Grand Theft Auto V
Expectations are always a tricky thing to manage. Grand Theft Auto V has launched after months of rabid anticipation from gamers, in the wake of critical acclaim from reviewers, and was quickly followed by pronouncements that it had smashed every record for the biggest launch event in any media.
But Grand Theft Auto IV launched amidst all of those achievements too, and many eventually considered it to be a disappointment, as the story of Niko Bellic and the setting of Liberty City failed to capture gamers’ imaginations. Grand Theft Auto IV is a good game, but perhaps because people were expecting something truly special, good simply wasn’t good enough.
So how do we react to Grand Theft Auto V in light of the expectations, critical reception and economic records? Well you can cast aside any worries you might have, because Grand Theft Auto V is everything you might have hoped that it would be. It’s a truly brilliant game, arguably the best in the series to date, and serves as a fantastic swansong for this console generation.
There’s a sense of fun and freedom that runs through almost everything that Grand Theft Auto V does. This is evident right from the opening minutes, as after completing a couple of brief introductory missions, you’re left completely to your own devices within Los Santos. For the first time in the Grand Theft Auto series there’s no part of the world that’s off limits to you from the outset. The only limits are those imposed by your own creativity and sense of adventure.
So you could, for example, introduce yourself to Los Santos by grabbing the nearest convertible and speeding up the west coast along Route 1 until the Great Ocean Highway crosses the line into Blaine County (“The Morning Glory County”), then force your way into Fort Zancudo military base and attempt to liberate a P-996 Lazer fighter jet. Or, if you’re feeling somewhat more peaceful, head up the eastern coast to the peak of Mount Gordo, and watch the sun rise over the ocean. Or you could stay in Los Santos and check out the roller coaster and ferris wheel on Del Perro Pier. Or nip to Los Santos Golf Club for a quick nine holes. Or… well, you get the picture.
The sheer amount of effort that Rockstar has put into creating the state of San Andreas is obvious, not just in the variety of ways that you can spend your time, but also in the sheer depth of detail that pervades the world, throughout the city, into the yuppy suburbs, backwater hamlets, desert plains and mountain trails. From the sunbathers on the beaches of Paletto Bay in the north to the stevedores putting in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay at the Port of Los Santos in the south, it feels like San Andreas state is a living, breathing world.
Virtually nothing is off-limits for some sort of humour either. News is delivered by Weazel News (“Confirming your prejudices”), post is delivered by GoPostal, security vans are provided by Gruppe6, and stocks are traded on the Bawsaq exchange. That should tell you a lot about the tone of humour in the game, but it should also demonstrate that there’s very little within the entire state that hasn’t had a good degree of thought and effort put into realising it. It feels like there’s nothing that there’s just to fill some space in the world.
In fact, telling you about what it’s like to visit Grand Theft Auto V’s San Andreas is a little like telling what it’s like to visit California: some of it may sound brilliant, some of it may sound like it’s not for you, but no matter what, being told about it just isn’t the same as experiencing it for yourself.
And all that before we even get to Grand Theft Auto V’s real strengths: the plot and characters.
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