Video Game Review: Grand Theft Auto V [Xbox 360]

Grand Theft Auto V [Xbox 360]

Grand Theft Auto V
System: Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Genre: Action-adventure
Developer: Rockstar North
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Release Date: September 17, 2013

I have a confession to make: until Grand Theft Auto V, I had never completed a GTA game. I have played every game in the series, and had a (mostly) positive experience with each one, but I would always seem to lose interest at around the 10-15 hour mark. That is not the case with Rockstar’s latest blockbuster, the first GTA game to finally get nearly everything right.

One of my biggest pet peeves with the series has been its lack of mission checkpoints. There was rarely anything more frustrating than starting a mission, driving to point A, accomplishing set goal, getting killed on the ensuing shootout back, and then having to start it all over again from the very beginning. That is not the case in GTA V — now there are multiple checkpoints within each mission, ensuring that any tedium is kept to the bare minimum.

Another huge, huge addition to the series is a brand new quick save system. That’s right — instead of having to drive to a safe house and walk into your bedroom, you can now just open your cell phone and save at any point you wish. In essence, by fixing these two major issues alone, Rockstar has succeeded in creating what is truly the ultimate Grand Theft Auto experience.

Grand Theft Auto V [Xbox 360]

In another bold move, the game has three protagonists instead of just one rags-to-riches story. These characters — Michael, Franklin and Trevor — are all wildly different and can be switched between at your leisure. Michael is a rich ex-convict who is going through a mid-life crisis, and he can’t resist the urge of getting back into the tempting world of crime once again. He befriends Franklin, a repo man who is trying to get out of the hood while pursuing higher levels of crime. Later, Trevor, an old pal of Michael’s, is introduced, and he is the epitome of the stereotypical GTA gamer’s play style. Trevor is a wild, out-of-control white trash psychopath who has no problems killing and torturing others. He is completely ludicrous, but he is responsible for many of the game’s most memorable moments. All three characters have their own personal missions while also working together on the main storyline.

The absolute highlight of using these three characters together comes in the form of elaborate heist missions. These require intense planning, and the game gives you two different ways to pull off these robberies. One is usually stealth-oriented, whereas the other is guns-a-blazin’. A lot of piecework is required to be successful, including recruiting NPC helpers (the better ones require a higher cut of the score), getting proper getaway vehicles and of course, scoping out the area beforehand. There are only a handful of these heist missions, but they are easily the most fun I have had in any GTA game’s main campaign, period.

Grand Theft Auto V [Xbox 360]

Switching between the three characters is quite easy, and it works surprisingly well. For example, during a heist you can switch from one character who is engaged in a gunfight at ground level to another character who is ready with a sniper from above. Being able to switch back and forth adds a new dimension to these missions, and and they are a blast to play.

Of course, if you really want to, you can avoid missions altogether and just go buckwild in the massive world of Los Santos. Unlike in previous games, the entire map is open to you right from the start, and boy is it massive. The city is full of life, with yuppies walking down the sidewalk with frappucino in hand, bar patrons lounging around outside, people walking their dogs in the park… it truly feels like a living, breathing world. Outside of the city, there’s an impoverished, redneck town (where Trevor’s trailer is located), as well as a large mountain that is begging to be explored.

Grand Theft Auto V [Xbox 360]

The game is full of bonus side quests and little Easter eggs, some of which may not be discovered for months. There are tons of random events, and each character has their own unique interactions. For example, Franklin can tow illegally parked cars to earn more money, while Trevor can work as a bounty hunter. Trevor also has the distinction of being able to kidnap random citizens and then drive them to a cult at the top of a mountain, where they will exchange money for their next human sacrifice victim. Basically, you can be as evil as you want in the game.

Other improvements in GTA V include far superior car handling (especially compared to GTA IV) and much better combat controls. The gunplay, especially, is a huge step-up, as now it is much easier to lock onto an enemy. Also, dying in the game no longer erases your weapons — you will respawn with everything in tact, which is a another nice bonus.

Grand Theft Auto V [Xbox 360]

Now, GTA V isn’t quite perfect. For one, helicopters are incredibly awkward to control, and they are mandatory for a few missions. While I was able to handle most missions with relative ease, I found myself dying much more frequently when I had to fly. It makes sense that there are flying missions since Trevor was a former certified pilot, but I could have done without being forced to use them so often.

There are also problems with the game’s writing and use of satire. The GTA series has always been tongue-in-cheek, and this game is no exception. However, some of the satire and jokes just come across as lazy. For every genuinely amusing moment, there are plenty of groan-worthy spoofs (i.e. FBI = FIB, Facebook = Lifeinvader, etc.) or overly juvenile gags. The game’s characters are also hastily written, and their reasons for working together are vapid at best. Still, shallow writing aside, I am willing to overlook most of these flaws simply because the game does so much right.

Put simply, Grand Theft Auto V is a remarkable achievement in gaming. There is just so much to do in the island of Los Santos, and every foray into its world produces new experiences. The game looks incredible — try not to be impressed the first time you dip your toes in the ocean — and it has a killer soundtrack to boot. There’s even a brand new online mode that is essentially its own full-fledged game (which will get a separate review later). In short, this is the GTA that I have always wanted, and it is easily one of this year’s must-play games.


22 thoughts on “Video Game Review: Grand Theft Auto V [Xbox 360]

  1. Smash says:

    I was watching my boyfriend play and there was a rottweiler walking around so I told him to go pet it. But obviously GTA doesn’t account for people doing nice things so instead he wound up kicking it’s legs out from under it and then it jumped up and mauled him to death. I laughed so hard I thought I’d never be able to stop.

  2. janeybgood says:

    I recently started teaching some pretty tough teenagers. I tried everything to get through to them. Then one day I mentioned I was playing GTA V and now I’m their favourite teacher. Success. Also, I am having hours of fun acting psychotic through the medium of gaming.

  3. keith7198 says:

    Great review. I think I’m the only one on the planet that is not and will not be playing this. LOL. It’s a shame because I love the whole open world concept. But Rockstar really ticks me off with their insistence and infatuation with over the top profanity, simulated sex, etc. I know it’s a personal preference thing, but I just won’t listen to it or play through it due to the bombardment of that completely unnecessary content. They honestly set out to push the envelope further in those areas with every new release. It’s a shame.

    Again, that’s just my take and I’m definitely in the minority. Other than that (and spending hours upon hours playing as unsavory characters) I would be all over this.

    • Eric @ The Warning Sign says:

      Thanks man. Honestly, sometimes GTA does go too far over the edge. This one in particular is especially vulgar. I’m not as sensitive to that type of stuff, but it does come across as incredibly juvenile more often than not.

      Have you played Red Dead Redemption? That’s another brilliant Rockstar open world game, but one that’s much more mature and with a killer Western setting.

        • Eric @ The Warning Sign says:

          Nice! The Undead Nightmare is like a whole new game. Awesome concept, too.

          Another sandbox game that might be worth a look is The Saboteur. It’s set in 1940s Nazi-occupied Paris, and you play as an Irish mechanic who is out for revenge against the Germans. What’s really cool is that the Nazi-occupied areas are in black & white, and it’s not until you liberate them that they show up in full color. Really underrated game, and it can probably be had for $10 or less these days.

  4. Tyson Carter says:

    Red Dead still tops it in my book, but this was a phenomenal game. Online is not really my bag, I cant do anything without getting killed but thats my shitness more than anything lol 🙂

  5. Paul Bowler says:

    Awesome review of GTA V! I’ve really enjoyed playing this game. I haven’t enjoyed a GTA game as much as this since San Adreas, so its great the game revisits this location. Its easy to switch between the characters, something I had doubts about, but it really keeps the game fresh. The graphics are excellent and the soundtrack is awesome. Brilliant game!

  6. ruth says:

    I saw my late brother played one of the earlier games and I could see how people love this. It’s amazing how much money it made in just one day, clearly it’s worth the purchase 😀

  7. The Blog of Big Ideas says:

    I refuse to pay the full price for a game these days. So I will probably be telling you about my experience with GTA V in a year or two from now haha
    I just got my hands on Bioshock Infinite and I spent most of my Sunday glued to the screen. I had to force myself to quit before I became addicted. Columbia is yet another fascinating environment. Reminds me a bit of the mechanics of Dishonored, though my impressions of the latter may be a little more positive.
    Anyway, can’t wait for GTA V whenever my cheap self finds it appealing enough to purchase.

    • Eric @ The Warning Sign says:

      Oh I hear ya about not wanting to pay full price. The only reason I bought this so soon was because I found a pre-order deal that gave away $20 in Microsoft points for free. If ever there’s a game worth full price though, this is it. So much replay value, especially now that online is working.

      Glad to hear you’re digging Bioshock Infinite! That’s still one of my favorite games this year, and I’m really looking forward to the DLC (to be released this month, I believe).

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