Grand Theft Auto V

PS3, Xbox 360
Developed by: Rockstar North
By Matt Ross
Oct 08, 2013

Here’s a shock. Grand Theft Auto V is really, really good. Not that anybody was expecting much else from one of gaming’s most lucrative franchises – three days after release, the title had generated more than $1 billion in sales, becoming the fastest-selling entertainment product of all time. There’s a certain sense of inevitability to the news that GTA V is the biggest, most immersive world that Rockstar have ever created, and that the artfully crafted narrative acts as the perfect springboard for players to roam the streets of Los Santos, or the rolling countryside of San Andreas (Los Angeles and Southern California in all but name) with reckless abandon.

But don’t let the lack of surprise overshadow just what a technical marvel this game is. Open-world games are commonplace, and developers strive to create increasingly bigger and better environments for players to explore. But there are few to rival GTA V in terms of attention to detail and realistic authenticity. The denizens of Los Santos walk, talk and act like real people. The world carries on around you, whether you interact with it or not – it’s incredibly tempting to merely sit and people-watch, which is no small accomplishment for a medium that is, by its very nature, geared towards your active participation. Rockstar have refined both vehicular handling, and the ease with which you control any one of the three central characters, so navigating the world is intuitive, and devoid of the irritations that dogged GTA IV. Combat – which you’ll be doing a lot of – is also more fluid, with a tweaked cover system and varying degrees of auto-targeting on hand to avoid the frustrations inherent in the previous series installments.

It might also seem unnecessary to say that this game looks great – recent GTA games have always boasted impressive visuals – but, seriously, this title looks great. There’s a distinct feel to different parts of town, impressive draw distances when you’re out in the sticks, character models capable of communicating actual emotion, and vehicles and landscapes that react with something approaching real-world physics when you smash seven shades of shit out of them. In many games, it’s rare to find yourself genuinely distracted by the scenery. In Los Santos, it happens all the time.

It’s actually rather fun to spot where Rockstar have utilized their experience on other titles to improve their flagship franchise. You can see how the bulletplay of Max Payne 3 has strengthened GTA V’s shootouts. There are echoes of Red Dead Redemption in the expansive landscape outside the city limits. The vehicle handling, such a sticking point for fans in the past, owes more than a little to the development of the Midnight Club series. It feels like everything Rockstar have learned over the past two decades has been distilled to its purest form – and GTA V is the result. It would be redundant to merely list everything that is great about this game, because nobody would be in the least bit surprised. Suffice to say, we could be looking at the last, truly great release on this generation of consoles. And it’s quite a swansong.


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