‘Grand Theft Auto 5′ Review

Published 1 year ago by

Grand Theft Auto 5 Review

What can be said that hasn’t already been said about Grand Theft Auto 5? The series has now delivered the highest rated game ever and become one of the most financially successful franchises in any medium. It’s a series so expansive and rich  in detail but also base and vapid in its nature. It is also technical marvel – an experience that pushes the boundaries of what we can expect in a game, by providing a densely populated and massive world full to the brim with things to see and activities to partake in.

However, with next generation hardware right around the corner, does Grand Theft Auto 5 deliver one of the best experiences of the PS3 and Xbox 360 era – while successfully setting a high bar for the PS4 and Xbox One to follow? After all, Rockstar Games has promised that their latest title, “feels” next-gen. Read on for our complete review of GTA 5.

In many ways, Grand Theft Auto 5 is every bit the game that gamers have been dreaming of since the original Grand Theft Auto 3. Twelve years ago, that game morphed every thing that came after it, not just becoming one of the biggest jumps for a series ever, but a trend setter of game design still to this day. It was by no means the first open world game, but it was the first to commercialise it in a big way.  Since then, Rockstar have been making improvements and tweaking their mechanics and the work has paid off in droves as Gran Theft Auto 5 is one of the most impressive and complete packages ever put together.

Grand Theft Auto 5 Screenshot Jetliner

The world of Los Santos is dense with detail and ripe for activity. Players only have to walk down the street to find something to pass their time, be it saving a helpless lady, playing tennis, flying a helicopter, or getting in a high speed police chase. The game’s design, which still includes a few head-scratching choices, is hard to fault when it offers this much. Grand Theft Auto 5 is a jack of all trades – and even a master of some. The real star of your time in Los Santos is the variety. Even when taking on the garden variety missions, the sheer diversity of each one is impressive. Long gone are the days of tailing or killing an NPC, now replaced with days of jumping out of airplanes and blowing up scenery. Although, this diversity really comes into play during the game’s heists – which act as chapter breaks for the main narrative, offering choice and spectacle in droves. Take on a bank quietly or loudly? Take someone with less skill or a smaller cut percentage? The choice allows for extensive reply value (a welcome addition as any completed missions are now replayable from the start menu) making the game feel less linear than previous outings.

The real invention of the game comes with a completely new central mechanic lets players freely switch between the three lead protagonists Michael, Franklin and Trevor. This is used both on the fly as you cruise around Los Santos as well as in missions. When used in missions, the gameplay allows for rewarding flexibility – as players are presented with a choice of achieving one goal.

This idea is pushed even further as each protagonist has a unique special ability – be it slowing down time on foot with Michael, slowing down time while driving with Franklin, or entering a berserker mode where you can take and deal out copious amounts of damage with Trevor, players can explore the perfect approach to achieve any objective. A mission’s success can ride on using these abilities at just the right time. There are still some elements of gameplay such as shooting and flying that are unwieldily, and could use further refinement, but it’s easy to forgive Rockstar for the quality of some their sub-mechanics, simply due to the sheer number on display.

Michael, Franklin and Trevor in 'Grand Theft Auto V'

While the game clearly pushes the boundaries of what is possible from a design standpoint, especially on seven year old hardware, it is at its most interesting when focusing on its characters. The game’s three protagonists are compelling and seeing the interplay between Michael De Santa and Trevor Phillips is one of the its delights. As ex-bank robbers and best friends, their relationship is wrought with tension that is always threatening to boil over. Michael has retired from the life of crime, but a loveless family and dissatisfaction at a reclining lifestyle has left him wanting more.

Trevor is another side of the same coin, a sociopath who never gave up his life of crime and is still at odds trying to get a big score. While the early portions of the game keep them separate, the narrative doesn’t truly kick in until they are reunited after a ten year break. Freely switching between protagonists, the audience ends up knowing about the lies that the two have kept from each other – creating great character-focused tension.

The dysfunctional dynamic is enhanced further by Franklin Clinton, a gang banger who is taken under the wing of Michael. Franklin is trying to escape the entrapments and dangers of urban culture in favor of a more lucrative lifestyle. Being new to the crew, it is clear Franklin is meant to help ease the audience into the history between Trevor and Michael. Franklin is a solid character, but within the group’s narrative arch, he’s somewhat of a bystander – since his story and missions are more busy work than story advancing. While he adds a necessary flavor to the group, he is often a third wheel. Franklin serves as an example of Grand Theft Auto 5′s narrative stumbles – a game full of many compelling facets that doesn’t always have the sophistication to pull them all together.

GTA Online Crew

GTA 5 is a game of masterful quality in both design and execution but it doesn’t always have the depth to say anything profound. The game has a cultural cynicism but it fails to say much by attacking the easiest targets with old arguments. It is a shame because if the writers lifted up the hood just a little more, they could have presented a more compelling argument than “capitalism living is too materialistic.GTA 5 by-passes some real missed opportunities to talk about our society a little deeper, which is frustrating because it could have said a lot about our culture today by framing it in this hyper-realized world. It never truly hurts the entire experience, but for a game that is remarkable in its ambition, it is disappointing that GTA 5 doesn’t have more ambition in its subtext.

Still, Grand Theft Auto 5 is a journey well worth taking. It displays an astonishing amount of variety, a real ambition to innovate previous gameplay, and a narrative about three people trying to find friendship in their messed up and broken worlds, making it one of the most emotionally impactful in the series. Rockstar Games has offered an experience with a few flaws – but flaws that don’t break the core (and extremely enjoyable) gameplay. The franchise has never been about painting the Mona Lisa – and is, instead, more about inciting meaningful controversy to get people talking. That is very much the case here, offering players a twisted trip into a dysfunctional reality. It is just well and good none of that dysfunction sheds itself onto the gameplay experience, one that serves as a great bow for the current generation of gaming, and simultaneously sets the bar for the next one.

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Grand Theft Auto 5 is available now for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Follow Patrick Dane on Twitter at @PatrickDane

Our Rating:

4.5 out of 5

TAGS: Grand Theft Auto, Grand Theft Auto 5, PS3, Rockstar Games, Xbox 360

21 Comments

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  1. Im really surprised that you didnt give it a 5.

    • It’s because everyone expected them to give it a 5. Gotta keep you on your toes with that half point deduction.

  2. i give it a 5 that’s all that matters

  3. Heavy rain and bio shock infinite are better than this? You have lost most of my respect, this IS at 5 out of 5 easily, in fact it’s a 6 out of 5.

    • apples and oranges, heavy rain and infinite and character driver stories whilst this is something you play to be entertained short term – you can pick up/put it down whenever without investing greatly in the characters etc.

    • ChrisTypeR –

      Like most outlets, reviews are subjective and handled by different people – not to mention those games are totally different experiences in totally different genres.

      Plus, it’s not like we gave GTA5 a 3 or something. We’re talking about .5 star here.

    • That’s just like, your opinion, man.

    • I like Bioshock Infinite more than GTA V. I actually agree with the rating and the complaints they brought up.

  4. Definitely is an amazing game but it does not deserve a perfect.

    • No game is perfect, always ask for more

  5. I would give Grand Theft Auto 5 a solid 2 out of 5. The main problem is the game is too open ended with too many outcomes that it distracts from the main story. That is the problem with creating a world like they did in the game there is just too much flexibility and choices. Even getting lost countless times as the map is not always accurate. I find the original games with the smaller map had a better sense of depth and gameplay since it wasn’t too overcrowded. The multiple character system didn’t seemingly blend in well, should have been a one player focused experience. The game did have a much more serious and grim tone to it also I didn’t enjoy. It wasn’t as light or comedic as the previous GTA entries in the series. I think Rockstar should ditch the open world styled GTA games and go for a more straight foward mission based type gameplay which is what everyone plays GTA for. The only reason why it’s making money because it’s recognized for what it is not just the brand but the controversy and how over the top they went which they did go too far in this game in many areas.

    • You either haven’t played the game, or you’re not an experienced enough gamer to realize what Rockstar has accomplished. It’s a clear contradiction you make when you say that people play Rockstar games for the forward mission based gameplay. You want linear gameplay? Play Call of Duty. Not that I have anything against COD, but their games are basically a rollercoaster you ride once and know everything about it. Rockstar strives to weave together compelling, heartfelt characters with a beautiful, playable, open world structure. True open world. Not just side quests. The real beauty of Grand Theft Auto is that you have just as many unforgettable memories playing missions, as you do in free roam. GTA V has created such a convincing, fun world that you can lose yourself in it so fast you won’t even know what hit you. It’s fun to just freaking walk around the city, let alone drive, swim, fly, bike, scuba dive, parachute, hunt, and whatever else GTA V allows you to enjoy with perfectly responsive and intuitive mechanics. They aren’t just dumb minigames. And in response to your jabs at the narrative, I seriously disagree. GTA V has the best cast of characters in the whole series since Vice City, and the story being told my multiple protagonists solves all the problems we saw with Niko Bellic’s character in GTA IV, philosophizing about how violence is bad and then going on murderous rampages for a few thousand bucks from some random dude. Besides, as far as pure gameplay is concerned, it beats past GTAs in every possible way. How could you not have fun playing it? And again, I disagree with your final statement. GTA V makes you think about what’s wrong with this country. It makes you look at people from different social classes in ways other than the stereotypical ones that society raises us with. On top of all the fun you’re having, and the tremendous narrative you’re experiencing, it gives you so much to contemplate later. How many other video games can say that? Grand Theft Auto V is breaking every industry record because it is, quite simply, one of the greatest achievements in gaming, with something for everyone to enjoy. Everything about it makes it a fun, perfectly playable, emotional, compelling, and gorgeously immersive work of art.

      • ^^^^

    • Umm, okay, where do I start?

      1. Too open ended? If you want a linear game from Rockstar, you shouldn’t be playing GTA. Play Max Payne.

      2. The map isn’t accurate? I’ve finished the story and have done almost all of the Strangers and Freaks, and I have no idea what you’re talking about.

      3. The “original” games you’re talking about I’m guessing are GTA III/VC/SA?

      4. In what way did the three-character system not flow well? It works much better than I expected. It’s pretty much flawless.

      5. It had a more serious tone to it than previous GTA games? It’s more serious and grim? Did you even play it? The game has hilarious moments, but it has its more serious moments too, just as GTA IV, San Andreas, and GTA III before it. (Never played Vice City, but I’m sure it did too.)

      6. You clearly haven’t played the game and are just trolling at this point. Either that, or you have absolutely no taste in video games. You can have whatever opinions you want about the game, but almost everything you said was stated as fact, in which case I will gladly inform you that you are dead wrong, and I think a few million people who have already bought and sunk hours into the game would agree.

  6. I read a comment elsewhere saying that reviewers will get flamed even if they gave 5/5 or not. That hit me and I pity these poor reviewers.

  7. ILL F**KING KILL U PATRICK DANE

    • Whoa, whoa, easy, T. calm down!

  8. “The franchise has never been about painting the Mona Lisa — and is, instead, more about inciting meaningful controversy to get people talking.”

    This quote from the review is exactly why this author shouldn’t have reviewed this game. True, GTA isn’t supposed to be taken as this huge work of art of a game (such as The Last of Us), but it’s not just about blatantly creating controversy either. GTA is about giving the players freedom to do anything and everything they want in the world. It’s basically a gateway into a world where you can ask yourself “If you could do anything illegal without any real consequences, what would you do, and how would you do it?” It’s the choices people make that create controversy. Even in the infamous torture scene, you can choose to just beat him rather than pulling out his teeth or electrocuting him, but it’s the choice of the player to decide how sick and twisted they want to be. But it’s okay, because those choices are what the game is made for. GTA’s goal is and always has been to pull out your sick, twisted, and wild side.

    • I think you brought up a good point but let me address it. I used the word meaningful very specifically in that sentence. I don’t think controversy is something that is inherently empty. Controversy gets people talking, debating, thinking about the content they are consuming. The flaws that I think GTA has are somewhat mishandled scenes that some people might see as controversial, like the scene you mentioned. But it really speaks to the quality of the game, that these (in my own opinion)’missteps’ aren’t empty, and in fact are very interesting in their own right and have gotten people talking.

      But I would disagree that the game is only about freedom and bad actions only come from the player. There are more than several instances where Rockstar push players into doing bad things. I do think Rockstar are being controversial on purpose, but I don’t think that is a criticism. They are masters of it and apply it with a lot of brains.

  9. I like Cheese!!!!

  10. NOTE: SPOILERS AHEAD

    While I realize it’s matter of taste, I have trouble with the comment that GTA V is “one of the most emotionally impactful in the series.” Although I think the earlier comment by Leonidas Scordilis regarding the clash between Niko’s anti-violent philosophy and his actual sociopathy is spot-on, when I played GTA IV I felt empathy for Niko despite his violent tendencies. His backstory led to my understanding his anger, and while he frequently went off track, his motivations were constitent with the main story arcs. In GTA V I just don’t get that feeling for any of the characters. Michael and Trevor both appear to have come from comfortable middle-class backgrounds and freely chose lives of crime; where is the empathy there? At least Franklin has some reason for pursuing a criminal lifestyle, having grown up in a poor area with a drugged-out mom who died (?), but he always seems to be a secondary character to the other two. Trevor is comically psychopathic, but what more is there to that? Michael has almost no redeeming qualities whatsoever; he seems to be Tony Soprano without the depth of character. The interplay between Trevor and Michael is both annoying and confusing, and Trevor’s final attitude toward Michael seems completely out of character.

    Also, in the end, what is this story really about? The climax of the main story line is really an anticlimax. The primary enemy defeated seems no more than a minor distraction to the characters, not a nemesis. Sure, they clean house in Michael Corleone style, but the evil done them seems insufficient for their violent response. (Admittedly DeSanta has significant reason for his hatred for one of the enemies eliminated, but one of the others snuffed is so insignificant you are left thinking “Who? Why?”) Indeed, I am nearly as puzzled by this whole story as I was by the final scene of The Sopranos, except the latter had interpretations that made sense.

    As for the gameplay experience itself, it was incredibly beautiful. Perhaps it was a bit too easy, but most of the missions were a joy to play in themselves (it was definitely nice not to have to babysit Phil at the boathouse!) However, I honestly don’t see that much of a technical improvement from GTA IV to GTA V. Sure, the physics have been improved, but they don’t really change the gameplay that much. Yes, the character animation is quite a bit better, but it was already pretty good in IV.

    I think I still prefer GTA IV. I expected more from V, and I don’t think it delivered, although I still enjoyed the single player greatly. (And for the GTA:SA fans out there: Where the hell is the chainsaw????)

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