Note: This is the first part in a two-part series reviewing Rockstar North’s newest release, “Grand Theft Auto V.” This part will cover initial impressions of the just-released game. The second part, a full review, can be read here.
‘GTA V’ a stellar sequel in world-class franchise
Never again will I doubt the epic that is Rockstar North.
Not there was much to doubt with the release of “Grand Theft Auto V,” but it never hurts to possess a healthy dose of skepticism. But after sinking in about 10 hours into the game since its release Monday night (side note: the Longview GameStop is the place to be for midnight game releases; talk about an event!), any hesitancy I harbored, any qualms I may have had about “all the hype,” have fallen to the wayside. Just like any problems I had with mowing people down with a car you’d only find in Miami (or Los Santos, as “GTAV” would have it).
From the cinematic, engrossing intro and on-the-fly tutorials to the stunning graphics and fluid gameplay mechanics, “GTAV” not only maintains the same grand scale and loose morals that made its predecessors famous on a global scale, it improves upon the few flaws found in “Grand Theft Auto IV” and brings us even further into the 21st century. Smartphones and social networking abound when it comes to “GTAV,” both in-game and online.
(If you want, you can download an iFruit companion app on iOS devices that connects to the game, letting you modify your vehicles and care for the in-game dog. You can also share photos through Facebook or Rockstar North’s Social Club.)
The core essence of any “Grand Theft Auto” game inevitably revolves around how open-ended its sandbox world is. Most of the series centers on one character who has near-unlimited freedom to roam the world in anyway he chooses. He could follow the story line, or complete all the side quests. Or, if so desired, he didn’t have to do anytime gameplay related, instead causing chaos and stealing evermore-impressive vehicles. “GTAV” expands on this with creating a ensemble cast. “GTAV” stars three protagonists: Michael De Santa, and expert thief; Franklin Clinton, a headstrong upstart; and Trevor Philip, an unstable sociopath. The game has them starting off separately, but it doesn’t take long before they team up — and what a beautiful thing this becomes.
Players are capable of switching through the trio at any time they want, seeing the daily machinations of our main characters. Tired of playing as Michael? Switch to Trevor or Franklin on the fly. It’s ingenious and well-executed. This mechanic leads to the trio (along with some other characters) working together to pull off some outrageous heists.
In case you were wondering, yes, that swapping option happens, and is encouraged, during missions. As the plot unfolds, plays can hop between the characters mid-operation. You could be covering one character as a sniper or jumping in the middle of a gun fight with another.
Another improvement centers on the storyline and its manifestation. “GTA IV” was complicated and muddled. You never got the sense that protagonist Niko Bellic’s story ever settled. “GTAV,” however, is clearer in its theme choice, namely, the financial crisis and the rich abusing power. And yes, there’s plenty of humor scattered throughout the sun-drenched world. It would be a GTA game otherwise.
On that note, however, this is a Grand Theft Auto game, and it will get dark and disturbing. It merits its ‘M’ rating. Obviously, this wasn’t meant for the little ones.
But for fans and newcomers alike, “Grand Theft Auto V” has “Game of the Year” written all over it. It’s beautiful and engaging, with a story all its own. GTA has done it again.
Five thieving stars out of five.