Grand Theft Auto V (PS3)
Developed by Rockstar North
Published by Take-Two Interactive
Released September 17, 2013
Review Written February 3, 2014
When Grand Theft Auto V was revealed a few years ago I had been anticipating the day when I’d finally get my hands on it. As a longtime fan of the series, I was eager to see what Rockstar studios would be delivering as it was previously stated that GTAV would build off of the heist mission from GTAIV and focus on heists as the game’s central theme. GTAV does deliver on its promise of pursuing in-game heists while bringing some new features to the table, but this came at the price of leaving some traditional features from the series in the dust.
As I started the single player campaign I was as giddy as a little school girl about to step into Disneyland for the first time. Just like previous GTA games, your first step into the game’s immense world is breathtaking. Seeing Los Angeles recreated once again as Los Santos is a welcome sight as this time there is more structural detail than when it was introduced in GTA San Andreas. Although it’s an HD rendition in the same facet that GTAIV was an HD rendering of GTAIII’s Liberty City, the realism of the city is still astonishing. As with the former, this Los Santos feels like a living, breathing city. The flows of traffic constantly changing, pedestrians chatting with each other on the sidewalks, the changing weather, and radio broadcasts covering recent in-game events really create the immersive illusion of being a character within a thriving metropolis.
The very moment you step from GTAV’s prologue into inner city Los Santos you gain the impression of how gigantic this game could be. The immense game world really creates a feeling that GTAV could possibly be limitless. This feeling evolves even further when you gain the ability to switch between the three main characters. This character switching mechanic creates an illusion that by having three separate characters you automatically think there will be three times the missions. This isn’t really the case, but there are more than enough missions to split between them as my campaign took nearly fifty-four hours to fully complete.
The three individuals you have the luxury to play as are Franklin, Michael, and Trevor. Each with their own personalities and ability sets, they all make up an odd but powerful team of criminals. Franklin, a gangster trying to get out of the hood is most skilled with driving and goes under Michael’s wing to learn the ropes when it comes to heists. Michael, the family man and former bank robber who gets tired of his boring life, is most skilled in shooting and seeks to regain the adrenaline rush he once had. Trevor, a redneck and former friend of Michael’s, is most skilled in flying and shooting while always bringing chaos to every encounter. Of the three I always found myself playing as Trevor as it felt more natural to go bats*** crazy as you normally do in a GTA game. Creating disorder always aligned with Trevor’s character type.
The missions within the game are the main course of this entire entrée. With variations of mission types, GTAV never becomes stale in terms of the main story. Always supplying different tasks to be completed in varying scenarios, I quickly felt compelled to keep playing through to see to the end of the story, which by the way is very enthralling. Some missions become even more intense when the game utilizes the character switching mechanic. Being able to switch between each character to handle a different task or to save another character is an interesting dynamic that creates possibilities for several replays of certain missions to view them from a different perspective. Of course, of all the missions, the best ones are definitely the heists. Some of the best moments within this game are being allowed to choose your guns for hire, planning the heist strategy, and enacting the heists. Each heist is initially planned out with two options for operation. Usually the options vary from ‘guns-a-blazing so we can be on the 6 o’clock news’ to ‘quick and intelligently to avoid police attention’. The choices and options for each heist even leave chance for mistakes during the heists if you chose poorly during the planning stages.
Regrettably the greatest aspect and mission type within GTAV also creates one of its biggest missed opportunity; the inability to plan your own heists outside of the mission heists. After hearing for the longest time that this game would focus on bank robbing I started to build expectations of user created heists within the single player campaign. Rockstar games really missed the mark on this and it’s sad that they didn’t implement it. Even worse is the lack of smaller franchises within Los Santos to actually burglarize. Unlike previous installments in the GTA series, there are only a few stores you can actually hold up for cash. With a game that focuses on obtaining money through any fashion, Rockstar games should have included creatable heist missions and more stores to loot.
Beyond the newly added heist missions, Rockstar also added a few new gaming features. Some examples of new features added are: the ability to flip the bird while driving, scuba diving, the addition of animals, hunting, the stock market, and random encounters. Of these, the random encounters and animals were the most interesting to me. Being able to hunt in the mountains of Los Santos really occupied much of my gaming time as I felt a sense of accomplishment after slowly tracking down a new buck to line my rifle sights on. With the addition of animals you also get a dog as well. Chop, as he’s called, is a helpful Rottweiler that can sniff out hidden items throughout Los Santos if taught that ability through the Rockstar phone app. I wasted many enjoyable minutes just going for walks with Chop and playing catch on the Vinewood Hills.
The random encounters are also quirky as there was always something new that I would run into. On one occasion I walked into a clothing store to rob them only to see it was already being robbed. I then had the choice to chase them down or carry on with my day, and of course I chased them down to take their goods. Another interesting encounter was a failed drug deal that ended with a mess of bodies strewn around a desolate field. Walking around to investigate I found one individual still alive. As I approached he yelled for me to stay away from his money, but of course I took it and ran. If there’s one thing I truly enjoy about this game, it’s that there are always surprises around the corner.
With the addition of new features, Rockstar also removed many classic GTA features that fans of the series are use to and wanted to see again. Some examples of features that Rockstar omitted are: 911 missions, less character activities, GTA San Andreas RPG elements, friendships mechanic & perks, less interiors, gambling, gang wars, and no crouch feature. Out of all of the features removed, I really wanted to see the RPG elements make a comeback. I wanted the ability to affect my character’s physical appearance through their diet and exercise. Nothing would be more comical than to play through all of GTAV with three chunky characters or three super buff body builders. Touching more upon the lack of these features, I found it interesting that I didn’t even realize they were missing until after I had completed the game. Seeing that it was still a great experience without several classic GTA features really shows how GTAV makes do with what it has and in a way that makes me addictively want more of what it is offering. Rockstar may bring many of these features back through future DLC installments, but they aren’t anything I’ll be holding my breath for.
More importantly, the missing features and the lack of heist creations were the least of my complaints for GTAV. Throughout my playthrough I was really bothered by the drive by shooting mechanic, the character customization features, the stock market, and the health bar. I thought that by now Rockstar would have at least polished the drive by shooting feature a bit more than when it was introduced earlier in the series. This gaming mechanic is still a difficult endeavor and requires wild firing to even hit your target. Hopefully in the next game they will fix it in a way to make it more manageable to use when chasing a driving enemy. For the character customization features my only complaint is that the tattoos are a wasted feature and that there is a shortage in hairstyles included in the game. With the tattoos, you never get the option to manually make your character shirtless until the end of the game. The closest you can get is if you give them a sleeveless shirt, but it doesn’t make sense to leave out the shirtless feature till the endgame. As for the hairstyles, I had expected Rockstar to at least add a plethora of choices for each character but instead we only get three to four hairstyles per character.
Now for the two that really upset me, the stock markets and the health bar. As I played through the game and learned that there was a useable stock market I was hopeful that this feature would help my characters earn the big bucks. There are even a few missions where you manipulate the markets and if you purchased stock wisely you could earn loads of cash. The issue I have with the in-game stock market is that I was lead to believe that outside of the missions, the characters could manipulate the stocks. This isn’t the case, and even worse is that I spent a few hours terrorizing specific vendors to lower certain stocks. Hopefully in future DLC, Rockstar will address this and utilize the player’s choices to affect the stocks more realistically. Now as for my issues with the health bar, I felt like no matter how much progress I had completed of GTAV my characters never gained any more health than what they started with. This was unlike the previous GTA games, as in those you could level up your health attributes or even do the Ambulance missions to increase your health. By not having the ability to increase your total health, I found myself constantly repeating many of the more difficult missions later in the game because of my character’s quick deaths.
Returning to the opposite end of the spectrum, I really want to reinstate how great this game is and applaud Rockstar for their latest gaming creation. Even though there isn’t any real connection to the previous games besides a few character cameos, it was great to play a new story based in the city of Los Santos again. I also noticed that throughout my playthrough I never really ran into that many glitches except for getting stuck in the barber shop as Franklin. In my opinion, Rockstar really outdid themselves and created another great game that supplies hours of fun, and that’s not including the multiplayer mode which I’ll review at a later time. So if you’re a fan of the series or just love creating chaos in an open world game, you should definitely purchase Grand Theft Auto V.
Review Written by John of The Time Heist
Editorial Note: I completely forgot about another very important glitch that I ran into during my playthrough. Very early I wanted to restart my save file to replay the opening mission again. Going through the menu to start new game I found that it kept hanging up on the loading screens. After scouring forums I found that if I signed out of my psn profile or went offline, GTAV would load up properly. For some reason GTA: Online would hang up the loading process…