Grand Theft Auto V begins with a heist. In a moment, the player is thrown straight into the action playing as three different characters at different points depending on the objective.
Two of these characters, Michael and Trevor, will be met again later on in the game, along with a new character Franklin, and become fully playable. This is a huge bank heist that goes wrong, with the driver and other character killed, and Michael presumed dead by Trevor who manages to escape the ensuing police. The action packed opening sets an appropriate tone for a game which is jam-packed with shoot-outs, car chases and the plain odd (aliens included).
During my time playing the game, I have so far encountered two heists and these are by far the most enjoyable aspect of the game. These encompass a wide variety of settings and objectives and the player is actively encouraged to make choices over how the heist is undertaken and with whom. This can result in different outcomes including the amount of ‘heat’ from the police and how much money is ultimately made. The number of heists is relatively small when compared to the overall number of missions in a game which is so vast. This does not mean that the other missions are dull in comparison, far from it in fact. Whilst admittedly some of the missions are fairly mundane, including stereotypical ‘fetch’ quests, these are mostly optional and small in number. Most of the missions are full of action and involve driving, shooting and – most of the time – fleeing. This all makes for a game which feels rich and varied and certainly never pedestrian.
The player is first introduced to Franklin who is employed by a car seller to repossess cars from defaulting customers. Franklin does not stay in the job for long and soon comes into contact with Michael, who it is revealed did not die in the initial heist but in fact was placed under witness protection in sunny Los Santos. Later on in the game we are reintroduced to Trevor, an extremely aggressive and unhinged man who lives out in Blaine County. It is with Trevor that the player is forced to play through a very graphic torture scene in order to progress in the game. Whilst most of Grand Theft Auto 5 did not faze me – having played many shooters – this scene felt gratuitous and unnecessary. Having this particular part of the game as a cutscene would have been better, but the game actively encourages you to choose your method of torture. This clearly feels like Rockstar deliberately courting controversy and this I imagine will put a fair few people off the game.
This aside however, the world in which Grand Theft Auto 5 is set is beautifully detailed, from the panoramic views of the ocean and the countryside down to the minute street level detail. The near constant sun in the game clearly aids the stunning look, but it is the attention to detail that makes it stand out over any other from this current console generation. Rockstar have stated that ‘Los Santos is bigger than the worlds of Red Dead Redemption, San Andreas, and Grand Theft Auto IV combined, with room to spare’ and for anyone who has played those games, the scale is obvious from the start.
As always, the map can be explored by whatever method you choose, including walking, – not advised due to the huge map size! – driving and flying. Flying in particular is great fun and allows you to explore areas not yet uncovered on the in-game map. There is also a flight school which helps you get to grips with the quite difficult handling of the aircraft. Whatever method you choose to explore Los Santos and its surroundings, the loading times are seamless. Although there are occasional graphical quirks, these are understandable considering how huge the game is and how far it pushes both the PS3 and the Xbox 360 to their limits.
Ultimately there is no question as to why Grand Theft Auto 5 took over £500 million in the twenty four hours post-launch and is on course to break many more records along the way. This is the pinnacle of modern day gaming and will be hard-pressed to be improved upon, even when the PS4 and Xbox One are released. Ignore it? Your loss.
Grand Theft Auto V is currently available on PS3 and Xbox 360.