GTAV | Gameguide

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gtav-review-8If I had to use just one word to describe GTAV, it would be ‘stunning.’ However, before you get to ‘stunning’ you have to get through the prologue mission, and this, I will admit, had me worried. It sets the scene for the story of GTAV, a bank heist gone wrong in a remote, snowbound American town. It starts of slow, then has you driving a getaway car in the snow, before being surrounded by Police in a last stand shootout.

Jump forward to the present day and you get to play the role of Michael, a rich white guy who visits a shrink regularly because his life sucks. It’s not the character I was imagining starting the game with, and in a nice segue outside the shrinks house, Michael gives directions to Franklin, a young black guy who’s looking for a certain house. And just like that, you’re now playing the role of Franklin, as he and his mate boost a couple of sports cars and return them to the car dealership, their place of slightly dodgy employment.

A little while later Michael and Franklin’s paths cross again, in an unexpected way, and soon they are working together, and you’re switching between characters.

Then we meet Trevor, and you feel like you’ve just taken a hit of crack. If Franklin is the street wise black kid just wanting to make some paper, and Michael is the retired rich guy who reflects too much on life instead of enjoying it, Trevor is the guy who has done too much crack and is the kind of guy who would pick up a hooker just so he could run her over and steal his money back. He’s an unbridled ball of aggression that no kind of therapy will ever dissipate. These three so very different characters are who you play in GTAV.

As pathologically different as they are, the strength of GTAV is that the story connecting them, and driving the game, is so damn addictive that no matter who your favourite character is, you’ll enjoy playing each of them, and eventually adapt your play style, right down to what radio station you listen too, to suit the character. 

The game itself borrows from Rockstar’s previous games, the stunning vistas and graphical excellence of Red Dead Redemption, along with the random encounters, the driving of Midnight Club and LA Noire’s ability to skip a sequence if you’ve failed it three times. The game is genuinely stunning in the graphical department, and the seamless game-play that allows you to walk in and out of buildings and traverse the entire map without stopping to load anything is truly impressive.

And then there is the sheer length of the game. I’ve been burning the candle most nights for a week with GTAV and according to the game, I’m only about 60% of the way through it. You kind of get the feeling that you know where the end game will be, but then something happens and you have to go on a little side mission – or series of missions – to help a friend, family or just to get the Feds off your back. The beauty of it is that none of it feels forced.

The central focus of the story is a series of heists that you do, from the very first one you do, knocking off a jewelry store, you’re given two ways to approach the job, and both ways require that you complete creation tasks first. These tasks can be as simple as buying some boiler suits, or having to steal heavily guarded military equipment.

Outside of the main missions and optional side quests, is the city of Los Santos and the surrounding Blaine County. Unlike Rockstar’s LA Noire, where exploring the city felt like a sterile task, wandering a city with no soul, Los Santos is a living breathing place. Jack a car in the luxurious hills in the north of the city and you’ll have some rich dude cry and run away, but jack a car in the gang ruled, poverty stricken South and the guy you jack is likely to shot at you as you drive off, and some times his posse will jump in their cars and chase after you, leaning out the windows and unload clips at you.

It’s a game that encourages you to listen, to the people of the streets that react t you, and to the radio stations that not only assault your senses with typical Rockstar satire, but will also carry news of your latest missions, from gang land shoot outs to government cover ups. This is all classic GTA, the story-line dripping in social and political commentary, all wrapped up in Rockstar’s unique brand of comedic sarcasm.

Of course, GTAV wouldn’t be a true chapter in the canon that Rockstar have created if they didn’t push boundaries, and push they do. From dog on dog sex to a torture scene that looks like it was taken straight out of Zero Dark Thirty, where you have to partake in the torturing. Rockstar have you doing things you never would have though possible, and whilst the torture scene is possibly one of the hardest gaming experiences to date, in true GTA style, you’ll probably forget how hard it was the next time you take a corner to fast and accidentally wipe out a group of innocent pedestrians.

But still there is more. Aside from the story, side missions and general ambience of the game, you have the traditional stunt jumps and collectables, but you also have a huge area to explore, easter eggs to find, sports to play, races and an ocean to dive under and explore.

And that’s all before Rockstar launch the online features.

I said at the start that the game is stunning, and it is. It’s actually taken away my excitement for the next gen of consoles. I’m the happiest I’ve been with my XBox 360 right now and don’t see the need to upgrade if games like this are still being produced for my trusty old friend. But I do have a dilemma. GTAV is without a doubt the best game I’ve played on the 360, but I’m not sure I can give it a perfect score. The reason for this is that the game plays more like a TV series than a film. In a film you’ll often have a nice ending, a neat conclusion. In this fantastically written and played out show, there is an element that is missing. Hope.

I don’t know how the story ends, but none of the characters have any hope, they are all nasty – admittedly, with their own degrees of nasty – characters that would cap you in the back of the head just to get ahead in life. I know this is GTA, and they way I play GTA, I have no problem with capping fools, or innocent bystanders, and as much as I like playing the different characters, there is just this whole theme of misery that pervades the game. I know what Rockstar are doing, it’s a cutting critique of America and they hit the nail on the head. It’s just a little depressing when you’ve invested so much time and energy in a game, and you realise that you don;t think things are going to turn out well in the end for your characters.

Of course, I could be wrong. Rockstar have thrown quite a few curve balls and kept me on my toes, but I can;t see the game ending well for anyone.

Having said that, this is one game that will keep me burning through the nocturnal hours until I have finished everything there is to do. It’s just so damned addictive.

Rating: R18 Violence, sexual material, drug use & offensive language.



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