Review: Grand Theft Auto V

Grand Theft Auto V Box Art

I’ve been anticipating this one for quite a while. I even replayed Red Dead Redemption, L.A. Noire, and Grand Theft Auto IV over the past month and a half because I was so excited to play Grand Theft Auto V. So, now that it’s finally here. How is it? Does it measure up to their previous games? Read on to find out!

Story

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Grand Theft Auto V features three (playable) characters living in the Los Santos area: Michael, Franklin, and Trevor. These three guys are criminals whose paths intertwine on the road to fortune and glory.

Michael De Santa is a retired criminal living the good life in Los Santos, thanks to a deal that landed him in witness protection. He has a wife, Amanda; a son, Jimmy; and a daughter, Tracy. Michael has a huge house in the nice part of town, with a pool, and a tennis court. He has nothing to do all day but lay around the pool, drink, and watch movies. So, the good life, right? Not quite. Michael’s marriage is on the rocks. Amanda cheats on him and he used to cheat on her. Jimmy is a fat slob who lays around playing Righteous Slaughter 7 all day. Tracy is a self-obsessed girl who is doing everything and anything to get famous somehow. Everyone hates each other. I suppose they’re supposed to be an exaggerated composite of the typical American family. I can somewhat see it. Michael, on the other hand, has issues besides his family. He’s in therapy for his anger issues and for the affairs he used to have. The one thing that probably bothers him the most is that he’s bored. I don’t know that he necessarily misses the crime, but he does miss working, for sure. Whether he wants it to or not, his life in crime makes a resurgence thanks to Franklin, and a series of unfortunate events. Things quickly escalate from there and it’ll be back to the good old days once he’s reunited with his old partner in crime, Trevor.

Michael is a likable guy. I did not like any of the characters in the last GTA, so this is a vast improvement already. Michael is a very deep character. He’s made tough decisions in his life and most of them were probably the wrong ones. I don’t think Michael likes committing crimes. I think he hates what he’s doing, actually. He loves his family, but I think the boredom (and other possibly spoiler reasons) sent him into a depression that caused him to push them away. He became a shell of himself and it took getting back into crime to start to find himself again. Along the way he discovers his true calling and potential, and it’s really a pretty emotional journey that leaves you caring for him and his family by the end of the game. I wouldn’t say that Michael is a very relatable character, but he is very likable.

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Franklin Clinton is a thug living the bad life in Los Santos. He works repo jobs, lives with his aunt, and dreams of bigger and better things. Fortune and glory. However, he can’t seem to get further than petty crime, due in part to his buddy, Lamar, keeping him down. Things start to look up for Franklin when he becomes Micheal’s sort of apprentice in crime.

Franklin is another likable guy. Unlike Michael, I don’t think Franklin wants out of crime. He may not like it, but he thinks it’s too late to do anything else with his life. It’s a life of crime, for better or worse. I wouldn’t say that Franklin is as deep as Michael, or at least his character is not as complicated. You can tell who Franklin is pretty quickly. Yes, he’s a thug, but he’s mostly a good and loyal guy. He doesn’t really have issues. He is who he is. I think it would have been too much if he was a complicated character, because the other two are very complicated.

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Trevor Phillips is a psychopath. Literally. He is a psychopath who lives in a trailer dealing meth and guns north of Los Santos in Sandy Shores. Trevor was always crazy, but when a heist with Michael and his other friend went sour, he became the ultimate psychopath that he is. He and a couple of his buddies (Wade the methhead and Ron) start up Trevor Phillips Industries at the beginning of the game and just when things are kind of looking up with that, he discovers that Michael is in Los Santos and it completely sidetracks him. When the gang is back together, things just get crazier from there.

Trevor is not a likable guy. I guess the hat trick was out of the question, right? He is a psychopath with no sense or right and wrong. He likes the life of crime and wouldn’t have it any other way. For Trevor, killing people is an everyday thing. Meh. Whatever. His character is very disturbing to play as. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t have made his character or anything. I’m just stating a fact. This dude is disturbing. He should be locked away in a mental hospital, but instead he’s out causing chaos in Los Santos. It’s not all bad. He has his moments. A time or two you even feel sorry for him, but mostly you wind up  with either funny or disturbing moments. Sometimes it’s those two combined. Oh, Trevor Phillips. You’re one screwed up dude.

4

Grand Theft Auto V‘s story is heavily character based and it works. These three guys manage to get into all sorts of mayhem, fight their way out of them, make some big money, and find their place in the world by the end of it all. Rockstar Games did an amazing job at making their three stories work and intertwine. It made for really interesting missions and side missions (strangers). The plot itself isn’t terribly complex, but that’s OK. Like I said, the characters carry this game’s story and they carry it very well!

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Gameplay

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The gameplay of Grand Theft Auto V also carries the game.  To start off, I should mention that Grand Theft Auto V is an open world action-adventure game with three playable characters. Having three playable characters is pretty revolutionary. I was worried that it would be overwhelming, but it isn’t. The transition is nearly seamless. When switching, the screen zooms out of the current character in a Google Earth sort of fashion and zooms in on the newly selected character. A fun part of this transition is that you’ll take control of these characters in the middle of whatever they were currently doing. The most interesting/funny/disturbing transition scenes obviously come from Trevor. You can also transition between characters during missions and you will often have to for different reasons. For example, during a mission, one person might be flying the chopper, while the other two are on the ground, and they’ll have different objectives to complete. Also, each character has different levels of skills (Shooting, Flying, Driving, Stealth, etc.) that can be improved during the game and each has their own special ability. Overall, having three playable characters is VERY cool and once again, not overwhelming at all. I think they may have set a new precedence here. I bet we see some copycats in the future.

8

Heists are probably my favorite part of the gameplay in GTA V. They are a part of the storyline and are planned by Lester, and old associate of MIchael and Trevor’s. With each heist, you can choose options and approaches. Do you want to go in loud or quiet? This way or that way? There are some cool choices. You can also choose your crew members for the heist. Be warned, you get what you pay for. I found it better to pay more for higher skilled crew members. I felt like I was playing in big heist movies every time. It’s such an awesome feature and I can’t wait to explore it more in the online mode.

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Los Santos is just flat out incredible and filled with things to do.

Besides the regular story missions, you’ll also come across stranger missions, as per the usual for Rockstar Games. The strangers don’t disappoint in this one. Very weird, funny, and interesting. There are some big stranger missions with a lot of things to collect, that I’m still working on. I’m only about 80% complete. I plan to get 100%, but admittedly I’ll probably use an online map for help.

There are also more activities than ever and they are better than ever. There’s everything from hunting to yoga, but my favorite is definitely skydiving. It’s one of my favorite things in the entire game. The golf mini-game activity is a lot of fun too.

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Another cool feature in GTA V is the ability to buy properties and stock. There’s all sorts of property for sale: movie theatres, a golf course, bars, etc. However, to get all of the property, I think you’ll probably have to figure out how to really work the stock market. You can buy and sell stock in different companies, but it’s a gamble that I haven’t messed around with too much. A sure fire way to make some money is insider trading, which you’ll have several opportunities for throughout the story missions in the game.

Customization is a pretty big thing in the game, or at least, it’s bigger than in previous games. You can customize your characters’ hair, clothes, and vehicles. Just take a look into the Rockstar Games’ Social Club Gallery and you’ll see that you can really make your characters look unique. There’s only so much you can do, but I felt satisfied with my character’s appearances. I also liked the vehicle customization options, but I did have some trouble with disappearing vehicles. Hopefully, that will be patched soon and won’t be a problem in the online mode. Check out the mini-gallery of my characters:

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One small thing to note is that it’s much harder to lose the fuzz this time around. I think that’s a good thing, but it was pretty difficult at the beginning of the game!

I thought the radio was vastly improved this time. There’s a whole wheel dial that lets you browse the different stations and tells you what’s on each one. I think that there’s at least one station for each major genre and several talk shows. Danny McBride (aka Kenny Powers) even hosts one of the shows. Also, Eddie Murphy’s, “Party All The Time” plays on one of the stations and I find that hilarious. In other media, there are TV shows and movies to be viewed. There are several cartoons that were OK and I’m sure will be funnier to other people, but my personal favorite was the American Idol parody, Fame or Shame with Lazlow as Ryan Seacrest. Gold.

9

Going along with the media features, each character has his own smartphone, which can do everything a real smartphone can do: text, email, internet, take pictures, etc. The internet is funnier than ever for two reasons: Life Invader and Bleeter. Life Invader is GTA V‘s version of Facebook and Bleeter is Twitter. Oh, the parody. I spent a lot of time reading the Life Invader posts and bleets. That’s one of my favorite things about Grand Theft Auto V: the parodies. Now sometime they can be offensive, but they go after pretty much everyone, so you just have to have a good sense of humor and ignore anything that might offend you. If you can get past that, there are some seriously hilarious cheeky moments in this game that will literally have you laughing out loud.

One cool feature that could have been a lot cooler is Franklin’s doberman, Chop. Apparently he can do tricks and other stuff, but to train him, you have to have the iFruit app. Now the app is free, but the catch is that it’s only out for iPhones right now. Rockstar says that the other versions are coming soon, but for Android users like me who have already beat the game, it loses most of it’s appeal. I wonder what happened?

Another one of my favorite parts of this game is the vehicles. I think every kind of vehicle imaginable, besides rocketships, can be found and driven in this game. In particular, I was interested in the planes. I’m going to school to be a pilot and am about to start taking flying lessons, so going to flight school in-game was pretty awesome. Not to mention, the actual flying itself! Flying is one of my favorite parts of the game.

5

Online

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Grand Theft Auto V Online isn’t available yet. I plan to release a mini-review of it after I check it out next week. The quick gist of it is that the online mode is a completely separate game. It’s basically an MMO set in Los Santos before the events of GTA V. You’ll be able to create your own character, put together crews, plan heists, do activities, and all sorts of things. I’m looking forward to trying it out!

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Bottom Line

2

Grand Theft Auto V is definitely, hands down, the best game from Rockstar Games that I have ever played. I didn’t grow up playing their games. I’ve only played the ones I mentioned at the beginning of the review. I liked GTA IV, I really liked Red Dead Redemption, and I loved L.A. Noire. I rank GTA V ahead of all of them. The gameplay is vast, fun, and awesome. The plot isn’t the best ever, but the characters more than make up for it. I recommend this to all gamers of age (please don’t buy this game for your kids) that like the genre. If this is the sort of game that you like, then you’ll love Grand Theft Auto V.

Rhodes Rating: 95/100

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