(PlayStation 3)

Grand Theft Auto V (PlayStation 3)

Game Review

Grand Theft Auto V Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Robert Ramsey

Three is a magic number

Michael, Franklin, and Trevor. These three personalities are at the very core of Grand Theft Auto V – one of the most anticipated games of this console generation. Everything that happens within the title revolves around the trio, from the gripping get-rich-quick heists that punctuate the story to the side activities that help to define each character's life. Rockstar Games' latest is an impressively robust title that can keep you hooked for hours on end, and most importantly, it confidently improves upon everything that Grand Theft Auto IV did well.

San Andreas is your playground, a sprawling state that's made up of the bustling city of Los Santos, a sun-soaked beach, an unforgiving desert, and daunting mountains. As far as open worlds go, this one is particularly impressive not just because of how diverse it is, but because it's also incredibly dynamic and full of life. Its sheer size is daunting at first, but as you walk, run, and drive around its streets, you'll slowly become accustomed to the scale and the absorbing atmosphere.

The astoundingly detailed world is effectively the fourth member of the main cast, its inhabitants and lovingly crafted locations packed with character. It's also chock-full of things to do, and is constantly providing you with new opportunities and ways to waste away the hours, which are unlocked on your map as you progress through the main plot. For that reason, it can feel like the game starts off relatively slowly – even clothes shops aren't marked down on your GPS at first.

Once you reach a certain point in the plot, though, San Andreas' many attractions will be completely open to you. You can play a few sets of tennis at one of the multiple courts that dot the land, or test your swing on a golf course. If you're not up for something competitive, you can unwind by jogging or cycling, or you can always head to the nearest strip club to satisfy your more base needs. The best part about the side activities is that they're all brilliantly fleshed out – arguably more so than is necessary – and in some cases, they're actually good enough to form the basis of a game by themselves.

On top of the various optional experiences that await you, you'll also come across random events that happen as you're going about your business. As with Red Dead Redemption, markers will appear on your map suggesting that something of importance is happening nearby. Whether it's a punk kid stealing a woman's handbag, or a band of criminals that need a convenient getaway car, it's up to you to take control of any opportunities that present themselves. Switching from casually diving down a busy high street to being caught up in a crazy chase with psychotic gang members shows just how engaging the game world can be.

That said, you may be put off by actually participating in these occurrences simply because of how brutal they are at times. You might come across the remains of a gang shootout, for example, and decide to investigate the scene, only to get ambushed as you leave and gunned down almost instantly. The difficulty of these events can sometimes be jarring, especially after you've tackled main story missions with ease thanks to readily available cover.

Falling into traps forces you to be cautious when exploring new areas, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. The fifth instalment in the Grand Theft Auto series rewards caution and preparation: running into a hostile situation with no real plan will often lead to some frustratingly quick deaths, especially if you're outnumbered. Regardless of your current character, your health bar can only take a few well-placed shots before it empties, and for an open world game that's all about freedom, it can seem a little harsh when you're torn apart by the police with little chance of survival.

Which brings us nicely to the release's gunplay: this is one of the title's weakest assets, even if it isn't bad by any means. Guns have a nice punch to them, and there are plenty of firearms on offer – but the controls are a little clunky, bringing the whole experience down a peg. It still marks a noticeable improvement over the jumpy and somewhat sloppy mechanics of the title's predecessor, but the overall quality of the rest of the game make the issues here more prominent. The problems are accentuated when shooting while driving, which still feels like a bit of a mess as you wrestle with the DualShock 3. Clearly this would be a challenging action in reality, but that doesn't account for it not being much fun.

And that leads us to Grand Theft Auto V's only real flaw: its slight reliance on realism. At its very best, gaming is pure escapism; it offers the ability to get lost in a world and do things that you wouldn't necessarily do in real life. This title has that in abundance, but there are moments where it hinges on a more realistic approach, and it can feel like it's limiting your fun as a result.

For example, you have to watch when crossing the road so that you don't get mowed down by traffic, you have to keep a constant eye on your tiny health bar during gunfights, and you have to brake and turn accordingly to avoid spinning your vehicle during illegal street races. It's not that the game is too unforgiving – you're always revived at a nearby hospital if you're killed, your only penalty being a small cash sum – but when playing you'll feel vulnerable, which is a stark contrast to other open world titles where you're often in the shoes of more capable characters. It's an acquired taste that augments the game with a unique flavour, but there'll be times where you'll feel like the title's keeping you on a leash. Fortunately, your underlying morality does mean that almost every criminal incident that you encounter will find you teetering on the edge of your seat.

This is no more apparent than during the game's fantastic heists, which essentially collate all of the franchise's strongest assets and fuse them into exhilarating missions. These objectives are the staples of the story – make or break situations that put the cast right into the heart of the matter.

First, you'll need to case whichever property or business you're planning to rob, making a note of things like security cameras, ventilation shafts, exits, alarms, and guards. Once your recon is complete, you'll need to come up with a strategy: do you go in loud, guns blazing, and try your luck at simply outrunning the cops with your loot, or do you carefully execute a more structured plan of action? Whatever your choice, you're then left to gather your crew – many of whom you can recruit from certain random events – who will assume crucial roles in the operation. Finally, when everything's all set up, it's time to go to the location and begin the mission. The whole step-by-step setup builds tension and really makes it feel like you're about to do something big, which makes the inevitable shootouts, high-speed getaways, and set pieces all the more exciting.

But the plot is fairly wild outside of these pivotal operations, too. For the first dozen hours, you'll transition freely from character to character as the game introduces you to their lifestyles, hobbies, and acquaintances. Michael is the anchor of the story, a retired bank robber who's now living a lazy, unfulfilled, but easy life with his incredibly dysfunctional family. Franklin has a good head on his shoulders, but much like our gun-slinging friend John Marston, he can't help but mix with the wrong crowd and take part in questionable practices that he knows he shouldn't. And the third and final playable character is Trevor, an old friend of Michael and an all-round unpredictable lunatic, who without doubt is the most divisive member of the trio – his actions and general mannerisms being some of the most extreme that we've witnessed in the series to date.

Alone, the team are largely based on stereotypes, but they're still very interesting personalities and are all well written. For the majority of the game, you'll be able to switch between them all at will, jumping into the boots of Trevor just as he's being chased across the desert by the police, or skipping to Michael as he's enjoying a leisurely run along the beach at sunset. It's an extremely clever but simple mechanic that helps to keep the gameplay feeling fresh; if you're tired of roaming around in Franklin's rough blue collar neighbourhood, you can shift to Michael in an instant and partake in a spot of sophisticated tennis on his own private court.

Together, the main characters form a deadly dynamic where their individual talents come into play. The narrative takes on a different tone as an emphasis is placed upon the interactions between the trio, and you're gradually shown new sides to the individuals that you've spent hours getting to know. While the three prominent criminals are definitely the best realised throughout, it wouldn't be Grand Theft Auto without a secondary cast of memorable crazies either. Thankfully, the fifth instalment delivers brilliantly in this department, with a roster full of exaggerated, diverse oddballs, some of whom will become series favourites.

Overall, it's a character driven narrative that may get a tad predictable as it progresses, and as with every open world game, it ends up feeling a little fractured because you're always doing so much in between main story events. That said, it fares much better than most others thanks to a coherent plot, good writing, and flawlessly acted dialogue, all of which manage to keep the proceedings feeling natural.

In addition, a lot of the story's success is owed to the title's wealth of missions. While the game boasts a slew of action-heavy sequences, there are also a plethora of more humorous, often hilarious assignments that play a part in making the release feel so unique. The fact that playing over sixty main missions never gets tiresome – even when replaying them to earn a better score – is a testament to the effort that's been invested into these impressive, individual scenarios.

Indeed, the obsessive attention to detail is clearly visible even when walking down a street, when customising characters, or while mindlessly watching in-game television shows that parody real life broadcasting effortlessly. We could go on to write several reviews based on the finer, completely optional points of the game alone, which just goes to show how absorbing it is – especially if you really let yourself get lost in its exaggerated, yet eerily authentic world.

To top it all off, Rockstar has somehow managed to create an extremely impressive title on a technical level, too – despite the aging hardware of the PlayStation 3. While the game doesn't look particularly amazing, sporting a large number of visibly jaggy models and some blurry textures, it's understandable given the scale of the world. The structure itself is seamless, allowing you to jump from cutscene to mission, to free roaming, to sampling and buying new suits without ever suffering a loading screen. The game does take a while to boot once you first pop in the disc, but it's staggering that the developer has managed to create such an enormous world with so little compromise.

Conclusion

A compelling culmination of exact care and attention, Grand Theft Auto V's obsessive attention to detail is matched only by its gripping mission design and clever caricature cast. Its over thought systems can get in the way on occasion, but the adventure's issues are never prominent enough to detract from its scathing commentary on modern life. Rockstar's latest tale of crime and punishment is easily one of the best open world games on the market – and it represents the pinnacle of the publisher's massively popular property, too.

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User Comments (43)

NintendoNaut

#1

NintendoNaut said:

WHAT?!?!?! NO PERFECT SCORE?!?!?!?! PUSH SQUARE HAS LOST ALL CREDIBILITY BOYCOTT BOYCOTT BOYCOOOOOOOTT.

Epic

#2

Epic said:

Just played 1 hour and I'm loving it but still not a fan of the controls.
I can't wait to try all the activities and the online mode when it comes out :D

get2sammybAdmin

#3

get2sammyb said:

@NintendoNaut Hahaha!

Great review, Robert - I completely agree based on what I've played. This is an absolutely sensational game that, for me, is just let down ever so slightly in a couple of areas due to Rockstar's stubbornness. It's so frustrating to me that the developer refuses to adopt an Uncharted-esque shooting mechanic and a more "familiar" control scheme when it clearly could quite easily pull both things off.

But some of the missions are absolutely genius and the world is so well realised that it's easy to overlook the minor niggles. I just got done with the Friend Request mission and its undoubtedly one of my favourite gaming moments of the year. I can't wait to keep playing and see what else is in store as I feel like I've only just scratched the surface.

Splat

#4

Splat said:

The controls keep it from being a perfect 10. Don't get me wrong I LOVE the game but I think 9 out of 10 is the right score. The Last of Us is still my Game of the Year surprise surprise. :)

Epic

#6

Epic said:

@MultiAntX I know but all the other layouts offered there are kinda wierd too :S
I wish I could customize it my own way.

SimonSiThorntonStaff

#7

SimonSiThornton said:

Just finished this. I'm not sure if it's because I played a lot of Max Payne 3, but I love the shooting controls! And I felt that the addition of generous checkpoints kept the difficulty from being overly punishing.
What I really fell in love with though was the fantastic level design — these missions are hands down some of the most fun and visually entertaining in the series. It's also a great satire of 21st century life, even down to NSA references and teabagging.

Splat

#8

Splat said:

I would not be surprised to see other games experiment with switching characters. I think it's a really really cool feature.

ShogunRokAdmin

#9

ShogunRok said:

For the record, I don't think there's a more convoluted control scheme in mainstream gaming. It can be very inaccessible to someone who isn't familiar with the layout, and at its worst it can lead to frustration during gameplay. Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption both suffered from the same problem, and Grand Theft Auto V doesn't do much to rectify it.

Other than that... absolutely brilliant and thoroughly absorbing open world game. I hope everyone's enjoying it.

TasukiStaff

#10

Tasuki said:

Been playing this game the past few days and I am impressed. There is so much to do I am just overwhelmed lol. This game is everything that I hoped it was.

Splat

#12

Splat said:

It's a must have for open world fans. The amount of things you can do is just crazy. I have all ready put in 30 hours in to it.

charlesnarles

#13

charlesnarles said:

It's a big improvement in all regards other than driving. Cars don't really get damaged in any sensible order; they get scratched up first, then the bumper etc falls off and visually that's it, other than smoke. I'd much rather have astounding crash mechanics than tennis and crap. Watch Dogs is my last hope for cars that look and feel realistic. But if you like Sleeping Dogs or Saints Row 3 driving mechanics, then you'll seriously love it. I personally would just rather play GT5 than GTA5 if I'm looking for realism whatsoever. Still buy it, tho! Don't misread my tone : )

Gamer83

#16

Gamer83 said:

My only complaint really is the gunplay. The driving is much improved but shooting can be a pain in the a$$. I got used to it but still annoying that they don't have a better control set up for that. Sleeping Dogs is definitely still king in that category. Other than that though, this game is awesome. Been spending a lot of time just exploring the world and playing the golf and tennis mini-games. I still think I'm leaning towards The Last of Us for my game of the year (awesome story and while not innovative the gameplay is rock solid in all aspects) but this game will be a close second unless the second half really sucks.

Reverend_Skeeve

#17

Reverend_Skeeve said:

Excellent review! This is why I love and trust this site: not buying into the hype, but being able to name all the good about a game while still pointing out the things that could be better.

MadchesterManc

#19

MadchesterManc said:

@ShogunRok An even more level-headed review than the Eurogamer one I mentioned to you on Twitter last night. Like a few other notable reviewers I tend to look at (Angry Joe is awesome :P) You've clearly recognised that while its the best sandbox game on the market, Its not the best game. I hope someday your gonna let me down on a review :) Still not buying it yet though. Not really a sandbox guy.

Epic

#20

Epic said:

Trophy Unlocked: Giving GTA V a 9 without getting Bashed in the Process.
:

MadchesterManc

#21

MadchesterManc said:

@Epic Thats because we are such a loving & heartwarming community here :D lol Imagine the amount of Hitmen the community at IGN would've had lined up if GTA5 had got a 9 on there. Sometimes I do feel a tad sorry for some reviewers on the big sites. They must be under as much pressure as an England penalty taker when it comes to big releases like this

odd69

#22

odd69 said:

I didnt like sleeping dogs, not even one bit.I'll take my chances with this today. I'm so excited i finally get my hands on a copy

ShogunRokAdmin

#23

ShogunRok said:

I think it'll be interesting to see how Watch Dogs fares now as the remaining modern world game of this year. Grand Theft Auto V has definitely set the bar as far as modern open worlds are concerned, but depending on how good Watch Dog's mechanics and story are, Ubisoft could have something huge on its hands.

rjejr

#24

rjejr said:

Nice selection of screenshots. Can't go wrong w/ a side-paneled station wagon.

Do people really get upset over a game not getting a perfect score? I used to use IGN all the time back when I had AOL/Prodigy/Compuserve dial-up and my free Juno email account, but not since.

sagi

#25

sagi said:

I wish the reviews atleast include a 0.5 in the rating system, the difference between a 9 and a 10 feels so drastic. This review feels more like a 9.5, since the issues mentioned in the game seem very minor. The point system helps compliment the review and the score better.......or maybe i'm too used to the point system in the other sites :p

Visiblemode

#26

Visiblemode said:

This game is a 10.

No, it isn't perfect. It's actually extremely flawed. That said, the experience is incredible and the good outweighs the bad to an extreme degree.

My only major beef? Where are those Max Payne 3 shooting mechanics? Extremely disappointing that this is still some of the worst 3rd person shooting out there.

That said, the game, as a whole, rises above these flaws. That is a testiment to the insanely huge scope and quality of the overall product.

To those who say hype, I disagree, the first few hours I was almost ready to give it a 7 . That 's the thing about open world games though...they take a bit of time to draw you in.

Jairo_MC

#28

Jairo_MC said:

@rjejr
Yes, the really do. I stopped reading IGN because people in there got really upset when a game they liked didn't get a perfect score or if a game they didn't like got one.
Eurogamer faced it recently because they gave a 9 to GTA V and gave 10 to Zelda: Wind Waker HD.

banacheck

#30

banacheck said:

Grand Theft Auto V has already pasted the $1 billion mark on its first three days on sale, making it the fastest-selling game. Black Ops II pasted the $1 billion mark on it's 15th day, to put thing into perspective.

Visiblemode

#31

Visiblemode said:

@LDXD @eliotgballade

I understand the humour of pointing out this seeming contradiction, but my point is valid.

Reviews have never been a measure of perfection. Firstly the concept of artistic perfection is entirely subjective. Secondly if games were held to any sort of standard of perceived perfection they would all have terrible scores.

Games are, ideally, rated in two ways. Firstly, they are compared relative to their competitors, and secondly they are rated to reflect the "degree to which the reviewer recommends the game."

So, let me be the reviewer and provide perspective relative to that criterea.

Compared to it's peers: the game's shooting is weak but has good driving(grew on me) incredible characters, story, missons, environment, music and replayability. How can I give borderlands 2 an 8 and this anything less than 10? The shooting in Borderlands is undoubtedly superior, but having flaws doesn't mean a game isn't at the pinnacle of it's genre (I know there are better direct comparisons but I just finished Borderlands 2 and it jumped to mind)

The second, degree of recommendation: My highest. There is something here for everyone. Will the next gen versions have better framerates? Yes, but today, as of now, these are the available versions and you gotta play them!

Make a little more sense?

LDXD

#32

LDXD said:

@Visiblemode I understand what you are saying but if you were to compare this to its competitors it still couldn't have a perfect score because for instance sleeping dogs has better combat also they didn't change much with the controls its still arkward to move around at times and some missions are lost because of simple little things really I lost this whole mission because I decided to buy bullets for my hand gun and not the shotgun shells like I was supposed to
And aside from a few other things this is a great game but perfect no is it groundbreaking in anyway or does it do anything astonishing that hasn't been done before? If not then IMO it cannot get a perfect score from me that is
The thing I don't get about some reviews for example GTA 4 gets a perfect 10 on GameSpot but this gets a 9 and clearly an improved game in many ways
Also I hate that a game like skyrim gets a perfect score on all systems but was basically unplayable on ps3 and had some serious issues on the 360 as well, this is why I take most reviews and review score's with a grain of salt most the time I look at the negatives out the reviews and see if its something I would be able to live with I take the final score as just that, a number with little meaning behind it unless you know its getting extremely low scores all around.

LDXD

#33

LDXD said:

People these days put way to much faith in the numerical scores I don't understand them anyway I also don't like how we always have a 1-10 point scoring system but never use the bottom half or forget that 5 in this case would be considered average not 7.5, I rather not even have a # system but if so I would rather a 1-5

Gamer83

#34

Gamer83 said:

@LDXD

GTA IV got a 10 but standards were different and the games were probably reviewed by different people at Gamespot, that website has seen a lot of turnover since 2008. That's part of my problem with number scores too, I prefer a 'play,' 'don't play' set up but even that has its problems. The number system is probably for the best though I prefer a .5 scale because for something like GTA V I think it's not quite a 10, but it's better than a 9.

LDXD

#35

LDXD said:

@Gamer83 true in a way but I rather them also take into consideration what the previous installment was rated also in which case it shouldn't have gotten anything lower than a 10 on that particular website because of the improvements over the first
Its like Zelda WWHD how can that get a lower score of 8 compared to a 9.3 of the original when the HD version is better in every way. So let's say I know nothing about a game and I go to a particular website for some reviews and I see that GTA 4 has better scores than gta5 what's stopping me from choosing the lesser game with a higher score? I also think games should be judged more on the system they are on like skyrim I mentioned earlier it got rave reviews everywhere on PC I can understand the high scores but on ps3 and Xbox especially ps3 no way in hell should it have gotten anything over average in most cases now seems to be 7.5 which would be misleading because a 7.5 is not average on a scale of 1-10 I don't care how you cut it average is 5

Gamer83

#36

Gamer83 said:

@LDXD

Well, that's why I don't care for a number system either. The main problem is, Americans especially, have trouble reading reviews, too damn lazy to take 5 minutes and read the whole thing.

rastamadeus

#41

rastamadeus said:

I wasn't planning on getting this but while good shopping today we had a voucher for £50 off the shop which we didn't know about. Missus and I both agreed to get GTA so we got it for free. Intrigued by it so looking forward to trying it tonight. If Diablo lets me.

As for reviews, I wish scores weren't in them. People need to remember it is merely one persons opinion. @Splat thinks Last Of Us is game of the year, I think it's a massive let down and wouldn't get in even my top twenty, neither him nor I are right. We can debate it but he isn't right and neither am I.

eliotgballade

#42

eliotgballade said:

@LDXD @Visiblemode
understand what you're saying , but I still am of the view that only a perfect game (or anything) should get a perfect score - but that's just me .
pushSquare veterans may remember games rated on a scale of 1 - 4 pushSquares (1 being poor , 4 being excellent) a simple and easily understood rating system that reduced confusion .

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