The most anticipated game of the year is finally here!
“Grand Theft Auto V” was first announced in October of 2011, and last week’s release has set the record for the fastest selling game of all time ($800 million on day one). “GTA IV” was released in 2008 and was one of the best open world sandbox games ever made, and “GTA V” tops it in just about every way. Rockstar Studios are the masters of open world action games, and it shows that they have learned their lessons on games like “Midnight Club,” “Red Dead Redemption,” “Max Payne 3,” and “LA Noire,” making “GTA V” the most well-rounded of the series.
“GTA IV” was set in Liberty City, which was a supposed to be a fictional recreation of New York City. This time, “GTA V” returns to Los Santos, which was the setting of “GTA: San Andreas” back in 2004. This time, the city of Los Santos (based on LA) is considerably bigger and more alive then ever. There is an incredible amount of things you can do in this game. You can explore the city of Los Santos and even the countryside of San Andreas. You can shop for clothes, go to a movie, go skydiving, bowling, you name it, and that’s not even counting the 25 hours of real mission objectives.
“GTA V” has the most varied mission types of the series because, for the first time, the gameplay is separated into three separate characters that you can switch between at any time. The single-player mode tells of the story of Michael, Trevor, and Franklin, criminals whose stories interconnect as they complete missions. Most of the time, you can change characters at will, but sometimes, when there is something notable going on in the story of one of the other players, the control will switch to another automatically to complete certain objectives. This not only adds more interesting elements to the gameplay, but you get to see the action from many different perspectives.
When the characters’ stories cross paths and they are performing a mission together, the mini map in the corner will flash red when your partner is in danger and white when one of the other guys has a strategic advantage. Some missions require more than three accomplices. You will need AI-controlled hackers and drivers, though you do have to pay them their cut of the profit. Your AI accomplices can level up as you use them and improve their skills, which adds a new level of resource management and RPG elements to an already complex game.
Aside from criminal activities, there are several very interesting ways to make money. You can invest money in the stock market or you can guess or listen into other characters to get tips. With the money you make, you can buy businesses, cars, clothes, or more investments; you can even get scuba gear to explore the ocean floor.
I am only about a dozen hours or so in and I am not as pulled in by the story as much as “GTA IV” or “Red Dead,” but the narrative is pretty good. Maybe because there are so many side things to do I get distracted very easily, but that is not a bad thing because it keeps me coming back for a long time. The thing I like most about the story is all of the satire of life in America; everyone has a dependence on smart phones, there is a Facebook clone, and there are parody TV shows you can watch in your home. The “GTA” series is getting to be more and more of a real life simulator as they go on, although it is very exaggerated. That is the appeal of the “GTA” games; it is similar to real life, but it’s a bit cathartic to be able to go on a crime spree and do all the crazy things you can’t do in real life. “GTA” has never been for kids; this game is probably the most mature of any of the games in the series. They have definitely pushed the envelope with things you can do; there is now strip clubs, bank heists, and more profanity than ever. It has very racy scenes that make the older games look tame and some really violent scenes, but all of it is comedic and very tongue-in-cheek. It’s not as over-the-top as “Saints Row,” but it’s still pretty crazy.
I only got to play the story mode because the multiplayer hasn’t been released yet, but it will be out later in the year.
Overall, this is one of the most realistic, technologically impressive, and visually gorgeous games I have every played. It has an incredible amount of things to do and several different stories that intertwine into something great. Everything about this game is a step up for the series: improved controls, visuals, great missions, and the most amount of activities in a game. If you are a “GTA” fan, you probably have already bought this game, but if you are looking for a good mature game, this could be the biggest and most impressive to ever be released.
-Robbie Vanderveken is the digital operations specialist at The Times Leader. E-mail him at [email protected]