Grand Theft Auto V Review

gta-5-trailer-1-gta-v-logoI have been a fan of the Grand Theft Auto series since I was introduced to it back on the PS2 with GTA III. I bought it based on the review and comments on Gamer’s Logik. I remember going to the store with the intent to purchase Final Fantasy X, but ended up walking out with both games. I’ve bought every single console game since, as well as all the downloadable content.

I finally finished the main story line of the game this week, so I felt I had seen enough to write my opinions on it. For starters, the look of the game is quite good. It has come at the end of this console generations life, so the programmers have gotten very good at pushing the graphics to their limits.

All of the previous games until now have focused around a single protagonist and their ascension through the underworld of crime to their ultimate takeover of the organized crime of their city. GTA V has broken that tradition by featuring three protagonist that you can switch between at will. Your first character is Michael, which basically feels like a Tommy Vercetti type of Italian mobster. Your next character, Franklin, if very much reminiscent of San Adrea’s CJ. A gang member from the ghetto trying to get into bigger and better things. Your third character, Trevor, really has no comparison to previous game characters. He is basically bat shit crazy. It does make it somewhat appealing getting to watch his reaction to all the events playing out, but you can’t help but feel morally bankrupt as you control him through various jobs doing more and more grotesque things.

A downside to the three character angle is that money is not shared. Money earned on a specific character is theirs. That means if you earn money from a job on one, you can’t turn around an use that money to buy a property on another. This kind of blows when only certain characters are allowed to buy properties, but you already blew all their money on other stuff.

One of the highlights of the games has always been the talk radio show. This time around was kind of a letdown compared to past games as Lazlow’s show was short, and his character has degenerated into a fame hunting shallow drug addict. His appeal in GTA III was that he was basically normal but was dealing with all the crazy people calling into his show. In addition, the music station are pretty disappointing as well compared to previous games. However some of the talk radio shows are pretty funny the first time through, and the ads on each station are a funny as ever. But once you’ve gone through it all, there isn’t much reason to even keep the radio on.

Rockstar had been boasting over the last year that this game would be the largest ever. They even have a screenshot of the old San Andreas map overlayed on the Los Santos map. While I do agree the game is quite large, it has never felt bigger to me than San Andreas. That game has three cities plus all the country side to explore. GTA V only has the one city that feels smaller that GTA IV’s Liberty City, and a comparably sized country and small towns. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying my any means the game is small, it’s just smaller than I would have expected given all their talk about how big it was. The drive from one end to the other is so long that if I couldn’t find a plane or helicopter to take, I usually wouldn’t do it.

The main story quest was entertaining, but the series has never been built on story telling. It’s all about the sand box game play. In all the previous games, section of the game were blocked off until you had completed part of the main story, so it’s just naturally for me to complete that first before I get into the random exploration and destruction that I love the game for. This game however seems to give you full access from the get-go, but I felt it was likely in my best interest to finish the main quest first anyways.

While cars have always been the games focal point,  flying is my all consuming obsession in GTA games ever since I found the little cesna plane in GTA III with no wings on it. The game had come out a few months after 9/11, and the designers not wanting to let players fly the plane into buildings made a last minute change to clip the wings off it, which they assumed made it unflyable. As it turned out, it wasn’t unflyable, it was just really really hard to fly. There were whole websites dedicated to how to fly the thing. I spent hours getting good at it, and even managed to keep it in the air for almost 45 min at my best run before I ran into an invisible wall in the sky and fell back to earth in a fireball. In Vice City they finally added the wings back in, but the plane only spawned with pontoons on it instead of wheels, so it could only take off and land in water which was disappointing. The game did add helicopters however which were quite fun. It wasn’t until San Andreas that the flying started to match the diversity of the cars on the road. There were crop dusters, stunt planes, leer jets, Cessnas, Apache helicopters, and even a Harrier jet. They also added in the ability to parachute from the planes which was just about the coolest thing ever. In fact, the side mission flight training game always felt like a remake of the old SNES Pilot Wings game, complete with final mission inside an Apache Helicopter.

It was to my complete disappointment that GTA IV took a huge step back on aerial vehicles and included no planes, and only a single type of helicopter. It was my greatest complaint with the game. GTA V however has returned us a multitude of flying vehicles, and I am enjoying every minute of it. The moment the main story was done and the (45 min) credits finished rolling, I drove straight out to the military base to steal a jet. It took almost an hour to work out a strategy to actually get one off the ground and then not get shot down by the bases surface to air missles, but once I had it down I went back two more times to steal one for each character. Now when my wife walks through the living room there’s a good chance she will see me in a jet flying 10 ft off the ground along streets in the city blowing up anything that moves with missiles and machine guns.

I knew going into it that I would enjoy the game as I the series has yet to disappoint me. However I was very pleased in the way Rockstar has kept fine tuning the best parts of their game to make them even better, and this game feels so much better than GTA IV did. I’m going to be having random fun with this game for a good long time.