Grand Theft Auto V
Developer: Rockstar North
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Review platform: PC Single Player
Review rig: AMD FX8320, MSI GTX 970 4Gb, 16Gb RAM
Release date: 14 April 2015
The wait is over!
Rockstar Games released GTA V for PS3 and Xbox 360 in September 2013, an enhanced version for PS4 and Xbox One in November 2014 and by December 2014, sales of 45 million units, equating to nearly US$2 billion had been recorded. Coincidentally, these figures make GTA V the third best selling video game of all time, behind Tetris which leads at 100 million.
I mention these facts by way of introduction and you’re probably wondering why the venerable PC hasn’t even been mentioned yet. One has to assume that by launching this much anticipated game initially for consoles, Rockstar will have shrewdly cashed-in immediately in a market where there is little to no chance of piracy, effectively grabbing the Grand Slam and the Triple Crown. The PC version of the game was announced in September 2014 much to the mixed feelings of most PC gamers who felt, quite justifiably, that they’d been sent to the back of the line once again to wait and wait for a badly ported version of the game, like lepers who turned up late at the party. Happily, this couldn’t be further from the truth and the eighteen long months of waiting have not been in vain by a very long shot.
Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet. Aristotle
How does it look?
You’re thrown into the action immediately the game starts, which is when you realise that this game is a class act. It’s silky smooth, the attention to detail is awesome and it’s clear that the game has been generously balanced for even the humblest of gaming machines. What is notable is how Rockstar have given back to PC gamers the control they always wanted in order to finely balance the graphics on their particular rig. Almost every possible tweak is available in the graphics setup and they’ve even included a very useful GPU memory usage indicator, which I’ve yet to see in any other game. This ensures that whatever graphical tweaks you make, will keep you within the total VRAM of your graphics card, yet still remain playable. Check out the shots below to give you an idea.
Clearly a vast array of options for gamers who want to achieve the best balance of speed and quality.
As an added bonus and exclusive to the PC version is the Rockstar Editor a special feature that allows players to record, edit, and share videos created from footage in both Story Mode and GTA Online. This editor has a host of features which will also allow you to add special effects and use Director Mode which lets you control weather, time of day and character choice amongst other aspects of the game. You can also choose to upload directly to Youtube and Rockstar Social Club, whilst also being able to choose frame and bit rate options.
Here’s an introduction to the Rockstar Editor:
Are you kidding me? I’m a bank robber not a web designer! Michael.
The main characters are Trevor, Michael and Franklin with each having their own unique style, backstory and temperament. You can choose to play as either character to carry out the numerous missions and heists. Trevor is the real psycho with a totally unhinged personality, Michael is a little world weary and only gets dragged into rebooting his life of crime through circumstances, and Franklin is happy to fine tune his novice status as a hood because, well, he’s eager to please.
If single player is your thing, you’re in for a treat as the game can be switched from third to first person in an instant, which changes the whole feel of the game and makes it much more personal. I play with keyboard and mouse and the experience is fluid yet tight, whilst allowing you to make sensitivity changes in the menu at any time. There are over 80 main single player missions, 60 side quests and numerous other random events in a massive open world that’s been created around Los Santos, California. GTA V has taken all the possibilities and permutations, thrown them in a food mixer, added a generous dose of nitric oxide, a splash of adrenaline and served up a game packed with seemingly endless angles on how to play the story. Not only are there around 250 vehicles of various types, from jet fighters to bicycles to play with, you get to handle around 30 weapons from a pistol to a grenade launcher and even a mini-gun, if you can find it.
Look for jobs on your cellphone, steal police cars, fire trucks, ambulances and luxury yachts and indulge yourself in a free rampage of the city of Los Santos, behaving in an unspeakable and brutal manner, then later play a round of golf or a quick game of tennis with your buddies and then sip a Margarita in your favourite strip club, whilst your hostess makes you comfortable in the premium lounge.
In one scene, I wandered over to a Police station where there were about five police cars parked, said good day to the officer standing outside playing with his phone and promptly sped off in a police car, lights blazing, siren blaring and it felt very good indeed. I found it surprisingly easy to shake off the trailing posse of police and later took the car home as a keepsake.
Satisfying in a deliciously illegal kind of way.
What you sayin?
I mentioned earlier how many games simply get lazy with the story, but GTA V has nailed it. It’s a game portraying contemporary life in an LA lookalike city and it pulls no punches with the dialogue, especially when it has its tongue firmly in its cheek, where black Americans refer to each other as n*gga, motherf*cker and homie; maybe they really do talk like that with each other as we so often see emanating from Hollywood? (I wouldn’t know, as I’ve never been there). Not only is the language brutal and the swearing direct (liberal use of the C and F words), which, for decency reasons, I can’t reproduce here, but it’s also well scripted, damn funny and balanced throughout the game.
You could be Michael and Franklin driving to a heist and instead of an embarrassing silence between you and Franklin, you get into a heated discussion (whilst you bend metal at intersections) about the way the world is nowadays or how the heist is going to go down and the scenario becomes more in tune with what may really happen in real life and seems entirely appropriate for the circumstances. In fact, the entire dialogue is well crafted and humorous throughout and even when it’s brutal and downright offensive, it’s believable, by painting each character in such a way that you can relate to as individuals. Much that I’d love to reproduce a typical chat between Lamar and Franklin here, check out this quick extract to get a taste. It’s easy to see why so many find the GTA series offensive, racist, misogynistic and downright non-PC, but whatever your views on its legitimacy, it’s a breath of fresh air, in that the game doesn’t pretend to be anything else and tells the story entirely appropriately and within context, so if you’re easily offended, you may wish to look the other way.
Parody, satire or morality tale?
Following the launch of GTA V in 2013, Lindsay Lohan, that troubled Hollywood minor celebrity, thought it would be a good idea to sue Rockstar for allegedly using her likeness as a character in the game, which received about as much attention as Kim Kardashian’s recent change of boyfriend and/or wardrobe. Take Two: Rockstar’s response is that her lawsuit is an entirely frivolous publicity stunt and most commentators believe that she would be better served by perhaps seeing the game for the satire it truly is.
Any resemblance to real persons, either living or dead, is purely coincidental. Fictitious disclaimer
From the hills of Vinewood to the next, world-conquering device from iFruit, GTA V makes us laugh at ourselves in a way few other games have managed. With so many AAA games languishing in weak plots, even weaker characters, cheesy B-movie dialogue and two dimensional bad guys, the creators of GTA have cashed-in on the controversy, raised the bar and stuck a finger up at a society that loves to take itself oh so seriously.
This is my very first experience of any GTA game and perhaps because of the black heart in which my humour resides, I’ve found myself laughing out loud during so many scenes in the game. Some great examples being when Michael is driving across the city, ignoring every local traffic law like most law abiding citizens would aspire to, takes off the front end of a limo at the lights and shouts “You selfish pr*ck!” or “You f*cking moron!”, which beautifully encapsulates the Jeckyll and Hyde in all of us when we get behind the wheel of a ton of metal and instantly assume it’s our own personal ballistic missile, whose personal space is measured in the fractions of inches that surround it, illustrating quite succinctly the premise that, behind the wheel, even when we’re wrong, we think we’re in the right.
Parking a stolen police car outside your house is one option.
Let’s face it, when you watch the law in pursuit of the bank robbers and they’re hairing through the streets of LA, knocking over fire hydrants, smashing into other vehicles and generally causing mayhem, you know deep down that you want the villains to make a clean getaway and hopefully not bump off any innocent civilians along the way. In some weird attack of conscience, when I’m being chased by the cops in GTA V, I make a very real effort to avoid pedestrians, but sometimes it happens as the innocent victim impales himself under the wheels and what does Michael say? “Jeez, I’m sorry bud!” or words to that effect. I also get a pang of guilt if I accidentally knock over a biker, because I’m a biker myself, I suppose.
What else can you do?
If the mayhem of borrowing people’s cars, robbing stores and banks and terminating all those who stand in your way gets a little tiring, why not try some less taxing activities, such as:
- Go to the cinema
- Watch TV
- Listen to the radio
- Check your email
- Take a taxi or train ride
- Customise your car
With so many missions, side quests and recreational activities to keep you busy, it’ll be a while before you get finished with the game, if ever. For my part, I’ll probably still be playing for many months to come, such is the massive scope of GTA V. Of course, I haven’t mentioned multiplayer yet, which is because I rarely use it, but I’m told that it’s as good as promised, but I won’t review GTA V online here, since I don’t play it.
If you’re a GTA junkie and have been playing it for years, you’ll know what to expect, but you’ll also be blown away by how good this game is. For someone like me, being my first GTA encounter and a big shooter fan, GTA V delivers so much more than all the hype predicted. Not only does it look absolutely amazing from any angle, but the story and missions draw you in, get you totally immersed and give you a vast range of scenarios and toys to play with. Value for money and replayability, two essentials for a video game, are unquestionable and Rockstar have delivered a tour de force that will be a hard act for anyone to follow.