STAFF REVIEW of Grand Theft Auto V (Xbox 360)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013.
by Brent Roberts

Grand Theft Auto V Box art The time has finally arrived. After over half a decade of waiting patiently we finally get to dive back into the virtual world of Grand Theft Auto, only this time Rockstar Games has set their sights on making the biggest and most in depth gaming experience of our lives, and you know what? They succeeded. Normally when games take over five years to produce, that prompts warning bells to go off as there isn't a great history with long development times equating to a top quality game. This is Rockstar though, and Grand Theft Auto V is like the back handed slap across the face of those who doubted and the kick in the junk to all those who said it couldn't be done. Quality over quantity is the theology with Rockstar and throughout this review you will see why Grand Theft Auto V is one of the best games available on the Xbox 360.

To kick things off, we have to talk about the environment. Historically speaking, Grand Theft Auto games always strive to provide a wide open sandbox world for you to explore. While Grand Theft Auto San Andreas was a mammoth place of exploration, gamers felt that GTA IV was a step back in the wrong direction because many felt that the world wasn't big enough and lacked the quality that the GTA games have been known for. Not this time though. The city that GTA V is based in is called Los Santos, and there's really only two words that can describe it, f***ing massive. Imagine a city set in the state of San Andreas and combine that with the area of another fantastic Rockstar game, Red Dead Redemption and put it all together, bring it all to life and there you have the setting for the biggest game Rockstar has ever made. With such an open playground at your disposal, Rockstar has gone to extensive lengths to provide plenty of diverse areas to explore. Areas such as ghetto development properties, industrial construction zones, vibrant downtown metropolitan areas, and even mountainous wilderness zones complete with mountain lions, deer and more are just some of the wide variety of territory that you can explore on your quest to rise to the top with your eyes on the prize.

Speaking of quests though, there are tons of them. Over five hundred (500) to be exact. Actions ranging from riding a gondola up the side of a mountain, to watching TV, going to see a movie, and other risqué adventures wait inside the world of GTA V. While there are a bunch of nonviolent, "PG" and "PG-13" style events to go through, such as playing Tennis, or walking your dog, Grand Theft Auto V wouldn't be what it is without a huge amount of "Adult" content. Strip clubs, prostitutes, drug labs, armored bank trucks and more abound throughout Los Santos and will offer you a chance to not only get paid but also gain character bonuses as well. It's this wide array of varying events that help bring the entire experience to life. When you also take into account all of the "random events" that take place that allow you to interact with other NPCs, there always seems to be something or someone to do, every time you pick up and play Grand Theft Auto V. All of these experiences though are not played through just one character, but a total of three (Franklin, Michael, and Trevor), and all these experiences differ between characters so in essence you have three different playable characters and each of them have their own "world" that they live in.

These characters are controlled via 3rd person perspective and what we've come to love and expect from a Grand Theft Auto game has been improved upon. Your cellphone is back and it's through this device where you get your quick save option, emails, text messages, contact lists, etc. While the controls of Grand Theft Auto allow you to do some amazing things, you can't help but wonder if Rockstar Games has gone a bit overboard with trying to fit too much onto just one Xbox 360 controller? Multiple buttons do different things depending on the situation and in order to access these "secondary" functions requires you to almost detach yourself from the gameplay to give the game time to load up and perform these other actions. Of course you can still do things like run, jump, swing your fits, shoot people, but actions like climbing for instance feels still a bit unpolished and yes there are times when the play control feels cumbersome and when this happens in a gun fight, good f***ing luck chuck. It almost feels as though Grand Theft Auto V would benefit from less complex controls and more streamlined ones instead. As each character has individual events, so is the case with the development of skills and attributes.

Stamina, strength and more are the types of character traits you can increase throughout the game by performing various deeds. For instance if you want your stamina to increase, then go for runs instead of driving. This will naturally build up over time and when further developed will allow you to sprint for much longer distances without getting winded. Each character also has a special ability such as slowing down time, increasing damage dealt and more and it's these special abilities that can turn the tide of war in your favor that is unless you forgot to bring a bigger gun to the fight.

Not to worry though, as sprawled throughout the massive city of Los Santos though are many stores that you can go to improve various items in your character's life. There are barber shops where you can change your hairstyle, auto repair businesses where you can not only repaint your vehicle, but upgrade it in many different aspects to create a truly unique and original ride, and even gun shops where you can purchase different types of weaponry, ammo, and upgrades as well. With so much customization available to the players, Grand Theft Auto V goes above and beyond anything that we have ever experienced before and that is thanks to a very in-depth character experience and expansive customization options. All of this adds to the overall beauty of GTA V which is eye popping gorgeous. Watching the sunset over the water as you climb high into the mountains is breathtaking and when you see the sun finally going down and the city turn on its lights, the whole downtown area looks like multi colored diamonds shining against a star filled night. Textures from the environment to the characters are done with such high attention to detail, you can really see the five years of development that were poured into this game. However, what is the fun of exploring all of this beauty if you don't have any tunes to listen to along the way? It's cool; Rockstar has you covered there as well.

Normally throughout the past GTA games we were limited to less than a handful of radio stations to listen to in our cars and each station had a very limited amount of songs to listen to. In Grand Theft Auto V however, Rockstar Games has put more effort than ever before into the sounds and soundtrack. With over 10 radio stations to choose from which range from country and electronic pop, to classic west coast rap and classic rock, Grand Theft Auto V sports over 200 licensed songs to listen to which range from Queen, Phil Collins, and Johnny Cash, to artists like Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Too Short, and more. Just the soundtrack alone is enough to fill over 10 CD's and that is just the beginning. All throughout Los Santos you will hear conversations between various NPC's which always feel fresh instead of recycled so every time you explore the city you get a feeling that it's a brand new day, instead of listening to the same thing repeated from different characters. When you take into account all of this massive audio innovation combined with the main story script, what you have is one of the best sounding Xbox 360 games ever created.

Now as you're reading this you're probably going to have many friends that purchased this stellar title as well and because of that Rockstar games has put forth a hefty multiplayer system. Now you can join 15 other gamers in incredibly large 16 player activities. Jobs such as street racing and bank heists are just some of the things available as you get to venture around a duplicate setting of Los Santos. There are other gametypes as well to select from including Team Deathmatch but that is included in the competitive multiplayer which allows you to become part of a crew. This feature was also found on Max Payne 3 but now allows you to either create your own crew, or be a member of up to five other crews to compete competitively. If you do well and win your multiplayer sessions then you earn experience which allows your character to level up and improve their skills and abilities. One innovation that Rockstar included was to allow gamers to carry over their crews from the multiplayer mode of Max Payne 3 to Grand Theft Auto Online thanks to the synchronization of the Rockstar Games Social Club. This feature though will launch on October 1st, 2013 and will have full support from Rockstar going forward, so time to lock and load and prep for war!

Easily one of the most anticipated games of the past half-decade, Grand Theft Auto V provides a gaming experience that is second to none. Making a game that will keep you entertained for months and years to come is a challenge that many developers fail to overcome, but not Rockstar. They have poured blood, sweat, and tears into this game and it shows in every second and around every turn. The last Grand Theft Auto game set a Guinness World Record and make no mistake, Grand Theft Auto V is designed to smash the records and be one of the bestselling video games of all time. Did you manage to grab your copy on launch day? Don't say we didn't warn you if you decided to wait and can't find a copy available. With all the top quality content provided, Grand Theft Auto V is without question the new standard of excellence when it comes to sandbox game development. When you think brilliance, think Rockstar games. When you think quality, think Rockstar games. When you think of some of the biggest and greatest video game experiences available, think Rockstar Games.

Overall: 9.8 / 10
Gameplay: 9.5 / 10
Visuals: 9.8 / 10
Sound: 9.9 / 10


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