As usual, there were plenty of individuals calling it the greatest video game of all time while others said it was a massive disappointment. I'm not at the forefront of those reviewing video games but I'm going to throw in my two cents as to whether the hype was lived up to.
|The graphics are beautiful, even during gunfights.|
Is Grand Theft Auto V equal to the two most well-regarded entries in the series?
Yes and no.
Grand Theft Auto V is incredibly ambitious with a truly massive map, creating a stylized version of Los Angeles and Blaine County with a truly massive wilderness surrounding both. Not since San Andreas, ironically, have I felt there was so much to explore and see around the surroundings. On a purely visual level, Grand Theft Auto V is a technical achievement without equal (though Skyrim and Fallout: New Vegas are rivals in terms of ambition).
|I wasn't a fan of the mini-games in GTAIV and I'm not a bigger fan of them here.|
The storyline for Grand Theft Auto V is one I'm going to have to rank behind Grand Theft Auto IV and above San Andreas but just barely. The story is significantly lighter and softer than GTAIV, with as much humor and zaniness as Vice City. Unfortunately, it lacks the emotional highs and tightly written plotting of its predecessor. Michael de Santa is a fascinating and fun character but his story doesn't have nearly the same level of resonance as Niko Bellic's. Michael is also the most interesting of the three major protagonists, too.
I liken Grand Theft Auto V to a series of vignettes than a single linear plot. If Niko Bellic's story is one long tragic story of his (failed) attempt at fame and fortune, GTA V tells a bunch of stories about three protagonists who have vaguely related adventures. It's more like a television series than a movie if I were to draw a comparison. In the ending, everything is wrapped up but they never really come together like previous adventures. Stuff happens, stuff gets resolved, and life goes on. I can't even say the characters go through that much of a character arc, pretty much ending in similar positions where they started.
|The NPCs in GTAV are loud and obnoxious, which is appropriate for the world but sometimes wearying.|
The missions reflect the episodic nature of the story. While there's missions which relate to Franklin's desire to become a bigger player, Michael's desire to cure his ennui, and Trevor's need for revenge--most are simply for fun. Franklin can spy on celebrities for the paparazzi, Michael can join the Epsilon program (Scientology) out of boredom, and Trevor stalk the famous to steal memorabilia. If you're expecting a deep examination of their tortured psyches and how they feel about being killers, like Niko or Johnny Klebitz, this isn't the game for you.
|The three protagonists allow a wide-variety of stories to be told but aren't particularly deep.|
Ironically, one of the most interesting uses of game mechanics in storytelling is a subtle one. Almost none of the missions in GTAV pay rewards. In previous entries, all of the missions pay cash for a job well done. The majority of missions in GTAV do not, often leaving our heroes cheated for their efforts. This is compensated for the massive paydays from successful heists but feels more authentic as well as highlights the game's theme. Which is, much like in Niko's journey, about the American Dream.
|Sadly, the minigames like yoga and tennis were not very fun.|
Which, come to think of it, explains why a disproportionate number of the game's targets are rich douchebags.
The fact the game has three major protagonists should have impacted the story but, in my mind, they're all connected. Really, it's not too dissimilar to playing GTA IV with the DLC in rapid succession. The only difference is you'd have the ability to switch between Niko, Johnny, and Luis at will. Grand Theft Auto V feels like three video games in one and that's not counting the potential of Online (which is a separate review).
|Thankfully, we have Trevor's (repeatable) rampages to entertain us.|
Also, the characters frequently changed out of the clothing I'd spent time picking out for them. Even the much-welcomed car customization options were irritating as my modded cars would frequently disappear with the exception of the character's signature cars. The fact one of the characters loses his signature car for a significant portion of the game didn't give me any warm fuzzies either.
One area where Grand Theft Auto definitely improved was the handling of vehicles. The cars took forever to master in GTAIV while air vehicles were impossible to use. While air vehicles are still extremely difficult to master, cars are much more fun to use. They aren't glued to the road like the vehicles in Saints Row or Sleeping Dogs, either, giving them a sense of challenge too.
|The torture scene is brutal and nasty--as it should be.|
Other gamers may not.
I particularly liked the game's controversial handling of torture. A large number of gamers complained about the scene with the caveat, "I didn't finish it." The irony is the game goes out of its way to say how torture is pointless and ineffective--after you finish it. The visceral disgust Rockstar instills in players for the process is powerful and goes to show the developers think there's nothing "badass" or "cool" about causing another human being horrific pain.
Finally, I'm going to have to say I think Rockstar overextended themselves in the music department. I found the radio was hard to use to get to my favorite radio stations using the D-pad and there were only a few songs I genuinely liked. In Niko's case, the Russian and Jamaican music complemented the missions as did more traditional rock. While the licensing costs for something like Vice City are prohibitive, I think they should have trimmed down things and kept a bigger emphasis on talk radio. It was frequently hard to find Lazlow Jones' trademark commentary, which is just awful.
So, overall, what did I think? Great-great game. One of the finest ever made for consoles. Still, as with all games so massive, there's room for improvement. GTAV's lesson, for me, is bigger isn't always better--but it sure gives a lot more choices in a sandbox game.
10/10 (with a 8/10 and a 9.5/10 game in there as well)