No other franchise, with the exception of Call of Duty, commands as much media coverage and hype as Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto. And after five years, their latest iteration arrives to show the world that new consoles mean little when a great game can continue to push the envelope of existing platforms.
There is an impressive leap in the technology during that time; Los Santos is huge, detailed and never fails to disappoint. Despite the increasing number of challengers to this style of game, the sheer amount of detail that Rockstar have built into the game in stunning. Only Bethesda (of Elder Scrolls and Fallout fame) are able to generate this much content consistently but even then they wouldn’t dare mix up mini-games or styles to the level of GTA.
Seeing kids riding bikes, joggers along the beaches, people chatting on their phones and even the occasional bag snatcher are just some of the things that add life to the world. It’s by no means a perfect world but no one gets as close to creating one as this.
The campaign’s main hook that separates it from its predecessors is that the story isn’t just about one character, it is now about three. You initially begin with the first and through progression of the story you are introduced to the others. Once you have them available you can switch between them all to play through their own stories or even switch when all three are involved in the same mission at once.
These between mission transitions have the same attention to detail; characters are basically waiting for you to take control but the game places them in situations that seem natural if they were off pursuing their own lives. It’s a neat touch.
Missions themselves are often very similar to what has been seen before (steal, shoot, steal some more) but now some are intentionally grouped to provide a little more structure and create stories within stories. So one minor mission may escalate into another with greater risk which leads into another and so forth.
And through all of this, the game still feels like Grand Theft Auto; anyone who has picked up a controller to play one of these games in the last decade is still going to feel at home here. That it doesn’t feel dated is confirmation of how well the world sucks you in.
Then we move onto GTA Online, which gives you the Los Santos sandbox to play in with a multiplayer component that has shades of Test Drive Unlimited to it where players (up to 8) are grouped together in the one instance and can hook up for races, missions and challenges.
Despite the early connectivity issues, it’s a fun addition to the game that feels like an evolution of what was achieved in GTA IV. Making such a complicated environment work in multiplayer must be a challenge; it certainly isn’t the quantum leap people may have hoped for but with the prospect of DLC improving it over time there may be legs to it.
This is a game that gives you a massive world to inhabit and as much incentive as possible to search every corner of it. It will keep you occupied, it will keep you entertained and it might just make you forget that there are other consoles coming soon.