The lights are on
I honestly cannot believe this game got a lower rating than GTA IV. I think Reiner was high as heck when he wrote his review for that game and gave it an entire point more than it deserved, because although this game is fantastic and better than IV in virtually every way possible, a 9.75 seems about right. GTA V isn't perfect, but it does take some digging to find its flaws.
GTA V is a godly combination of the best things about San Andreas and GTA IV. The wide open, sprawling gameworld of San Andreas has been kicked up and is bigger than ever, making one of the largest, most diversified sandboxes I've ever seen. Rockstar has nailed an amazing level of equality between dense cityscapes, suburban and rural areas, and unexplored wilderness. In addition, the world feels alive. It's like Rockstar took the Radiant AI the Elder Scrolls games are known for and put it into overdrive. Every citizen has their own agenda, making them much more than cardboard cutouts featured in previous games. You can watch others perform all sorts of activities, all of which you can also perform. The list is far too numerous to type, but rest assured that you will easily be able to dump dozens of hours into the many different side activities, all of which are pleasantly enjoyable sims. Many also have leaderboards so you can compare your performance with your friends and the world! Along with this are random events such as a security van to jack or someone getting mugged you can save. Citizens can also talk to and interact directly with you, which was more than a little surprising, and watching the interplay between Michael's family in particular was enjoyable as the brother and sister say the darndest things. Unfortunately GTA Online isn't active as of yet, so I can't say anything about it
Skills are back, letting you level up each of three main characters' proficiencies in several categories. Thankfully only the good ones return, so it's impossible to make your character too fat or too thin as that is gone. The models all stay the same regardless of skill level. Character customization has been increased, letting you pimp out your characters, rides, and guns to your heart's content with a dizzying array of options you'll be aching to purchase as you play through the game. Being able to play the open market with stocks is also a great addition that gives you a nice and steady stream of income if you're lucky, and purchasing businesses throughout the game can also give you a weekly income, a new repeatable mission for that business for money, or both. Each character has their own unique vehicle available at all times plus a garage for extra vehicles you may like. You will also accrue more permanent vehicles that sit outside your garage as you complete missions (Franklin gets his car and 2 bikes quite quickly as permanents at his house and that's just the start). Standalone garages, docks, helicopter pads and hangars are also available for purchase, giving you plenty of space for your vehicles of choice instead of shoddy one-car spots like in IV.
As for the weapon system, it has been greatly streamlined for a much better play experience. The reticule is tighter than in GTA IV so Michael, Franklin and Trevor are much better shots than Niko. The long-overdue introduction of the circle wheel also helps. Although the classic left/right scrolling is gone, time slows down while you hold down L1 (or L2 for me as I use the Alternate control scheme for L1 aim/R1 fire) to allow you to choose a weapon in the thick of combat with minimal risk. Ammunation is also back, making it easier than ever to stock up on the weapons needed to royally screw over anyone you see. As an added bonus that I thought was neat, there are 5 different types of body armor ranging from very light to very heavy and $500 - $2500, letting you choose how much protection you have.
Praise the deity of your choice because the driving has been fixed. For many including myself, the very, very sluggish controls of GTA IV brought the entire game down and is one of larger factors for why I never felt it deserved more than a 9/10. In a (successful) effort to appease fans who were turned off by the shoddy driving of its predecessor, Rockstar has made the controls and movement overall in GTA V more snappy to find a medium between the fast but difficult-to-control driving of GTA 3 and the precise but sluggish GTA IV. This makes for my personal favorite realistic driving system. The GPS has also been refined to mimic one you may find in your car. The police seem to have a greater search range, but you can now pull into alleyways and as long as the police cannot obtain a visual on you they won't give chase and will give up after a few seconds.
Now let's move on from showing the strides GTA V makes over its predecessors and focus on what new things the game brings to the table. There are three playable characters, each of which the player can switch between with the tap of a button as you unlock them. Depending on how far away the characters being switched are, the transition can be instant or take a couple seconds. Now as you change over you have the opportunity to drop in on a character while they go about their daily activities, so you never know what to expect. This can even happen as you boot up the game, so you just never know.
Missions are extremely diverse so it is unlikely you will bore of them, and as Matt mentioned the checkpoint system eases the frustration of failing a mission by letting you retry from your last point. You can also retry any completed mission at any time for a better score. You get to choose how to approach heists, and how you balance risk and reward by hiring better or worse crew members is up to you. Cutscenes are nearly seamless as long as it's the right time of day, you can walk into a mission trigger and the camera will swoop away from behind your character into a better position as scenes start and goes back behind you as they end without a loading screen.
I actually disagree with Matt about the plot though. I kept my eyes open and Trevor's attitude towards Michael is the only contrasting character development. Then again Trevor steadily surprised with random morals and attitude/personality changes, so it just seemed like something a crazy guy like him would do. Red Dead Redemption is the best Rockstar game when it comes to the story, but I couldn't get invested in GTA IV. This game however is extremely enthralling and heartily tops IV in that category as well as every other one. You're steadily being exposed to more and more backstory and as you gain more insight it's hard not to develop some sort of understanding and bond for the main and even supporting characters. This game is excellent, and a great way to stem you over until and well into next gen.
I feel that the storyline was a bit short but the game overall is great