The lights are on
Hey there folks. This is it- it's finally here. My Grand Theft Auto V review has been completed, as has the vast majority of the game's content, save for some of the online features and endings to some of the side missions. Aside from all of that, this should be a pretty comprehensive review, and sum up this ambitious game plenty well enough. Now, don't get me wrong- amidst the outrage and outcry towards editorial reviews that did not give the game a perfect score, I'm still deciding not to share the wealth in terms of points as well. And you should be pretty damn happy I'm awarding it a great score of nine point five points out of ten you childish and ungrateful little people. That's right- any game that you enjoy, you can feel free to give it your own score- as good as you wish. But as for me, I'll stick to trying to give you my honest opinion, as always. I'll warn you of the shadier deals, and steer you towards the better ones- but its ultimately up to you to make up your mind, and I can only recommend good deals until then- but that doesn't mean that you will always agree. Because reviews are subjective folks, and we're all our own unique individuals. So let's get out there and see things for ourselves, eh? While others may see things they call racist, sexist, or some other made up '-ist' in Grand Theft Auto V, I see a game- simple as that. So with that, I shall begin in earnest.
Los Santos- the main world of Grand Theft Auto V's solo and online exploits, and the areas within it such as Blaine County and Vinewood, mimic the southern beaches of Cali, and that great state as a whole very well. Rockstar perfectly captures the essence of the American smelting pot with gusto, and manages to add in their usually mix of mayhem, menace, and myriad ways to malevolently mislead people as well. And you know what's really scary is I find myself enjoying it. Then again, I enjoyed driving through crowded roadways in GTA IV and dropping grenades out of my stolen car's window...call me crazy, but it was...interesting, to say the least. But enough of that- that was five years ago. This is today. It's okay to perform crazy and ill-advised actions such as that in Grand Theft Auto V- in fact, the three major anti-heroes would advise it, or at least, Trevor's crazy self would. I'm not so sure about Michael or Franklin, although they each have their own crazy sides and things that can make them tick. If GTA V didn't have its quaint humor, or was remotely even a realistic and real story, then I'd be terribly terrified- however, as it is, I've enjoyed witnessing the heists, Trevor's lack of control, and the stabbing in the back of just about every online player I've thus far met.
For those of you who somehow didn't know, or needed a small refresher, there is not one major 'Nico' in this newest GTA adventure, but rather three relatively equally fleshed out protagonists (or antagonists, however you look at it). Michael, the oldest and "wisest" of the bunch, used to be a bank robber, and made it big time in terms of family, house, car(s), riches, and...okay, maybe not family. He is a borderline alcoholic, keeping a bottle between him and his wife, and enjoying the memories of his glory days through classic action flicks. Next up is Trevor, the definite alcoholic of the group, who spends his days (or daze) fighting, gambling, fighting, killing, and fighting. Trevor is definitely the least stable of the group, or at least the most apparently insane one- although I can't really vouch for any of them at this point... Last but not least comes Franklin, who serves as a repo-man for his crack-addled "friend" and just waiting for the right time to escape his otherwise dead-end neighborhood across town. It's not the easiest going alliance in town, but the teamwork that these three build becomes quite memorable from its earliest moments. Between side jobs for cartels, gangs, and hustlers, the trio pulls off its own glorious heists and bank robberies and other crime sprees at whim, and gets away clear just about every time.
Most open world games seem bogged down with the details, yet in this area, Grand Theft Auto V succeeds well beyond my wildest dreams. Sure, it has its fair share of fetch and protect side missions and content, however, they all seem to serve at least some relatively-important or related purpose in correlation to the main story and the personalities of the three amigos. Whether you're towing and repossessing cars, hunting down some trinkets, shipping in weapons caches, supplying dope, or robbing joints- you'll constantly be planning and putting your actions into motion only after you've done so. In this way, while it may sometimes seemingly slow down or lengthen the time between great action sequences and missions, Grand Theft Auto V feels more realistic and believable because of its simple idea that criminal masterminds must plan, even if they're planning to fail, because that is always better than the alternative of failing to plan. You want to go hold up that bank? Well first you're going to have to purchases some disguising masks, case out the prospective area, get to know the patrol routes, figure out a way into the vaults, and find some way to create a distraction or cover your escape. It's that in-depth, in ways that even Three Leaf Clover never was.
Granted, not everybody is going to complete these task in the same way, with the same degree of care, or even with the same degree of planning- if there is any present, at all. Whereas some players wish to get from one action-packed mission to the next, and will run in guns blazing every single time, there are others who like to break things relatively fifty-fifty, and still others yet who wish to approach the situations realistically with some measure of a plan in place and caution as well. For these players, the payoff may differ based on a wide array of factors, however, one thing is clear- more often than not, the ones with the better contingency plan in place will succeed whereas others will not. Instead of leading a doom hostage situation or a failed bank robbery, you can in fact get everyone out in one piece, and maybe not even have to kill anyone along the way. Imagine that. However, whether you're picking out more guns, or hiring more contracted hackers with experience or a lack thereof, just know this- your heists and missions are always bound to get a little interesting, and like Payday 2, things can go wrong at any time. During these heists, and during many of the missions and side missions present within Grand Theft Auto V's main story, you are allowed to shift the action between one of three of the protagonists at any one time. Not only is this an interestingly integrated mechanic, but it is a way to always keep gamers involved, and the action going literally forever in most cases.
Notably, there is a remarkable sense of diversity present within Los Santos- not just in the world itself, but in the missions and gameplay as well. Want to scuba dive in the deep bay and infiltrate an advanced underwater research facility? Go for it, you can do that. Sneak into a high tech government agency's base of operations and confiscate some important data files? Yep, that's fair game as well. Or maybe you just want to hunt, fish, row, run, bike, race, or take part in any other activities you can think of- like perhaps flying a crop duster or other planes and vehicles. Well lucky you, because that's open as well. And don't even get me started on your wanted rampage opportunities either, because you can potentially get the wanted levels so high that you having entire armadas chasing in your wake wherever you go, and it is virtually impossible to lay low for any length of time while resisting the urge to let loose with your tank, your light machine gun, or your helicopter salvos. It's just too tempting to avoid, and only serves to dig that awesome hole wider and deeper in terms of your APB and wanted levels. But it's okay, because if you ever die- as I'm sure you will unless you manage to activate God/Invulnerability Mode, you can always restart at a forgiving and thankfully recent checkpoint. Which is quite the step up from redoing the mission completely over again, no matter how near to the end you were.
The diversity even extends to the three major characters themselves, in their everyday lives and jobs, their free time, and their multitude of problems, friends, and activities. Not only are they unique in terms of personalities, but, instead of each sporting the same free-time and side activities, they have their own unique funfests as well. Talk about diversified. Whenever you wish, or relatively so, you can freely switch between the trio, and observe their hobbies and pastimes at different times of day- which is incredibly interesting, as they rarely do the same thing twice. Trevor might be hunting or racing, Michael might be watching television or going to the dentist, and Franklin might be getting beat up or walking his dog- you just never know what to expect at first, and it rarely gets less surprising as you go. Now, due to all of this personality and the big influence it has on the story as a whole, there is one distinctively noticeable flaw in Grand Theft Auto V's narrative- which on the whole, isn't bad enough to kill the gameplay or anything, but is still quite noticeable indeed. I won't spoil it, but I will talk about its impacts a bit here. Not only will there come a point in the story (or points, even) where you'll be baffled as to why Michael, Franklin, or Trevor chooses to do what they do- based on what you've witnessed of their thoughts and personalities already, but there are also three distinctive endings, all of which were personally a letdown to me. None of them were inherently terrible or even bad, they just seemed to not advance the weight of your decisions, or to amp things up any more than the climax already had. It was kind of a bummer each time, truthfully, and I know this because I witnessed all three- although I must admit the dynamics such as the conversational dialogue were excellently crafted and struck all the right marks.
Sure, the plot itself might not live up to all the hype, but the gameplay more than makes up for it, and is undoubtedly the most complete Rockstar package to date. The game is well-rounded, and scores highly in all marks, even in the story department despite some of the foulups there. The game even manages to address just about every previous flaw in the Grand Theft Auto series, and other Rockstar game series' as well. The cars and other vehicles handle worlds better, the shooting has been refined and now more closely resembles that of the phenomenal Max Payne 3, and the story is actually present for once, and more ingrained in the personalities of both the characters and the players. Even better in terms of combative gunplay, you can choose- like your characters, between one of three styles of marksmanship- the classic GTA snap, an aim assist mechanic as in LA Noire, and free aiming. Heck, you're even able to choose the size of the targeting reticle if you're having issues with a small one being too hard to see, or a bigger, more obtrusive one obscuring the camera angles during firefights. Otherwise, the gunplay offers up all of the basic elements that shooters or games with shooting content have.
Playing through the game only completing the major missions and core pathway, you'll still be able to put in about a good twenty plus hours of game time. If you open it up to the entire world however, and the plethora of side content already present in the single player alone, you've snared yourself about a one hundred or more hour catch there. You can participate in any number of mundane tasks in your free time, such as shooting, getting new clothes and tattoos, or going to the movies- and you can also partake of some non-so-normal urban activities such as base jumping, exploring shipwrecks, and betting at the stock exchange. There are plenty of ways to make money in this capitalistic and expansive world- both legally and illegally, however, be forewarned that there are also several hundred ways to lose that money as well, through investments- both good and bad. But that's enough of the single player story- allow me to now talk about the equally impressive, if in-need-of fine tuning, online mode.
If they didn't share so many similar concepts, one could almost be fooled into thinking that Grand Theft Auto Online and Grand Theft Auto V were two entirely different games. As it is, where GTA V holds an upper hand in terms of polish and expansiveness, its online brother is rapidly closing the gap between the two in terms of quality and replayability with each passing day since it's launch. True, Grand Theft Auto Online has experienced a myriad of bugs and glitches- some of the major examples being loss of progress and saves, and the seemingly infinite loading times. However, there is always a silver lining of sorts, even with games, and GTAO's seems to be very huge and simple indeed: the online mode is fun. Who would've thought that a game would be fun, and that that would be the sole reason people enjoyed it? Wow. It's just mind blowing.
Now, it's just not really so surprising that Grand Theft Auto V and its online mode should be doing quite fine, despite the occasional disgruntled player having complaints about their loss of progress and/or items in-game. After all, there is an ever-expanding and exponentially growing game, a plethora of character-character interaction, and the magnitude of the fun cannot even be explained but by stating that you can literally do just about ninety percent of anything you've ever wanted to try, without fear of physical harm to yourself. With a stimulus package open for players to receive their benefits and cash back, plenty of in-game content that is totally free of DLC charge, and constant updates to remedy what small glitches may appear at times- it's no wonder Grand Theft Auto V is sitting pretty at the top of Xbox's best seller list right now for the past month or so. Just remember, painful though it may have been for the first few days, GTAO's launch was hardly the worst we've seen to date... Plus, calling in that special little tank makes up for it on its own, if you've got some levels on you, some friends to share in the carnage, and the right phone number...
For me at least, and for the majority of players it seems- Grand Theft Auto V has lived up to most of my expectations, and surpassed many others. Rockstar has really pushed the boundaries this time around, and they've even managed to make the game a hybrid mix of all of their classic franchises it seems in part, at least in terms of gameplay. I mean, come on- there's a little bit of Midnight Club in there, some Max Payne, some Red Dead, and of course, some Grand Theft Auto. Interesting as it is, in the final moments the narrative falls a bit flat- settling for a three way ending, and splitting characters along which they think is the best. Still, the intriguing and quite colorful cast, and the scenery and promise alone makes this a tale well worth telling, for our benefit, and for others'. And you know what, that earns it a check mark in my book.
Concept: Create a very well-rounded Grand Theft Auto sequel, using elements and past experience gained from the production and development of nearly every other Rockstar game and franchise.
Graphics: Breathtakingly beautiful.
Sound: While you'll no doubt hear the radio stations the most in terms of sound bytes, the voice work is pretty good, and the actual musical scores are appropriately placed as well.
Playability: Quite playable, and quite enjoyable in all portions of gameplay. Easy to handle, fluid, and responsive at the same time. A perfect medley of combat and other action maneuvers.
Entertainment: With literally over one hundred hours of time to be spent doing everything from motorcross to tennis, you need to get out there and see the world instead of asking questions about it. There are very few limitations.
Replay Value: Sky-High.
Overall Score: 9.5