Review: Grand Theft Auto 5

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I admit. This review has hit the site a couple of weeks too late, but that was purely my fault. I wanted to write a full review of the game, both online and offline, so had to wait until multiplayer was released… and then, with all the server problems that cropped up, i only managed to get online two days ago. But never fear, I have extensively played through both modes… and here’s the results…

Several years after a routine bank heist takes a sour turn, best friends and fellow criminals, Trevor Philips and Michael Townley, are separated; Michael getting shot, and Trevor chased off into the distance by police. In exchange for information, and to clear his name, Michael is saved, and put under witness protection in sunny Los Santos, with his defunct family, all of which have their own problems. Michaels life escalates, and after accidentally upsetting a spanish gangster, gets back into robbing and performing heists, along with new best friend Franklin, a street thug working for a car dealer, specialising in repossessions. However, as news of their exploits spread, Trevor finds out that someone he believes to have been dead for 9 years is back alive and proceeds to hunt him down. Things will never be calm again…

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The story, or more how its presented, is stark contrast from GTA games of the past. Instead of taking control of one character, full of his own problems and troubles, instead the story is played from three main protagonists. While this can be a little confusing to start with, the story is still as deep and detailed as any other entry into the series, as approaching the campaign from three different angles fills you in on gaps in the story that would be left wide open from another protagonists campaign. It all helps to flesh out backstories, especially in Trevor and Michaels case, and helps players develop bonds with the protagonists and the struggles they face.

The game controls pretty similarly to GTA 4. Characters feel free enough in open areas and gunfights to accurately move with conviction and the feedback from the game is really instantaneous. Also the cover systems and driving seem to have been overhauled, making it easier and smoother to dive in and out of cover and to control cars and shoot at the same time. These changes are a welcome change from GTA 4, as more of the times ive been infuriated with the game has been in tricky platforming sections or sneaking missions, where Niko felt a bit too clunky at times.

The soundtrack is nothing short of amazing either. The original score created for the game is amazing, truly setting the tone for Los Santos and its seedy underbelly, as well as the thousands of licensed tracks and talk radio stations. these are a true joy. Thousands of songs from modern pop, to 60’s Rock, to electro, to Heavy Metal, theres a radio station full of tunes to suit all players tastes. Also, the Weazel news broadcasts are back and funnier than ever and the topics mentioned on the talk radio stations are ridiculous. There is some real fun to be had in just enjoying the game’s background noise, including slurs and slogans shouted by pedestrians as you pass by.

Now is the important bit: the multiplayer. Rockstar games came under a hailstorm of hatred for the server problems that plagued GTA Online’s release, and i admit – I was part of that, but having played online, the wait seems worth it. Players can create their own character to get dropped into Los Santos to free roam, and throughout playing multiplayer, can upgrade their skills in stamina, driving, flying and shooting, whilst also competing in online “Jobs” – multiplayer matches of death match or GTA races that the players get Experience (or Respect) points to level up their character and giving them access to a wide variety of new weapons.

Another nice addition to the multiplayer is the online missions. In GTA 4, players could take part  in a  few online missions with friends. GTA Online takes this mechanic and fleshes it out into nearly a full fledged campaign of its own, with special cutscenes and missions given by NPC’s, some you may recognise from Campaign mode. Doing these with friends or people online is intensely rewarding, as experience is greatly increased with the more people you play with.

You can even create gangs online, or ‘Crews’, for you and your friends to join. When creating a crew, you can set clan tags and crew colours hat you can spray your cars with, to show what crew you belong to, and you get laods more RP even for doing missions on your own, just for being part of one. Another fun thing is that, if you really want to, you can change the rank names that are given to people when they level up. Its a layer of customisation that doesn’t change the game, but its a nice touch that they spent time implementing. If anything, it shows Rockstar cares…

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One reservation i have with online mode is the skills system. You see, the more you shoot, run, fly and drive in Los Santos, your character’s skills upgrade, making them better at that particular activity. Fun right?? Right! Except, that if you leave multiplayer for a week or two, without returning to the game, your characters skills start to decrease. Now obviously this isn’t a game changer, and is more than likely a mechanic to keep people playing, but still, i think that its a bit of a dumb thing to include in a game. I mean, if you took multiplayer seriously and bought a new game and left GTA Online alone for a while, then you’d be seriously penalised for that!… What?!

But that single criticism cannot cloud what is, ultimately, the gaming event of the year. In fact, It’s Game of the Year, I’m calling it! And why not? It’s a jewel in gaming’s crown. One of the few titles that, in a couple of months, people could makes jokes on, and 99% of the gaming community will know or have seen, much like “Arrow to the Knee”… oh goddammit…

If you’re interested in real life car crime, check out 21 Things You Should Know About Car Theft!

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