'GTA V' review journal: day 1

Wednesday, 18 September 2013 01:06 AM Written by 

GTACoverIf you know anything about "Grand Theft Auto V," you know it's massive. Rather than taking the typical review approach, I'm going to continually add entries in a review journal. This journal will look at gameplay, presentation, and activities that can be performed around Los Santos. It will include everything that goes into my typical reviews, but with more content.  I started my playthrough a few minutes after Tuesday's midnight release. This is part one.

“Grand Theft Auto IV” was Rockstar’s attempt to give the open-world series a next-gen face lift. In other words, the game featured the base “GTA” experience of driving recklessly and shooting wildly while having gorgeous high-definition graphics. “GTA V” appears to be the complete evolution of “GTA IV.”

This vision of Los Santos is a living, breathing world that appears as if would continue to grow (or decay, depending on how you look at it) if the story's protagonists existed. It feels as authentic as any fictional world in video games, and I’ve barely peeled back its first layer.

While the events of “GTA IV” follow Niko Belic’s rise to power, “GTA V” again exponentially increases the content by adding more protagonists. You’ve probably seen the trailers that follow the main three guys: Michael, Franklin and Trevor.

Michael and Trevor have a history that is explained in an opening flashback that takes place nine years before the present day Los Santos. Franklin, on the other hand, is a fresh face. He’s a hard working guy who’s on the semi-straight path. The narrative of modern day Los Santos begins with Franklin putting in the hours as a repo man. Thus began my glorious tour of Los Santos.

I’ll get the boring stuff like gameplay out of the way early. Comparatively speaking, simple gameplay seems insignificant compared to the game’s narrative, and the vast variety of activities at your disposal in “GTA V.” Fortunately, the controls feel improved. If you played “Max Payne 3,” you’ll be happy to learn that the tight and responsive movement, cover, and shooting mechanics have been carried over to “GTA.”


Driving has been completely overhauled from “GTA IV.” I’ve seen complaints that “IV’s” driving felt too heavy, and framing the car off-center of the screen bothered some players. “GTA V” teeters into the area of driving simulation. If you swerve all over the road in a super car, you’ll spin out. Take a sharp turn at 90, and you’ll end up ramming into the building. I see this as a good thing. In a game that strives for realism, driving should be no different.

Those that struggle with driving will take kindly to Franklin’s special ability. Each character has a special ability that is activated by clicking both analog sticks. Franklin can enter slow motion while driving, which is useful in chases, getaways, or just when my driving is getting out of control. I haven’t progressed far enough to see what special abilities the other characters yield.

I’ll conclude journal entry number one with quick praise of the game’s script. We already know that “GTA V” is about a life or crime and well planned heists. The banter between the characters rivals that of Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction.” Imagine if Michael Mann, Martin Scorsese, and Quentin Tarantino got together to work on a script for a video game. That’s what “GTA V” is, and you get to control the three main characters.

In the next chapter:

Shooting gasoline trails
Swapping characters
Dog training
Companion apps
Adult pastimes

Please note that "Grand Theft Auto V" is not suitable for all ages. It is rated M for Mature. 

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