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Grand Theft Auto V Review

Cart: Grand Theft Auto V
Cab: PS3, Xbox 360
Coin: Rockstar North

Here we are again. Probably the biggest multi platform franchise that doesn’t get an annual release, GTA makes its second major appearance on this generation of consoles in what sites like IGN are giving perfect, 10/10 scores to. Then again, IGN gives anything with a bit of hype a perfect score, including the distinctly disappointing GTA IV, so their opinion can be taken with a large pinch of salt.

The truth is, it is far from being one of the best games of this generation, but it is a marked improvement on the last game in the series and well worth a punt for fans of open world games, although you are going to need to invest a lot of time to get the best out of it.

The world is truly gorgeous

The world is truly gorgeous

GTA V is every inch a GTA game, with a massive city to explore, a crime ridden tale to tell and an over the top driving model, although the latter has been toned down a touch this time. For the fifth installment, Rockstar have gone down a slightly more comedic route for the story, and in my opinion, is all the stronger for it. This time around you follow three characters through the story, which in truth, is just a device to enable the developers to split the action into three sections; driving missions, action missions and stealthy, slower levels, without breaking the suspension of disbelief.

It works well, and can be funny at times, but don’t be fooled into thinking the story is some incredible crime story. Think more ‘Con Air’ than ‘Goodfellas’. The story missions do vary, but keep a high level of quality. There are some incredibly exciting levels and also some frustrating areas, although there is at least a proper checkpoint system now, so no more driving for ten minutes to attempt a mission for the third time.

The gameplay has been tightened up, with a better camera, improved use of cover and the auto aim is slicker. It still doesn’t really have its own identity, gameplay-wise, as it could be a thousand other games like this, taken out of the context of the world it finds itself in.

Ah yes, the world. Truly a technological mind boggler, the city of Los Santos and the countryside and neighbouring towns, is amazing. We have had enormous open world games before, like in Just Cause 2 and Skyrim, but they always felt empty and devoid of life and soul, which is not something that you can say about GTA V, with every street, wood and park packed to the rim with a feeling of life that I have never before seen.

The people are not just random characters walking up and down, but are context aware, and make absolute sense to be where they are, and take decisions based on your actions. I won’t spoil anything for you here; suffice to say that you will have many a magic moment while exploring the huge city.

GTA V Screen 2

The handling has been improved, but is still skittish

It is here that I have a problem: the sheer size of the world. Like the games I mentioned before, this takes place in a massive game area, and it will only be properly seen and explored by a tiny percentage of players, thus rendering this monumental size pointless. This enormous city does feel alive, but like the previous game in the series, there is not a lot to do in it aside from a few throwaway minigames. When games like Watch Dogs are giving us a slightly more compact world to explore, but offering up true interaction with every element of those worlds in new and exciting ways, Grand Theft Auto V feels a little old-fashioned.

Nothing wrong with old-fashioned at all, but it is something you should be aware of if you are weighing up whether or not to purchase. Another important factor is a major bug I have encountered when playing the PS3 version of the game. The draw distance and framerate gets worse the more you play. My 30 hour save performs far worse than a brand new, clear save file, no question about it. It doesn’t appear to be as bad as Skyrim, but it is an issue.

So, should you buy it? Well, if you are a fan of open world games and prefer scale to innovation, then eat your heart out, as there is an enormous world here to explore for the next six months of your life. If, however, you are a little more open world weary, then nothing here will spark up your love for the genre, as this is a GTA game in every sense and does little that is truly new. Better than the last one, but the future of open world is lined with games like Watch Dogs and Destiny, rather than in the ‘bigger is better’ ethos of GTA V.

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Editor and founder of VoxelArcade and The Smartphone App Review. Favourite games: Uridium 2, Frontier: Elite II, Sensible World of Soccer, Far Cry 3, Zelda: Ocarina, Metroid Prime, Solar Quest, F-Zero GX, Monkey Island 2 and Tetris.

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