It's the game that is on everyone's lips—the long awaited Grand Theft Auto 5. While the series has indeed been grand in the past, Rockstar really upped their game with this latest installment. It's not that there is anything overtly different in GTA 5, there's still sleek sports cars recklessly breaking every traffic law, brutal police being slaughtered by the thousands, and a slew of foul-mouthed snarky characters.
The essence of Grand Theft Auto is all there, but this time Rockstar really collected everything good about the series and made sure it was better than ever before.
The game makes a point of showing this off right away. Within the first few missions you watch Trevor slaughter police en masse, Franklin speeding through the streets (and at one point, a movie studio) in sleek top of the line sports cars, and Michael living the high life complaining about his rich people problems in the best possible way.
The three main characters—Michael, Trevor, and Franklin—completely represent what Grand Theft Auto has always been about. Franklin is the rags to riches gangster living day to day on the hard ghetto streets, Trevor is chaos incarnate demonstrating the game's long standing penchant from brutality, and Michael? Well, Michael represents where previous Grand Theft Auto heroes all what to be—rich, drunk, and bored with a wife who hates him and kids that resent him.
As for the game itself, it is as grand and massive in scale as Rockstar hyped it up to be. Hopefully, Witcher 3 takes a page out of Rockstar's book when it comes to grand scale open world design. I'm on the last few missions and even after the copious exploration via planes, trains and automobiles I have yet to uncover all of the map. You'll be hard pressed when exploring to find any invisible wall in this game. If it looks like you can climb it, you can. Walls, house, mountains, oceans, the sky is the limit. Rockstar doesn't just allow for exploration, it encourages it. Coaxing players into the mountains or nearly unreachable places for Easter eggs, hidden items, and secret missions. They make it feel like stealing a commercial 747, flying up over the ocean and jumping out only to be swallowed by the cold embrace of the sea is all just part of an average chaos-filled day.
The story follows the three main characters who, aside from doing separate side mission, come together at particular times to pull off a series of mega heists. You know, kid stuff like blowing up a freighter and using a submarine to steal military technology, rappelling down the side of a tower and breaking the glass to steal a person of interest, stuff like that. However, this doesn't take away from Michael's side business of keeping together his shattered family life and keeping the secrets of the past from resurfacing, Franklin's gangbangin', drug dealing and car "repossession" service, or Trevor's blossoming meth and arms dealing business out in the boonies.
However, for those that find themselves with nothing to do between the three characters, there are plenty of side missions with the "Strangers and Freaks" about town to keep you busy. These include racing cars through the crowded streets of Los Santos, taking drugs from the wrong Legalize It advocate and having to kill aliens before they kill you on a bad trip, or going on violent rampages killing rednecks and other groups of people when Trevor boils over like a rage volcano. Finally there are random events that happen all around Los Santos and the outlying country. Players can stop muggings or drive drunks home, but sometimes it's a trap so be careful.
While doing all these activities, long standing fans of the series will notice some tweaks to the vehicles. No long is driving a car like driving a balloon on a slip and slide. Cars feel uniquely different in the way they handle. SUV's are slow to accelerate, but handle great even at high speeds, Mini Coopers can do a 180 turn in a split second like it was no big deal, and sports cars can zip to high speeds but best not try turning them too fast. Players can also take their cars to the Pay N' Spray to buy customized parts to make their particular ride into a beautiful beast. It is a great addition for racing game fans that live to customize cars.
Regardless, of the fun and harmless activities one can do all around the region that is San Andreas there are also elements that are bound to attract the attention and controversy of the overly serious. Remember when the Hot Coffee mod in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was controversial? Well now you can have lap dances with breasts right in your face, take a stripper home and hot coffee her all night long. Remember when Grand Theft Auto was pretty much blamed for real life violence in youths? Well now you can torture a person of Arab descent in horrible ways and slaughter hordes of race specific gangsters. Grand Theft Auto 5 is essentially Rockstar pulling down their pants and mooning the morally just going na-na na-na boo-boo.
However, alongside the horrifically brutal also comes intelligent commentary on our modern society. Reality TV, celebrity magazines, social media, plastic surgery, pop psychology books – all get savaged via the oft hilarious commercials on the game's many radio and TV stations. Even gaming is not exempt from this with the Call of Duty parody Righteous Slaughter 7.
However, there is something I noticed that displeased me for a moment (before I went on my merry way slaughtering innocents), Grand Theft Auto 5 is all about the guys. Women are just in the game to be banged every which way. For the few women who are actually part of the story, they are just there to constantly nag the main character and act like incredibly selfish or unbearably cold (or devoid of personality) bi-yotches. As a woman, I noticed it easily, but others might not think about it. It's is something that takes away from the fun only momentarily when you do notice it.
Aside from the bias against women, is there anything that could cause this behemoth to be anything less than the perfect game that everyone is saying it is? At times, there are some graphical problems. Especially if you installed the 'Play' disc on your console even when Rockstar said you shouldn't. Sometimes objects load too slow and the frame rate dips right in the middle of a big chase scene. However, these graphical problems are few and far between. They are practically negligible when you find yourself in the middle of the ocean and see that it is not just a flat surface as it has been in other games, but a in a constant series of swelling waves—much like the real ocean. When you see the graphical wonders that GTA 5 has to offer, you'll think the next gen of gaming has arrived and the graphical pitfalls won't even matter anymore. On that note, game developers clearly haven't been utilizing the power of these current consoles, Rockstar makes that apparent.
In conclusion, is GTA 5 a buy? Most definitely. Fans of the series will immediately be drawn in by the familiar, with many of those familiar mechanics being tweaked to perfection. Those new to the series will either be drawn by the uber violence of hilarious commentary. Even people who are just fans of open world games will find more than enough open world to love in GTA 5. Is it deserving for the perfect scores that all the proper gaming sites are giving it? Yeah, pretty much. There are flaws, but the sheer amount of cool things about this game make those flaws seem insignificant in the end.
+ Massive open world with few invisible walls
+ Tweaked driving and flying mechanics
+ Both hilarious and biting commentary about society
+ So many things to do aside from the main story
+World feels so alive and rarely ever feels repetitive
+ Trevor is the most unforgettable person ever
+ This is Grand Theft Auto in its purest form
- Quite possibly being controversial for controversy's sake
- Perhaps a little TOO violent at times
- Women - we're all just breasts with legs
- Occasional graphical issues