By now you may have realised that GTA V is quite popular. In fact, it’s the fastest selling and highest grossing video game ever. Within 3 days of its launch, the game had earned US $1billion (roughly £625 million): though it needed to, seeing as its budget sat roughly in the ballpark of Pirates of the Caribbean. But how has this game managed to deliver- according to so many people- on its hype?
Well, for starters, Rockstar have made some interesting changes to the game play, without altering the core aspects of Grand Theft Auto. This is still a game where crime pays- despite the increase in police strength, where your basic officer is a stone cold killer who’ll bury you in an unmarked grave before any of GTA’s previous policemen have gotten out of their cars. Crime isn’t quite as necessary nowadays outside of missions- it’s reasonably easy to find a legal mode of transport to get around San Andreas- and boy, is there a lot of it to get around. Rockstar boasted about the size of the map repeatedly at press events, and their posturing wasn’t for nothing. The game environment is huge, and the insanely pretty graphics ensures almost all of it is beautifully rendered.
The big change, however, are the three lead characters. At any time outside of missions, you may switch between the ageing father Michael, the young street kid Franklin, and the crazed alcoholic Trevor. The dynamic can leave you in interesting situations- especially when switching to Trevor, and finding him in women’s lingerie on train tracks with a train coming towards him. It can, however, lead to problems- with the aforementioned scenario, the train can sometimes spawn too close, and kill you before you have chance to move. It’s an interesting idea, but in all honesty, it doesn’t seem to add anything except the occasional giggle.
The core game play remains the same- drive to the area, collect a mission, perform the mission, and receive cash. Though there is a large disconnection between the games story and the world it’s in (which sees the three trying to make money for various reasons, while being easily able to make far more money through alternative means), the story is reasonable- nothing too shocking or surprising, but a nice ride. The side quests are invariably interesting or dumb, depending on your personal take on the events. The game controls about as well as usual- movement is still enjoyable, driving is easier, but still tricky, and shooting while driving is still an activity in futility.
There are negatives- Enemies are still bullet sponges, sometimes taking far too many rounds before going down. The game refuses to shy away from controversial ideas- Women are still pretty much wholly objectified, criminality is still celebrated (though in a game called Grand Theft Auto, that is to be expected), and racial distinctions are still blatant- but for the moment, despite some worries about a torture scene, the game remains big scandal free (unlike the last time we visited San Andreas…)
GTA Online, the game’s online mode, is fun: though it’s best played in a group- solo players will find little enjoyment with the mode. It also seems strange that some of the activities, such as bowling, are exclusive to the online mode- though it is a relief not to be called up every five minutes to play bowling with your cousin.
Overall, the game is solid, presented beautifully, and will have a thriving community. Fans of the series love it, detractors of the series will hate it, but above all else, lots of you will play it. So for now, at least, it looks like GTA has managed to steal success once more. And then drive it to it’s garage, paint it black, and pack in some Nitro for funsies.