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GTA V review

I got GTA V for my PlayStation 3 the other day (on October 18 to be exact), with my expectations being quite high due to the enormous hype. But Rockstar managed to live up to my expectations.


GTA V takes place in Los Santos like the much-acclaimed Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas game released in 2004. However, GTA V has an entirely new take on Los Santos, much like GTA IV having a new take on Liberty City. This means that you won't be seeing the San Andreas of GTASA in V, which, however, is a good decision in my opinion. As awesome as GTASA was, this is a necessary decision as the increased computing power accommodates for much better graphics and draw distance. While GTASA's San Andreas felt quite large, it's not really that large, and it would feel rather tiny with the draw distance of GTA V. In fact, GTA V's map is immense, measuring an apparent 113 km2. Imagine a circle with a radius of 6 kilometers (or 3.7 miles). That's quite a huge open-world map. And the seemingly infinite draw distance results in very impressive scenery.

Unlike GTASA, which had three major cities, GTA V only has one major city, Los Santos. I was initially hesitant about this fact, but as I've played the game, this comes across as a good decision. The dev team can instead of splitting resources focus on making the only city an impressive experience — and they've succeeded. GTA V's Los Santos is far more impressive than GTASA's version. The "ghetto" district feels a bit small (after reconsidering, it's probably the same size as that of GTASA), but otherwise, the city is an impressive place to explore. The layout is logical and the space is well utilized, accommodating a large airport and a port district. Otherwise, the general feel is similar to that of GTASA's Los Santos, but everything is bigger. The city feels like an actual size, and even after a week a month of playing, I'm still unable to navigate the entire city without using the navigator.

But Los Santos is only a small part of the entire map, which consists of Los Santos and Blaine County. The countryside is, in my opinion, even more impressive and interesting than the city proper. Dominated by tall mountain ranges, the landscape consists of green mountains forming the northern border of Los Santos, a small desert, a lake that nicely breaks up the terrain, a few nice canyons, and of course the San Andreas necessity, Mount Chiliad. The earlier GTA titles pale in comparison to the views of GTA V; driving down a mountain road overlooking Mount Chiliad is such an overwhelming experience. And the draw distance is, as mentioned earlier, seemingly infinite, which means that you can see the skyscrapers of Los Santos all the way from the peak of Mount Chiliad. Think of seeing the entire map of GTASA from the northwest corner of San Andreas. Compared to GTASA's pathetic render distance (it's like, what, a mile?), GTA V is a huge step forward.

Overall, the countryside is a great mesh of nice things. It doesn't feel too crowded nor too desolate. The few settlements in the countryside are really nicely done; Sandy Shores feels like an authentic backwater town in rural USA, while Grapeseed does a good job at covering the agriculture perspective. There's a lot of points of interest throughout the map, and damn, "driving down mountain roads in GTA V" is how the dictionary defines the word "awesome". Tl;dr the map is almost perfect.

Overall score: 9.5/10


Let me just start by saying gameplay is very enjoyable. Nearly flawless, in fact. Driving is much improved from GTA IV, where cars felt like boats. I can actually turn a car without managing to crash it. And ride a bike without dying. That's a good thing. It doesn't even bother me that there is basically nothing at the top of the map where I'd need to drive — I just drive because it's awesome. In fact, as of writing, I've driven over 2,000 miles in 66 hours of gameplay. Casual cruising in the countryside is what I spend most of my time on; this wasn't really possible in GTA IV.

The new protagonist mechanic is lovely. Being able to play the game as three characters is a welcome addition that is sure to persist in future GTA titles. Just want to fuck up stuff? Trevor's your man. All three characters also have a special ability, which enables you to use them for specific tasks in missions. Franklin is an ace at driving, so he's a natural choice for a driver. Switching between characters is quick, and you'll always be amused by Trevor's location — he's either passed out somewhere or in a high-speed police chase.

The weapon switching has also been revamped and now enables you to carry ALL the weapons simultaneously. Thank you, Rockstar. Much appreciated. The combat system is also refreshed, and taking cover works nicely. The police also seem more competent than before, which means losing 3 stars is really hard due to those damn choppers. No 6-star wanted level like in GTASA though, but I guess that's not particularly realistic. Military will still engage you if you enter their base, though.

GTA V has added back plenty of the "fun" aspects of GTASA that were missing in IV. Notable examples include the minigun (which seems to be a bit nerfed though), flyable planes, which include a fighter jet, and extensive car customizations. There are no Pay'n'sprays like in GTASA, but there are Los Santos Customs businesses that can customize almost every vehicle with features ranging from armor to bulletproof tires and a chrome-colored respray. No jetpacks, though. :(

Generally, gameplay is very enjoyable. There are some weird bugs, like flying out of the windshield randomly, or your car exploding from a minor fall. The playable characters are still totally inept at any kind of wall climbing, and once they fall down, it takes like 934834 years for them to get up. So careful with jumping.

Overall score: 9.5/10


The storyline started out great. The prologue was awesome and gives a good background to the rest of the story. The first part of the storyline is solid work and culminates in the jewellery heist, which is pretty cool. Then Michael and Franklin have to lay low for a while, so the story switches to Trevor, who does a couple of missions in the countryside before returning to Los Santos in order to face Michael, whom he believed to be dead after the bank robbery featured in the prologue.

And that's where it kinda goes downhill. After the reunion, the storyline is basically following the classical pattern of "do-what-this-guy-says", as you're essentially a servant of shady law enforcement people. There are only six heists in the game, meaning there's a lot of other missions inbetween. I chose the offshore option for the second heist, and I honestly thought it was a sea trial rather than a heist... yeah, it was pretty lame. At least there are two options for each heist.

The third heist is pretty cool, as is the fourth one, but again, the fifth doesn't feel like one. You're not even robbing places, and they call it a heist? Please.

That isn't to say the rest of the missions are bad. There are lots of good ones that feel really impressive. But the storyline is definitely not perfect, and there's room for improvement. One can only hope Rockstar will release DLCs that utilize the full potential of the awesome map.

Overall score: 8.5/10

Other comments and concerns

I have yet to play GTA Online, so I don't really have any opinion of that yet. Coming soon, potentially.

There are some minor bad points I have. For one, the soundtrack doesn't feel all that impressive. There are only a couple of radio stations I listen to, namely WC Classics, LS Rock Radio, and Non-stop pop FM. That isn't to say the radio channels are bad, but after GTAVC and GTASA, expectations are always high. On the plus side, there is a background score that plays whenever you have the radio turned off, with escalation whenever you're in a chase. That makes you really pumped. The loading screen theme is pretty cool too, though nothing will ever trump the masterpiece that is GTASA's theme song.

There are also some aspects that I find really weird that Rockstar left out. For one, there are very few safehouses. Each character has one, except Trevor, who has two. While the quick save feature makes up for this in most cases, safehouses would be an easy addition. You can buy a standalone hangar and garage, though, so you won't run out of storage space for your cars immediately. Another noticeable omission is the lack of enterable restaurants. While they would serve little purpose in GTA V, a game of auto-healing, I think they've always provided their own spice to the game. In fact, there are few enterable buildings in the game, which is kind of sad. I for one loved camping in the Broker hospital in GTA IV and just kill people (yeah, this sounds totally sane, right?). Some places that you entered during the mission are sealed off in free roam, which is really... pointless.

GTA V is still a nice, almost awesome, game, and a great addition to the GTA series. The good news is that most of the aforementioned shortcomings can be fixed by additional downloadable content, which gives us some hope that Rockstar will push this game closer to a 10/10. For now, however, it has some issues, and I really can't give it a 10/10. However, it's definitely worth a shot — hell, I bought it for like 69.95€ and I regret nothing, and if/when there's a PC port, I'm sure I'll buy it.

Final mark: 9+/10