Team Review: GTA V – Part 2

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.

Grand Theft Auto V is a great example of a developer learning from their past games, not just in the same franchise but across the entire catalogue of games they have developed. This is what sets Rockstar Games apart from other developing giants in the industry today, its not just the innovation that they bring to their current project but their collective advancements across the board. Where some developers are content to release annual installments of a popular game and let the marketing do the rest, Rockstar lets the game do all the talking and it has a lot to say.

When Rockstar released GTA IV back in 2008 it was met with rave reviews citing the extent of the living world was as much of a character in the game as it was a backdrop to the drama, it was this world that also saw Rockstar take the most criticism as it had cut out a great deal of features seen in its previous title San Andreas as well as substitute the bright Californian fun filled adventure with a darker grittier tone and more realistic story. With the eventual release of the Episodes from Liberty City DLC, GTA IV found great moments to show its fun loving nature beneath the level of grime but for some it was too little too late. While an achievement in technical design, GTA IV left many people wondering if the shift in tone to a more realistic setting was step too far and by the looks of things Rockstar were asking themselves the same questions.

GTA V sends us back to the West Coast state of San Andreas showing us that with 5 years development and 4 blockbuster games under its belt in the interim, the Grand Theft Auto series is in the best shape it has ever been in. Back are the fast cars, eccentric characters and pin point accurate social satire that we have come to expect from the GTA series all to the backdrop of a beautiful open world that has taken more that a little inspiration from Red Dead Redemption. In a departure from the regular staples of the franchise, GTA V features 3 distinctive playable characters this time around all of whom fulfill a particular role in both the game play and the narrative.

Franklin is the street smart urban thug on a zero to hero quest to get out of the ghetto and make a life for himself a career criminal. He feels familiar to the San Andreas protagonist CJ in many ways, trying to better himself and make some money while doing it. Michael is the retired bank robber and feels like a mid life crisis Tommy Vercetti from Vice City, stuck in the glory days of the 80’s and still wanting to re live his former glory but tied to the responsibility of his family.

His focus on gun play and stealth have taken great inspiration from Max Payne 3 with a bullet time special ability to boot. Then there is Trevor. Trevor is the character that you will either love or hate, he is a throwback to a day before the modern trappings of GTA where mayhem and “Rampages” were a staple of game play. Trevor’s character works to provide the player a chance to experience the chaos of GTA V all the while feeling justified in your actions of killing and maiming as “that’s what Trevor would to”. The way these 3 characters work together in mission is fantastic, hot swapping from character to character during gunfights to get a better angle is very satisfying. With 3 characters in play, it does make the pacing of the action muddled at times and as a result it can feel hard to focus on any one story line, so much so that by the end of the game they just converge all of the narrative into one set of missions.

It is clear that Rockstar have created something of a masterpiece when it comes to the world of GTA V but with so little of the actual story challenging players to explore it, it feels at times wasted. I imagine that areas like the prison or army base will receive some more attention when the online component is opened up in October or via a DLC in the future.

GTA V feels like the most complete video game that i’ve played from this generation. Whilst it doesn’t have the stunning narrative of The Last Of Us, it has just about everything else. The game looks absolutely incredible for how big the world is. The varied environments all feel like real parts of LA. I really loved coming across random situations that required you to blow up a security truck or stop a thief. These were some of my favourite parts of the games and I just wish that they were more varied.

The missions of GTA V are the best of any in the series by far. The sheer amount of them were mind blowing and each one felt completely different from the last. I felt like all vehicles handled significantly better than in GTA IV. Helicopters and planes don’t seem as touch and cars feel a lot more arcade and take a lot more damage before they explode.

It is one of the first open world games where the game has really incorporated a living, breathing city. This is what makes the game so enjoyable. You never know what to expect. In my opinion, the characters aren’t really all that interesting. Trevor provides something that we haven’t seen in a video game but Michael and Franklin are extremely stereotyped. Shooting feels a lot better than all previous GTA games and cover is extremely simple and seamless to execute now. You’ll have more fun than ever trying to steal fighter jets, parachuting of Mount Chilliad and the like.

This is what makes GTA so much fun and there’s an amazing variety of things to do in GTA V. As the game grew on I became more fond of the 3 character system. In the beginning I was feeling a little mixed about it however as the game integrated the characters I began to realise how much it opened up the game world.

It’s been 5 years since GTAIV, which for me personally was a huge disappointment. I tried, over and over again to try and get into it, and just so many issues prevented that. I just couldn’t understand what so many people loved about it. I thought maybe I just outgrew the series and it just wasn’t fun to me anymore.

I had planned to do so many things last week, be a productive member of society, then GTAV came out, and well. My week flew right before my eyes. Now I didn’t spend 34 hours straight sitting down and beating the story rather then spreading roughly 44 hors through out the entire week playing the game. Doing everything I possibly can within the game. Let me tell you. I’m only 79% complete with that game. It hasn’t been since the start of the year with Ni No Kuni that a game captivated me so much to make me play roughly 6 – 8 hours a day for a week. All of those issues I had with GTAIV were solved. Well, most of them.

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No one is going to Argue that GTAIV was a beautiful game at the time, but since then we have had quite the jump in graphical quality, just when I think these consoles are done, what else can you do without setting them on fire, well. GTAV shows what it can do. The game is absolutely gorgeous, it’s bright and vibrant, highly detailed, and absolutely huge without feeling like it’s all just one big empty island. With several different areas which are all diverse in their own way, that require no loading when going between them, GTAV is a visual and technical marvel. The atmosphere of the game carries the signature social satire that GTA has been known for. Rockstar is not trying to paint anybody as the hero, rather then depict a morally deprived culture obsessed with self image. Even though you have a lack of protagonist, all three characters you do play as Michael, Franklin and Trevor are all absolutely terrible people, there is no redeeming quality about them, and they are just trying to forward their own endeavours by getting rich.

However in saying that. I enjoyed each and every minute with them. Their struggles as they meet new enemies and encounter new problems, the way they interact in society as a whole, either had me laughing or going “HELL YEAH” as a result. Turns our I have quite the appetite for dark humour, and this game has plenty of it. Since you control three different characters the story doesn’t feel like it reaches the heights as some other GTA games, but that doesn’t mean there are plenty of awesome moments and situations.

Most of said situations are a result of the multiple heists which you can pull of in the game. Which coincidentally, are my favourite part of the game, I hope that some single player DLC comes out in the future giving us more heists missions. Heists happen only a few times in a game which leads you to sitting in a room giving you two approaches to a heist, one way is the less noisy smarter approach, for example secretly fire bombing a place, dressing up as fire fighters and then going inside the building dressed as fire fighters to rob it blind without people noticing. The other approach is the chattie chittie bang bang approach which involves guns, killing dudes and most likely getting away from the cops. The typical action movie approach. These aren’t just missions you initiate at any time. You have to prepare for them. Want to take the Fire fighter approach, you’re going to need to steal that Firetruck son. Want to be an action hero, you’re going to need some extra gunmen and getaway driver.

Speaking of which, the crew members you choose from either take a higher cut of the money or you can take a risk with the lower skilled crew mates but they take a much lower take of the money, and if you choose them the next heist they will have improved. So there is a little risk reward for the first few heists you do. But it is oh so fun. Unlike Saints Row however, crew members are not people you can just go out and find, they are just given to you through out the story, or there are some random events in the game that if you participate in will give you a crew member, they are few and far between. Heists sadly are only a small part of the game. After all this is part of the GTA Franchise. They plop you into the open world of Los Santos and give you lots of activities to do. From Yoga, tennis and Golfing while they aren’t fully featured enough to be their own game, they are still a nice distraction and also a good way of levelling certain stats, then you have activities like going out to being a bounty hunter, and going to the shooting range to complete challenges.

Not to mention the hundreds of collectibles to go for if you’re looking to get trophies or achievements like myself you will be busy for quite some time. There is not shortage of content here, but a big problem in GTAIV for me were the controls. I’m pleased to say most if not all of the controlling issues has been fixed. While the shooting consists of locking onto targets and hosing them down with bullets, it’s responsive and quick, and if you really want free aim it is there. The driving was a huge pain in the ass in GTAIV, due to the mass amounts of cops and the very touching driving that often left you flipping and spinning out of control from the smallest mistake. Both of these issues have been fixed. Driving feels more arcade like and responsive, it has a little learning curve but once you find the car you like, customise it the way you want. You will be weaving through oncoming traffic and making tight and reckless turns in no time, which I could never do in GTAIV.

Flying is also improved, and even then flight school isn’t boring or laborious rather then has you do stunt manoeuvres to get you used to the feel of flying, it works well. As a result of these tightened controls exploring the the island of Los Santos a sinch. However I have one complaint, why is it that when I set a waypoint am given and objective marker on the map why do I have to stare at the minimap to find out where I’m going rather then having some sort of floating arrow of visual markers in the distance helping me out. It’s not a big issue, but it’s one I would expect to be fixed by now.

Overall, the story of the game is not all that deep and meaningful but rather an adrenaline fuelled ride of explosions and betrayal that doesn’t quite reach the heights of previous games, all of the control issues from GTAIV has been improved and then some, there is tons of gameplay content here to keep you busy for a while if you are a perfectionist. The heists are a fantastic new and by far my favourite addition to the series and it has left me clambering for more. Sure, it’s satire can be a little controversial and offensive, but when did GTA not cause controversy? In my opinion, the praise GTAV is getting is justified right down to the dot, and worthy of the title “Swan song of this Generation”

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