GTA V Pre-Review

At the moment, as I write, it is 9 days until the release of Grand Theft Auto V.  9 days.  I’m beside myself with excitement.

The game was first announced on the 26th October 2011.  I remember the day as though it was yesterday, the simple green V posted by the game’s creators signalling a new game on the horizon.  The excitement has been building slowly for almost two years now.

Why so excited?  There are a few simple reasons for it.  The last game, GTA IV, was, and still is, my favourite game of all time.  It released in April 2008; after months and years of hype, like its successor.  I wasn’t nearly as caught up in that hype before release as I was with GTA V, so my excitement was held in check until shortly before getting the game.

Of course I was only 15 at the time.  I’d never previously owned a GTA game, but had spent many a time playing the game, usually for hours and hours, at friends’ houses.  I loved it. How could you not?  The appeal of the game to me, then and now, was simply the freedom it offered you.  If I wanted to go somewhere in the game, I could.  If I wanted to drive a car at breakneck speeds through the city, I could.  If I wanted to fly a plane erratically, I could.  Of course, many critics of the games cite the violence in it as an ‘appeal’.  Yes, there was violence in the game, but there was never a thrill from the violence, but from the ensuing police chase.  It was so much fun.

So when the ad campaigns started ramping up for GTA IV, I thought I knew what to expect – a game where all you did was re-create a Michael Bay movie with the tools at your disposal.  But when the TV advert was released, just before the game came out; that was when GTA IV started becoming almost more than simply a ‘game’ in my eyes.  The song behind the trailer, “Get Innocuous!” by LCD Soundsystem, caught my fullest attention when I first heard it.  I was definitely not alone in searching online for what the song was, after hearing its’ catchy, hypnotic beat.  And, little did I know, I’d stumbled on a band which would go on to become my favourite.  For that, I owe the game.  The more I played of the game, when I finally got it on a cloudy April Saturday afternoon, the more I fell in love with the soundtrack.  So much so, I’ve got at least fifty songs from it on my iPod and class them among my favourites.  Perhaps by association, perhaps the developers’ good taste in music – these songs have become my go-to, much like the game.  Especially when I’m feeling a bit down or out.

That’s what the game became to me over the years – my go-to.  The story was amazing, and I was fully surprised in the best of ways that I cared and enjoyed the dark, sombre narrative of what was, in my naivety before the game, meant to be just a casual, light-hearted experience.  But it was the City in which the game was set that I returned to.  The beautiful, breathing Liberty City.  I could simply drive around in the game for hours on end, and listen to the game’s radio stations, and pass the time.  In a time where the stresses of everyday life at school here growing, the game offered a relief.  Completing the game beyond the story, to the mythical 100%, gave me something outside of school to achieve, something that I could enjoy.  It’s still something that I’m very proud of, if only for the fact that I had the attention span to spend so long hunting virtual pigeons!

Being of an older age than when I played other GTAs, I’ve got more of an appreciation for the scope of humour in the game.  As a satirical jab at America at the time, GTA IV was a masterpiece.  From talk radio stations, to adverts and institutions in the game – no opportunity is missed to mock the American psyche with offhand spin.  The humour in the game is one of the finer touches that make the game so enjoyable.  Almost nothing in TV or film eclipses it, or can, due to its’ immersive nature.  It’s definitely been an influence in how I look at the world.

And, to top it all off, the game was still fantastically fun.  Despite the negative opinions of some regarding the game; that it isn’t as wacky and off-the-wall as other games (which I’ll concede) – some of my favourite experiences in gaming have come from this game.  Whether these have been alone, with friends online or in person – I’ve sat awestruck at things I’ve managed in the games, missing head-on collisions by whiskers, launching over rivers on scooters etc. etc.  And who can forget perhaps one of the best action missions in any game ever, Three Leaf Clover, where you rob a bank and escape through the streets and the subway? Even now, well over five years after first playing the game, I’m finding new ways of playing the game and having fun. If that’s not a testament to its’ longevity and quality, I don’t know what is.

So, for GTA V, my expectations are high.  With a map five times bigger than Red Dead Redemption (another of my favourite games, with a map maybe three times bigger than Liberty City’s) – the capacity for exploration is off the charts.  It took me months to fully find my way around Liberty City without aid, and longer to know it off by heart.  I’m going to struggle to know the lay of the land before the next game!  Graphically, the game looks stunning, and the soundtrack is sounding pretty good already from what has been leaked.

I think the story will strike more of a balance between the silliness of old GTAs and the seriousness of GTA IV.  With three different perspectives in the story via its multiple protagonists, I expect that the game will explore the characters of its’ setting in a new way.  Whether it will reach the dramatic highs of the last game, in which the game’s heart-wrenching choices and plot turns kept me emotionally involved, I am less certain.  I expect to have a great time playing through the story of GTA V, maybe more fun than I had with IV, but I doubt the story will be as profound.  I hope to be proved wrong.

So with all the elements I loved from the last GTA and the ‘fun factor’ re-introduced with the more over-the-top elements of past games, like planes, mini-guns and more; I do hope that my excitement is justified. Will it be the experience that I had with GTA IV all over again? No. But I think it has the potential to be something new, built on something I loved. I believe that Rockstar can deliver and then some. I can’t wait to find out next Tuesday!  I’ll leave you with the launch trailer for GTA V:

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