(Xbox 360)

Grand Theft Auto V (Xbox 360)

Game Review

Grand Theft Auto V Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Dave Letcavage

It's the little things

It’s no easy feat to live up to expectations when everyone in the world of gaming is anticipating nothing short of perfection from your next game, before even catching a glimpse of it in action. These lofty expectations are surely attributed to Rockstar’s ability to continually redefine the open-world genre, release after release. With GTA V the wheel hasn’t exactly been reinvented, but it’s bigger, more refined, and a celebration of every installment that precedes it. This isn’t just the greatest game in the series, but arguably one of the best experiences of this generation.

Where previous entries planted you in the shoes of a single protagonist, GTA V allows you to switch between three characters, adding layers to the storytelling, and lending to a more dynamic presentation. Michael – the nucleus of the group – is stuck in a mid-life crisis of sorts, which is drawing him back to a life of crime. Franklin is a young go-getter from the hood who aspires for bigger things. And Trevor? Well, Trevor is a psychopathic meth dealer. Having the option to switch between these cosmically different characters, and focus on missions that reflect their individual lifestyles, freshens up the pacing; although occasionally at the expense of the story.

Gameplay remains largely the same as it ever has, relying mostly on driving and shooting. Tighter aiming and helpful auto-targeting smooth out gunplay (though the pin reticle is often lost in the action at times) and vehicles feel more responsive than ever. To make those overwhelming moments filled with torrential gunfire and precision driving more manageable, special character abilities have been added to the fold; these basically allow you to slow time during gameplay to focus your efforts. Don’t like the assistance? Don’t use it. We hardly indulged in these luxuries throughout the campaign and the challenge was never out-of-hand. Character skills (like speed, shooting, driving and so forth) can even be leveled up throughout the game with the more time you spend performing that respective action.

Missions generally revolve around driving from A to B to C, eliminating targets, clearing out buildings, and stealing vehicles, with a few shakeups and surprises along the way. There isn’t much new to the formula, but instead it’s the way that these agendas work into the story and introduce you to entertaining characters that make them more exciting and rewarding than ever. Even more impressive is how seamless the transition is when entering the area of a mission; gameplay continues to cinematic without a hint of loading. The marriage between gameplay and presentation is top notch, making for the most showy, and deep, GTA yet.

Throughout the campaign there are heists that need to be carefully orchestrated. Planning starts at the drawing board, where you’ll choose from two methods of approach (generally guns blazing, or something more subtle), and carefully piece together an appropriate team. From there you’ll have a series of preparatory planning missions all leading up to the big score. It’s a natural addition to the series, and by allowing the player to make decisions, it adds more investment in the outcome. Even if things don’t always play out as planned, these heists are generally exhilarating and hard to forget.

One of the downfalls regarding gameplay is the teensy margin for error allowed by some missions. Clipping the tiniest edge of a wall during a chase, taking a second to digest a command, or just making a casual mistake can often result in a failed mission. These frustrations can mostly be alleviated by forgiving checkpoints, though it’s hard to not at least get a little annoyed; especially when the cause is an open-world oddity. Furthermore, the controls are demanding with a lot of buttons/schemes to memorize, which may take a while to wholly grasp. So being a proficient criminal is going to take work, but be warned, there are plenty of innocuous activities to distract you from your goals - and we mean this in the best way.

You'll find the map loaded with strangers to meet, random events, special missions, and recreational activities to partake in around every corner. You can skip most of this content if you like, but these are the pieces that bring GTA V to life, to really immerse you in the game world. From golfing to off-road racing, bounty hunting to tennis, there’s such a diverse offering of substantial excursions, you may often lose track of the mission at hand. These seemingly unimportant detours are what make you feel part of a real world, and not just playing another video game. Additionally, the liveliness of the characters, easygoing hobbies, and scenic marvels can help to balance out the violence, if it ever gets to be too much.

Whether traveling by land, air or sea, Los Santos and Blaine County are truly a sight to behold. Being impressed by the sheer size of the game, and its ability to look stunning around almost every turn, is something we didn’t expect to exist harmoniously on current-gen hardware. There’s nothing quite like flying a helicopter over mountains and right through a densely packed city without a single load screen. It’s not all perfect, though, as there are moments of disappearing textures, slow to load environmental décor, and the common case of shifting shadows. Luckily these occurrences almost never affected the gameplay and corrected themselves almost as soon as we could take notice. Rockstar pushes the limitations of the aged hardware, and it pays off about 97% of the time.

And what’s a Grand Theft Auto experience without a compelling soundtrack? With 17 radio stations and a gripping score that takes center stage during the tensest of moments, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll never want to play with the volume down low. We can’t count the number of times we arrived at our destination yet remained in the vehicle to finish listening to the great song on the radio – just like real life! Then when those songs from the commercials and the trailers would come on (like “Sleepwalking” by The Chain Gang of 1974 and Stevie Wonder’s “Skeletons”), their association could make ordinary moments feel cinematic. Furthermore, the tongue-in-cheek chatter of the DJs, and the absurd commercials bursting with hilarious yet thought-provoking social commentary, is better than ever.

It was around the 37 hour mark that we finished up the main story, and even then our completion percentage sat at a 76%, with plenty left to do. What makes it all the better is that everything seems to have been developed with replayability in mind; missions have goals that factor in a score, races have online leaderboards, and hobbies beg to be mastered. Then there’s GTA Online – which hasn’t even launched yet – that appears to be an extremely robust multiplayer offering. It’s safe to say that for $60, GTA V is a steal and could potentially offer 60+ hours of entertainment.

When it’s all said and done, the gameplay is good, the story is intriguing, and the characters are entertaining, but it’s the adhesion between those things that make this package extra special. How many games allow you to partake in stock investing, only to find success by exterminating a rival companies CEO? Where else can you take your dog for a walk, play with and train him just because? You’ll even receive texts, emails, and phone calls on your in-game cell phone from all the crazy characters you meet along the way. It's the littlest things that go the longest way, lending to one of the most staggering, immersive game worlds ever created.

If you can stomach the violence and vulgarities, and are of legal age, there is no reason you should miss out on GTA V. It’s not every day that a behemoth of this care and quality is released, and we reckon there won’t be another open-world release of this caliber for quite some time. There are issues that come to the forefront occasionally, and the core gameplay hasn't exactly changed all that much, but it doesn't do too much to detract from the overall enjoyment. This is the culmination of open-world practices we’ve seen during the course of this console generation, and despite its flaws, we'd still call it masterpiece.

Conclusion

Grand Theft Auto V is a current-gen game with next-gen ambitions. There are times when Rockstar’s grandiose vision seemingly exceeds the limitations of the aged Xbox 360 hardware, and these flaws keep it from perfection, but all-in-all, it’s mind-boggling how this massive game runs so smoothly. Don’t go into GTA V expecting a revolutionary experience; instead, expect a celebration of everything that made past entries in the series so special. This is bigger, bolder, and undoubtedly better than anything before it, making for the best, and most loaded, Grand Theft Auto that money can buy.

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User Comments (9)

#1

said:

Get from point A to point B seems to be the bulk of this game...the witty dialogue as your'e doing it disguises this quite well but the bulk is still the same...Get from point a to point b.

Also, it should have been released on next gen, but now my 360 has to remain on the hi-fi unit for a little bit longer than would've been necessary.

Its good but ultimately disappointing in the sense its not as ground breaking as were lead to believe by the gushing media...7/10 here.

Gamer83

#2

Gamer83 said:

I'd say 9/10 is right. Sure the gist of the main missions are point a to point b but most of them are very well designed and fun to play. And the game itself it packed with a lot of enjoyable side distractions and side missions. And the ability to swap characters on the fly keeps the game fresh. It's typical GTA but for me that's a great thing. IV is really the only one in the series that has ever disappointed me. And while I do want to take some time to let everything sink in, I am pretty close to getting ready to claim this has dethroned Vice City as my favorite in the series. It has also done what was unthinkable to me back in June and that's top The Last of Us for my Game of the Year. At first it seemed a very close runner up but as time went on, I realized I was enjoying it even more. Rockstar North set out with some lofty ambitions and while a few things (maily the flying) were slightly off putting, it nailed everything else. The biggest thing I was concerned about was having three characters. I was concerned how they would could keep the story from totally falling apart and didn't know if they could keep the character switching from becoming a convoluted pain in the rearend. It works better than I ever could've imagined and has changed what I expect from open world games going forward. Every developer making games in the genre, including Rockstar North, now has its work cut out for it. In the meantime, I'm highly interested to see how the online portion of this turns out.

Nice review, Dave.

BadWolf09

#3

BadWolf09 said:

I would have to agree with the review- they set out with some lofty ambitions and they delivered an excellent product. The missions may be A-B but I've been finding a good portion of my fun in all of the distractions between A and B. Great delivery of a proven formula with a few forgivable flaws.

Generik

#4

Generik said:

Not many games have provided me with the true joy of just exploring. Driving around to reveal more of the map or seeing a mountain peak in the distance and figuring out which road will lead to a trail that will get me to the top. Little things like that on top of all the great things mentioned in the review push this game to the top for me. 9/10 for sure and really if GTA Online is half as good as I think it may be, this could easily be 10/10.

DRLAdmin

#5

DRL said:

@Gamer83 - Thank you. I think this may have topped Vice City for me, as well. It does a good job of "neutralizing" the violent moments with humor - something I felt was lacking in GTA IV.

opeter

#6

opeter said:

I will wait until the price falls (to 5, max. 10 €, haha).

Very good and interesting, DRL. It was a pleasure to read, especially this:

"... but it’s the adhesion between those things that make this package extra special. How many games allow you to partake in stock investing, only to find success by exterminating a rival companies CEO? Where else can you take your dog for a walk, play with and train him just because? You’ll even receive texts, emails, and phone calls on your in-game cell phone from all the crazy characters you meet along the way. It's the littlest things that go the longest way, lending to one of the most staggering, immersive game worlds ever created."

#7

said:

"Where else can you take your dog for a walk, play with and train him just because?"

The Sims...

And that's where that nonsense stuff should have stayed...its GTA not Kinectimals...come on people, get a grip!

AnthinatorStaff

#8

Anthinator said:

@szchifo It's entirely optional, which is what makes GTA so special. Some people may like training and walking Chop, while others will like playing Tennis or Jet Skiing. This game is overflowing with side content.

theoldman

#9

theoldman said:

@szchifo In a way, you could call the GTA series "the Sims for psychopaths" haha, but really, the game is fantastic. Great review Dave.

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