Grand Theft Auto V Review (PS3)

Having reconquered Liberty City in GTA IV since their first foray into third-person action with GTA III, Rockstar now takes us back to Los Santos. Gone are the early nineties of Carl ‘CJ’ Johnson, although you can’t help but feel a new kinship with him as we - the fans - have spent quite the stint in Liberty City ourselves, and are now returning to the silicone capital of the world.

The sun kissed streets of L.A. – oops, I meant L.S. – are introduced to us through Franklin. He’s the sort-of-but-not-quite gangbanger looking to make a name for himself and some serious paper. While not strictly the opening scenes in the game, I don’t want to delve too deeply into any spoilers and, ha, Trevor’s hair in the opening prologue is – no, no I’ve said too much already.
The world has freaks and strangers aplenty, and they all have something to say
It’s a crash course in general controls: movement, shooting, taking cover, but also in switching between characters. Ultimately it’s when we get into Franklin’s shoes that the new world of Grand Theft Auto V opens up. Soon enough we’re picking a high-powered sports car to repossess for our less than honest employer. Driving is now the focus and if you’re thinking this will be a breeze, what with all that IV experience under your belt, think again. Vehicle handling is radically different and you’ll probably spend most of your time trying to stay gripped on the road than admire the city.

The city of Los Santos is truly a jewel of artwork by Rockstar, from its less than affluent drug-riddled neighbourhoods to the well-kept lawns of the Vinewood elite. There’s also the industrial block of the city, which again changes everything up offering a myriad of back alleys and tight squeezes – ideal for losing the police. Before everything gets too crazy though, we’re introduced to a set of colourful characters with the ability to switch characters limited only to Franklin in the opening hours. However the entire of GTA V’s Los Santos and the outlying Blaine County is free to explore.

It doesn’t take long to see just how far Rockstar has come from those silent Claude days of GTA III, to the glitz and glamour of story-telling they now command in GTA V. Even from IV to V there’s a leap in making characters stick out, with a much greater city to act as canvas to the mayhem. While it’s easy to get stuck on the big things, it’s actually the legion of little things – those small touches – that ignites Los Santos with life. Sure the NPCs don’t actually have homes to go to, or jobs, but just walking around that’s not the vibe you get. The people, as satirically fake as they are, do feel as if they’re going about their days. Even after a mission completes notable characters and any consequences of actions stick around for a while – the world doesn’t just hit the reset button.

There are a good number of ways a mission or activity can be accomplished in GTA V, with Rockstar letting us even try out more stealthy approaches. This ties into your character’s stats, what weapons and attachments they have, and the new cone of vision for NPCs. Getting a 3-star wanted level isn’t quite the inevitable rise to 4 or 5-star it once was. Rockstar has ditched the search circle of GTA IV in favour of limiting to the police’s ability to track you by line of sight. If they can’t see then they don’t magically know where you are – something that plagued IV’s Liberty City. This makes helicopters a serious threat to your criminality, but side streets and discreet garages become a fierce ally.

The weapons on offer in V are courtesy of enemy drops, missions and of course Ammunition. Each weapon is customizable in some way, from the more cosmetic touch of colour, to tactical options like attached flashlight, suppressor, advanced scopes or extended magazines. These are extremely useful to have and it’s highly advised you pursue them as and when you can. The best part is that the weapons you purchase for each of the three characters they keep on the despite getting busted, wasted or running out of ammo. Getting busted does take away all your ammunition, whereas hospital trips just cost money. The weapon wheel is near identical to Red Dead Redemption’s whereby you call it up and time almost stops to let you choose you armament. Each is broken into categories with the D-pad letting you switch between selections within each category.

There’s a clear sign that Rockstar is going back more to its roots as there are other treats from the past making a return. Did somebody say… rampages? Yes they’re back, although not quite as they used to be – they are however ‘excused’ into GTA V in quite a clever way; Trevor. He’s a little touchy when it comes to people cracking wise about his mother with many a redneck and gangbanger learning that the hard way.
Los Santos and Blaine County are visually stunning, with lots of detail
Property management has also returned, with earnings automatically dumped in each character’s bank account depending on what they each own. They don’t share the profits of these business ventures and Franklin, Michael and Trevor have their own interests both professionally and personally. This means money really is a huge factor in GTA V and not just some number going up with little to spend it on - oh contraire. There’s plenty to be spending cash on, and no I’m not just talking about ‘making it rain’ down at the strip club. Boats, planes, cars, motorbikes, pushbikes, and of course businesses are all large down payments.

The businesses can at times offer their own tasks which can be turned down. They only seem to trigger when you’re conveniently near and so won’t harass you if you’re out in the sticks. These shouldn’t be snubbed though as not only can they earn you some extra cash, but you’ll be treated to some pretty good banter with other characters and get to perform some interesting deeds. You could just hop in a taxi and take on some fares like the good ole days, but perhaps airdropping arm shipments via light aircraft is more your style?

Vehicles are the bread and butter of Rockstar’s GTA sandwich, while everything else just bloats it with calories – rich, obviously-bad-for-you-but-irresistible calories. It stands to reason then that damage to those hunks of metal on wheels can have some profound effects on their handling. If the wheel arch is compromised don’t be surprised your steering is shot, or that the tyre refuses to spin. It’s hard not to care for the vehicles actually owned by you in GTA V, and each character has their own signature ride. If you happen to lose your vehicle you can go down to the impound lot and pay a fee to have it returned.

Modifications to the cars can seriously alter their performance, whether that’s tuning the engine for races or shelling out for additional armour and bullet-proofing the tyres. Helicopters and planes are bountiful too, with helipads available to buy in strategic locales. You simply walk up to the helipads and select what copter you want to ride in – not realistic, naturally, but convenient for gamers. Garages can store multiple vehicles that won’t fit in safe houses.

It’s difficult to try and boil down everything given the enormous scope of Grand Theft Auto V, but the core of the game has never been so strong – at least not since GTA: San Andreas. Missions have been dramatically overhauled with checkpoints featuring throughout them to stop the game shattering, mind-dumbing tedium of having to drive all the way to a location again after restarting a mission. Instead you’ll just get dropped back at certain points. If you fail a stretch between two check points more than 3 times you’re given the opportunity to skip that section. All missions are also graded; bronze, silver and gold. This is a system carrying over from The Ballad of Gay Tony for GTA IV, but more importantly so is the replay system. Any mission, even something from the ‘strangers & freaks’ category, can be repeated at our leisure. Honestly it’s best to just play how you want going through the game for the first time, and then perhaps taking a bash at getting gold. The optional objectives could be anything like getting head shots, high accuracy, time, or not getting a scratch.
Heists are multi-staged events with prep work that's left to the player to devide on.
Combat is much improved with cover playing a vital role when you come up against a significant force. It’s a lot closer to Max Payne 3, with Michael’s special ability letting him slow things down to get some very clear shots. Trevor will simply fly into a rage dealing huge damage as the red mist descends, and Franklin has the ever envious ability to slow things down while driving, letting him perform impossible feats on four, or two wheels. These special abilities have to be charged up and only last for so long. The length at which they can be used depends on their stats.

Driving, flying, breathing, stamina, shooting… all these are controlled by stats which are then improved by performing associated activities. The more they do something the better they’ll get, so you can imagine the driving stat will be ascending in no time – as will combat. Strength though is another matter as it’s tied to melee combat; it feels an under used form of dispatching obstacles despite being nothing as haphazard as GTA IV’s fisticuffs. Now it’s a lot more fluid especially when sneaking around knocking out sentries with a single sucker punch to the noggin.

Planes make a triumphant return to the skies but are a lot more demanding to tame thanks to turbulence – it’s not so bad when your high above but when zooming in-between skyscrapers in can be life and death. The Flying School at the Los Santo airport is a great way to get back into the pilot’s seat, and isn’t anywhere near as psychotic as San Andrea’s flight school program. It’s also here you’ll be seriously challenged to attempt to master the helicopter, which is nothing like its much gentler cousin in GTA IV, and that’s saying something.

The control scheme, which is adjustable, can take some getting used to. It’s because of the extra punch the combat system has now which creates something of a learning curve. Snapping in and out of cover was a little difficult getting used to with Niko in IV but it becomes a vital way to survive in Los Santos, especially when enemies really do attempt to out-flank you. The police are particularly vicious if they corner you, and won’t let up. Fortunately we have a new weapon in our arsenal: line of sight. This works on enemies too, so therefore can impede us too. The minimap only tracks those you can hear or see, so if they can’t detect you there’s a chance you’re blind to them.

While ’60-ish missions’ may not sound like much, in GTA terms, there are so many side attractions and completely random encounters strewn through Los Santos that’ll feel way off mark. That counts the major missions of course, like events leading up to a heist. Heists are the big draws in terms of cash, and cinematic story-telling by Rockstar. While some are quite linear, others offer an array of choices to tackle the big score. Choosing decent crew members is also vital as they can extend the time alarms are down, or make sure there’s decent getaway bikes for blearing down the sewer pipes. There’s at least one interesting character you can bring along – I won’t spoil it – and it was a real treat to suddenly come across them in an entirely random event. Potential crew members are unlocked this way, like finding someone stranded and bleeding out, or because a particular mission freed them up from prior responsibilities.
Vehicles can be modified mechanically, not just by their looks. You need to park them up to keep them, though.
The animations of characters are another area of huge improvement over GTA IV, with Franklin, Michael and Trevor more reactive to their environments particularly when trying to sprint up hill. During the cinematic moments you can lose yourself in the action as they play out just like a high end TV show off HBO. There can still be moments of frustration like if you ‘misjudge’ climbing down a ladder you’ll end up sprinting over the ledge – it requires a little precision for them to interact with it. The audio in the game is impeccable also, from the over 15 radio stations catering to almost every taste of music, to voice acting and the tense composed scores that build up. Just stand still on the streets of Los Santos, or in the wilderness of Blaine County, and listen – it’s amazing work.

The in-game TV shows and even a ‘full feature film’ – which is actually an animated short – is on tap if you’re so inclined to immerse yourself into the ever growing faux entertainment sector. If sitting on your virtual rear isn’t the thing for you then maybe a little game hunting? Rockstar have gone so far as to make wind direction and animal calls vital components in tracking and hunting.

Underwater exploration is a new area for GTA V, although it was present to a degree in GTA: San Andreas it is now fully exploited with some rather fetching undersea environments. Lung capacity is tied to diving but for some real deep sea adventuring you’ll need either the mini-submarine or a diving suit to fully appreciate Rockstar’s ‘under the sea’ living without drowning. Often times these areas will be overlooked for the more traditional GTA’ing of sports cars, planes and blasting uppity gangbangers, but taking the time for a dip won’t disappoint.

There’s so much to see and interact with in GTA V that it’s easy to feel a little overwhelmed but then again you’ve got three characters to switch between, which can be done any time outside of missions provided certain characters aren’t tied up by a story event. It’s great if you happen to be a little bored with racing through the traffic in Los Santos as you hold down a button, select one of the other guys and be transported to them. The map goes into a bird’s eye view and zooms out and then over whom you’ve selected. It takes a few seconds or two to load but then you’re dropped down. Prepare for some rather outlandish moments as any of the three could be doing anything when you drop in.

Hidden packages and other collectibles? Of course they’re back! In fact Rockstar has mixed it up a bit with what we’re after, from piecing together a confession to finding objects from out of this world. You can train up your dog Chop owned by Franklin to help track these down but only if you teach him tricks. Unfortunately the real-world app to teach the pooch new tricks wasn’t available to me during review so I can’t comment on Rockstar’s ‘companion app’ integration. I had to endure a rather unhappy Chop instead who thought nothing of ‘doing his business’ all over my yard. Yes you can take the dog for a walk and even play catch with him – as for other activities? Again, I didn’t have access.

GTA V’s fake internet has taken a whole new life with even better references to it throughout, from stalking on Live Invader to trading in stocks. Actions in the world can affect numerous businesses letting you buy low and sell high if you’re mindful of trading. The in-game phones are crucial tools, just like in the real world, as they provide emails and texts from contacts. It even supports ‘selfies’ along with the usual camera feature. Stuck out in the middle of nowhere? Call a taxi. This also lets you ‘hang out’ with certain characters, which by the way don’t pester you. In fact during my time in the game not a single call came through from any of the friends – they were entirely instigated by me. There’s no ‘affection’ to be gained or lost either, but these moments do provide some interesting banter.
Flying is back and better than ever - it's also a great way to see the sights...
It’s difficult to try and cover everything in Grand Theft Auto V without feeling like I’m writing a dissertation – there’s simply so much more variety and random craziness to walk jog or sprint through. Ultimately the experience of Rockstar’s latest and certainly greatest satire of the modern world can’t be distilled into text. If a picture is worth a thousand words then the game itself is a novel every city block and every dusty trail. It’s the million dollar fireworks display at the end of the current generation cycle of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 – handing out free beer and barbeque chicken wings. To label this ‘San Andreas HD’ is to fail to comprehend what your eyes, ears and heart palpitations are telling you. It’s the perfect way to bid a fond farewell to this generation as we usher in a new, although with Grand Theft Auto V you’re unlikely to be in any rush for the future.

Top Game Moment: Simply for the laugh-out-loud of it: As Franklin I was intrigued (nosey) about a large heavy set woman’s cell conversation going on and, while forgetting I was on foot for a brief moment, hit the ‘cinematic view’ button to see if it would ogle her. What happened next was a sucker punch and her going down like a sack of potatoes in the span of 2 seconds followed by a police chase around half of gangland Los Santos. Great times.

Version Reviewed: Playstation 3.

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By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Sep 16, 2013
Right so when is it on PC :c
By Kres (SI Elite) on Sep 16, 2013
Is that a 10?? Wow. Yeah, makes me sad for a moment I don't have PS3. Ok the moment has passed :p
By nocutius (SI Elite) on Sep 16, 2013
Ouch, I should better get ready to be a target of a few "I told you to get a console a long time ago" comments from one of my buddies :).
By danfreeman (SI Elite) on Sep 16, 2013
I may have a ps 3 but no way am i playing this on that,this is a shooter and i suck at using a controller for shooters,even then i want to see mods for this game since i`ll likely be bored of the vanilla version soon.
By nocutius (SI Elite) on Sep 16, 2013
Exactly, one very huge reason for waiting for the PC version are the mods but saying that at the current moment almost sounds as just an excuse to make the wait slightly less painful :).
By Chris_Spray (SI Member) on Sep 17, 2013
I'm deeply sceptical about the 10/10.

It sounds to me like the reviewer has either been got at, or has believed the hyperbolé.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Sep 17, 2013
Or you know, he liked it a lot.

Read the actual review and a couple other ones to actually get the best impression, always. Different people have different opinions.
By Chris_Spray (SI Member) on Sep 18, 2013
I don't believe professional reviewers.

Not since Civilization 5 anyway.

I will wait until Angry Joe or Total Biscuit review it, not some paid for hack who played it for maybe ten minutes.

If in the unlikely event that the above is a genuine opinion, I withdraw my comments and apologise to Simon Priest.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Sep 18, 2013
You say you don't trust professional reviewers and then you say you'll decide on TB's or Angry Joe's of whom is a professional reviewer and the other being a professional first impressionist.

I mean don't get me wrong, I watch those videos myself and I really love what they do, but the only difference is that they make videos instead of written reviews.

No what you need to do IMHO, is to read multiple reviews by the same author so you know what kind of gamer that person is. I read a lot of written reviews by Jim Sterling for instance, I know he adores Saint's Row for it's silly nature and unapologetic gender equality/comedic value. I don't like that game at all myself, but that does not mean he is shilling out or deliberately providing a fake opinion.

It's just his opinion, one of many, and the best way to judge for yourself is to know the reviewer.
By Chris_Spray (SI Member) on Sep 18, 2013
According to TB, Rockstar and their fanboys are putting intense pressure on reviewers to give 10/10, apparently 9/10 is an insult to their masterpiece.

Both TB and Angry Joe both revel in pointing out a game's weaknesses. True they get their money from reviewing games, but they attract viewers by slaughtering sacred cows rather than bowing to them.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Sep 18, 2013
Have you read the Gamespot review of GTA perchance? I dare say you haven't.

Just to point out the obvious it's a 7/10 and people are hurling more abuse at that writer than I ever thought possible from people that can't even legally buy the game.

TB and AJ get the same abuse every time they don't agree with the cancerous growths on the gaming community, it should never influence your judgement.

so to go back to my point, find reviewers that don't do that and you can trust. Like Jim Sterling. You shouldn't care where the reviews are hosted and in what form.
By The_Tingler (SI Core) on Sep 18, 2013
@ Chris_Spray: "Both TB and Angry Joe both revel in pointing out a game's weaknesses. True they get their money from reviewing games, but they attract viewers by slaughtering sacred cows rather than bowing to them."

Or, you know, they're just cynical assholes. I mean that in a nice way, and you're right - games like GTA5 that get raved about do need to have their weaknesses pointed out because they're not perfect. The trouble is that they're also very well put together games that are fun to play, and that's why they get good scores. Also they get reviewed by reviewers who like that type of game - you wouldn't find me reviewing a Pokemon or Football Manager for example but the people who DO like those games know how great they are and score them from the perspective of the audience they are intended for. That is why GTA5 is getting good reviews. If you DON'T like this type of game you'll give it a worse review. This is also why you never just rely on one reviewer - check out a range and find some you trust.

And if you're worried about Rockstar "paying us off", know that I think they fell out with us after my Max Payne 3 review and how dismissive I was about the multiplayer. :)

And fanboys are fanboys, they can't pressure anyone because their opinions don't count.

Then there are the guys who dismiss good reviews of big franchise games because they irrationally believe that it's impossible for these games to be great (even though that's the reason they're popular)...
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Sep 18, 2013
If you think TB and AJ go out of their way to hack at all the flaws without providing the good points, you don't actually watch any of their stuff to completion. Especially AJ goes out of his way repeatedly to list all the good things as well as the bad things about any one title and both always qualify their judgements in light of what they subjectively don't like about it.

Frankly they provide the most balanced viewpoints of any Youtube "reviewers".
By Kres (SI Elite) on Sep 19, 2013
Yeah different reviewers, different opinions. It is always most accurate to look at the average score. Use the swarm intelligence :) if we look at Metacritic, it gives it around 9 at the moment. Mixed with user scores there. Would you find that accurate Chris?

I'll check the bank acc to see if any excess money came. We'll share the cash Simon if it has? 60/40?
By Chris_Spray (SI Member) on Sep 19, 2013
Corruption in the field of game journalism is rife.

I don't really find Metacritic credible.

A long time ago I regarded PC Gamer (UK) as a credible journal, then slowly they started ignoring the faults of AAA games, in the end they gave Civilization V 95%, and I cancelled my subscription.

I'll wait for TB or AJ to review it.
By Kres (SI Elite) on Sep 19, 2013
Well different people can see things very differently. Civilization V is the best turn based empire game of its type, IMO, for instance. Poorish AI but really a game that no other company came close to beating. To some people, the previous ones were better, but not to me. When I want my Civ fix, V is the one I play. I even re-bought older releases at some point to give those a go again, and was just throwing money because I would return to Civ V very quickly. Civ 1 was the the first (hm or second) game I ever played. I would score V at 9. Cause there is nothing better for me in that genre even though AI is just not awfully challenging if you don't buff its cheating ability. And even though they removed regular transports, which I don't applaud.

So again, average score will always be a more precise tool as there will always be different people seeing things totally differently. Calling in corruption is not totally unreasonable but I very rarely see little evidence of that.

This is just my opinion.

Why is MC not credible? It just posts other sites reviews.
By noobst3R (SI Core) on Sep 20, 2013
I've played the game for about 4-5 hours now, I'm really enjoying myself. But to be honest, it's pretty close to GTA IV. Obviously it's much bigger and complicated, but the big 're-invention of the wheel' that GTA IV was compared to the previous era isn't there.

Not counting the PSP/PS2 'stories' games, there was about 4 years between San Andreas and GTA IV, and wow, it sure was a huge difference. 5 years have passed, and the gap they covered only seems like that from Vice City to San Andreas.

Nonetheless, it seems like a fantastic game, with A LOT of things to be discovered and stories to be told. As soon as my hand cramp goes over, I'm turning my console on again!
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Sep 20, 2013
From what I've seen the game takes itself less seriously than GTAIV and has a lot more stuff you can play around with. Which is what I'd like to see.

Shame bout that PC version
By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Sep 20, 2013
Chris, I'd kindly ask you not to call Simon a hack. You don't know him, you don't work with him, so please keep comments like that to yourself.

Simon is one of the lucky ones, actually - he only reviews games every now and then, as he has an actual day job, unlike me, Jamie and Kres. That means he's not involved in the 'day-to-day' life of games journalism, and is actually completely insulated from PR's and Fans. As far as I know he doesn't come on the site much, so he probably doesn't get swept up in things like hype that often.

I think the only thing Simon can be accused of is really liking GTA games in general. It's why he got this review in the first place.
By Chris_Spray (SI Member) on Sep 20, 2013
I did pre-apologise to Simon IF I was wrong and GTA V is anything like a 10/10.

As it is, Angry Joe also likes the game, so I look forward to being wrong, both about GTA V and Simon.

If I am wrong, the substance of my remarks are still valid: A lot of games' journalists are suborned hacks, and a lot of the rest are vulnerable to the hyperbolé surrounding many new games.

Civ V: When it was released it was a half-arsed shambles, giving it a score in the mid seventies would have been charitable. It has improved since then, but most Civilization grognards would not agree it was better than it's predecessor.
By BoneArc (SI Elite) on Nov 09, 2013
great game, lacks trends in stock market though... I want money and i can't seem to find a trend in the stocks going up or down... it's random...
so the game MAKES me destroy things to control the stocks.... That sucks.
Multiplayer lacks heists. But I find it stupid that in the singleplayer, in the first heist : SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER , my gunner died and dropped his money, because he wasn't good enough... The game TOLD ME I wouldn't need a gunner, and so I didn't get a gunner. And then he died.....