Team Review: GTA V – Part 1

We decided to do a team review for GTA simply because different people are going to enjoy different aspects of the GTA universe. We’ve split our team review up into two parts. Each will have 3 different team members expressing what they loved and didn’t love about GTA V.

It’s astonishing how expansive GTA V is. The world of Los Santos is vibrant, colourful, and most importantly, alive, much unlike GTA IV’s drab and grey Liberty City. It’s simply a wonderful feat that Rockstar have achieved and should not be diminished by some…questionable gameplay and narrative choices they have taken.

Unfortunately, while the world is begging to be explored and you could stumble upon many unscripted events (following a cop car chase a criminal, culminating in a fiery battle that resulted in the criminal’s death, where my only role was to watch) and immerse yourself in the legions of side activities (tennis, golf, ‘cinema’, strip clubs, Paparazzi activities, etc, etc) when it comes to the main missions GTA V becomes incredibly restrictive and linear. Attempting to try a different method or a different route in a mission results in instant failure. Most of the time the mission structure is so well done that it isn’t noticeable too much, but it does come up, and it is an issue that’s been carried on from IV.

Fortunately, the checkpoint system has been perfected here. No longer being forced to drive over and over to the start of a mission when you’ve failed, you can pick up right where you left off, and in particularly cumbersome or frustrating moments, skip these sections completely. This may seem like pandering to the ‘lazy’ audience, but believe me, when you’re struggling to load containers onto a truck then driving the truck carefully to the destination, you’ll be glad there’s a skip option.

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Gameplay has been tightened considerably. The gunplay feels a lot smoother, carrying on the DNA of Max Payne 3, as the driving. GTA IV was a complete pain in the ass to drive around, and here it’s been improved, if only slightly. Car handling is still hard to get the hang of, but a couple of hours with it and I was driving through traffic with ease. Shooting whilst driving still remains completely broken, where I was forced to liberally spray and pay in order to achieve any effect.

The 3-character structure is incredibly well done and in depth. Having one character take someone hostage and rappel out of a window, while another pilots a helicopter, and the third provide sniper fire is impressive on its own, but the ability to actually switch between each protagonist in real time is truly impressive and makes for some incredibly fun and thrilling missions. GTA V brings its A-game during the heist missions, and it’s a shame there’s only a handful.

GTA V’s narrative is again cohesive and absolutely ridden with biting social satire that will have you shaking your head to how closely Rockstar’s parody on contemporary America manages to get. There are barely any sympathetic characters, but there are relatable ones. GTA V attacks the culture of Modern America viciously, and judging by how well they nail it, it deserves every ounce it gets. Unfortunately, since no one in the game is sympathetic, we find it hard to justify the protagonist’s actions. During a torture sequence (which again, is a take on US policies of torture) which we are forced to partake in, it breaks the barrier of tasteful entertainment and is completely and utterly disgusting, despicable and horrifying, despite its satirical nature. Of course, what’s a GTA game without controversy?

And controversy laden this will become, as I sit here and wonder how in God’s name did this game sneak past the Australian Classification’s Board. Torture, murder, hardcore nudity, strip clubs, prostitutes are all here and all fully uncensored. Saints Row IV was refused classification because of one side mission with drugs, GTA V have several side missions revolving around drugs, and one reoccurring character gives you weed which results in some heavy, heavy hallucinations. While I’m glad GTA V made it here, I’m shocked at the absolute hypocrisy of the ACB, seemingly picking games at random to appease the hardcore anti-video game crowds, and letting GTA V slide because of the massive backlash it could case if it were banned.

And glad is one word I could describe myself whilst playing GTA V. This is gaming at its finest. This is a culmination of years and years of work. San Andreas was last generation’s finest release. GTA V is this generation’s. Throughout my hours and hours of playing, I sunk deeper and deeper into the beautiful and vibrant world, as never before I have been into a game this much. GTA V is nothing short of a massive accomplishment, and it deserves every ounce of praise it gets.

The way people would say they grew up with Harry Potter and everything lead up to that one moment, would be the perfect way to describe GTAV. I can remember playing the first GTA on my PS1 and falling in love with the mayhem I could cause. Ever since then I’ve been a huge Rockstar fanboy. Every GTA game in the franchise that I’ve played has raised the bar for me, from the colourful backdrop of Vice City, the hustling streets of San Andreas. Every game has lead up to the release of the long-awaited GTAV, and after exploring Los Santos I can honestly say the delays and the wait has been worth it. Rockstar has stepped everything up, from the scenery and gameplay, to the characters and the story. I can’t fault a single part of this game.

Even on the current gen consoles the graphics are amazing, the city and its surrounding areas are lively, colourful and nothing short of astounding. Not to mention the single loading screen at the start, with no mid game load screens (unless you fail a mission and restart), walking in and out of cut scenes just adds to the overall smoothness of the game.

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The characters you meet throughout are all different, the dialogue is believable and often times hilarious. And the story! It’s better then any Hollywood blockbuster I’ve ever seen. At first I thought controlling three different protagonists would be tricky, but swapping on the fly is quick and easy, with each character adding their own spin and flavour to the mix.

This is hands down my game of the year and GTA Online hasn’t even been released yet! I can’t help but zone out and just completely immerse myself in this game and I’ve already grown attached to Franklin, Michael and Trevor. If you’ve ever enjoyed any previous GTA or any open world game for that matter, you will enjoy GTAV.

Grand Theft Auto 5, perhaps the most hyped of this generation, if not of all time. Taking to the streets of San Andreas, you are instantly drawn into this vast world full of excitement and an abundance of things to see and do, but we will get to that later. Without spoiling things for anyone I will leave the stories finer details out of this review but let me assure you that this story has all the charm and the thrilling, pulse pounding excitement only Rockstar Studios can provide.

You will play the role of three characters throughout your story. Michael – a successful man living a gifted life atop of Los Santos. Franklin – a street wise gangster who works hard for his money and Trevor – a rural man with more than a few screws missing. The interconnectivity and relationship between these three is excellent and portrayed fantastically with a very strong and high quality cast of voice actors. The multiple character method serves the purpose well enough for the gameplay. However, I am not sold on it. Personally I think I would develop a stronger relationship with my controllable character if I only had the one to control.

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At just about any time you can transfer between characters and this transition is AMAZING! Upon selecting your new character you leave him in a progressing aerial snapshot of your character, which truly gives you a breath taking view of the hard work Rockstar have done to make this a truly huge and living city. At the apex of the aerial snap shot you will transition to your newly selected character and progressively zoom in on him. No matter what location or whom you chose, they will always be doing something. It could be Franklin helping a friend in trouble with the police or even Michael just relaxing besides his pool. An excellent example of fantastic development and a true testament to Rockstar’s devotion to making the extra effort on the little things. The character transfer also works well during mission gameplay, although the transition has a lot less shorter timespan but swapping characters allows for you to overcome various mission aspects that are individual to a character, shooting, driving or flying just as examples. This all works exceptionally well in the mission progression and involvement.

In Australia this game released to a R18+ rating. This is certainly required. Containing scenes of violence, nudity, coarse language, drug use and very confronting scenes. That for the sake of spoilers I won’t reveal. Some people may feel uncomfortable at times with the context of conversation and the actions being involved in which is understandable and at a few select times I agree but it all works perfectly to set the amazingly diverse and exciting world that is renown as Grand Theft Auto.

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Mechanically this game is perfect; controls are incredibly responsive and accurate. The cover system works like a charm. If I had to pick at something however, the control layout had a longer than usual learning curve for me, considering the layout changes compared to previous Grand Theft Auto games.

The depth of detail Rockstar have gone into for this game is phenomenal. Activities to suit anyone’s desires ranging from tennis, golf, bars, strip clubs, shooting ranges, shopping(property, guns and clothing),races and even yoga. These are just samples of the fun to be found all along San Andreas.

Vehicles make a fabulous appearance from all kinds of fast exotic cars to rickety rural motor bikes. The skies and seas are your playground as you can traverse them in style with a range of planes and boats. Cruise around the waters on a speeding jet ski and then, if you’re feeling brave, take a dive under the waves and have a look at what lies beneath the beautiful detailed ocean. Counteractively the skies can be conquered in a range of vehicles and then best of all you can launch out of your air transportation for a glorious rush of adrenaline filled skydiving. Once the parachute has been pulled you are at the mercy of this beautiful world and all its finer details from the incredible heights of Mt. Chilliad to the bustling metropolis that is Los Santos. This crafted world is a world of beauty and wonder.

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With so much to see and do it certainly will be like a mini holiday for those who enter this amazing world. Rockstar have designed one of the most cleverly crafted ideas I have seen in gaming with the timed release of GTA Online, a multiplayer feature that releases two weeks after the initial launch of GTA 5. This move not only allows plenty of time for people to complete the story portion of the game without other temptations but allows for an opportunity to become fully familiar with the world available to you before indulging in the world of GTA Online. Where you are only bound by your imagination and map limitations as all features present in single player are available in multiplayer.

Like I’ve mentioned before the sheer size and recreational activities in this game is near endless especially with the (soon) inclusion of other gamers to participate with. As a working adult I feel I won’t be available to invest the time needed to fully appreciate or even participate in all the wonderful features this game provides. A feat well accomplished by Rockstar for making a fully liveable and interact able world of this sensory beauty. I am sure that there will be a lot of people calling in sick or avoiding classes to explore this fantastic creation.

Rockstar have certainly set a bench mark for themselves with this outrageously beautiful world beaming with life. I only wish I had the time to fully appreciate it to its full potential.

Stay tuned for the second part of out GTA V Team Review in the later half of this week.