Review: GTA V

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It’s the big one. Grand Theft Auto V – possibly THE review of the year. You’ve all been playing it and so have we. Dave and Cameron combine to review this generations full-stop….

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Cameron: Since 2011 we have been asking for one thing, and one thing alone: Grand Theft Auto V. What were we given? A conglomeration of style, sunshine, glamour and fraud and an unprecedented amount of things to kill. We were given Grand Theft Auto V, and boy-o; is it good.

Dave: Good? Yes. Very good? Yes. In a year of next-generation consoles, BioShock Infinite and The Last Of Us; Rockstar North have made sure we’re all going to be talking about one game and one game only – GTA V. What they’ve managed to do on 8 year old hardware is staggering – it’s not perfect and I do have some issues with the game but, in my humble opinion, it’s the best GTA thus far. I’m guessing you enjoyed it, Cam?

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Cameron: Oh, yes. Where do I start? Perhaps it’s right to speak about the mechanics of the game: The gun mechanics have all been vastly improved; taking on Red Dead Redemption’s immensely satisfying rag doll physics, Rockstar have managed to implement it into the sun sprawling utopia that is phony big-town L.A. Driving feels fresh; gone are the days where you feel like you’re driving on thin ice – In comes a new generation of smooth ride, tarmac drifting and off-road climax worthy dirt bike jumping! It feels really, really fresh. No one can disagree with that.

Dave: You’re not wrong. Rockstar North have looked at what the other teams have been working on since GTA IV and borrowed and refined – the sprawling world of Red Dead (and sense of “place”), the driving from Midnight Club, the gunplay of Max Payne 3. You’ve seen and played all its parts before – but never at the same time and at such a high quality. There’s always been a valid criticism of the GTA series – that it’s mechanics lack polish and finesse. Not here.

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Cameron: So does this games have any faults at all? Superman has his kryptonite and the jilted, bitter has been lover will always have his ex-girlfriend’s restraining order. Unfortunately, GTA’s downfall, seems to be in its storyline. Although it’s a fantastically well crafted set of missions, with some fantastic set-pieces and heists – the length of the game feels right, the timing and pace of missions are perfect – the narrative just falls short somewhere. With three unique characters depending on each other to build themselves a foundation of rich narrative, it’s hard to do when one or two of the characters seem, well; flat. Michael is boring and his storyline seems to be a consistent warp about him and only him – “I suck… I hate myself” and the like. Franklin says “fuck” a few times, but other than that his personality isn’t very thorough or present – he could easily be placed in GTA: San Andreas and seems like a retread of old ground. Trevor however, is a very strong protagonist; whom you can empathise with. He knows he’s a psychopath, and he deals with it – making you feel like a psycho-sociopath all at the same time; whilst enjoying it!

Dave: I can see the criticisms of the plot. For me, it feels disjointed with no real touchstone to it – the stakes for some of the characters aren’t particularly high and I fail to see some of their motivations. While the chemistry between the three characters is good (and the voice acting is fantastic), I found the constant bickering between Michael and Trevor to be tiresome. To me, GTA V seems like a study of a mid-life crisis – kudos for Rockstar North for dealing with it, not many games do. I found myself enjoying the Strangers and Freaks missions more than the main story; this is were the characters get to shine and it highlights the games lighter touch compared to its predecessor. Disagree about Michael though – I think he’s an interesting character and I enjoyed playing as him. He also has the games stand out mission, without a doubt.

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Cameron: Away from the story, the game is all style and glamour. The radio stations are the pure pinnacle of perfection – scenario: you’ve just ‘iced some fools‘ and you’re going out for a ride in the night around the outskirts of the city. You pull up and shove on Los Santos Rock Radio: Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty is on. It couldn’t be tackier, but it feels right. Rockstar love mixing with that formula – to make something so uncool in such a cool scenario, it not only becomes the coolest thing in the world; it also continues to make you orgasm over it, even weeks preceding the moment.

Dave: Not sure about orgasms, Cam but I take your point. You can count on one hand the amount of games available that get the sense of “place” as right as GTA V (another one, funnily enough, is Red Dead) and untold fun can just be had roaming around Los Santos and Blaine County. In fact, for the first few days I just looked for the most scenic places to take photographs – no crime for me. The satire has never been better, with Danny McBride’s talk radio show, in full Eastbound And Down mode, a highlight. Incidentally, I’m a Rebel Radio man – not much Baker Street for me.

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Cameron: It’s undeniably the best Grand Theft Auto game to date -then there’s the online mode. Think of doing everything you had fun with in GTA IV, take away the limitations and take the possibilities and inject them with hardcore, most definitely illegal steroids and then call up your mate. Have a hair cut, splash out on a car; then drive and kill everything you see. Even after the mindless explosion that was the launch of GTA Online, it’s unbelievable what Rockstar have done with it and you can imagine sinking countless hours into it.

Dave: I have a feeling GTA Online will be eventually be seen as the real meat of GTA V. Thankfully, the launch problems seem to be mostly resolved – and it’s a pure blast of fun. Like any online mode, enjoyment can be spoiled by mindless idiots in your game – but team up with your friends (using Rockstar’s brilliant crew and social club tools) and the mode really shines. It’s not all about violence; go on a bike ride through Blaine Country, team parachute from the top of Mount Gordo, watch a film – the world really is your playground and having a good time is at the forefront of Rockstar North’s mind on this.

You can have infinite hours of fun on GTA: Online and the single player has plenty to offer after the story is done, with DLC on the way too. The fun literally never ends. What better a way to lose a job, girlfriend or days of your life?

Cameron’s score: 9:5

Dave’s score: 9.2

Low Fat Gaming’s score: 9.4/10

Grand Theft Auto V is available now for PS3 and Xbox 360. Keep an eye out for any PC, PS4 and Xbox One announcements after Xmas.

Dave Green and Cameron Harris.

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