Monday, 7 October 2013

Grand Theft Auto Five: PS3 Review

Grand Theft Auto Five: PS3 Review

Platform: PS3
Released by Rockstar Games

Grand Theft Auto V has been on every gamer's lips for a while now.

And with each early press release, Rockstar did nothing but whip them into a frenzy with trailers and promises of a game that would save the day, late into the PS3's life.

But, what a game to deliver.

Grand Theft Auto V is incredible. It's immersive, exciting, enthralling and graphically excellent.

The game begins with a bank heist in a snowy American town and it's here that you're swathed in details and shown the excellence and bravura of Rockstar's plans. As the bank heist goes wrong, you get to flip from your character of Michael to another in the room to aid your escape. It's a clever touch from the initial set up which sets out Rockstar's stall and lets you realise that they've covered every possible angle. As the snow pours down on the screen, the ensuing shoot out and chase take an almost cinematic feel as they play out.

It's here the game begins with Michael seeing a shrink and discussing his problems. After leaving the shrink's office, Michael sits down on a bench on the seafront as two young kids wander past. They stop and ask him where a house is - and suddenly, the game swaps from Michael to Franklin. And just like that, you realise that Rockstar has produced an interwoven narrative which is expansive and actually spent time on the story mode.

A little later on, you get to meet the third protagonist, Trevor, who's an aggressive on the edge type. But his nervy energy brings a life to GTAV that you'd expect.

Each of these characters have different skills and as in any real life situation, it takes time to build them up; they also have special abilities which can be activated during the game - for Michael, it's a shooting ability and for Franklin, it's a driving ability. Granted, these only last a brief while, but they add a welcome touch to help you out so that your floundering skill levels don't cause you to fail the day every time.

There are story missions to carry out, as ever with any GTA game - and there's also the chance to burn around the vast city of Los Santos, wreaking havoc, running people over, attacking them in an unwarranted manner and generally cutting loose in way you never could in real life. It's here that you realise the scope of the game and also the amount of time you could spend burning around could prevent you from ever completing the game itself. Once again, the developers have excelled themselves when it comes to creating the world outside - from strip clubs to simply people on the street, there's more than enough to keep you amused, entertained and in trouble. A main series of heists will keep you and your characters engaged throughout, but my goodness, it's totally easy to get distracted from the story mode.

And talking of the crime, a mention has to go to the police. In the past in these games, it's been rather easy to knock them down, steal their car and go nuts. Not this time around. My first attempt to engage the cops after a low level crime wave of running down three pedestrians led me to my first confrontation, which ended after the cops immediately shot me dead without worrying about that pesky questioning first business. Combined with the fact that a helicopter can be dispatched and that it's notoriously difficult to shake off, it seems the AI of the police this time around has been boosted substantially - and while that's a good thing, it doesn't half make the challenge of the game a little harder.

The free-wheeling nature of the game hints at the epic, but it's the story thread running through and the clever interconnected feel of it all that makes this one of the best games of the year, period. Sure, it's got the usual confrontational GTA streak that pushes the censors, but as a depiction of life in America, it's spot on. And it's also graphically utterly entrancing - everything feels so natural. From landscapes which are beautifully crafted and seamlessly integrated to a city scape which is never repetitive, so much attention to detail has gone on the world of Los Santos and its surroundings.

Even though the main characters in this are nasty to a degree, there's no shaking the fact that Rockstar's created a totally immersive experience which will take hours of your life without you even realising that they're gone. But it's an investment - and given the sprawl and scope of GTA V you will never find everything that's been hidden, but you will have a hell of a good time trying to find it all and exploring.

Rockstar deserves to take a bow - sure, there's a seedy underbelly to GTA V which will irritate and downright annoy some purists, but gamers will adore what Rockstar's created this time around. A great central story, some clever ways of gaming and some impressive use of characters show that creativity is its own reward.  While the online environment's yet to fully work (and I'll talk about that when it's properly up and running) there's so much to do here.

Utterly engrossing, totally rewarding and completely addictive, Grand Theft Auto V is one of the games of the year - it's raised the bar for future developers and certainly fired off a last shot for the PS3 as the next gen of consoles lurk around the corner.


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