on May 8, 2015
GTA V is such a massive game that it will take a while for me to be able to put into words everything that makes this game truly a fantastic video game and one with the best open world to date.
To start off, the story and the world itself is primarily a satire on modern American society, which exaggerates and emphasizes issues sun as the use of extreme violence, the popularity of the media and technology, and the different types of lives to be lived. In Los Santos, you get to be three characters, which is an opportunity of gaming that I haven't really seen before, the idea to seamlessly transition to another character, doing something completely unscripted in the expansive world of Los Santos. First you have Michael, a rich criminal who decides to enter the business after he enters some rough waters; Franklin, an aspiring repo man who is trying to make it big in the world; and Trevor, the most insane character you could manage to play as in a game. I mean he is insane; pathologically, really.
The story really feels like a crime saga and though it does a fine job in the beginning, with appropriate pacing of it's set pieces and it's characters, the main fault to this game is it's second act. Many hours into the game, you'll find yourself just a bit lost in the narrative, and in a negative way. Far too much is happening for you to really get invested in whats happening, and far too many villains are introduced for me to be able to register their weight and role in the story. I found myself for at least ten hours worth of story missions begrudgingly completing tasks required from me to partake in in order to progress the story, for that reason only. It's written fine, as is the rest of the script, but it's to convoluted and almost feels as if its trying to compete with the massive variety and scope of the open world in what you could do in it.
Thankfully, the third act, which is really after the third to last heist-
I think I should actually mention a part of the story rather than just gloss over it and point out it's flaws. The heist aspect of the story are these massive events that are really being led up to in anticipation, and rarely do these ever disappoint. These heists rake in tons of money from places that you are robbing, and is really the only part in the game where control is 100% given to you.
Which leads into the second point of the story that I would like to make before we reroute back to what I was saying earlier. In most of the side missions, I persistently felt an unnerving sense of hand-holding, in which I was constantly being told what, how, and where to do something. It really took me out of it, and felt like a huge contradiction to the massive amount of freedom that you can get whilst roaming in the open world.
Now, to return to what I was saying...
Thankfully, the third act, which is really after the third to last heist, gets a tone that wasn't seen for the rest of the game. It feels a bit brooding, as if all is leading up to some grand and bombastic finale (which it does, mind you). Secrets and lies are revealed, shots are fired, and the third act makes up for most of the second acts muddled events by having a tighter script and better story progression.
In the gameplay aspect of the game, there are really two things that you will be doing: shooting and driving. Shooting is smooth and responsive, and also generally easy, as GTA V's aim is always lock on (because if it's not then it's damn near impossible to use) and the guns you continue to unlock feel more powerful and rewarding. Cover is very good in the game, some of the best movement i've seen in a game. Gunfights work absolutely well in a gameplay aspect, and I only ever failed because I simply made the wrong tactical choices of movement.
The other main gameplay aspect is the driving; I never played GTA IV, so I have no idea how it is comparatively, but I heard that V is much better. And it really is. Cars have real weight to them, and with practice, drifting can be a cool and advantageous move. Driving feels wonderful and it really is a joy to take a car (which you will most likely have stolen) and drive across the desert as the sun goes down. Gameplay wise GTA V does all that it sets out to do right.
Now for the big one; the real reason why this game is one of the best games of all time: the open world.
It is a huge cliche to say "living, breathing world" when talking about a video game's open world, but this is the first game where I feel that term really encapsulates what Los Santos really feels like. In most other games I play I feel that the world revolves around me, and while in some games it's fine, like in Infamous 2, sometimes it feels good to see a world evolving in it's own ways, not giving you all the attention. The citizens of Los Santos are living their own lives, driving to a specific destination, taking their dog out for a walk, talking on the phone (and to my surprise, I have never heard the same phone conversation twice, even including in GTA Online). Not only that, but the world is simply gorgeous, and one of the best-looking games on the system.
Not only does the world feel alive and as if it has it's own personality, but there is also so much that you can do in it. The world map will give you things to find, such as certain missions that will even possibly unlock other branching missions; but, unlike many other games, I was actually rewarded with scouring the city and Blaine county, because that allowed me to find many of the other missions not shown to me, and many of the MANY random encounters that you can run into in the world. It's so seamless that it feels organic, like it just naturally appeared and somehow now an NPC has a new story to tell me. If you keep driving in San Andreas, chances are you will see someone calling out at you, doing something curious, or holding up a store (which amazingly you can either stop them from finishing the job or actually aid them in their escape). For the first time I would have to define a certain aspect of a game as perfect. GTA V is not my favorite game, nor is it a 10/10, but it's open world is one of the most incredible things I have ever seen with countless activities and races to participate, people to meet, and genuinely interesting tasks to complete. There is absolutely no flaw in the open world, as far as I could tell.
GTA V is a masterpiece. It comes damn close to bring my favorite game, with incredible gameplay and a awe-inspiring open world to explore. It only fails in the second act of it's story, and it only fails because it tries too hard. And even then it's first and particularly it's third act is simply exquisite.
This game is a marvel, and must be played. Be warned of the poor choice you are making if you choose to not.