REVIEW: Rockstar Games Achieves Next-Level Greatness With ‘Grand Theft Auto V’

The highest budgeted, most creatively publicized game of the current console generation has raked in $1 billion dollars in just three days after release. Is that due to consumer habit? Or is the game just that damn good?

The hugely successful gaming franchise has spawned two different schools of thought within the gaming industry. You can take the Activision / Treyarch approach, and, annually churn out a brand spanking new cash cow right on time for the holiday season. Or, what seems to be the more rewarding approach, you can take a page out of Rockstar Games’ playbook, develop your IP to new heights, and deliver the best game in the entire marketplace.

After the meteoric rise of the Grand Theft Auto series, due to the fourth installment redefining open-world, it has been awhile since the third person shooting and driving game has impacted gamers around the globe. Rockstar returns us to the Los Santos area, which was a great place to wreak havoc in during Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Expanding on the environment finds gamers playing as three anti-heroes in the biggest playground a sandbox game has ever provided. The scope of Los Santos is grandiose this time around. Players are treated to a huge landscape as they are able to travel into urban and rural areas, can explore the seas, play recreational sports and visit familiar Los Angeles landmarks like the Santa Monica Pier and the Chinese Theater.

As Michael, the retired bank robber whose ends is only the beginning; Franklin, the young hustler with ambitions of being an honest businessman; and Trevor, one of the craziest characters in the entire history of the series, you’re tasked with completing multiple missions that tie these three together for an enjoyable single-player campaign. Their intertwining stories represent Rockstar Games (and Rockstar North) attempt at creating a more mature narrative for players who want more from their characters. But as game scribe Leigh Alexander notes in her incredible op-ed piece, Grand Theft Auto V “recites the same old gangland fantasies,” instead of pushing the envelope as the critically acclaimed company has been known to do.

In addition to not establishing a definitive, rebellious anti-authoritarian female lead, Franklin, equally, gets the short end of the stick with a weakly developed story. As the company decided to create unique features and experiences, showing off their only minority character with little-to-no changes from the San Andreas motif they created stinks. As a whole, Franklin, Michael and Trevor don’t have any interest in capturing turf or squabbling with gang members. Grand Theft Auto V does tread the line between safe execution and unique gameplay, but in the end, gamers are rewarded with countless hours of excitement, random occurrences (learned from the success of Red Dead Redemption), and a healthy online mode that is poised to make them another billion dollars.

For gamers on the fence about that whole “mature narrative” situation, don’t let it fool you into thinking it is so serious. Sure, people may try to compare their life to Grand Theft Auto, but how many people you know can pull people out of their cars with reckless abandon? Rockstar Games’ title is categorically very tongue-in-cheek and you’ll find yourself in some sticky situations, but it’s a video game! Don’t expect Saints Row level type of parody. The game’s unique transitioning system, where you can play as each individual, allows gamers to gain insight into (in single-player and online) a violently rich and satirical experience.

Another great addition to the title are the improved driving and special abilities. Borrowing from past hits like Max Payne and the aforementioned Red Dead Redemption, each character has a different ability. Franklin, with the improved driving, can slow down time while in motion, allowing for improved accuracy to avoid nasty collisions with oncoming traffic. Michael can also slow down time to make sure his shots are hitting all the right targets. Trevor, meanwhile, can do something similar, only he inflicts some unusually brutal retaliation on his opponents.

Add into the mix those loaded radio stations, the removal of those vigilante missions, and a good range of activities to take part in—when you’re not causing ruckus—and you have Grand Theft Auto V.

Don’t believe us?! You can watch the trailer for yourself below: