Grand Theft Auto... what's there to say about it?  It's a long-running series that has become a gaming standard throughout the last 16 years.  Each entry seems to introduce a new controversy that goes away after a while, and even if it doesn't it gets drowned out by the millions of gamers that choose to ignore it, rather than let it ruin the experience.  Each installment finds a way to become a gaming classic, and Grand Theft Auto V continues this trend.

Right from the opening moments of this explosive game, I knew I was in for a treat.  Not because of the fact it's Grand Theft Auto, but because the team at Rockstar North has found a way to blend in the best things about the series with the best things about other Rockstar titles like Red Dead Redemption and Midnight Club 3.  In other words, the destruction and mayhem the series is best known for meets up with an even bigger open-world to explore and some of the tightest driving that any Grand Theft Auto game has ever seen.

Grand Theft Auto V also has arguably the biggest and best story of the entire series.  It tells the story of three protagonists whose tales of crime wind up intersecting with one another:  Michael is a family man under witness protection after a heist from nearly a decade ago where he was presumed dead; Trevor, a druggie and former accomplice of Michael who is very quick to anger; and Franklin, a young repo man who gets caught up with Michael after being tasked with repossessing his son's car. 

At any time during the bulk of the experience, players can switch out between the three characters, taking on different missions, side jobs and being able to purchase different properties.  As chaotic as the idea of switching between three different characters sounds, Rockstar has made it as seamless of an experience as possible, allowing the story's progression to go on without any unnecessary back-pedaling.  You can either keep playing as Michael until it's necessary to switch to either Franklin or Trevor, or you can take turns with each character.  Like the open-world experience itself, the story too becomes your oyster.

The gameplay is what I praise the most with Grand Theft Auto V.  Everything from the driving, to the gunplay, to the running around, just feels so much better than previous installments.  The police in the city feel more realistic too, without being unfair to the player.  If you suddenly have even a 1-star rating, you know you seriously goofed up somewhere down the road.  Basically, nothing about the way the game plays or handles feels unfair, and if you do feel it's unfair you probably need to take a quick break.

Airplanes make a comeback for Grand Theft Auto V, and controlling one is something to be believed.  Helicopters took me some getting used to, but they're not a bad option either.  I only wish that the submarine got more play time than it did.  During the mission that required its use, I just felt like taking off with it and exploring more of the waters surrounding San Andreas.

There are many, many missions to complete the main story, but it feels like there are just as many side-missions and mini-games to accomplish as well.  Throughout the game, you'll be able to collect many things from weed stashes to celebrity memorabilia.  In addition to item-grabbing, you can go racing through the streets of Los Santos, parachuting at random locations... heck, I went on a bike race that stretched behind the Vinewood sign.  Speaking of Los Santos, everyone who was able to dig into 2004's San Andreas will appreciate the locale of Los Santos many years after the tale of C.J. concluded.

And did I mention Grand Theft Auto V is a huge game?  Even after completing the main story of the game--which has an amazing conclusion that really makes the player think about what they're doing, by the way--and the credits finished their roll, I found some more missions waiting for me.  With that being said, I hope it's appropriate to say that this just might be the Skyrim of open-world third-person action games.  There's a lot to do and plenty of time to get it done.  It's only a shame that the online multiplayer modes won't be ready until October 1st, which is okay because one could look at the main single-player experience as primer for the online modes.

When all is said and done, I can't think of any age-appropriate group of gamers that shouldn't play Grand Theft Auto V.  It's one of the best-looking games I've played on a console, there's so much to do, and the promise of online multiplayer makes it even better.  This is definitely Game of the Year material if I've played any this year.