Anticipation is a dangerous thing. When you are waiting for something, longing for something – no matter what it is – you are either setting yourself up to love or hate something. I’ve waited years for GTA V, and I love it. Instead of jumping in to writing a review a week into having the game, I wanted to wait until I’ve much more fully experienced the game. With hundreds of things to do in the game, it’s unfair to judge it based on the story alone, or just the events that you’re prompted to do.
In some ways Rockstar’s job was simple, in some ways it was difficult. I have no doubt that if they had simply updated the graphics, which they have enormously, and made the main story more fun and accessible, which they have emphatically – the game would be a huge success. What I commend GTA V for is going beyond the safe zone and making what is a landmark achievement in video games.
The world that has been created is astounding. It is so vast, and so detailed that there is no way that one person can see everything the game has to offer. The worries of blank open deserts have been allayed completely. San Andreas is such a beautiful place. Despite being surely one of the most technically demanding worlds ever created in a game, gameplay runs without a hitch. It’s incredible.
Playing GTA is a better experience than ever before, although some changes to the formula have left me yearning for the old style. Gunplay is fantastic, being much more fluid and exciting than in the past. The weapon wheel simplifies life to no end, and lets you play around with weapons in a way that makes you think carefully about which weapon to use in which situation. Couple this with improved enemy AI, and a lower level of base health, and the game has become far more tactical than previous iterations as well. This is great, and makes missions more of a test of skill than before – but with the new checkpoint system it never feels unfair. The driving has also been improved, over what I’ll now admit was a clunky system in GTA IV.
Some aspects of the game have changed, in my opinion, for the worse however. Improved enemy AI is to be welcomed, particularly when it comes to the LSPD’s – but the way in which police react now is almost too good, meaning that rampaging around the city causing wanton destruction is not nearly as easy. Lasting for longer than five minutes with a heavy wanted level is almost impossible, and being sent back to the hospital over and over doesn’t make me want to continue. The improved number of cheats, including invincibility and refilling weapons and armour, do let you cause havoc in a way in which you’re accustomed – but reactivating these cheats is a chore I’d rather do without. Another small police complaint is the removal of the classic sixth star from the wanted level. I’ve no idea why such an icon of the game would be reduced.
Another small gripe with the game is the car physics, which I loved to exploit in GTA IV. Car collisions now cause almost no body damage, and are nowhere near as satisfying as in previous games, leading only to a slightly poorer performing car. As something I used to do often in the games, I wish that I could recreate the Demolition Derbies of old with the stunning array of new cars in GTA V.
The story was perhaps one of the most thoroughly enjoyable I’ve played, and has surpassed its’ predecessor in being the best all-round Rockstar campaign, in my opinion. The ballad of Michael, Franklin, and the stand-out character, Trevor, took me almost 24 hours to complete, and never felt too long or too short as you go about earning money in the way these people know how. The overall intensity is heightened compared to IV, and it definitely led to a lot more fun playing the campaign. GTA V condensed the classic Rockstar first act, where the game’s story is set out and tutorial missions are aplenty, into just a few hours. This is perhaps the best improvement story-wise over IV. Switching between players is fast and, when you visit Trevor’s life, often hilarious.
Having 100% completed the game, there’s still so much in the game to do. Parachuting, rampage missions, races, darts, tennis, golf… There’s always something that can hold your attention, aside from the create-your-own-adventure gameplay that the series does so well.
Another massive aspect of the game is its’ online component – and again they’ve really made the game much more entertaining. Instead of just different modes, there is now a free roam element in which you can undertake a multitude of activities, even more than in the single player, with your friends. From there, you can also engage in the classic modes, like races and deathmatches, which have all been greatly improved. It’s such a realisation of what multiplayer open-world games can be on consoles, without the game mode customisation and heists that are coming to the online game within the next few months.
Still, it’s hard not to overlook some of the issues with the online that are clear and apparent. For the first week of the online being available, I couldn’t play the game due to servers being down. Those that did get in to the game faced many difficulties, including characters being lost and money disappearing. These are problems that are almost unavoidable with such an ambitious game with such a large number of players online – but it still taints the overall process. Other problems with the mode include long wait times between missions, which are down to the huge amount of choice available to players, and also that nobody is really safe in free roam from a mischief maker coming along and killing you to take your car, or hard-earned cash. Sadly, there is little that could be done about the latter, and it comes with the territory of the game.
On the whole, GTA V is definitely up there with the best games I’ve ever played, and, dare I say it, better than IV. It will go down in history as the best game on the seventh generation consoles, and ensures we’ll still be firing up the old boxes well into the Xbox One and PS4’s reign. Is it perfect? No. But it’s as damn close as you’ll find.