An Impressive Open World Hindered By a Few AI Issues
When it comes to Rockstar Games, its hard not to admire what they’ve managed to achieve with the Grand Theft Auto franchise. From its origins back on PS1 as a top-down pixelated sandbox to the impressive open world monster its now become, when it comes to Rockstar Games great things are almost expected as standard. 17 years on from the original game we have the next entry from the studio – Grand Theft Auto V. Although this entry holds its own set of issues, there’s no denying that this is a very impressive open world game. With a gripping storyline, three different protagonists to play as and a host of interesting and game-changing mechanics this year, Grand Theft Auto V is arguably one of the best Grand Theft Auto games ever released and certainly one of the most immersive game worlds ever created.
The driving mechanics are much improved over GTA IV
The game begins in the sun-soaked city of Los Santos. Split between three characters that can be changed on the fly, the crime-laden story sees three concurrent storylines played out at once for the characters of Trevor, Michael and Franklin. Trevor is an unhinged, mentally unstable sociopath who’s story involves torture, guns and a path of destruction. Michael’s story is more family centric with an idealistic house and job turned upside down when he’s brought back into the world of crime. The final character, Franklin, is a bit of a wild card but essentially plays a street thug who’s trying to make it big and ascend from the slums of Los Santos. The interesting part of this dynamic is not just how different the three characters are from one another but also the way the story takes the time to flesh out each character individually before bringing them all together for combined missions called Heists.
Heists are essentially multi-stage missions that breathe new life into the standard mission structure of games past. These see all three playable characters come together to plan, take part and successfully complete large-scale heists. The amount of choice and way you approach these missions are completely up to you as well and everything from mask design to entry points right up to the choice of getaway driver is completely customisable giving a real sense of control over how these missions play out. As a personal gripe it would have been nice to see a little more of these as they are disappointingly sparce in the story but its more a testiment to just how good these are rather than a deterrent to the game.
The revised gunplay and decent UI helps make GTA V an improvement over its predecessors
Compared to previous entries in the franchise, the campaign mode this year is disappointingly short. There’s still a solid 30+ hour adventure here and with the ability to switch characters the game never reaches a period of stagnation. However the short length does feel like a ploy to get more people invested in the online portion of this game. In true multiplayer fashion there’s a host of microtransactions and unfortunately they aren’t all cosmetic with some affecting gameplay in quite a substantial way. With a monetary system dominated by “shark cards” and “whale cards”, the players who spend the most amount of money will inevitably gain an advantage with things like better weapons, planes, fast cars and armour available to any player with enough cash to spend. Although you can still work your way through the missions to get money without paying, new players will be ruthlessly dominated souring the gameplay experience. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be so much of an issue but with such an emphasis on multiplayer with this entry, its certainly worth mentioning.
The heists are the best missions but sadly sparcely placed in the campaign
One of the biggest issues in the series has always been the distracting pop-in where buildings and scenery suddenly appear next to you and it’s an issue that’s plagued the series since the series’ jump to 3D in GTA III. Thankfully GTA V finally sees this rectified with it’s long draw distance and impressive attention to detail. The police are incredibly aggressive this year though and even innocently honking your car horn repeatedly outside the police station could see the men in uniform suddenly fire at you for little to no reason. This frustration is exascerbated by the police ignoring some of the clumsy AI drivers that crash into them and paramedics running over pedestrians on the way to the scene of an accident is still an issue this year too. The wanted system is a little too sensitive in this respect too, especially in the countryside with no one around where a crime can suddenly alert the police to your presence which is a little immersion breaking. Still, these issues are minor in the grand scene of what this game achieves and testiment to what an immersive experience travelling through Los Santos is.
On top of the impressive campaign mode, the extensive but flawed multiplayer and refined gameplay mechanics are a whole myriad of other elements to the game not even discussed here. The extensive soundtrack, the various sports you can take part in including tennis, running and boxing and hundreds of collectibles all help to pad out the game time. That’s before even mentioning the exhaustive list of hobbies, cars, planes, hundreds of hours of recorded radio stations and TV shows and more that make this such a well rounded game.
The long draw distance certainly helps reduce textures and assets suddenly appearing
Overall, Grand Theft Auto V is quite simpy an incredible gaming achievement. It’s not perfect but the open world setting of Los Santos is impressively rendered with a staggering amount of detail put into it. The AI is still a little wonky at times and the campaign disappointingly short but the new 3 character approach to the game is a great inclusion. With refined gameplay including better driving and gunplay, Grand Theft Auto has never looked or felt as good to play as it does now. Although it may not reach the lofty heights set by San Andreas, Grand Theft Auto V more than holds its own with an incredible open world experience unlike anything else on console.
Verdict - 9/10