Los Santos, a sprawling city of crime, from the impoverished graffiti ridden suburbs of Davis, to the glamorous high-life featured in the Vinewood Hills. GTAV offers the most expansive, detailed city to date and it’s but one portion of the map. Head north past the hopefully familiar Vinewood sign and you’re presented with miles upon miles of highways, rolling hills and barren deserts. GTAV provides the perfect playground for all your destructive, crime-fuelled desires.
From the outskirts the night lights of the metropolis that is Los Santos can be seen sprawling for miles upon miles, it’s enamouring at first. GTAV is the most impressive, living, breathing city environment that gamers have ever had the pleasure of roaming. Despite this current-gen consoles do take their toll on the visuals at times, with noticeable pop-in when speeding through heavily populated areas, but Los Santos is generally relatively pleasing to the eye, prettier than GTAV at the very least.
Within the sprawling metropolis that is Los Santos, you’re able to play as one of three characters, with the ability to switch between each on the fly. This makes for a startling change from what you may have came to expect from GTA’s story telling and gameplay dynamics in the past. Each character has a somewhat despicable personality. Michael is the more level headed, ex bank robber with a conceivably incredibly distorted sense of morality, Franklin is typical low-rent gangster looking to break out of his stagnant gang-banging lifestyle before it kills him, and Trevor… Trevor is simply psychotic. Often developers offer up multiple playable characters so that there’s someone for everyone to relate to, and become attached to within the games narrative, however it’s difficult to get that with GTAV. Each character is a ruthless killer, it’s difficult to relate to anyone. At times Micheal might hint towards some sort of moral depth as a character but then you’ll be tasked to randomly put a bullet through someone’s head in a sidequest and it all goes down the drain.
Despite this the cutscenes and narrative of the game are fun. Even though it’s difficult to relate to any one individual character there are admittedly aspects of each which you can either directly relate to in the case of Micheal, or take pleasure from in the case of Trevor. Yes Trevor may be psychotic, he’s liable to murder someone for simply looking at him the wrong way, but at the end of the day that’s the same thing that makes him such an enjoyable character to play as at times.
Due to the characters ranging personalities and lifestyles their associated missions range in type significantly too, Franklin is often involved in gang related shootouts and smaller-scale robberies, whereas Trevor’s are often high-action but more trivial in regards to his goals. Micheal on the other hand generally only gets his hands dirty for a worthy cause, and by that I mean a worthy payoff.
Regardless of the missions nature they’re generally fun. Shootouts handle better than ever with improved controls over GTAIV, featuring a similar snappy cover system and lock-on targeted focused gunplay. If assisted gunplay isn’t for you however GTAV includes an improved free-aim mode, which whilst not as refined as what you’d consider typical for the control layout of a third person shooter, isn’t all that bad. I found it much more satisfying to gun someone down in free-aim than using assisted, although I did feel it lessened the pacing of shootouts at times. Within some missions character shifting is used to keep you in the heart of the action, for instance switching to Micheal as he rappels down a building, then to Franklin as he covers him with a helicoptor mounted mini-gun. It keeps the missions varied and the sequence of events relatively unexpected as you don’t know who the game is going to ask you to switch to next.
At times you’ll be presented with a mission that’s a little tedious. Notably one mission where you’re tasked to operate heavy machinery within a docking yard. It’s admittedly essential for the progression of the plot, however I’m not sure about you but operating a crane to move cargo crates around isn’t exactly my idea of a good time. Similarly there are some heist prep missions which are essentially glorified fetch quests, one asks you to get masks from a certain store on the beach, you go there, select a mask, then you’re presented with a mission complete splash screen. I understand that missions like these are used for build-up towards a big heist, but that didn’t make it feel any less of a waste of my time.
Nevertheless GTAV should manage to keep you engaged from start to finish. Aside a few lacklustre missions here and there the pacing of the game is generally good, missions are fun and the narrative ranges from mildly amusing to hilarious. The real beauty and quality comes from the sandbox Rockstar have provided you with. Whilst you’ll be done with the main story in some 20-30hours, Los Santos still has plenty for you to see and do for many more to come. I cannot stress how large and life-like the city environment Rockstar have created is, not to mention the plethora of side-activities available for you to engage in. Taxi missions, bounty hunting, stranger missions, flight school or just engaging in casual crime and police chases. GTAV will keep you coming back for more and more.
Overall GTAV is a brilliant game. Whilst it might have its shortcomings in regards to narrative and character development at times, GTAV is undeniably the most ambitious and brilliantly executed crime orientated sandbox environment to date. Rockstar have created yet another living, breathing city for us to enjoy for hours on end, and long after the main story content is completed.
- Best living breathing city we’ve seen to-date
- Amusing narrative
- Character switching is enjoyable and provides a fresh take on GTA missions
- Poor character development
- Gunplay isn’t as solid as it could be