Lost in Los Santos: A GTA Journal, Part I - shootist2600 Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Lost in Los Santos: A GTA Journal, Part I

I've decided to chronicle my misadventures in the Grand Theft Auto V world of Los Santos in much the same way I recorded my indelicate traipsing through the Elder Scrolls land of Skyrim. Only these hopefully will be more bite-sized. Last night I only managed a half hour after waiting an hour in line at the midnight launch and another period of time for the huge install.

The prologue wastes no time in getting you into the action. (I intend to avoid overt spoilers of the plot though will follow the game progression and address gameplay.) The opening heist, as does the beginning in general, serves as a gameplay tutorial and an entertaining one at that.

Your character can stick to cover with the R1 button (PS3), a configuration that had me repeatedly moving in and out of cover when near it or standing still when not as I tried in vain to fire my weapon. Maybe I'm just rusty but it took a few bullets to the gut before I got used to using the R2 button to shoot.

The default setup uses lock-on targeting, which can make the early going a little easy, though foes will require a few shots to take down. Thankfully, aiming (L2) with lock-on then adjusting for a headshot is fluid. Plus, hit detection seemed spot-on, and enemy reaction appears context sensitive depending on where they're wounded.

Firefights are frenetic, with enemy AI using typical tactics including cover, while ally AI holds its own. 

The presentation is impressive, whether seamlessly integrated and well animated cut scenes with decent voice acting and dialog, or a gameplay world that exhibits detailed textures, a wide and vibrant color palette, a good draw distance and fluid animation. Sound benefits from well executed ambient noises, a solid score and always impressive soundtrack.

Not that any of that was really top of mind as I explored the gameplay more than Los Santos in the early going. Despite having the option to drive some impressive rides nearly from the get-go, I elected instead to wander into traffic just to see what would happen -- with predictable results as I was hit by passing motorists a few times.

Thankfully most did slow and/or stop given the opportunity, even if not in their best interests as they soon discovered. I quickly found my character had a dislike of headlights as hitting the circle button raised his leg for a swift kick at nearby vehicles. Alarmed motorists would reverse course, then flee on foot.

As is typical in GTA or even Saints Row, the AI is sometimes the most entertaining element as, in this case, motorists reverse into vehicles behind them or flee into traffic -- a sometimes fatal mistake. The carnage caused by just kicking a car was entertaining in its own right.

Eventually some motorists got fed up and fought back but, at least at this early stage, none put up much of a fight. Spamming the melee button made quick work of those foolhardy enough to try and take on my character mano a mano. Still, fisticuffs proved a satisfying alternative to gunplay.

On a side note, remember those vehicles I was supposed to take for a ride? Yeah I failed that mission LOL.

Of course, actually getting behind the wheel was no guarantee of success, as I pretty much failed my first driving mission even if I did somehow manage to keep up with my friend, elude the police and arrive at my destination. One look at my vehicle post-chase should provide a good indication of how I did.

Indeed, I think I hit every object between the initial driveway and the ultimate dealership destination. As noted elsewhere, the damage modeling is pretty well implemented and, despite my mishandling, the car actually drove pretty well. It had a great sense of speed, took corners fine (once I found the handbrake), and always landed rightside up! : D

It's worth noting that the open world design served the game well in this regard, as I was able to take various paths when pursued by police and even make my own by careening through objects like fences. That is how I ended up in the LA River, er, Los Santos flood control channel. Plus every path provided a scenic excursion.

All that said, half an hour is hardly a dependable measure when sizing up a game, especially one as large as GTA V. I hope to add to these impressions at least the next few days but, in the meantime, it certainly was an entertaining 30 minutes and is a promising start. More to come.

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