By Peter Cooke
The Grand Theft Auto series had always been somewhat of a mystery to me. The previous installments of the series have never been able to draw my attention for longer than one or two attempts to outrun the police. Grand Theft Auto V, on the other hand, has been keeping me up late almost every night for the past week.
From the title screen to the more cinematic aspects of the game, GTA V oozes with rich characters and allows you to step into the madhouse that is San Andreas.
Based on the real Southern California and Los Angeles, GTA V has created a living satire of the United States depicted in television and movies, where crime is rampant and problems are solved with bullets instead of ballots.
Rockstar North’s greatest achievement is its success in creating a fictional world that feels alive. San Andreas is the perfect location for the three main characters of this installment: Franklin, an on the up-and-up gang-banger looking to make his mark on the city; Michael, a retired con-man who is re-entering the game after a long hiatus; and Trevor, who can only be described as the embodiment of chaos crossed with a healthy dose of insanity.
Each has access to a special ability that sets him apart from the other two gentlemen that share the role as protagonist, giving the game a good sense of variety.
This split narrative solves one of my larger complaints with the series by reducing the downtime from the end of one mission to the beginning of the next.
After completing a mission, which usually requires the player to lose any sort of police interest, you will have inevitably driven in the opposite direction of your next mission, simply switching to a different character and getting to work on the next heist.
Speaking of criminal activities, the missions have been turned up to 11. The main story progresses as players complete a series of activities to prepare and execute illicit activities. These range from stashing getaway cars to stealing military grade helicopters. These heist preparation missions are the least structured missions, usually only consisting of one objective.
For example, when placing a getaway car, you can use any four-seat car available to you in the game. If you want to get even fancier, you can take almost any vehicle to the body shop and equip it with a wide variety of cool upgrades, ranging from bulletproof tires to increased armor and a custom paint-job.
You cannot play cops and robbers without the cops, and GTA’s are some of the best in the business. They were subject to significant upgrades for the newest game. The classic five-star system remains, but the police now have different tactics at each level instead of simply throwing wave after wave of cop cars.
The biggest change that I noticed is the level of aggression in the police officers. In the first few stars, the police use mostly reactive tactics, but once you hit three stars, the police go on the offensive. The traditional police cars are replaced with chargers and can place roadblocks or call in S.W.A.T vans at their leisure. This keeps the chases fresh and frantic. Police in this game are not a nuisance; they are a viable threat.
As stated on the box, this game is not for children. In part of one of the story line missions, there is an interactive torture scene that cannot be skipped. While it makes a valid point as a satire of the American government’s tenuous and controversial relationship with torture, the scene pushes the boundaries of taste a little too far for younger audiences. The rest of the game is the standard GTA fare, with sex, drugs and violence taking a central role.
In conclusion, GTA V is a great upgrade over its predecessors with better base mechanics, missions and overall polish than any game previously released in this series. I highly recommend giving it a try.