Grand Theft Auto V – The Many Meanings Of The V

I have been looking forward to this game since announcements and previews started to hit the internet in the first half of this year. The hype and excitement only grew greater when it was announced that this game was to have a release date in September, as well as trailers showing the three different protagonists, the new game mechanics and the reveal of GTA online.
All of this led to me pre-ordering the game and standing outside my local Game store in the early hours of a damp and dingy morning but not even that could dampen the excitement I felt upon purchasing this game.So it’s now been a good few weeks since I’ve brought it and as the title of this blog suggests, this is a review upon completion.
First fact, I know that like spoons, there are no V’s and that it means the number 5, but you know what, it allowed me to split this review into smaller sections which should hopefully make it easier to read.
Second fact, this review is going to look deep into this games storyline and that means I’ll have to use some spoilers, so if you’re not ok with the please continue to read with your eyes closed. One of these sections is going to be far more spoiler heavy than the others and I’ll make sure to highlight when it comes. Well that’s enough of that. FORWARD TO REVIEW-NESS.

V for Vast.

Unlike most games for the Eggsbox GTA V requires one disk to be installed to the hard drive before you can begin playing, this disk takes roughly 8 Gbs of memory, which depending on your console could be a large amount of your memory. It also takes quite a while to install, so your first experience of the game will be looking at some slowly rotating loading screens. I suggest bringing something to do, like a tea, or a book or your research on how to produce self-replicating nano-machines, because you’ll have little time to do these things once the game has installed. Once it’s finally installed you can actually start to play and after two tutorial missions and the opening cinematics you are given free reign over the region of Los Santos. This is a vast improvement over previous instalments of the series which locked you out of large sections of the map until you had completed a set amount of the story. Another improvement over previous instalments is how good it looks, there were moments during my first explorations of the island when I genuinely stopped and stared at the scenery and the sheer amount of detail found in individual streets. It’s a lot bigger that GTA IV, and I’ll stop talking about size now, because that’s been done by the community enough, hell there are GIF’s showing how big it is.  The place where this size is felt the most is one of the later triathlons that the characters can try, whilst only focused on the bottom of the map this will take between 25-30 minutes to complete (and will give you RSI).  Considering the large amount of available dialogue, cutscenes, radio shows, and the tracklist it is no wonder that you need to install one of the two discs. It is not all sunshine and rainbows in Los Santos however. The main graphical problem is texture pop-in. You’ll be rolling around at the speed of sound and then, BAM, LAMPPOST.  This can be jarring when said lamppost has just turned the bonnet of the car you spent over $1,000,000 upgrading into a delightful V- shape. Another problem is the tracklist which seems a little sparse compared to previous instalments of the game, there don’t seem to be as many of the brilliantly satirical radio shows as there used to be, and after 80 or so hours of playing you’ll be able to quote them by heart. There is one point when the soundtrack is used with hilarious effect during a story mission. The song is “If you leave me now” by Chicago. I am thankful for this since I can now relate the song to something over than mentally scarring singing cherries. Speaking of story, let’s move on to the next V.

I am in a plane

As a particularly poor pilot assume that I would have crashed 10 seconds before this image was taken

V for Villains.

(SPOILERS, SPOILERS OF EVERY CONCEIVABLE TYPE, NORMAL SERVICE WILL RETURN IN THE NEXT SECTION).

There ain’t no heroes in Los Santos and this is actually very refreshing. The story of GTA IV followed the plight of Slavic immigrant Nico Belic who despite many protestations about how he wanted to be a normal nice man, seemed content to fire rocket launchers at old ladies, crash helicopters into the police and generally do nasty things to people.  This contradiction between the personality of the protagonist and the actions that the player can commit is not continued into GTA V. The game has three different protagonists that the player can switch between when the gang is eventually reunited. This occurs very early in the story and whilst initially confusing allows for some hectic gameplay as well as the pleasures of voyeuristically changing from one colourful character to the other to see what kind of havoc they have been causing whilst you were away. You also learn that the three characters each have different skills and it is far easier to complete a task using them than one of the other characters.  The first protagonist you meet is Michael. Michael is an ex-gangster who has faked his own death in order to leave the world of crime and become a family man, this has gone horrible wrong and his wife sleeps with every other man that dares enter the mansion, his daughter is desperately trying to become Miley Cyrus (current Miley Cyrus, not Disney Miley Cyrus) and his son is a fat slob who plays videogames all day (hey wait, what). Michael, whilst being a very stale character is probably my favourite, throughout the game he changes from someone who ignores his love for crime and action to someone who embraces it (after he is pulled back into the criminal underbelly by one of the other protagonists), he also has some excellent one liners and puns. He is the brains of the outfit and has a special ability that allows you to enter the matrix and slow bullets, he also starts off with the best gun handling.

Michael (1)

Protagonist Numero Uno

The second character you meet is Franklin, he is fairly new to organised crime and initially seems to want to get out of the scene. That is until he meets Michael who takes him as his protégée teaching him the skills you need to get the monies in the GTA world. Franklin is a little boring in my opinion, he rarely talks when the three characters are together and the missions when you play as him mainly revolve around stealing cars. This is a good thing however as driving is Franklin’s bread and butter, he starts with a high driving skill and has a special mode which makes him go into to bullet time car mode, this makes racing with him quite fun and allows you to pull some ridiculous tricks whilst driving around. This mode also is the silliest to look at, and makes the driving seem cartoonish compared to how realistic it feels when driving outside of the mode. Franklin hangs around with Lamar who is also fairly funny and has the largest say in which of the three endings you will get. I won’t spoil the actual endings but I feel the fact that they are coloured red, blue and green is practically plagiarising the much maligned Mass Effect 3 ending.  This leaves the final protagonist.

Franklin 1

Protagonist Numero Deux

Trevor Phillips of Trevor Phillips’ Enterprises, this is one of the most well written characters I’ve seen in gaming recently and rivals Vaas Montenegro for being criminally insane. He is old, balding, overweight, homicidal, pansexual, altruistic, unstable, an implied cannibal and hilarious. He is the person you will switch to the most, just to see what the hell he is doing and you will rarely find him being a productive member of society. His special ability allows him to enter a rage induced mode in which he takes less damage and deals more, whilst entering this mode I suggest you shout some catchphrase or war cry. Mine was “Fan Tucking Fastic”. Unsurprisingly Trevor is the most controversial character and features in one of the most unpleasant bits of the game in which you torture someone to acquire information to help the FBI assassinate a terrorist. The main reason this is unpleasant is the level of interaction you have, however it should be noted that films and television programmes have gone far beyond this level of torture, which as the game points out is mostly legal when interrogating suspected terrorists, it also isn’t a long section of the game and will only take about fifteen minutes to get through. It also serves to highlight how whilst the three main protagonists are criminals the government is just as corrupt as is the police force.

Protagonist Numero Trevor (he cares not for numbers)

Protagonist Numero Trevor (he cares not for numbers)

Over all the storyline to GTA V is very good , it is not perfect and won’t be winning the most awards for originality however it provides a fun 30-40 hours and is packed with memorable characters and villains which serve to parody our own world and show how dirty the real world is. It also features heists which are completely new for the series and allow the player to decide what method they will employ in order to rob a bank, or a jewellery store, or explode a badger (Spoiler, There is no badger explosion in GTA V, THAT I COULD FIND).  These allow you to personalise your experience based on your playstyle. It should be noted that the options are fairly limited and you won’t be able to completely plan your approach and getaway. This also leads to another gripe I have about the three player character scheme, this is when the game forces you to play as a character who is not as proficient at doing the job as one of the others. My main example being a late story quest in which you’re are forced to get away from the police using Michael despite the fact that you and Franklin enter the car together. This is a small complaint to have, but one that infuriated me during that section of the game. This wraps up the section on story and now I’ll move on to the game mechanics.

V for Violence.

Violence is something you will be using a lot in the GTA universe, without qualms and with absolute ease. The game handles it well, combat flows very well and is incredibly hectic, bullets will go flying in almost every conceivable direction and you’ll be ducking behind cover in order to return fire on gangsters, the police and civilians. Weapons all behave different and are quite responsive, unlike GTA IV in which I swear I emptied SMG clips in the face of FBI agents only to turn MIA and go AFK out of annoyance. The flip side is that enemies do a lot more damage to you and if you wander around out of cover YOU WILL DIE. Unarmed combat has also improved and whilst countering attacks is no longer a one hit KO it is incredibly satisfying to pull one off. There is a large arsenal of weaponry available to the player which expands to include miniguns and tear gas and is all easily accessible using the weapon select wheel. The large amount of damage you take means that combat is still exciting however unlike the dull point and click adventure you would expect the game to become once you’ve been given access to a zombie survival enthusiasts wet dream.  One down side to the combat is the reticule, which appears as a white dot in the middle of the screen and is sometimes hard to follow in the carnage happening around you.

I am proficient at both gunplay and explosion.

I am proficient at both gunplay and explosion.

Now let us become serious adults having a serious adult discussion for a second. GTA has violence in it, it has moments of gameplay where you perform acts of violence on other people, however I do not believe it is justifiable to say it makes you a violent person. Any atrocities you commit are performs through two degrees of separation. This first is that a large majority of us would find committing murder atrocious unlike the avatar that we are playing, the second is that you are not actively performing these killings you are moving a stick and pressing a button. If the screen instead showed a unicorn vomiting rainbows into a toilet made a diamonds I doubt you would feel tempted to vomit into the nearest public convenience. Violence is a real part of the world we live in, unfortunately, and it makes sense that it is interwoven into the universes that we devise in order to escape from the mundanities of day to day life. If you are worried about this or dislike viewing violence then I have to say this isn’t the game for you, that’s not a bad thing and there’s a wide range of games out there.

The other mechanic you will be using a lot is driving. This has changed slightly from GTA IV and in my opinion handles much better; you still slide around to an extent and no longer is the A button the cause of turning your car into an uncontrollable turning metal destruct-a-ball. The amount of control you have over your direction and speed also changes based on the weather and type of car you are driving. One major complaint is the introduction of a mechanic that allows you to flip your car upright by wriggling the L stick back and for like an unfortunate tortoise trying to escape imminent sun related death. Masochistically , I enjoy being punished by games when I flip a car, I done messed up, and wiggling a stick to fix the problem kind of feels like cheating. Another new feature is the inclusion of bicycles, these accelerate by tapping the A button and can sometimes have a crappy turning circle. This leads to the final V.

V for Variety.

This is an absolute arse load (scientific term) of things to do in GTA V. There are the normal things you’d expect from a sandbox game such as racing sections and collectibles but also a lot a day to day activities that you play as minigames. This includes tennis (which is fairly fun), golf (which caused a near aneurism), triathalons, hunting levels, base jumps, flying lessons and the return of rampages. Rampages involve Trevor turning into a nigh unkillable juggernaut of death to deliver unrelenting justice on someone who suggests he may have slept with his mother. There are also a large amount of side quests and random events scattered around the map which you can pick up at any time and are usually a brief insight into the criminally insane world of GTA V, it also includes the return of characters from the previous game instalments. You shouldn’t find yourself running out of things to do in GTA V and even if you don’t want to do missions or side events it is fun to create goals for yourself such as stealing a military grade fighter jet from the middle of the most guarded section of the map.

Jets like this one, just beware. The army hate people having fun with their tech.

Jets like this one, just beware. The army hate people having fun with their tech.

There is also GTA online, which I have yet to play, and on that bombshell let’s start to wrap up the review. GTA V is a fun game with a wide range of things to do, it looks amazing and pushes the processing capabilities of the Xbox to the limit. It is hard to understand why developers haven’t tried the method of running on both disc and hard drive to improve performance before, maybe it’s the large development price. The characters and story are well written and it flows quite well, Rockstar have succeeded in creating a world that almost feels alive with a lot of things to do and see. There are some complaints to be levelled at the game however. It suffers for bugs and glitches to the Nth degree which can be fairly unerring at times and break an otherwise immersive game. It also ends a little abruptly leaving me wanting more story and gameplay. If you want to indulge those fantasies of becoming a criminal mastermind or just a puckish rogue who messes with “the man” then this is the game for you, funny, vibrant but be prepared for the glitches that come with a game this big. A fine swansong for the Eggbox 360. This is actually quite short and skimmed over loads of things that I wanted to mention but didn’t have time to. It’s also my first time doing a review of one game so any feedback or comments would be welcome. I’ll try make these posts once every two week so join me next time when I will be looking retrospectively at one of my favourite game series, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney.

The Masked Gentleman.

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