Grand Theft Auto V – review
I had to wait more than three weeks to write this review because I wanted to capture everything that is on the game disc – not just the singleplayer mode available from the beginning, but also GTA Online, which was released on the 1st of October. How does the latest Grand Theft Auto look like on the not-so-new generation of consoles?
Let’s go back to the year 2004. Michael and Trevor are partner robbers and friends. Unfortunately, their last heist did not go as it should and as a result their paths diverged for nine years in a rather unpleasant circumstances. Michael might be not the best, but a typical example of a father and husband during his midlife crisis. He loves classic Vinewood movies and lives in one of the richest districts of Los Santos, along with his wife, son and daughter. Because of some nasty family conflict he ends up in trouble, but in the end is helped by 20 years younger Franklin Clinton. Franklin who deals with extortion and vindications is ambitious and wants to break free from his rather closed environment of street gangs. Michael decides to come back from retirement, refreshes his old contacts, and together with Franklin and several selected colleagues do their first robbery. At the same time, we are honored to meet Trevor, who already in the first scene shows how crazy, immature madman he is.
Some time later in a magical way all three start to work together and plan further heists. After a few more or less pleasant adventures they decide to make one last, but this time a big one. There are three endings, however, two of them are more of an interesting fact than the way you would like to follow. In addition, immediately after the end credits a note from a psychotherapist appears with a general summary of the player’s proceedings and decisions.
The story of GTA V is truly a movie-like adventure in a very positive sense. Cutscenes go into gameplay incredibly smoothly, still the player knows when it’s time to take over the controls of the character. If a conversation in the car is interrupted, after a few seconds it resumes at the exact moment in which the character had stoped. And the voices of the characters – not just the main characters, but also the supporting ones, can sometimes be exaggerated, but feel so real.
There is a total of 69 main missions, but a few of them are large heists that have to be accordingly planned and prepared. There are always two strategies to choose from. Usually one requires cunning, a good hacker and more gear, while the second is a more open battle or has a more difficult escape, though there is no rule for that. However, there is always something that can go wrong because for example we had chosen a cheaper, but worse companion to fill a key role in the team. Thanks to the fact that there are three main characters it is possible to perform several tasks at the same time, even when they are many kilometers apart from each other. For example, Franklin may be preparing cars for the escape when Michael sneaks into the building, while Trevor covers him with a sniper rifle sitting on the roof of a neighboring building. Unfortunately, the character shift cannot be performed at will during the missions, it may be dictated by the requirements of a particular sequence or scene. In addition, after finishing each of the missions a window with an assessment and performed achievements appears and suggests that we can improve our score by going through the mission again. There is even an option to skip the mission if we die a couple of times doing it.
It is not worth talking about all of the activities available in the Los Santos, so I’ll just say what is news and what is missing. First of all, there is no possibility of a train abduction. Besides, we can do practically everything. Nothing stands in the way to start the day with a short yoga exercise and a walk with the dog in the direction of the nearest gas station to take care of the owner, the takings and to possibly kill him. We spent the afternoon at the strip club throwing previously earned money at one of the dancers. It is probable that after a while the security will discard us on the pavement, so in order to relax we can go hunting. It does not matter if we shoot animals or people. At the end of the day we order an airship and jump out of it over the ocean to dive for a little while and possibly be bitten by a shark. After we magically appear in front of the hospital there is still the whole night ahead of us. So, we pull out our smartphone and go to the web page with military vehicles. What? Is it too expensive? BMX will also do the job. Then, we go to one of the peaks of the mountains only to die falling off into the abyss. Poof, we are again in front of the hospital.
Despite the fact that at the same time there are three characters in the hands of the player, each one of them has a separate plot line, his own missions, problems and favorite activities, and their skills are described by such factors as health, strength, and the ability of stealth. All of these are developed by performing certain actions, so for example, if we run a lot, the bar which represents condition will grow, and if we dive a lot, the bar which represents the lung capacity will grow. In addition, all three have one unique ability each that can be used after charging a special bar. After activating Trevor falls into a frenzy, becomes more resistant and deals more damage, Franklin can slow down time while driving and thus easily squirm and maneuver, and Michael activates something that at first sight works like bullet-time in the Max Payne games with the difference that he does not throw his body all around the room.
In general the shooting and aiming system is very similar to Max Payne 3 – and it is a good thing. You can use a fully automatic, slightly assisted or entirely free aiming, but the latter one may cause some difficulty. Similarly, the cover system was also improved. It’s more intuitive, and it’s rather rare to stick to a wrong wall. In addition to the fact that the arms dealer offers a shitload of weapons and equipment, yet each of the weapons can be upgraded in some way. Whether it is a flashlight, silencer, larger magazine or all at once. There is also a circular menu that is well-known to virtually all console gamers and which greatly facilitates the choice of weapons or radio stations.
Instead of just firing and getting the next star level (there is a 5-star system in this installment) we can try to escape the police in a more neat way. The law enforcement officials rely largely on their field of vision, so escape, whether on foot or by car, does not necessarily involve leaving the search area. You can just hide somewhere where officers will not check and wait for a while in the meantime changing the car. Every vehicle is a little different, and during a visit to the workshop you can upgrade or replace so many parts that as a result, we get dozens of variations of each model. Cars and generally all vehicles are driven very conveniently, they stick to the ground and do not ignite without a serious reason. However, in some situations the car can explode without a warning.
Phones are back and function as a shortcut to many features of the game. Each of the characters has a slightly different smartphone, but with the same options. There is the LifeInvader, which is similar to Facebook, and a camera, which allows you to make a so called selfie and then send the images to a special application in the Rockstar Social Club and share them on Facebook – however, sometimes there is a problem with the connection and there is a need to take the same photo several times before it works.
We also have regular access to the Internet, so we can order a bike, plane, or tank any time. By far, the most interesting feature is probably the ability to invest in the stock market because the money in this game is quite important, and rewards for most of the mission and challenges are rather poor. However, I usually used the phone to just order a cab.
The game is accompanied by a free application iFruit for real phones and tablets that allows users to tune their cars without turning on the console and something similar to Tamagotchi with Franklin’s dog. We not only have to take care of it or learn it some tricks, but for example, help in the fight for the bitch. It hurts a little that on the day of the release the application was available to Apple users, while the only fact that Android users know is that version for them is still under development. Los Santos and surroundings are in consonance as a whole. There is no division into parts of the city that are unlocked at some point. The landscape itself functions as that kind of division because we have to play differently in the city centre with skyscrapers and differently in some suburb area located in the hills, on desert or near some mountain routes. And of course there are people everywhere – cyclists, freaks or ordinary pedestrians.
Quite often some random events appear – they sometimes turn out to be full-grown missions, but usually confine themselves to catch a thief or give somebody a lift. We can, for example, stop the thief and keep or return the loot. This feature was already present in Red Dead Redemption and certainly makes the game seem more non-linear. I mentioned before that you can rob small shops and petrol stations, but it turned out that not all of them offer that kind of option.
GTA V is really impressive in the technical matters. Given how much is happening on the screen and that game came out on the current generation of consoles, the creators optimized it very well without prejudice to the graphics quality. Problems may occasionally arise when there are a few explosions on the screen at once. GTA V certainly works much smoother than the previous installment and looks like maybe a slightly tweaked PC version of GTA IV. It’s a very good result and a worthy farewell to the seventh generation of consoles. So far, the biggest problem was not the game itself, but the data storage of game files. On both platforms it is recommended installing only the necessary files and launch the game from the disc because when you install the whole game on the console’s hard drive you may find that the texture will load much slower and disrupt the gameplay.
The character icon in the singleplayer mode has four choices. Three of them are assigned to Franklin, Michael and Trevor, and the fourth serves as a quick transition to the most recently used character in GTA Online. Despite the fact that it was launched two weeks after the release, and for the first week it was unplayable for most of the players it seems that right now you are free to enjoy it without any major issues.
Character creation is based on a lot of sliders, but they are assigned to a family tree, so in fact we personalize two grandmothers and two grandfathers, and in effect receive our character. This is a very interesting system, but the faces of our ancestors have very poor textures and you need to spend quite a while to obtain a satisfactory result. Then, we define the number of hours per day spent by our character on some activities in order to determine his or her stats and skill level.
Each player after a short story tutorial gets access to Los Santos five months before the events in GTA V. A single instance of the city can be populated by up to 16 players, which may seem a low number, but in fact, it is not difficult to find yourself in the center of action. In addition to the smartphone camera and an Internet connection there is also an option to quickly launch cooperative missions, races and all sorts of other multiplayer games.
In the future there will also be heist missions for similar to those in the singleplayer mode so we will have to plan them in detail with other players. I have to praise a very extensive invite function, which speeds up matchmaking. For each activity you get reputation points, which are de facto experience points affecting the level of our character. In addition, you can earn money so from time to time you should deposit it on your bank account because other players can kill and rob you. In General, multiplayer mode works just as smoothly as singleplayer and beyond the problems in the first week the only problem I managed to observe were randomly disappearing cars or other items.
Rockstar has decided to implement in-game microtransactions system, which allows you to purchase parcels of virtual dollars for real money. The developers provided that reputation points are the most important and cannot be bought, so you all players will have to work on their own to achieve higher ranks, new items and rewards.
Grand Theft Auto V is a very strong 9 out of 10. I hesitated, it lacked something groundbreaking to give it a full score. Over thirty hours that you have to spend on the main plot and another thirty complete the remaining activities is an unusual result. I also understand why the game has not appeared on PC yet. Rockstar knows what they are doing, and the results of their sale only reaffirm their strategy for releasing the PC version late or not at all. The games industry is a business like any other and as it turned out, Rockstar is a master not only in video games development.