Anticipated and Blockbuster, these are the two words that personify the release of the juggernaut of a game known as Grand Theft Auto V.
Millions of people have waited years to get a go at the fifth iteration of the highly acclaimed Grand Theft Auto series and hundreds have stood in long lines to have the privilege of being the first to get their hands on the game.
This hype and fanfare surrounding GTA V should not come as much of a surprise, not only because of the historical popularity of the Grand Theft Auto brand but also seeing as the game boasts the second most expensive creation cost of any entertainment product ever made.
While this financial investment indicates a strong commitment to quality as part of Rockstar Games, cost of production in itself does not seem like a fair estimate for guessing quality of a product.
So let’s take a closer look into the game to see whether the series’ return to San Andreas brings with it the level of quality expected from a numbered iteration of the Grand Theft Auto series.
With GTA V, Rockstar Games seems to have tried its best to move forward from what it was able to provide gamers in GTA IV and try to experiment and breakaway from traditions of open world genre that Rockstar itself has been instrumental in instilling in the gaming industry.
GTA V features an innovative method of storytelling and gameplay in open world structure by featuring pseudo-simultaneous control of the games’ 3 ‘protagonists’; Michael, Trevor and Franklin.
Each character is vastly different from another, not only his speech mannerisms but also in their socio-economic backgrounds and goals. This creates a welcome contrast between the trio and allows the game to tell a character rich story where each person is given equal amount of attention to shine.
Though a narrative featuring multiple protagonists is nothing new for this medium, as there have been several games that have manage and succeeded in telling coherent tales with multiple lead characters, what sets GTA V apart from the rest is in its ability to introduce seamless control over 3 different characters in a sandbox open world setting.
Not only are players given reigns over different characters, but they are able to switch between each with but a press of a button. This smooth transition between characters can be done not just during sandbox fun while exploring but also during in-mission gameplay.
Each character features his own sets of skills with his strengths and weaknesses in 7 factors that distinguish each from the rest. In addition to these, each character’s skill set also includes a special ability unique that individual.
These special skills are what really separate each character from one another. With Michael’s ability to enter bullet-time mode, Trevor’s ability to absorb and deal more damage in combat and Franklin’s talent in going into slow-down mode while driving, each character is inherently suited to different approaches to accomplishing a mission.
With greater attention towards variety in development and use of particular skills, the gameplay in GTA V really emphasizes on a more character specific approach than any GTA game before it.
That being said, Rockstar does not go as far as to follow the current trend of focused open world games like Assassin’s Creed, Arkham City or Infamous and keeps GTA V grounded as a predominately sandbox open world game.
When compared to most of its ilk, GTA V still manages to stay away from tongue in cheek action of Just Cause and Saints Row series and offers its patented urban sandbox experience that is still mostly a fairly grounded crime drama.
As mentioned previously, GTA V returns to the state of San Andreas, focusing this time on the city of Los Santos; Grand Theft Auto’s version of Los Angeles. This move away from Liberty City not only serves as a cosmetic change in scenery but also brings back the level of variety that gamers have come to expect from the location of San Andreas.
In its move from east coast to west coast, GTA V brings back plethora of vehicles and activities that were left out of GTA IV in its transition from GTA San Andreas.
With missions ranging from skyward escapades like base jumping and plane flight to underwater adventures involving submarines and scuba diving, GTA V brings an unprecedented level of variety to the series.
This variety is not just limited to means of traversal but also to the diversity in geographical locations on hand for the players’ exploration. The city of Los Santos offers players to drive through the urban areas or traverse the green mountain tops, move through the desert or discover the underwater kingdom.
With an area of around 49 virtual square miles GTA V’s map is, without a doubt, the largest map size in the history of the Grand Theft Auto series. And while the scale of area available to explore both impressive and breathtaking, it is important to note GTA V is not as expansive as games like Daggerfall or Just Cause 2.
To Rockstar’s credit, this unprecedented increase in scale and scope does not come at the expense of focus on the particulars populating the vast expanse at the disposal of the players.
The game not only populates its city and towns with respective crowds and vehicles but it also borrows a bit from Rockstar’s own Red Dead Redemption with the feel of wilderness with the abundance of flora and fauna at the disposal of the hunters and explorers.
These additions really go a long way to add immersiveness to the exploration aspect of the sandbox gameplay experience and portray the land of Los Santos as an ecosystem in itself. GTA V tries its best to address the problem faced by several large open world games that turnout to be boring ghost islands containing vast expanse of nothing.
Moreover GTA V also brings an extraordinary level of customization into play. Not only does the game bring back RPG elements of GTA San Andreas in terms of skills progression but it also offers ability to customize cars, character appearances, weapons as well as the places you own.
Aside from the variety offered by GTA V, the game also offers gameplay refinements to its predecessor. The game features upgrades in crucial features like vehicle control and cover system which really allows for a smoother gameplay experience and greatly improves the immersive nature of the game.
Furthermore critics of GTA IV will be happy to know that while the smart phone returns as a handy device to navigate different functions, however the nagging calls are kept to a minimum. So while players are welcome to call in their NPC buddies for activities like a game of golf, they will not be relentlessly hounded by calls from NPC characters for social visits.
On the presentation front, Rockstar Games delivers quite a punch bringing their A-game to the production values of GTA V adding a level of polish deserving of a true AAA title.
As is the case with most games in the Grand Theft Auto series, GTA V too features an immaculate sound design. Through its lengthy story mode, the game includes topnotch dialogue delivery and spot on voice acting that really being believability to each and every character featured in the game.
Moreover the game also features a plethora of licensed music and thoroughly entertaining banter via the game’s 16 radio stations which are sure to satiate any and all audiophiles.
GTA V continues its audio flare outside the scope of cinematics and driving sessions with a great selection of ambient environmental sounds as well as a dynamic sound track that gives audial context to the ongoing actions whether one is soaring through the skies, scouring on foot or swimming across the waters of San Andreas.
While the game presents a delightful visual flair with its scope, there are a few instances where it seems to stumble on the graphic presentation front.
Though the scenery and the landscape of the game is totally breathtaking, there are couple of areas in the game that don’t come off as impressive. Some scenes make the game seem like a next-gen affair while others make it indistinguishable from its 5 year old predecessor.
Let’s get one thing straight, GTA V looks brilliant when the full scale of the environment is in view with its immense draw distance and it is equally spectacular during the past paced, action packed moments. However the game loses some of its visual charm during the non-chaotic, slower portions of on-foot exploration.
Certain areas like the ground and shrubbery dont look so impressive up close. Perhaps it is due to increased expectations inculcated from the showing of the upcoming next-gen games, but the abundant occurrence of flat textures seems to take away from the brilliance of the game’s art design.
However that is only a minor blemish in what is brilliantly put together piece of entertainment.
Overall, the amount of polish present in the game is certainly commendable, especially taking into account the scale of available estate and the variety of elements that populate it.
Then there is also the promise of GTA Online. The upcoming free update to the GTA V promises to allow up to 16 players to play side by side in the same map online. Though the online feature is set to include the multiplayer staples of deathmatch modes, GTA Online will also allow players to cooperatively engage in missions such as Bank heists or play competitively against their peers in tasks like races.
On the whole, GTA V is certainly an impressive endeavor by Rockstar Games. The game not only features a vast amount of diverse area for gamers to explore but also an abundance of gameplay elements that should keep them busy for hundreds of hours, with or without its online component.
While GTA V certainly is not the revolution that was GTA 3 from GTA2, neither does it offer such a jump in depth and detail worthy of jump in GTA IV from GTA3, this numbered sequel still features changes to the formula that, while less blatant, offer an experience that has certainly evolved from that of GTA IV, making it the best that the Grand Theft Auto brand has offered till date.
With the inclusion of new gameplay elements like water exploration, stock investments and new mini games as well as refinements to vehicle control and cover combat, Rockstar has definitely upped its offerings from its previous endeavors and made GTA V a joy to play.
Rockstar has managed to create a wondrous urban world unmatched in its scale and scope of activities available. While the game sometimes looks underwhelming in certain areas when looked up close, however it still quite amazing how beautiful GTA V looks at the scenic level and the amount of detail the developers have managed to include in one game.
GTA manages to return with an immaculate sound design, featuring not just ambient sounds and spot-on sound effects but also peerless voice acting quality and staggering variety of audio content through the 16 radio stations present in-game.
While the game retains most of the style of the GTA games of the past, it does take a novel approach by successfully introducing focus on 3 protagonists instead of one. This seemingly small change manages to completely alter the dynamic of game not just in its storytelling but overall gameplay as well.
With a story mode featuring 60+ missions, an open world map featuring area of around 49 virtual square miles and unparalleled variety in vehicles and activities, GTA V offers an experience that is sure to consume hundreds of hours of gamers.
And that is without even considering the added hours of enjoyment that the upcoming GTA Online addition to the game is sure to bring.
GTA V brings back the same sandbox game style that every GTA fan has grown to love but it also adds several new gameplay elements to its formula that might even attract the gamer audience that leans towards chaos heavy games like Just Cause and Saints Row.
With its immense scope and scale along with the plethora of gameplay refinements, GTA V is definitely the best GTA game produced till date and that should be enough for any gamer to give it a try.