Thursday, 26 September 2013

Review: GTA V (ps3) - Spoiler free

Regardless of your opinion of the GTA franchise it is undeniably one of the most successful game series of all time.  GTA V has smashed sales records this year within a week of release and made in excess of a billion dollars in revenue.  Not bad for a game about stealing cars and murdering prostitutes as the ignorant would have you believe.

Anyone who has played a GTA game in the last few years knows they are much more than that.  Of course you can do whatever you want within the games world which is why it's so popular anyway.  Driving off and killing pedestrians to get yourself into a massive police car chase and eventual shootout is all part of the fun of GTA V, but it so much more going on within it's digital rendition of Los Angele's. 

Michael, Franklin and Trevor.
GTA V is a story in three parts told from the perspectives of three characters.  Franklin is a young man from the hood wanting to drag himself out of petty crimes and into the big time.  Michael is a retired bank robber now living the high life and hating every minute of it.  Finally we have Trevor a psychopath with a short temper, driven by his need for money and thrills.  This a major departure for the series which previously had you playing as a single character for the entirety of the game.  GTA V however allows you to switch between these characters on a whim or even get them together to hang out and cause additional mayhem.

Talking about the story is a spoiler really as it's meant to be experienced fresh without anyone spoiling the basic elements of why and how.  Many websites immediately started blurting out details which I will not be, so if you have been dodging spoilers you won't have to worry here.  Suffice to say that comparisons have been made to a HBO series where the plot is concerned and I agree, it has all the depth, humour and characterisation of a well written show like The Wire, Generation Kill, Soprano's and others.

Technically GTA V isn't a massive change for the series, more a massive refinement of the mechanics introduced in GTA IV.  Vehicle handling has been improved which is a major bonus for players who hated the sometimes floaty handling of the cars in GTA IV.  NPC AI has been improved with pedestrians going to and from work, taking part in activities and generally behaving less drone like.  Police officers now have a line of sight system when searching for you, along with improved tactics such as shooting out tires more readily and setting up roadblocks.  Load times are zero after the initial launch of the game.  Missions seamlessly start when you approach them and I have yet to encounter a glitched or bugged mission, both main and optional.

The map is massive apparently combining the maps of GTA III and IV with Red dead Redemption.  Even if that boast is incorrect the map is densely packed.  The amount of detail in the map is astounding and no single location is just empty waste ground, there is always something to see and do.  You can now dive beneath the waves and go scuba diving adding a new layer to GTA's already deep map construction. 

Tennis is probably the first activity you will play
Activities abound from illegal street racing, off road racing, hunting, darts, tennis, golf, yoga, base jumping, stick ups, smuggling and many more.  Your downtime doesn't need to be filled with missions.  Some of these activities aren't going to stand up against PGA games or Virtua Tennis but they are pretty decent considering you never need to play them to complete the game.

It isn't free of issues like any other game.  Sometimes the targeting system is wonky making aiming difficult in a hectic combat situation.  Driving and shooting is still fiddly and frustrating to be accurate with.  The AI can sometimes be a little too accurate when shooting and death can be quite sudden if you aren't already prepared for a fight.  Driver AI is sometimes suicidal as cars will pull out in front of you for no reason or run red lights thus crashing into you.

The other major addition is GTA Online which will open on October 1st, but it promises players the ability to create your own character and continue their GTA experience post game completion.  But to be honest GTA V has hundreds of hours of play alone just for the singleplayer.  No doubt Rockstar will release massive expansion packs in a similar vein to GTA IV's offerings so expect GTA V to be around for a long time to come.  You could even surf the in game Internet for hours alone finding pages riffing everything from fashion, atheism, Scientology, theatre, film, sports, anime and more.

Graphically GTA V is one of the prettiest games on the current generation.  It does need a PC release but for the PS3 and XBOX 360 it looks very good.  It's rare to see low res textures and it really makes me wonder how Rockstar squeezed so much power out of the system where other games have struggled in the past.  Honestly every part of the game world looks great from the vehicles, weather effects, character models and terrain.  It sure as hell makes Rome II look amateur.

Somewhere, beyond the sea
The game has a large soundtrack covering numerous genres of licensed tracks for over a dozen radio stations.  The voice acting is superb and incredibly well acted, showing how a game can have just as high quality production values as any television series or blockbuster movie.   Vehicles all sound realistic as does gunfire and explosions, something you will be very familiar with by the end of a session of GTA V. 

Suffice to say this game needs to be experienced.  Reading a review doesn't convey the quality and gameplay on offer in a such a deep and well made product.  It's a game of the year, if not THE game of the year.  It's sales are immense and still going strong and while other big titles are on the way as well as the launch of the PS4 and XBOX ONE, but GTA V has crushed them all and run off into the sunset with a billion dollars of sales.

SCORE: 9.5/10 - Buy it.


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