Personally, I stood in line for about half an hour to receive my pre-ordered copy at midnight on Tuesday at my local game store with a group of friends who had done the same thing. I even took all of Tuesday off work so that I could stay up and play with my friend, who we’ll refer to as Happy. We invested about six and a half hours into the game (until it was light out), and then caught some Z’s before I resumed to play for a little bit during the day. Through about 12 hours of gameplay, I’ve managed to complete about 21% of the story, but haven’t yet managed to even scratch the surface of this deep and hugely expansive game.

The first thing I will say, is that if you’re a parent reading this and your kid is playing this game and is under the age of 18, you may want to re-evaluate your parenting techniques rather quickly. Although there is so much you can peacefully do in this game (hunting, racing, flying airplanes, playing tennis, golfing, yoga, deep-sea diving, buying property, investing in the stock market), the game is obviously entitled Grand Theft Auto. Which means, it’s going to have many criminal components that you can’t really get around. This title specifically is centered around bank heists, coming in the wake of the current recession, and how three characters revert to their criminal ways to provide for their lives. Although the multiplayer content of the game isn’t going to be launched until October 1st, below I’m going to review the pros and cons of the game so far in my opinion.

Pros

1. Three Main Characters. After experimenting with new characters in the expansions for Grand Theft Auto IV, Rockstar Games decided to incorporate three main characters into GTA V, following the positive reception of the expansions and the intertwined storylines of the characters. While there are available missions for each character, you as the player have the ability to change between characters at your own discretion. If you’re getting bored with one, then just switch to another. This helps pace the game a lot faster, as you aren’t grinding through the game with one character and endless missions seen through their eyes as it seemed at times in GTA IV.

2. Largest, Most Detailed Map Yet. Rockstar has said that the playable area for this game is so large, that it could envelop the arenas from the past three games combined (Red Dead Redemption, GTA IV, GTA San Andreas). There are mountains, rivers, deserts, army bases, ports oceans, bridges, and the city of Los Santos (modeled after Hollywood/Los Angeles) all in one setting. It’s utterly massive, and thanks to the return of the ability to fly planes, the airspace has to be huge to allow such an arena.

3. Vehicles! The thing that irked me about GTA IV was that following (in my opinion) the best installment in the franchise in San Andreas, the vehicles took a step backwards. I couldn’t fly Harrier jets in IV, and that’s all I really wanted. The best part about V is that now you can do all that and more. After only being able to drive cabs of tractor trailers in IV, you can now drive full on semi trucks. Or logging trucks. Or 18 wheelers. You can also drive dune buggies, dirt bikes, ATVs, buses, firetrucks, ambulances, tanks, jeeps, halftracks, Humvees, or pretty much any type of car you can think of. You can also fly planes, blimps, fighter jets, C-130s, news helicopters, police helicopters, Apaches and Chinooks. Finally, you have the ability to pilot watercraft such as sailboats, yachts, speedboats, jet skis, and even possibly submarines.

4. It’s the Little Things. You know how in Call of Duty, you can add attachments to guns and change their skins? Well in GTA V, you can do all of that, and it’s only one small aspect of the overall scheme of customization. You can customize cars so specifically it’ll remind you of Forza, and you can customize your character in a way reminiscent of The Sims. You’re also handed a real smart phone that you can find side missions on the internet with, as you receive emails and texts and can surf the web, even being able to take selfie pictures with it. And this is all without mentioning the skills meters that were added for each character, in which you can choose to take place in different activities to advance your skills, giving your character better RPG-like abilities in-game. These include driving, flying, shooting and running, among others. You can hone all these skills by going to a shooting range, participating in races or triathlons, and by playing tennis, golf, or swimming.

5. It’s Rockstar. Which means, there’s going to be easter eggs all over the place, and even more little things than I listed above that you’re going to be able to waste hours and hours on. The spaceship and spaceship parts, along with some possible alien presence is already being discovered, but I can pretty well assume that won’t be all. And that’s not even touching the multiplayer aspect, which when that launches I’m sure will be absolutely stellar, especially if you have a good amount of friends to play with.

Cons

1. The Reticule. The shooting reticule is really rather annoying. The reticule for GTA IV was decent, although not perfect. For Red Dead Redemption however, it was perfect, just being a solitary white dot that you aim on the screen. It’s basically the same exact reticule for GTA V as Red Dead, but it doesn’t play the same for some reason. Perhaps it’s the brightness on my screen, and I should adjust it, but there are times where it seems really hard to see and difficult to aim, especially when blending in with lighter colors. This is a royal pain when aiming for the bullseye at the target range with a pistol, as it’s a bright yellow color.

2. The Graphics. Scenery is great graphically, and so is the entire atmosphere and universe (thunderstorms are particularly awesome). However, unless they’re trying to stick with a retro-esque GTA style, the styling and detail on people and characters in the game seems like only a slight upgrade from GTA IV which was launched six years ago. I’ll always say that the graphical realism of Red Faction : Armageddon should be the industry standard, no matter how lame that final product turned out to be.

3. The Radio Stations. So far, I have found the radio stations to be rather sub-par. Although there is a good mix of west coast rap and hip-hop (NWA, Snoop, Dre, 2Pac, Kendrick Lamar), there doesn’t seem to be that great of an assortment on the other stations. I don’t terribly care for country (although there was a Johnny Cash song) or hispanic music, dance, electronica, funk, or even their talk radio. My favorite station in GTA IV was Liberty Rock Radio, which had Smashing Pumpkins, ZZ Top, The Who, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Motley Crue and ELO all featured. GTA V’s counterpart, Los Santos Rock Radio is rather lacking, and doesn’t have a ton of real classic rock. I don’t count Phil Collins or Elton John as classic rock, and would rather have the harder assortment that IV had than the pansy array of V. There’s still the Steve Miller Band, Queen, and Foreigner, but nothing stands out as terribly fascinating. And I’m really going to miss Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights” from IV. Plus, I can’t make my own radio station yet, and the interface for changing stations is really annoying.

4. It’s Rockstar. Which means, you’re going to have to wait to get online and play in gangs with your friends. Those two weeks in between game launch and online launch are painful, although it makes sense for them to do it as a company so that you familiarize yourself with the game and play the main product. It also means that you aren’t going to be rewarded for playing any of their other games. One thing I love is when studios give you bonuses in their new games as a thank you for playing (or finishing) their older games. It could be as simple as a cash bonus, or a car, or some type of gun. Who wouldn’t love to be able to use the Buffalo Rifle from Red Dead as a thank you for beating that game?

As you might be able to tell, the Pros are rather substantial and large portions of the game, and the Cons are nitpicky reasons that don’t really detract from the overall product. What does that mean? It means that overall, Grand Theft Auto V is an addicting masterpiece, a game that where it lacks in morality, it more than makes up in intelligent design and cohesive quality. And with still 79% of the game remaining for me to play, and the entire multiplayer experience as well, this title is going to see some major time in a lot of people’s consoles for some time to come. 9.7/10

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