GTA V was a world beater. The sales of Rockstar’s controversial title were colossal, critics and fans alike, were in reverence. Similar to other titles that were released towards the latter end of the PS3 or Xbox 360 lifecycle, GTA V proved that the old consoles still had life in them, in fact GTA V went one step further by showcasing some of the most varied, visceral and astute gameplay ever seen. Surpassing the ambitions of even Bethedsa’s Sykrim. The GTA series was once again relevant and guiding gaming pop culture. Rockstar had once again proven they were top dog.
So with GTA V making a foray onto next gen what developments could we expect to see?
Well, sadly, the developments feel lost on me. Originally when I saw the comparison video between the PS3 and PS4 versions of GTA V I was blown away. Graphics, population and textures all had an overhaul and the results looked stunning. GTA V looked to be a bigger and better version of the original. Don’t get me wrong, graphically the new version of the game looks great but this feels very much like the remastered version of The Last of Us. Both games are welcome on my shelf as next gen versions, but GTA promised much more.
The new first person mode seems pointless. Whilst this does enable for more precise shooting in some circumstances, it detracts from the characters themselves. You can no longer see their facial expressions and because you can’t actually see the character at all, the game all of a sudden feels soulless. Even answering your mobile phone in game is a weird experience, you can’t see the phone or who is calling and it just appears that your character is a bodiless entity shouting obscenities at passersby.
Fortunately, even though the improvements were minimal, the core of the main game has not been tampered with, much to the delight of this critic.
In GTA V you play as three characters, which for the most part, you can switch between at any time. So should you happen to get bored by constantly playing as the same character, Rockstar have provided an outlet to continually switch up the story. Michael, a exceptional thief who was forcibly retired by a crooked cop, is thrown back into the fray and forced to do heists for some of Los Santos’ rich and powerful.
Franklin is Michael’s young protege. Stuck living in the hood amongst petty criminals, Franklin’s life has come to a standstill. That is until a bizarre chance meeting with Michael propels him up the ranks of the criminal underworld.
Lastly, their is Trevor. GTA is renowned for its violent, larger than life psychopaths but Trevor puts all other psychos to shame. Unpredictable, berserk and homicidal, Trevor is the driving force of the game and it’s a ride that the other characters have a tough time holding onto.
The interwoven paths of these characters is some of the best story telling that any game has ever managed to produce. The flawless style, substance and direction of these characters is something many developers should take note of. Rockstar maybe reliant on over the top characters but their integration to the story is what makes GTA V so compelling and fun.
But the main character is Los Santos itself. The city is vibrant, oozing with character and wildlife. The changes in districts are subtle but genuinely make you feel like you are transcending a real place. Very few games have encapsulated what it is like to live in a (effectively) real, living and breathing city. In terms of gaming worlds, Los Santos is one of my favourite destinations.
GTA is a terrific game and always will be. The vast array of main missions, side missions, strange characters, randomly generated events and sport you can partake in, is awe inspiring. Hardly ever is there a moment in GTA V were you have nothing to do. Players can play the stock market, buy properties, run street races, take up flying lessons coupled that with all the collectibles and hidden easter eggs dotted around GTA V’s city, Los Santos, and you could easily loose your life to GTA. Never do the tasks on display feel tacked on. Every part of GTA is delicately balanced, engaging all types of gamers. And no GTA game would be complete without players having the option to go on a mad killing spree in the middle of Los Santos with little to no consequence.
GTA’s transition to next gen is a natural one, because GTA V was so far ahead of its time even its so called predecessors like Watchdogs and Infamous Second Son, although enjoyable, have failed to live up to the grand ambition that GTA V still has. GTA V continues to show people how it’s done, which sadly means that the triple A titles of PS4 and Xbox One have got a lot of work to do convincing the world that next gen was necessary.