Five years is a very long time to wait for one of gaming’s biggest franchises but Rockstar makes the wait worth it. Heck it took them almost a decade to get us Max Payne 3 and some people are still waiting on a sequel to Table Tennis. In the five year absence of Grand Theft Auto (GTA), Rockstar was behind the scenes perfecting an already almost perfect franchise. Instead of pumping out a sequel every year and bleeding the franchise dry like some companies do, Rockstar instead keeps its Holy Grail very close to their heart and that is the smartest thing any company can do. No same game with a new sheen on it from Rockstar, they deliver a completely different and amazing experience from GTA IV and make everything so much smoother, tighter and better looking. If only every game company could care so much about their IP’s like Rockstar does, we’d have a gaming Renaissance. But let me get off of my soapbox and tell you why Grand Theft Auto V made 800 million dollars in only 1 day.
The first thing you’ll notice when firing up this masterpiece is how detailed the characters are and how Los Santos looks. The engine Rockstar used has given gamers a real life city to wreak havoc in and they obviously did not use the GTA IV engine because those graphics were no way as crisp as these. The characters look like they are going to fall out of your television at any moment and start shooting up the place. Their clothes move and sway as they walk, their facial expressions rival those of Oscar winners and none of them look like they are wearing a wig. The city feels as if it is alive, the characters that populate the street aren’t the same skin over and over, they have variants and if you talk to them they talk back. Just think Animal Crossing, but violent as hell. The occupants are not the only treat of Los Santos. Rockstar really made it a big deal to put so much detail into the city: trash litters the streets, graffiti is on buildings, billboards are hung all over the place and so on. When doing a mission the city is so lifelike, you can tell when you’ve left the bad part of town, and entered the nicer area of Los Santos, that’s how great the graphics are. They show you, they don’t tell you, Rockstar won’t have to do that anymore.
As for the controls, they have been vastly improved since we last played as Niko. Gone are the days of bumping into the door frame for a few minutes or fishtailing going 5 miles an hour in a very important car mission. Obviously moving around in and out of a vehicle is extremely tight, the cars handle great, no awkward fishtailing, no more horribly wide turns and no more slow-as-hell cars. Walking down the street or chasing someone has never been easier, the character doesn’t get stuck on a garbage can or a lamp post, they move and run fluidly and perfectly to your commands. Rockstar also took their perfected shooting from Max Payne 3 and tossed it into Los Santos. You aim with the left back bumper, and that usually goes right to your nearest enemy, then shoot with the right back bumper. Call of Duty enthusiasts, you may be lost for a bit. Changing between characters is also pretty easy as well: you hold down the directional pad then choose which character to play as with the right thumb-stick. This does take a bit of practice, some people are used to letting go of the button once the wheel comes on screen. You can’t do that in this game, so keep your finger on while choosing.
Each character that you get to play as (Franklin, Trevor and Michael) has a special ability that you can level up throughout the game. Rockstar decided to take the RPG element out of San Andreas and add it back into the franchise here. You can improve your lung capacity, swimming, shooting, biking and of course the special abilities. In one mission I raised Micheal’s shooting to 60 percent and in another his endurance to 6o percent, this will definitely help out with the heists later on in the game: you have to shoot and run for a long time right? Franklin’s special can be used while driving: you double click the left and right sticks and time slows down in the car making chases easier and shooting out of the car even easier. Trevor can become almost invincible when you click the sticks for him. Jump off a building, click the sticks, see what happens. And finally, Michael, when you activate his special everything goes slow mo and you can shoot just about anyone in that time, think Max Payne with less painkillers.
Voice acting in games has become just as important as story, controls and graphics, just look at the whole Metal Gear Solid 5 and Splinter Cell: Blacklist backlash of voice actor change. Rockstar, however, bypasses this incarnation by creating new and believable characters for us to care about and cause mayhem with. All three main protagonists voice overs do not disappoint, nothing is phoned in and you get the feeling you are watching an epic movie as the cut scenes progress. Even the people who you greet in the street or mow down with a car have great, well-acted one liners as they run from you. The acting adds to the greatness of this game, while sub-par voice acting wouldn’t have taken anything away, it just helps Grand Theft Auto V show other developers how it is done.
Make sure to turn up your television and attach as many speakers as you can without ruining your drywall. The sound mixing and radio stations help give the city a real feel. You’ll hear cars honking, people talking in the streets, helicopters overhead, basically what’d you hear in any big city. Let’s not forget, this isn’t ANY city, so the gunshots make your teeth rattle, the car collisions make you cringe and your neighbors will be wondering what you’re doing with that prostitute. The radio stations are also awesome. There’s nothing like mowing down pedestrians in a mock up Hummer while listening to Baker Street, it’s extremely surreal.
There really haven’t been too many games that can keep a gamer coming back over and over, day in and day out to see what happens to the protagonists, but Rockstar has crafted a tale so great that everyone keeps coming back. You start the story as Franklin and it looks like you’re stealing cars right from the get go, however they throw in a twist, you’re actually a repo man. You’re not stealing a car, you’re returning it back to the dealership that it owed past money. A nice little gray area huh? But fret not, you get into some real risky situations taking other people’s vehicles back from them, in fact that’s how you meet Michael. Michael’s story differs greatly from Franklin’s. Michael is a man going through his midlife crisis and trying not to murder his whole family, while Franklin wants nothing more that to play it straight, get out of Los Santos and lead the life that Micheal is living. Trevor, well, I’ll leave Trevor for you to discover on your own, he’s too much of a trip to ruin. Let’s just say you’ll be wanting to leave work, not eat, not sleep and just play, as this game is as addictive as Crystal Meth, but a lot healthier.
Los Santos is a city where one can lose hours upon hours causing mayhem and doing missions. Every time the game was fired up I had the feeling that I’m still only scratching the surface, and after playing for a week since launch, I still feel that way. The hours put into just the story and free roam mode may rival that of Skyrim or Oblivion. And let’s not forget on October 1, Rockstar is opening up the online content when you can plan heists with your friends around the world. Grand Theft Auto V is well worth the price of admission already, the story mode and single player mode has upwards of 100 hours in it, but when the online mode hits who knows how many more hours can be logged. Sixty bucks is a small price to pay for a nice vacation to Los Santos, with or without your gaming buddies.
Rockstar has crafted a true classic in Grand Theft Auto V, this game is a masterpiece. There is not one fault in the game that I can find to drop it from a perfect score, no lag, no weird graphic or render issues, no control hiccups, absolutely nothing. Honestly the only thing I can think of that was a drawback was how long it took for Rockstar to release it. But at least they made the game such a superior product that other developers have to look and go…wow. Hideo Kojima even stated in an interview that he was thoroughly impressed with the game-play trailer of this game and that he would have to go back and look at Metal Gear Solid V to see where he could make improvements, and that was just off the trailer. One has to wonder what he thinks now, oh to be a fly on the wall at the new LA studio. So if that game can amaze the amazing Kojima, just imagine what it will do to you. Basically, get out there and don’t be the last person to buy this game, or you will definitely be missing out on a Game of the Year contender.
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