‘Grand Theft Auto V’ steals the show

Grand Theft Auto V, voted Most Anticipated Game at Spike TV’s Videogame Awards last year, was released this September on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Five years have gone by since the release of Grand Theft Auto IV, and people were expecting great things from the next installment of GTA, the famous acronym that the game has acquired. Fortunately, fans have nothing to be disappointed about.

Simply put, Grand Theft Auto V is amazing. From the graphics to the controls, and from the content, to the massive world to explore, there is nothing to dislike.

Rockstar Studios (GTA V’s developers) took a very creative approach to its campaign (story mode). Instead of the normal run-of-the-mill single protagonist, GTA V has three different playable characters – each with their own storyline that interconnects with the other two. The player has the ability to switch to any of the three characters at any time. This mechanism is huge. I initially thought it was risky, but playing the game proved the interconnected storylines and different abilities for each character make for great gameplay and a great story. Combine that with the immaculate graphics and creative setting of Los Santos, San Andreas, and (in this humble gamer’s opinion), Rockstar has made one of the best games released for the Xbox 360.

The lifelike graphics, the setting of the “sun-soaked metropolis” (as Rockstar described it) of Los Santos, and the amazing plot come together to make a fantastic campaign experience. The game’s visual mechanics are immaculate. Everything loads smoothly, and the picture is crisp and vivid. Previous visual glitches, such as your character not actually looking at his phone while using it or a random person walking through a sidewalk, have been almost completely eliminated. The cut-scenes are executed so flawlessly that sometimes I forgot I was playing a videogame and thought I was watching a movie.

The plot, centered around the three characters of Franklin (a young gangster desperately trying to make money and leave “the hood” behind), Michael (a washed-up criminal mastermind) and Trevor (a mentally unstable, deranged ex-accomplice of Michael’s), is superb. The storyline is engaging and interesting. Players start out as Franklin, doing repossessions for an auto company. Eventually, Franklin gets a job to repo Michael’s son’s car, and the two meet in an uneasy (to say the least) situation. However, one thing leads to another, and the two become partners in crime. Trevor is introduced to the game a little later, and so as to not spoil the game, I will refrain from elaborating on him.

GTA V has made leaps and bounds in the content department. There is no shortage of things to do. After completing the campaign, I had dozens of side missions to complete, random events to encounter, and leisurely activities such as golf and yoga to do. The creators clearly went all out in developing different activities to do within the game. Heck, they even added a stock market to please the investment-savvy gamers.

In the past, Grand Theft Auto’s driving controls (which are a vital part of the game) have been shaky at best. Cars in the past have been very fidgety, and haven’t responded well to the controller. However, in GTA V, driving is smoother than ever. And that’s important, considering the map is significantly larger than its predecessors. The last thing you want is to lag into a street pole or take an incredibly wide turn unintentionally when trying to outrun dozens of police officers.

And it’s a good thing the cars are easy to drive because they are expensive. Players have the option to buy cars from in-game websites, or, in true GTA fashion, simply steal the nicest car on the street. There are limitless upgrades that can be made to vehicles, from tinted windows and armor upgrades. You can even give your car a clown horn.

The only possible complaint I could make about the game is how hard it is to escape from the police. While I understand getting away from the police shouldn’t be easy, these are supposed to be city police officers, not highly trained NASCAR drivers or United States Marines, which is what you would think they are based on their skill. But seriously, the police will hunt you down to the end of the earth – even if you accidentally bump into one of them on the sidewalk.

The other component of GTA V is the online mode, which was released two weeks after the campaign.  The online mode is solid and, for the most part, is a lot of fun, but some kinks still need to be worked out. In GTA online, you are allowed to customize your own character, which is really cool. You get to choose his personality, and you can make your player athletic or lazy, a good driver or pilot, and then you improve his skills throughout the game.

I hate to keep bragging on GTA’s extensive content, but the online mode offers exponential activities. You can play Deathmatch and fight against other players, you can race in virtually any vehicle, from bikes to jetskis, or you can play cooperative missions, each with unique objectives. Or, if you’re not up to doing anything too organized, you can drive around in free-roam mode, stealing cars and robbing stores at your leisure.

GTA has also done something cool to deal with “less gracious” players. They instituted a “Good Sport” and “Bad Sport” consequence system. If you play the game correctly, (i.e., don’t leave games early, don’t kill your teammates, etc.), then you are periodically rewarded with extra in-game currency or other prizes. However, if you choose to be a jerk enough times, then you get placed on special servers with the rest of the jerks for a period of time. I find this hilarious and genius.

Despite all of the good things I’ve said about GTA online, it’s still a little rough around the edges. Joining and starting games can be complicated, and getting your friends in the same game can be tedious as well. There have also been problems with the server simply dropping you out of the game, and this can suck if you’re in the middle of a mission with some of your buddies.

Overall GTA V is revolutionary. It combines all the aspects gamers desire into a great videogame. The gameplay and limitless activities combine with an amazing story line and even more phenomenal graphics to make what I personally believe should be put up for 2013 Game of the Year award.