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Grand Theft Auto V

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There is a little known game series known as Grand Theft Auto, that maybe some of you may have heard of, one or two might even have played one of the games. So under the radar the fifth iteration of the series has been released. Gamestyle take a look at what we can expect.

We kid of course, the GTA series is arguably the biggest name in our medium, a game that is as much in the public consciousnesses as the latest blockbuster movie, number 1 pop song or best selling book. It is referenced by the news, by popular culture and more time and time again. People expect controversy and you can guarantee plenty of coverage.

There is a different tone to this game than there was in GTA IV or the other previous titles. When you enter the game’s opening scene it feels like it has matured a little, it seems like there has been effort put into the writing, the performances, it feels a little less stereotypical than older games. As we end the generation, it feels like games are trying their best to have a memorable opening and a way to hook the audience and GTA V is right up there with the best.

It seems like the game has matured, but in truth it is full of stereotype, and does revert to type fairly quickly, but that is fine, games aren’t here to be a social commentary, they are here to be fun and GTA whilst pushing the barriers of controversy over the years is a game that is designed to be fun. This iteration may well be the most fun yet.

The opening of the game is really well put together and introduces the new lead character and the general tutorial parts without ever breaking from the immersion. It is something that games have struggled to come to terms with over the years and GTA follows suit, along with a couple of other major recent releases to nail a game opening.

After the opening set piece the system kind of reverts to type, giving you a huge opening world that becomes your playground. You are introduced to the lead roles and taken on a series of fairly linear missions. Go here, do this, follow him, kill them, that sort of thing. But it works, it eases you into a small portion of the world and allows you to get used to the game mechanics before letting you loose later on.

Controls on the whole feel very tight, aiming and cover shooting is on a par with games where those mechanics are core. However driving controls can take a bit of getting used to. At first the cars feel very twitchy and even the slightest touch, or being too aggressive on the controls can cause you to spin the car, or have accidents. However, that being said, it does start to come to you, and you soon forget the troubles you had earlier in the game.

The map is huge. In GTA IV you felt confined at times, you knew the area was vast, but you could tell you were locked into an area, in a weird Truman Show style bubble, to the point you half expected Niko to be afraid of water. Here though, in the hours upon hours we have spent in Los Santos, we still feel as though there is much more to discover and discover we will.

GTA has always prided itself on what you can do away from the main story arc and this is no exception, the usual side missions are there, as are the customisation options. What you have though is a playground that goes back to what you found in San Andreas (which is no surprise really), in GTA IV the side activities felt a little forced, with requests from annoying family members, that you really couldn’t be bothered with. It felt out of place and distracting from the fun you wanted to have. Here though, the game lets you loose on a map and invites you to just have a blast at your own pace.

We could list everything that is possible here, but for one it would be a mighty list, that you could look up online if you are that desperate to find out and secondly, we don’t want to take the fun out of the discovery. So take it from us, there is loads to do, both on land, in the sky and under water!

In most other open-world games, we found that we were always drawn back to wanting to finish off the main story, maybe occasionally flirting with side missions, to help boost a character. The exception to that was of course Saints Row IV and whilst GTA V doesn’t quite throw all sense of reason out of the window, it is a game that we look at the main story and don’t want to just get back to it. We are having too much fun just playing around with everything else.

Now that isn’t to say the story is dull, or anything like that, it is a testament to how well structured the game world is and how much the developers have put into the world for you to do. Adding in the three lead characters mechanic does wonders as well, as each one does have unique things attached to them, whether that be vehicles, abilities, activities, etc. It keeps things fresh throughout, so should you start to get tired of one, you can just switch to another.

The three character structure helps iron out some of the issues with the story in GTA IV. Niko Bellic would often switch from moral conscience, to gun toting maniac at the flip of a switch, which really didn’t help when it came to having any kind of connection with the character. Here though, Rockstar can have three totally different personalities, allowing them to break missions up so that they are played by the character they best suit.

Now, you don’t have to like all the characters, that isn’t the point, what it does, is allows the game to flow and the story and character arcs to work in a much more natural way. To Rockstar’s credit, they have pulled this off brilliantly. As far as GTA goes, this is the most well rounded story to date. It still doesn’t touch games like The Last Of Us for how well it is performed, or written, but then it doesn’t have to be. It does what it has to do, for the type of game this is.

Earlier we said that as a game, GTA doesn’t need to be a social commentary, nor a moral compass. That doesn’t stop the game being full of satire. It isn’t saying this is right, this is wrong, it just takes real world elements that we all know about and charges at them with the satirical stick. Whether it be important political stances, or the likes of popular technology companies, the list is long and it generates plenty of laughs, as well as a few nods of acknowledgement to the little things you notice.

There is an online element to come also, but at the time of writing, this has yet to be launched. But it is stunning just how much Rockstar have managed to fit into the game and still the promise of more to come. What is really impressive is that unlike some linear titles, where smoke and mirrors can be used, this is open world and there are so many little things that can go wrong and the fact is in the 30 odd hours we have played so far, we have noticed minor glitches and we do mean minor. It is only in writing that we even thought about them, hell we struggled to recall them at first. Bravo Rockstar…Bravo!

Is GTA perfect? Well it depends who you ask, but it is plenty of fun and in a time when we are looking to usher in a new generation of hardware, the fact this is running on a PS3 and looks and plays this good is simply mind-blowing. It isn’t a game that will appeal to everyone, as it is an open world, violent game without a moral compass. But boy can you have fun without worrying about morals.