GTA V Review – Michael Learns to Rockstar


By Darryn Bonthuys on Wednesday, September 25, 2013
"GTA V is the game that once again sets a new benchmark in excellence"

GTA Header

Grand Theft Auto is a title that everyone knows. It’s the name of a series of games that helped define a generation, and in the 12 years since the third core game in the series helped push gaming into a larger spotlight.

Gaming has changed though. It’s been five years since GTA IV burst onto the scene, and in that gap between major GTA sequels, the genre has evolved. GTA V proves that it has what it takes to not only still be relevant , but to take survival of the fittest to a new level. It’s the kind of game that knows it comes from an older generation. But instead of trying to recapture that youth, GTA V instead runs with it and embraces that theme of old dogs staying true to form and celebrating what makes the franchise so damn popular in the first place.

GTA V is the game that once again sets a new benchmark in excellence.

GTA V review (1)

Set back in sunny Los Santos, GTA V takes place across three distinct characters and storylines. Michael is your former career criminal who cut a deal to save his own skin and that of his family, living a high life of luxury that has brought him nothing but pain. His wife is banging anything with a pulse to get away from her husband, his kids hate him and his anger is barely kept in check.

Franklin is your thug from the hood, but a man with his eye on becoming more than just a dimebag-dealing hoodlum stuck in the ghettos amongst friends and family who embarrass him more than anything else.

And then there’s Trevor. Freakin’ Trevor.

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While Michael and Franklin are pretty much believable characters stuck in a rut in life, Trevor is an unstable force of nature with a quick temper, drug habit and sociopathic tendencies that would make Jack the Ripper look like a saint in comparison. And he’s pretty much the best character that Rockstar has ever unleashed in a game.

Trevor is brutal, unforgiving but honest to a fault. He’s the spirit of GTA V, Jack Thomson’s worst nightmare and the poster child for gratuitous violence and explicit sex in video games. And in GTA V, he’s perfect.

But moving on, what Rockstar has managed to do is to make three characters who are clearly distinctive personalities. You can see this when you do something as switch between them. Michael may be getting a crap cup of coffee, or Franklin may be walking his dog. Trevor will most likely be sleeping off a hangover of note and wondering why he just woke up wearing a skirt.

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And that switch between three characters forms a large part of the appeal and evolution of GTA V. Barring certain mission circumstances and consequences from completing them, you can switch at any time between the unholy trio of hell-raisers.

It’s a quick and intuitive process, that can be done anywhere and anytime. And while it’s a neat feature, it really comes in handy during missions. Switching between the three during shootouts, getaway drives and heists. It’s something that becomes second nature, and a welcome way to spice up combat.

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So what has really changed in the years between GTA IV and V. Well for starters, driving a car is now no longer a labour worthy of Hercules himself. Handling has been massively improved, but to a degree that tows a fine line between arcade physics and realism. It’s a welcome return to form that sits in the middle of the driving experience from GTA III and IV, with control and decent handling balancing some of the trickier aspects of outrunning cops.

Your three leads also have access to their own special abilities, which can be recharged and lengthened the more you play with them. Michael can enter a slow-mo bullet time, but minus the Max Payne dramatic dodges, in which he can precisely aim for a headshot and save his own skin.

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Franklin gets to drift around corners in slow motion in a manner usually reserved for Fast and Furious sequels, while Trevor can anger up his blood and halve the damage he receives while dishing out even more than usual. Pulling a page from the San Andreas book of gameplay, characters now have several stats, spread across stamina, shooting and other categories that will improve the more you partake in certain activities that are tailored towards them.

Sprint more, and you’ll up your stamina. Fly more often and you’ll avoid turbulence. Aircraft controls though, especially in helicopters,are still fiddly at best when compared to the vastly improved driving mechanics.

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Getting into a gunfight reveals some old school DNA in GTA V. You’ve got a weapon wheel and infinite pockets, but honestly, I loved the idea of having a dozen weapons on me at any given time. There’s some Max Payne influence in these segments, especially when playing as Michael, as characters move and react more realistically. Despite that pedigree though, combat can still be awkward at times, while the returning cover system still falls just short of hitting that sweet spot.

Weapon upgrades do help address this issue though, with the arsenal on offer feeling heavy, meaty and realistic. Plus the mini-gun finally makes a welcome return.

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Getting into mischief has also been slightly overhauled in GTA V. A wanted level of one star can easily escalate to two stars when the cops are after you, and you’ll need to not only outrun them, but successfuuly hide as well when they start searching for you.

The more destructive your crime spree, the more resources the fuzz will spend on tracking you down, using helicopters and multiple cop cars to sniff you out. Staying out of their cones of sight will become second nature to you as the game goes on, while the increased AI of law enforcement means that they’ll be far less forgiving and more than willing to use lethal force.

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It’s also all part of the new stealth system, which may not be Metal Gear or Splinter Cell in execution, but is capable enough for several missions. That being said though, cops seem to react a little too quickly to events. Punching a hobo by accident earned me three squad cars on my ass and a shotgun to the face, while trying to cause some destruction in a remote location had all manner of hell descend upon me from the thin blue line.

Missions are also now graded as players work their way through them. Finishing a level without hitting any of the goals available will earn you a bronze medal, while going back to get those extra headshots and timely exits nets you silver and gold medals. It’s a great way to keep players coming back, to tackle those challenges. Challenges which Rockstar is even kind enough to allow you to choose to skip, should you fail over and over again.

GTA V review (2)

Los Santos is a massive slice of America. Divided up into three distinct sections, players will spend a lot of time cruising the streets of Vinewood, exploring in the forests surrounding the state or causing anarchy in the desert in the border regions beyond civilisation and marriages between people that aren’t related to one another.

There’s several landmarks present here, all stolen from with glee from Los Angeles and Santa Monica, that people who have been there will easily recognise. Vinewood boulevard, the Los Santos beach and the Route 66 pier are just a few of the real world locations that have been rendered into GTA V.

GTA V review (9)

It’s a beautiful region to explore, and the Metropolitan areas feel more alive than ever, as cops chase down people other than you for once. There’s also new events that will pop up out of nowhere, where players can retrieve some stolen property, or get lured into an ambush. Events that are separate from the main storyline that is unfolding.

And what a story it is. It’s no longer the soul-crushingly depressing narrative from the GTA IV days that unravels itself here. Sure, there are plenty of serious moments as GTA V spins a yarn, but its done in a manner that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and yet still manages to throw in oddball miscreants and criminals. By the time you’re done reaching at least one of the multiple endings though, you’ll be left satisfied with how the story has reached its conclusion.

GTA V review (4)

Special mention needs to go to the voice actors present for GTA V. Rockstar has done an outstanding job casting their three leads, from Michael, Franklin and Trevor through to random strangers and the other dozens of voices present.

They’re all believable characters, even Trevor with various mental problems on show, and I think it says something of the quality present here when someone walks past my room and wants to know what film I’m watching.

Graphically, GTA V is pushing it.The game looks fantastic, and for the most part, is firing on all cylinders. Facial ticks, animation, consistently smooth frame rates and some phenomenal environmental effects are all present and pushing the PS3 and Xbox 360 to their limits.

It’s not without a few concessions though, as you’ll occasionally find the odd muddy texture popping up or find a background object failing to load. But for one of the last great big hurrahs of this console generation, it’s a game that is firing a massive salvo of graphical might before the rest of the competition arrives.

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The other big addition to the game arrives in the form of heists. There’s only a handful of them present in GTA V, but they’re varied and lengthy enough when it comes to substance. As a former bank robber, Michael quickly gets roped back into his old career, with Franklin and Trevor joining him for the ride.

You’ll need proper preparation and planning for these heists though, as they escalate from a jewellery store robbery through to a mission that can only be described in Baysplosions. Along with your core crew, you’ll also need to recruit a capable extra pair of hands. The more skilled your hired gun, the larger the cut they’ll take when a mission is pulled off successfully.

GTA V review (7)

These heists also require extra equipment, which ranges from stealing insecticide gas through to acquiring some janitorial uniforms. You’ll also get the option to tackle these heists by being smart and sneaky, or by being loud and armed to the teeth. Crew members also get a chance to level up and increase their skills during heists, but the handful of these missions available gives them scant opportunity to do so, making it a wasted effort to keep a cheap underling alive.

And yet, there’s still more content in GTA V. Trevor gets to perform all manner of hate crimes as he guns down everyone from Mexican gangbanger to drunk rednecks in the return of Rampage missions, property can be bought and interacted with in order to earn extra coin, characters can be customised and the list just goes on.

By the time I started writing this game review, I’d clocked almost 30 hours so far in the game. And I’ve only just scratched the surface. And that’s not even including the fact that GTA V goes online from October 1. I’ve dabbled in hanging out with my friends, got beyond drunk with Trevor and found so much more just by exploring Los Santos between missions.

Despite all these accomplishments and additions though, GTA V isn’t a huge leap forward for Rockstar. Instead, it’s an evolution of all their previous work, all combined into one sandbox experience on a massive scale. But it’s a satisfying path that the franchise has taken, kicking other genre games off the throne that it helped build.

GTA V was reviewed by on the 25th of September , 2013 at 3:30 PM on Xbox 360

GAMEPLAY
8.5
It's still not completely hitting all the sweet spots when it comes to combat, gunplay and helicopter mechanics, but it's still a massive improvement from the GTA IV days of the franchise.
DESIGN
9.0
For a game this bloody massive, the results are impressive to say the least. Characters not only look great, but they sound realistic as well. The bustling metropolis of Los Santos itself has never felt more alive than in GTA V.
VALUE
9.0
There's no way that GTA V can be clocked in a single playthrough, let alone in a day. There's hours upon hours of content available that is varied and fun to interact with. And that's before GTA V Online has even arrived.
TOTAL
9.0
Love it or hate it, GTA is back and here to stay. The old dog may have some new tricks up its sleeves, but it doesn't stray too far from its roots and is more than well aware of this, creating an experience that both celebrates and pokes fun at its legacy.

Tags: , , , , ,

Author:Darryn Bonthuys

Because he's the writer that Lazygamer deserves, but not the one it actually needs right now. So we'll hunt him. Because he can't take it. Because he's not a hero. He's a loud-mouthed journalist, a watchful procrastinator. A dork knight.

Don't stop now.... you're having a good time


  • http://lazygamer.net/ oVg

    9?

    Lets make an on-line petition and give the reviewer death threats. A horrible death like drowning in curry. :P

    • Major Commodore 64 Darryn B

      #Hugs

      • Hammersteyn
        • Admiral Chief of Rivia

          HAHA, whats up with you and the baboons today?

          • Hammersteyn

            Feels like I am going ape I guess.

          • http://lazygamer.net/ oVg

            9? :P

          • Lara’s John

            I fear the day that you have to go without GTA V.

          • http://lazygamer.net/ oVg

            I will just catch a ride in a South African TAXI.

      • http://lazygamer.net/ oVg

        I will let you off :P

        But there is no excuse for THE ESCAPIST review of 7/10. If you do not like the film HEAT because the characters are all bastard asshats then do not review GTAV.

        http://www.metacritic.com/game/xbox-360/grand-theft-auto-v/critic-reviews

        • Rincethis

          Agreed. Fuck them. Looking for cheap click rates, like when this one gamer girl reviewer appeared ‘nude’ with her ‘cat’, imagine a site lowering itself to that level?

          • http://lazygamer.net/ oVg

            Ill click that :P

          • Hammersteyn

            Nude what now??

          • Rincethis

            I know, imagine that! A gamer, like, oh, I don’t know, Zoe for instance… Doing that… Shocking…

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            That would be downright pornographic. Why, I get the willies simply seeing women walking down the street with their ANKLES showing. No shame.

          • Lara’s John

            Dude. You guys are crazy, that will NEVER show up on a gaming site.

          • Rincethis

            *Still looking for article picture* I agree!

        • Hammersteyn

          Fuck ‘em. No wait let Trevor fuck ‘em.

          • Rincethis

            Oh, you have no idea how right you are…

          • http://lazygamer.net/ oVg

            R.I.P.? Mr. Rasberry Jam.

          • Hammersteyn

            The dude sleeps in pink pajamas. Serves him right. wouldn’t surprise me if Trevor got in next to him.

          • ElNicko

            That poor teddy bear

          • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

            The things that poor teddy bear had to endure… SHOCKING!!!

    • Admiral Chief of Rivia

      Ghost pepper to the exit cloaca!!!

    • Rincethis

      Yeah. I agree. Let’s find Darryn and make him explain to Trevor why they don’t deserve a 10…

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        I don’t care :P

      • Hammersteyn

        Pliers, Pipe Wrench or the water can. Maybe electrocution?

        • Rincethis

          All the above. And then chilli sauce.

          • Lara’s John

            Nah, Tobasco.

          • Rincethis

            What you said!

        • http://lazygamer.net/ oVg

          Throw him in the ocean

          • Hammersteyn

            That’s one fish that didn’t swim away.

          • Lara’s John

            Haha. And somehow he seems smarter.

      • http://lazygamer.net/ oVg

        Ill bring the pliers.

        • SaintsRowMurray

          My… What a big tool you have, Mr Repairman!

  • Johnbacca

    That’s what I wanted to hear. Now all we do is wait for the pc release.

    • Hammersteyn

      PC will get 9.5, maybe even 10.

      • Admiral Chief of Rivia

        :D

      • Rincethis

        Sorry, thought you wrote ‘PC WHEN Will get…

        • Hammersteyn

          Hehe, everyone know its comming to PC. Till then it’s Steam bundles and MMO’s for them.

          • Lara’s John

            Exactly

          • Rincethis

            Sore? Trolol! ;) I know it will come to PC, just trolling you bstds for once :)

          • Lara’s John

            Well trolled sir. We shall let you have this one.

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            Do you mean once every hour? ;P

          • Rincethis

            Hey, I’ve been busy today!

        • http://lazygamer.net/ oVg

          At least it can run Crysis :P

  • Rincethis

    Good man Darryn! GOOD MAN! PS: “I think it says something of the quality present here when someone walks past my room and wants to know what film I’m watching.” This is very true, when I woke up from a session of GTAV with OVG, only to find a letter in my letter box from the neighbour who was complaining of ‘our’ swearing the night before. Ahhh, Trevor, you mo**a f****g Hick!

  • Hammersteyn

    Cant wait for this day to end so that I can get back to GTA

  • That Happy Twit

    Darryn wants to be Batman with this article.

    • Lara’s John

      I think it’s clear he’s really putting in the extra effort for Batman this week.

      • Rincethis

        Yeah, but trolling our asses with a 9!

  • Rags

    Good to know Diablo 3 on the PC is better than this. :P

    • http://lazygamer.net/ oVg

      BURN…

      toooo sooon :P

    • Rincethis

      Ouch!

    • Sageville

      So LG tells us that GTA V is as good as Rayman Legends?

      DISPARITY!

      • Tarisma

        and that papers please is nearly as good as GTA V I’m confused?

        • http://www.lazygamer.net Gavin Mannion

          Don’t be.. buy all the games we say are grea and avoid the ones we say suck.. simple

      • http://www.lazygamer.net Gavin Mannion

        Rayman is excellent… and an entirely different game

        • Sageville

          So, you are saying we should only compare apples with apples?

          Well, LG doesn’t label their fruit, so as a reader, I’m missing that “entirely different game” designation, unless this is just assumed knowledge.

          Would the reviews not have more value if we knew what playing field the reviewer was using e.g. Shooter, platformer etc.

          As such the 9/10 for GTA V can be compared to what?

          • TechniKyle

            As a game, it’s a 9/10. No need for comparison. Games can be scored from 1 to 10 or sh!t to great not on a measurement of Duke Nukem Forever to Final Fantasy VIII.

          • Sageville

            I get you, guess I just get confused with these ratings across platforms/genres/game types.

            I mean what has to happen to see a 10/10 or a 1/10?

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  • brad coetzee

    Agree, helicopters control terribly, don’t enjoy flying them at all.

    Also, John Marsten is Rockstars greatest character ever and he would non-chalantly kick Trevor’s asshole to pieces.

    • http://lazygamer.net/ oVg

      I think Trevor will enjoy that ;)

  • TrajanZa

    Great review…but why oh why would i want to “avoid less turbulence”…surely id want to avoid turbulence, or avoid large amounts of turbulence?

    • http://www.lazygamer.net Gavin Mannion

      Reviewer being slapped… blerdy Editor is on leave :) fixing

  • richard l

    Gta 6 JHB. Now that will be good!

  • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

    I couldn’t agree more with your review Darryn, and I agree with the 8.5 for gameplay. Overall, I would have probably scored it an 8.5. It’s without a doubt a huge improvement over GTA 4, but it is very buggy and glitchy. LOL! I just had a truck appear (from out of nowhere) right in front of me…. And the resulting collision left poor Trevor dead :(

    I hope Rockstar delivers a patch soon, although I have a feeling the Online portion is going to ship with one heck of a patch.

    By the way, the three-way protagonist thingy is amazeballs, and the way there’s a little bit of a cutscene when you switch over is very cool.

    • MacDoodle

      Should of reviewed it on ps3 I haven’t seen any glitches yet, only 15hrs in but

    • Brady miaau

      I got two identical cars in my garage. Amusing, but that is it.

      Also, riding a bike at high speed into a truck can kill Franklin. Who knew?

      • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

        I managed to clone my jet with the power of switcheroo. I initially parked my jet in MIchael’s hanger, but it didn’t seem like the game saved it, so I flew to Sandy Shores, changed over to Trevor, got Trevor to steal the jet from Michael, and dropped it off in Trevor’s hangar.

        Now both characters have jets. lol.

    • TiMsTeR1033

      I thought the ps3 was free of glitches and bugs, I have a texture pop in once in awhile. Only thing that I hate is when with Helicopter you notice stuff popping in alot more!

      • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

        I doubt there’ll ever be a commercial game with pristine code. At least we can patch…. I mean imagine if you couldn’t. You bought a game, it’s essentially broken, and you can’t do anything about it. Granted even with patches, Skyrim on PS3 is still broken – Bethesda can suck a monkey’s ass.

        • TiMsTeR1033

          Good thing I got xbox 360 was gonna get Skyrim still!

  • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

    Serious question time… Has anyone managed to steal a fighter jet yet? I mean I don’t even get off the runway without some bright spark shoving an RPG up my tailpipe…. ;/

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  • HeniQpotter

    Nice review Darryn, I agree with a 9.0

  • fred

    An Easy 10/10 , considering the current consoles’ limitations. So much to do , so much to see , and a hell of a lot of fun. If you expected more , then your expectations are a bit high and so are you.

    • Weerwolf

      Theoretically a game should never be able to get a 10/10 since that means it is perfect in every way.

  • Charlie Walker

    You guys are kidding. You’re complaining about a 9/10? A 9/10 is an exceedingly high score, and you are complaining about it? This game isn’t perfect at all, it has many imperfections, and it’s a reviewers job to point it out. Jesus, you guys are the worst.

    • Guest

      But Diablo 3 gets 9.5?

      • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

        Different games, different opinions, different reviews, different reviewers. Also, since reviews are as subjective as fuck, comparing one to the other is an exercise in futility.

        • Weanerdog

          I aways thought that fuck was pretty definitive go ask Bill Clinton

          • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

            But Monica merely “tonsiled” his boerewors. He was quite adamant he never “slept” with “that woman”. Although, this is the same guy who said he never inhaled when he smoked “da chronic” back in his varsity days….

            At least Obama was honest, “Yeah, I smoked a joint”.

        • SaintsRowLee

          But share some of the banana wisdom on that point: Do you believe there is a wrong reviewer for a game?
          Case in point: I cannot for the life of me, play a RTS game. Nope. I have tried but I end up flinging the keyboard at the wall in frustration as I have to be all over the place at once.
          Now if I review Command and Conquer, Tiberium Man Juice Extreme, I’ll hate it, and I’ll score it so low it won’t even be funny.
          Same goes with movies. I had a moerse fight with Kervyn and Noelle (I think) after they scored The Expendables a bit too low for my liking. But if you look a the types of movies they like, then it is clear that the Expendables is not going to be their cup of tea?
          Am I wrong in my thinking?

  • Brady miaau

    Ok. confession time:

    It was my birthday yesterday and my mother in law gave me a substantial CNA voucher.

    So I caved. and bought the game. Had to pay in.

    Witcher 2 had some good graphics. This is just mind blowing, the sheer scale.

    Sigh. I caved.

    • Sageville

      One of Us!

      One of Us!

    • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

      Welcome… WELCOME! KIFFLOM!

      • TiMsTeR1033

        hahah

  • Tbone187

    All GTA games warrant an 8 by default. The added Max Payne like shooting mechanic alone adds a 0.5. The huge scale and ambition of the title should add another 0.5 so yeah, Id agree with that. All they need now is the fighting mechanics of Sleeping dogs.

    Thanks Darryn for being real and not over bloating this like most others with their instant 10′s.

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  • matthurstrsa

    Apparently to improve flying/lower turbulence, hold L1+R1 together and it stabilises the plane. I haven’t tried it myself.

  • Kobus Nel

    I’ve played it on PS3 at a friends house, and yes, it really is a fun game. A few things bugged me though: Those damned thumb stick controller crap doesn’t do it for me, and the 720p resolution is just not enough, especially when speeding from cops (can’t see oncoming cars or cars under a bridge). I’ll wait for the PC release to enjoy it on 1080p with a mouse and keyboard. Then I’ll be satisfied and enjoy it the way it is meant to. :)

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  • John Johnson

    9 sounds about right

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