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Games Review: Grand Theft Auto 5

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There are literally hundreds of reviews dedicated to this game, and why not? It’s the fastest selling entertainment product in the world (think about that…what a damning thing to say about human nature), so what makes this review different? Nothing, but you’re here now so you may well read on.

The Grand Theft Auto series are world famous for their controversial take on the role playing game/3rd person adventure genre. In a typical GTA game, the player assumes the role of a young hoodlum who has the climb through the ranks of the underworld with the end goal of being the kingpin of all he surveys. GTA 5 follows the same formula with the notable exception that in this game, the player controls 3 such characters with their own varying strengths and weaknesses. These characters are Franklin (the young hood who’s good a driving), Michael (seasoned pro coming out of retirement, excellent marksman) and Trevor (insane sociopath who’s pastimes include head stomping and meth, also can take some amount of punishment). This new game element allows for greater plot development in the narrative and allows for greater replay value as missions can be done from three different perspectives. For example, in one mission, Franklin has to procure the getaway vehicle while Michael and Trevor are holding up a bank.

As with other games in the series, GTA 5 contains aspects of third person shooting, driving, stealth and role playing set in the fictional state of San Andreas, which is based on California. The location was previously used in the PS2 game GTA: San Andreas however, in this incarnation there are no variants of Las Vegas or San Francesco, there is only one playable city and that is Los Angeles or as it’s known in the game, Los Santos, honestly, I’m not trying to confuse you.

The map is huge, encompassing an area that could conceivably be a city, its hinterland and surrounding countryside. Los Santos is a shrunken down version of LA in every way (having never been to LA, I feel perfectly qualified to say this). As the crow flies, the northern tip houses the Hollywood hills and film centre of the city complete with the Chinese Theatre, Warner Brother’s Studio, film star walkway and even GTA’s take on the “Whiskey a go go” (the nightclub where Guns N Roses got up to all sorts in the 1980s). As we move further into the city, we enter the commercial centre with colossal sky scraper banks (which you will inevitably rob at some point) and people walking in fine suits, but veer off any main street and you will see homeless people gathered around bins on fire, as GTA makes old familiar satirical points about the realities for most of the American Dream. Keep moving towards the docks and the player enters the w large estates where cribs and bloods made their name, surrounded by the draining canals that were made famous by the juggernaut scene in Terminator 2. There is no doubt this is L.A. right down to the bubble gun on the path. And this is only one area of the sprawling map that contains country towns, massive mountains, barren deserts, reservoirs, cult compounds and a large military base that usually means suicide to enter!

Such a detailed map leaves plenty of room for many diverse gameplay elements and GTA 5 builds on its predecessors on what the player can do. Has anyone seen that Lucazade ad where the guy talks stupidly fast about all the things that lucazade reminds him of and ends up in scuba costume in an office? Let me try and explain the depth of gameplay in GTA 5 that way. GTA 5 is a deer hunting/submarine exploring/street racing/crane operating/cinema watching/helicopter parachuting/mountain biking/Hollywood bus touring/gasoline drenching/shop robbing/plane flying/tennis playing/golfing/cop killing kind of game. There is literally loads to see and loads to do. But where Rockstar (the game’s developers) have really build on is just regular playing, the aiming system is a joy to use, shooting the pilots of helicopters has never been such fun, driving feels almost cinematic and taking cover is practical and easy.

The story is fun and not half as grim as GTA 4’s “I’m a sad sad panda” routine, the characters don’t whine as much about their lot and seem to enjoy being career criminals and damn it that’s what I want from my GTA 5 characters. However, if I’m honest when the game was finished I felt the story was little wanting. But this game is all about gameplay and GTA 5 for all its vastness is a game about the smallest details, I mean, the satisfaction of shooting a cop in the leg during a shootout and seeing his partner rush to pull him to cover or hitting the gas tank in a car and watch it transform into a fire ball is a great feeling. I was ringing someone on the phone while driving when I noticed I couldn’t fire out of the window because both my (in game) hands were in use! The attention to detail is overwhelming.

There are some negatives…I did not like the soundtrack compared to other games in the series I thought it was lacklustre, it’s got some Queen on there, Bootsey Collins and Baker Street but the rock channel was muck and where are my 80s pop classics that I don’t admit to anyone that I like? Another negative is I found it fairly easy, I have not played computer games in some time but I steam rolled through this game, the missions are so much fun, but they could do to be trickier and require more planning. Which brings me to my next gripe, bank heists are a big part of this game, and one of the new gimmicks is that you can plan them in advance but in actuality, it boils down to “do you want to go in shooting” or “do you want to go in sneaking”. Don’t get me wrong it’s good to see that Rockstar are moving this way with the franchise but it’s a long way off yet.

All in all GTA 5 is a fantastic game, with hours of replay value meaning you’ll get your money back from not going to the pub for two weeks. The game though famously controversial has an excellent social message at its heart on how we organise our society and where we put our priorities. And if you can’t get on board with that just get it because it’s fun! A must buy.

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