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Distributor: Take Two Interactive
Production Companies: Rockstar North and Rockstar
Producers: Leslie Benzies and Imran Sarwar
Scriptwriters: Dan Houser, Robert Humphries and Michael Unsworth
Main Cast: Shaun Fonteno, Ned Luke, Steven Ogg, Gerald Johnson and Vicki Van Tassel
Released: September 17 2013 (Worldwide)
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
Average Completion Time: 50+ Hours
One of the most anticipated games ever at its release back in September 2013, and rightly so. For over a decade now, Grand Theft Auto has been extraordinary, controversial and evolutionary in the gaming world. Since GTA IV released in 2008, Rockstar have been working on its follow-up and, looking back 18 months later, how does the game hold up?
Well simply, it is still one of the greatest videogames, if not the greatest videogame that I have ever played. Everything from its gameplay to the story to the graphics - all of it is simply close to perfect. For the first time, the story follows three different characters:Michael, Franklin and Trevor. Each is acted brilliantly, and all three bring something new to the table and ultimately could lead the game alone. Michael is a retired ex-conman who his family hate, and he even hates himself. We are introduced to Michael in a therapy session, which you can continue to do throughout the game as Michael evolves as a character. Then comes Franklin, a small-time gang banger on the streets of Los Santos or Los Angeles. He enjoys the fast life, stealing cars, buying street hookers; however, he doesn’t have the money to sustain it, so he is looking for a better, richer life. And, finally, comes one of the most talked-about characters in the series, Trevor. Trevor is a narcotic, sarcastic, evil, and funny man, and quite frankly, a psychopath. But playing as him heralded some of the best moments of the game and allowed you to escape reality for a while, as some of his missions do push the boundaries of natural law.
All three characters fit into the story perfectly: they enter at different stages, and in fact it is a couple of hours before Trevor makes an appearance, but when he does ,it really is worth the wait. There are also three endings you can have, depending on your choice at a certain point in the game, and all three endings are worth the 50+ hours you will spend on the story alone. The script is written brilliantly, and all of the characters have dialogue that is funny, heart-warming and sometimes sick. There must be a rude word every couple of seconds for those who enjoy colourful language.
That is what GTA is all about. You can spend over 30 hours on the main story, yet there are around 50 side missions between the three characters and the online mode, plus for general play, the map itself is massive. Despite having it since it was released, I still have not seen all of the map, and there are little underwater hideouts, cabins in the woods and mountain bike trekking that I am still yet to do. You can complete triathlons, bike racing, deer hunting, pilot lessons and underwater diving with a submarine. The list continue,s but I believe it would be better for you to take a look for yourself. The map is open from the beginning, so there isn’t any unlocking to do; everything is there from the begging, the fast cars, planes and police. The only thing missing at the beginning is money. This is where the game distinguishes itself from the previous games in the series, with its heist missions.
Gone are the mundane "go there, shoot them" missions. The heist allows you to choose how you want to play the mission out. You choose your crew, and the more money you pay them, the better the job they will do for you, and the less you pay, the more likely that it is for them to possibly make mistakes and maybe even cost you more money. These are the problems you must think about when recruiting them for missions. The people you recruit are the strangers and freaks you meet across the map, and sometimes they will owe your favours, sometimes you will owe them a favour. You must find the vehicles you need, and make sure they are in the right position and that everything is ready before the heist begins, otherwise you will regret it when you are trying to make a quick getaway. The heist, once completed, leaves you with great satisfaction, since you designed the plan and now it has been carried through, so go and spend your money on what you want. Personally, I kept buying the fastest cars and making them faster. Plus, I bought Los Santos International Airport because I still had a couple of million left over.
The visuals are really something special. GTA pushed the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 further than it should have had any right to do, and it is simply the best looking game on the consoles. It also looks stunning on PS4 and Xbox One. I enjoyed driving to a local high spot and turning the radio on and listening to the perfect song as the sun was either setting or rising; sometimes, it’s the little things in games that make it all worthwhile. When it is raining, spray flies off the road, and the bigger the car, the more spray there is. If your character has been for a swim, he will be wet and will slowly dry off in the sun, or if you are caught in the rain, they will make a sly comment about the weather. Again, these are small details that elevate it from being a good game to one of the best. There are three areas to the map: the big city Vinewood area, the outback which is very green and wet, and the desert area which houses a lot of the rednecks and impoverished folk. Each area has its own look and feel, one that cannot be described unless played and driven through. Stealing a passenger jet and flying over the world is also a priceless feat that really shows the power of the game engine.
The game incorporates a number of different features and makes them its own. If you are bored of the missions, you could drive round in easily-controllable cars of all speeds and designs, or you could play an 18-hole golf match at the local club, or play tennis, or even do some yoga if that’s your thing. Each mini-game is enjoyable (even the yoga) and they all control fairly well; however, you will probably find yourself leaving them out as they don’t improve your character abilities. Speaking of which, each character comes with their own set of abilities, which can be upgraded by increased jogging making them fitter (meaning they can run for longer), or the more you fly or the more you drive, the better they are at high speeds. There isn’t an upgrade system per se; the characters just evolve the way in which you want them to.
There is so much to talk about that I could go on for hours. I haven’t even spoken about Michael's family relations, which include some of the funniest levels I’ve played, or the apparent fun being poked at the American way of indulgence and lust. The radio itself is perfect with radio talk shows, music shows and adverts that mock other games like Call of Duty. At some points, you will also be helping out the paparazzi and sneaking through rich people’s homes. If you come to an emergency stop, the driver behind you will honk his horn and drive past you while giving you a vulgar signal as they go past; again, it is the smaller things that make a difference.
There are occasional moments when you have been playing the game for a couple of hours where you may get occasional texture pop in, or the frame rate may slow when driving quickly down the freeway, but this does not detract from the game itself. For a map so large and vast in scale and design, I very rarely encountered a mistake or glitch.
In conclusion, this is a game that the fans had waited a long time for, and it was more than worth the wait. This was my first GTA game as I had never really had an interest previously, but this hooked me and now I’m a massive fan. Despite the game coming up to two years since its release, it still holds well compared to some games being released in 2015. If you own a games console, you cannot afford to miss this gaming phenomenon. A must-buy.
Overall Rating: 9.5/10 - Classic