Standing alone on a corner in Vespucci Beach, I watched as traffic milled by in the early hours of the evening, some pedestrians walked by and gave me a wide berth. The lights of the city mingled with the sky and there was a moment of peace where I could take in all around me. A stroll along the water just to see the sights was interrupted abruptly when my phone rang, the caller ID indicated it was Trevor. Things were about to change.
Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V has been talked about all over the place in the last few months. Dave and I spent some time talking about it in our last podcast, and I was waiting for an opportunity to talk about my time in Los Santos with a little more depth after my trip into the city and whatever else ended up on my plate as I drove, murdered and caused general chaos in GTAV. But first, let me cover some bullet points to make this review easy to follow:
1. This game looks amazing. On current generation hardware, Rockstar has eke’d out the remaining power of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 to best define a world as stunning. While you’re not knocking down buildings all the time, or causing a physics engine to render severe levels of disasters – there is an tangible visual cue in set pieces that simply speak out loud: “This is art.” The world feels alive and crafted in a way to make you want to explore every nook and cranny.
2. The voice work (which includes motion capture) from the team is top notch. Stephen Ogg (Trevor) delivers insanity in arguably one of the best performances of the year, which leads to our next point.
3. This Grand Theft Auto has the best Grand Theft Auto character yet. And that’s Trevor, if you haven’t caught on. From the moment you meet Trevor, you’ll know he’s out there, but its the fact that he simply does whatever the hell he wants, that he works so well as a character. There’s no fourth wall being broken here: Trevor is mentally unstable, has his friends call him such, and he rolls with it. He’s a drug user and dealer with a captialistic view of being the “best business man” and can show off gun skills with the best as he rampages through whatever he’s up to.
Controls, audio and visuals are all on point. There are a few gripes, like the aiming system for the guns isn’t the greatest, but it is functional. I still can’t work with the free aim system and have to rely on the autoaim to do my targeting. Helicopters and planes still seem overly jumpy control-wise. Also, you’ll do a lot of fetch missions and driving back and forth across Los Santos as you travel through the story missions. The majority of the primary missions that aren’t part of the heist story beats are simply dull, but the side missions tend to spice things up a little bit. Each individual has their own side missions, which will range from helping telepathic dogs to marathons and tennis matches. There is variety here, but as it’s optional, you may miss it if you’re not paying attention to the map in between major events. But, those major events are some of the best open world missions I’ve played ever, and the “heists” are a nice twist on classic GTA mission structure.
GTAV contains many similar systems from GTAIV, like its own brand of Internet, which you can access directly from your iFruit cell phone. Lifehacker (Facebook) and Pubwasser (Budweiser) are lampooned, among many other name brands. You can even play the stock market to your advantage. You can go to the boardwalk and ride a roller coaster, or go race jetskis. Want to mountain bike or skydive? How about go home and hit the bong or bottle of whiskey? You can do these things. Strip clubs and dive bars, fast cars and lots of AmmuNation stores are spread across the luxury hills and projects of Los Santos. There is usually something to do nearby, and I was transfixed by a subtitled movie in the ingame theater – it was like a fever dream and I couldn’t escape. Amazing. It’s important to realize that GTAV presents a satirical look at many topics like torture, women’s rights, gamer culture, firearms and drugs as example. The developers and writers are poking the proverbial hornet’s nest with some of the events found in the game, but if it generates conversation, I guess that suffices as a victory.
There is a multiplayer component to GTAV, that allows you to roam the world and do all sorts of events like deathmatches, races, robberies and more with other players. You can buy property and cars, insuring them so you can easily retrieve them if something goes wrong (which it usually does). Sadly, GTAO has been through a rough launch, and Rockstar is planning to deliver in game currency to players as a thank you for the continued problems being encountered. I haven’t been able to play a lot of GTAO as of the posting of this review, but its promising with a group of friends from what I’ve seen.
If for some reason you’re not one of the people who contributed to the $1 Billion launch, then you should probably go pick this up. There won’t be many more examples of games this generation that are this polished. Keep your eyes peeled for the NovaGamer crew on Facebook as we’ll be spending more time in GTAO.