Grand Theft Auto has taken the world by storm with this newest release. You would have noticed the billboards and street pole ads across South Africa promoting the game. Fortunately for Rockstar, all the marketing has paid off in sales, with GTA V hitting over $800,000,000 in the first 24 hours of going on sale. The game had an inordinate amount of hype but the real question is – did it deliver what GTA fans have been longing for?

It’s difficult to compare GTA V to other games, the sheer scale and attention to detail goes far beyond anything else available and the majority of it’s “direct competitors” drawing their inspiration from the GTA series itself. Looking back at GTA IV you can start to get a sense of just how much the game has improved. It’s bigger and better in pretty much all aspects.

Story

The story is one of the biggest achievements in Grand Theft Auto V. The theme is far less New York gangster and far more Ocean’s Eleven. There is still a fair amount of gang activity through Franklin’s storyline but the really exciting parts are the heists. With each major heist you get to case the joint, decide on the best route, pick your team, collect all the required gear and then execute. The heists are interesting and provide a much needed cash injection if executed well. It also shows the value of the character switching ability, switching between characters in different locations and at different times allows you to experience more.

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The characters themselves are excellently portrayed both through their extensive backstories and their voice acting. Michael, Trevor and Franklin each have their own “charm” but together they provide the strong characters needed to build the game around. Whether you are playing as Michael and dealing with his family issues or causing chaos as Trevor you are guaranteed to have fun.

The city of Los Santos is absolutely brimming with content with new missions being introduced throughout the game. When not on a mission, exploring Los Santos is a blast. Side quests, races, airplanes, cars, sports and skydiving are just a few of the things that you can look forward to. Add to that the dark humour focused squarely on American consumerism and there are loads of gems to find peppered around the city. The city itself is an amazing playground with everything you could need to cause havoc from a full sized airport to a high security military base.

Presentation

My first impressions of GTA V’s graphics were a bit disappointing. The Xbox 360 is starting to show it’s age and struggles with things like anti-anilising in GTA V, so don’t expect pin sharp graphics that you are getting on current PC titles. However, as I started exploring the world of Los Santos I started to appreciate its beauty and immense scale.

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The changing weather effects and time of day make the world feel very realistic. Small details like the fact that your clothes are wet and dripping after a swim or the effects that the wind has on trees and grass make a huge visual impact. While watching a sunset from the top of a dusty quarry, I couldn’t help but whip out Trevor’s smartphone to take a pic. In fact just check out this time-lapse video made entirely from in-game screenshots.

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Gameplay

GTA has always included a variety of different gameplay experiences and this title is no different. What has changed is the fluidity of all these experiences. Driving, shooting and running all feel better, even the mini-games like playing tennis provide a fun way to pass the time. Sure the driving is not as fine tuned as a dedicated racing sim, but given the scale of GTA V what Rockstar have done is nothing short of amazing.

At it’s core Grand Theft Auto V still has you jacking cars, running from the cops and getting yourself into all sorts of trouble. With a large selection of customisable weapons these situations can escalate quickly and normally result in you being discharged from hospital for a hefty fee, although the memories of shooting down a police chopper with a sniper rifle making that fee totally worth it.

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Rockstar have included some RPG elements within the game, with each character having specific skills. While each character has their strengths, all skills can be trained in the game. For example by attending flight school and putting int he hours flying planes and helicopters you can increase your flying skill attribute. Beyond that each character has a special power that can be activated in short bursts, Franklin for example can slow time while driving to avoid massive collisions and an untimely death.

 

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There is so much more to explore in GTA V and we don’t want to take away the thrill of discovering them, but you can rest assured that this is a must have game for this generation of consoles.

Grand Theft Auto V was developed by Rockstar North and published by Rockstar. Our review is based on the Xbox 360 version.