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Talking Point: Is Grand Theft Auto V Living Up to Your Expectations?

Posted by Sammy Barker

Lofty as the Los Santos dream

Rockstar Games may have nurtured one of the largest entertainment franchises on the planet over the past 15 or so years, but such desirable territory comes with unrivalled pressures. While the company will no doubt be readying a press release regarding Grand Theft Auto V’s record breaking sales as we type, such high anticipation comes with elevated expectations. And with the thrill of the early reviews and midnight launches now a fading memory, does the game have the Chops [pun absolutely intended – Ed] to maintain pace with its escalating hype?

Grand Theft Auto IV, the previous entry in the series, befell a cruel fate following its release in 2008. Despite securing unanimous critical acclaim, Niko Bellic’s semi-serious romp through Liberty City went on to divide fans due to its dark narrative and failure to evolve. The game, alongside its slightly more agreeable Episodes from Liberty City expansions, still sold over 25 million copies, but dare to venture into any hardcore gaming community, and you’ll find just as many disgruntled consumers as you will earnest admirers.

In fairness to those that were disappointed with Scottish developer Rockstar North’s first proper foray into high-definition development, it’s tough to go back and play the aforementioned Eastern European protagonist’s pursuit for the American dream. The controls, for starters, feel like relics from a bygone era, with the emphasis on the impressive but overpowering Euphoria engine giving the impression that you’re running – or, indeed, driving – through treacle a lot of the time. Pair this with the nonexistent checkpointing and desperately slow build up, and it hasn't aged well.

Fortunately, the sequel starts with a bit more of a bang. It eases you into the gameplay, much as any release should, but rather than driving your potty-mouthed cousin through a seedy neighbourhood, it instead drops you right into the centre of a crime spree, shooting out cops, and racing through snowy scenery. An undeniable improvement, then, but even in the opening hours we can’t help but feel that some things haven’t changed.

The controls, for example, while much more responsive, still feel a bit sticky. Gunfights rely on the auto aim mechanics of old, though can be tweaked in the options if you prefer. True to Rockstar Games tradition, the mapping is all over the place, forcing you to set aside the rules that numerous other titles have taught you, and remind yourself that the circle button is used for, er, reload. Yeah, we’re still scratching our head, too.

At least the vehicles feel a little smoother, boasting some arcade sensibilities without entirely shedding the simulation handling that proved so divisive in its predecessor. Playing as Franklin Clinton – one of the three protagonists in the game – you’re actually able to slow time while you approach tight hairpin corners, a mechanic which is introduced while you stay close to your “homie” Lamar Davis during a repossession job for shady Armenian car salesman Simeon Yetarian. One of the franchise’s strongest assets has always been its ability to develop characters while you’re on the road, and that very much remains the case here.

Even in the opening hours, the attention to detail is exquisite. Characters are carefully constructed through simple, often meaningless, conversations, while the developer’s tongue is still firmly placed in cheek throughout. A quick hop onto the in-game web browser – which is accessed from your iFruit smartphone – allows you to peruse your Life Invader profile, as well as watch trailers for the latest games. One such title includes Righteous Slaughter 7, a brand new entry in the popular totally-not-Call-of-Duty-inspired fictional first-person shooter series that includes tons of new content – despite the fact that the previous instalment only deployed three months earlier. That brand of sharp wit permeates every single object, image, and item in Rockstar North’s latest release, and it’s no doubt part of the reason that the title has taken so long to reach store shelves.

Despite the appeal of the content, though, it’s not exactly a pretty game. Make no mistake, the scale of Los Santos – even with only a miniscule portion of the map unlocked – is pretty much unrivalled, but the age of the PlayStation 3 hardware is starting to show. Textures pop into view as you approach them, while the scenery is tarnished by aliasing problems. There are some decent lighting effects, and the city sparkles at night time, but don’t expect to be blown away by the graphics.

Still, the release is undoubtedly doing some impressive things from a purely technological perspective. The ability to switch between protagonists on the fly is extremely well handled, and not only brings some variety to the sandbox – accentuated by the fact that each character has different skills – but is also cleverly implemented. A Google Maps-esque sequence covers the loading as you transition, while you’ll often join your characters as they’re in the middle of a telephone conversation or similar activity, creating the illusion that they’re going about their lives when you’re not in control.

Of course, the feature also opens up some interesting gameplay possibilities, allowing you to put a literal bullet in a potential standoff when you’re held captive during the bank robbery at the start of the campaign. It’s always been clear that Rockstar Games is a fan of interwoven narratives – who could forget The Ballad of Gay Tony’s protagonist’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo during Grand Theft Auto IV’s famous Three Leaf Clover mission – but the setup here takes things to the next level, and promises plenty for the full campaign.

Perhaps most noteworthy are the smaller structural improvements, though. Main missions can now – like in more recent Rockstar Games releases – be revisited, and boast mini-objectives that not only enhance replay value but also force you to explore different styles of play. Elsewhere, the checkpointing is vastly superior, while everything from your character’s crew cut to car tyres can be customised. Even the dynamic missions from Red Dead Redemption make a welcome return, bringing a little more spice to the world.

Short of a few niggles with the controls and visuals, then, the game’s certainly living up to our expectations. This series is defined by its ability to utterly consume those that touch it, and we already feel like we’ve caught Grand Theft Auto V’s bug. Having allowed Franklin, Michael, and Trevor to seep into our consciousness, we can feel our productivity slipping away – and, honestly, we wouldn’t have it any other way. The big question is: are you enjoying the game as much as we are?


Do you like what you've seen of Grand Theft Auto V thus far? Without sharing spoilers, how deep are you into the release approximately a day after its release? Is there anything about the game that's disappointed you? Conversely, what have you found to be a pleasant surprise? As always, let us know in the comments section and poll below.

Is Grand Theft Auto V living up to your expectations? (44 votes)

Yes, I absolutely adore what I've played so far

39%

I have a few niggles, but I'm definitely enjoying the game

23%

I'm not sure, because I haven't actually played the title yet

39%

No, I'm pretty disappointed with the release

  0%

Please login to vote in this poll.

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User Comments (36)

TreesenHauser

#1

TreesenHauser said:

I don't actually own it... yet. I played a good hour or so if it at a friend's house though, and so far I already like it better than GTA IV. Like, WAY better.

get2sammybAdmin

#2

get2sammyb said:

@TreesenHauser Out of curiosity, what is that you feel has been significantly improved? Do you prefer the characters, the city, or something else? Just interested, really.

TreesenHauser

#3

TreesenHauser said:

@get2sammyb One thing that I didn't like about GTA IV was the driving. It always felt sluggish, sorta like you were driving a boat around. GTA V's driving is significantly improved. And I'd also have to say I like the overall atmosphere better and yes, Los Santos, in GTA V. From the little bit of it I played I was blown away. It feels all-new yet seems familiar to me, if that makes sense.

Splat

#5

Splat said:

The controls can be a bit frustrating at times but other than that it's pretty great. I still feel Sleeping Dogs is better in that department.

The ability to switch between characters is probably my favorite thing about it. I think it really helps keep the game fresh.

astroshamu

#6

astroshamu said:

This is my first grand theft auto game and I've really enjoyed it so far, it's funny and the missions are awesome so far, I'm looking forward to playing this more, my only complaint is I can't see the little dot against most backgrounds while aiming to shoot

charlesnarles

#7

charlesnarles said:

@TreesenHauser aw, man, the only thing I liked about 4 was the weight of the cars. In 5 all the cars stop on a dime, like in Sleeping Dogs. I really hoped R* would try to separate itself from its clones by focusing on driving (what's this series called again? "2nd Degree Murder"? "Assault With A Deadly Weapon"?) while still updating 4's thusly forgivable gun mechanics. But it's... just not what I wanted/expected. Feels like the cars are tin cans when they collide, and that's plain disappointing. Arcade driving in GTA is just the wrong choice

Sanquine

#9

Sanquine said:

I'm still playing:

Playstation vita : Killzone mercenary , The walking dead
PS3: Ni No Kuni ( And got Puppeteer in the plastic next to play game)
Wii U : Pikmin 3
3DS ( japanese Imported) Monster hunter 4

No GTA for me!

Scollurio

#10

Scollurio said:

Ill get GTA tomorrow but I already know that I will like it. Not because of some ceratin content but my attitude. I was a bitter game just a year ago, with good games on XBOX360 drying up and having absolutely no joy in playing over-casualized games for the masses I focused on all the negative parts of the games and couldn't get any fun out of them anymore.

Now I keep my expectations low and an open mind, a few things here and there don't break a game for me at all, it is still, after all, a game. I don't demand anything or anyone to be perfect, the only things I still cannot stand are dumbified things but even then I won't whine about them, no one forces me to buy a certain game right? ;)

So, keep an open mind folks, it gives you so much more joy...

Snkfiend

#12

Snkfiend said:

Funny I preordered this game last year but other titles kept coming up so I canceled and preordered the game more than 5 time on and off. Finally my decision was to buy BF4 for PS4 and buy GTA later but it's a fine game I might add.

Bliquid

#13

Bliquid said:

1st: why the question is " is it living up to your expectations" and most of tge ppl who commented here don't even have the game?
2nd: this game is majestic. I'm not a rabid fan of the series, but this time i was excited like a teenager at a One Direction concert.
3rd: GTA V is... Something different from what i played 'till now. And i played a lot.
It's not that is different from other iterations of the series or from other open world games. It's just that it feels a complete and immersive virtual experience.

Now, i think it lacks a bit of sidetracking for me. I know it has a lot of collateral things to do, but i wish it had even more.
On the other side, though, i'm playing A LOT and i'm not very far in the story, cause i'm living smaller, self created adventures sandbox style.
Forgive the convolution of my post, but i honestly find it difficult to explain WHY Gta V is grand.
That and my son is screaming cuz we're going for walk.
Cheers.

Scollurio

#14

Scollurio said:

@Sanquine I switched about a few months ago from XBOX360 to PS3 and don't intend to ever go back, especially not for next gen, I totally feel at home with Playstation, so yeah, getting it for PS3 and if it rings my bells (lol) Ill get it for PS4 too further down the line!

Epic

#16

Epic said:

What happened to the Push Square Review?
Not ready?
Embargo?
You guys give it an 8 and Rockstar don't want it to see the light of the world?

Ristar42

#18

Ristar42 said:

Just heard there are no custom soundtracks in the game. I realise the option was not in GTA 4, but the original Xbox games had the option, so why not now. The most time wasting fun I had with the old games, was driving or flying about the massive open world listening to my own tunes...

LDXD

#20

LDXD said:

@sagi it does have some of those issues but it isn't very noticeable, the game looks great considering the tech it looks amazing

Visiblemode

#23

Visiblemode said:

The thing is, it's imperfect, but addictive. That's the open world game effect.

I like it a lot more than other open world games 5 hours into them. Since they all have a long warming up period, it might be one of the best ever.

I will say though, mission failures still seem a tad arbitrary at times and the graphics definitely don't live up to the pre-release hype. It looks great but the framerate seems to spend a fair amount of time at around 20 in driving sections...that was one major beef with IV, so pissed it's not fixed. Though it's so much bigger and better looking, so not surprising.

My guess is, running on next gen hardware, this game would be an instant slam dunk, just for the added smoothness. That said, I have a feeling that my review will be very favourable for this version when all is said and done.

Madd_Hatter401

#26

Madd_Hatter401 said:

Has anyone else experienced textual glitches? Other then that and the frame rate at times I'm loving this game.

Gamer83

#27

Gamer83 said:

So far this game has matched my expectations. I can't say for sure yet if it'll top The Last of Us for my Game of the Year but it is awesome and a huge improvement over GTA IV. I still feel the story is a bit more serious than I'd like it to be, and I'm not going to lie, the overuse of the "n" word has bothered me a bit, but overall the game seems to have a bit more laid back feel to it than IV did and though I'm a fan of Liberty City I like Los Santos more.

TasukiStaff

#29

Tasuki said:

Well it has indeed matched my expectations. I have to agree with @Gamer83 the overuse of the "n" word is a bit too much but overall the game is great. I am having alot of fun just exploring the city.

Splat

#30

Splat said:

Flying is my least favorite thing in the game. I hate when I'm forced to fly in a mission.

banacheck

#32

banacheck said:

I quite liked GTAIV, it was a bit slow at times but i loved the humour with Niko Bellic & his cousin, especially the part where Niko is walking past a dustbin & his cousin is in it.

Anyway, anyone who's played GTAIV & playing GTAV you'll notice the improvements control wise. It's also massive, i've not come across any framerate or pop-ins problems which i'm sure i would have noticed by now. I agree the control layout, but now i'm used to them now so its not really a problem. graphics wise its amazing, especially seeing the age of the system & how big the game is. You can also spend hours just doing your own thing looking around etc, also switching between characters is an excellent addition. Also it is better than GTAIV a lot better in fact, so i'm very happy with the game.

Sutorcen

#33

Sutorcen said:

Where do I start? The soundtrack? The TV Shows? The drawing distance? The size of the map? The activities you can undertake? Sure the 720p resolution doesn't do this game justice (please release it on PC) but this game is amazing. If you never played a GTA game before, you owe it to yourself to at least try this one.

Gamer83

#34

Gamer83 said:

@get2sammyb

I just finished the Friend Request mission. Some instant classic one-liners in there. Some of it was stuff straight out of conversations I've had with friends over the last couple years.

craigun

#35

craigun said:

I love flying in the game, but I guess I should have purchased the BluRay, because the downloaded version I have does have things popping up often! Other then that, I love the game!! Hopefully they can fix the issue with a patch.

JaxonH

#36

JaxonH said:

@Sanquine
Dang man everytime you spill your lineup I notice those are all games I am playing (or recently beat). I also just got The Walking Dead on Vita right after Killzone Mercenaries, I just beat Pikmin 3 a few weeks ago, I'm GOING to buy MH4 whenever it gets localized, in the meantime I have 3 Ultimate on 3DS and Wii U. Sold my PS3 so no Ni No Kuni or Puppeteer, but with PS4 on the way I won't lose out on too much in between. Right now I'm on the last mission in The Wonderful 101, then it's back to finish up Splinter Cell Blacklist and Rayman Legends before Windwaker HD comes out.

Too many games! And with the arrival of the PS4 and Xbox One in November, coupled with a whole slew of mint Wii U games and a new Zelda on 3DS, I'm gonna have no social life for the next 6 months lol

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