I am obsessed with GTA. I have been since GTA2 and I adore everything about them.
To give you an Idea of how much I bloody love them, I took a week off work from the Tuesday the game was released just to play GTA5, and I played 14 hours of it straight with only minimal toilet/sandwich breaks.
OK, so I’m not the most balanced critic here, but I know my stuff and I know what needs to work if it’s going to measure up to its predecessors. Despite this, there is criticism… but we’ll get all the positives out of the way first shall we.
My absolute favourite thing about the game is the map. The amount of effort that has gone into this map is as impressive as it is engrossing. I find myself wondering around, spotting the odd in-joke that I don’t quite get, hearing a bit of well-scripted banter and then all of a sudden a mugging!
Random world events have been used to some really good effect in GTA5. They add just a little bit more to the length of the game and constantly keep you busy. Despite pretty much being a variation on the same thing (someone stole something: chase them down, grab the goods and either return it or keep it) I do find myself doing them if I’m not on my way to do something more interesting.
The characters were extremely well done. I liked all of them in their own way and everyone I ask seems to have a favourite. There is a good mix of psychoses going on and the script writers did a pretty good job of bringing them all to life.
Switching between characters is very nice, and switching to Trevor is always a fairly interesting occurrence. You switch to Trevor with a sense of apprehension, the question “what the hell has he been up to this time?” lurking at the back of your mind.
You are rarely disappointed. He’s usually either being chased by the police for some reason or he’s waking up in the middle of nowhere, still drunk and possibly in a dress… no, I am not joking.
I like the resurrection of the Rampage missions and they’ve been worked in fantastically, only being made available to Trevor when someone really pisses him off. I missed rampage missions in GTA4 and I’m glad rockstar are no-longer taking themselves too seriously to let us go on the odd rampage not and then.
I’m also glad that they’ve allowed us to carry more than one of each kind of weapon… that was annoying.
The actual game engine is really well done too. Shooting and driving are great and feel just right (well… unless you’re playing on a PS3 like I was. The controller doesn’t exactly do precision and let me down on numerous occasions).
Hidden packages are done quite well, but the map is far too large to be able to find them all without clues. I remember spending an entire week combing every square inch of GTA3’s map grid by grid, until I had all of the hidden packages. The mere thought of doing that on GTA5 makes me want to vomit.
Enough with the pleasantries
I left this review until after the online was fixed, to give it a fair crack of the whip and so far, the online is the first disappointment for me.
It’s not the lag, because there isn’t all that much of that anymore and it’s not the way it works really. I can see where they’re going with it and it’s quite exciting, but they have to get the basics right and sadly, they haven’t yet.
Firstly, there is an issue with lobbies. When you want to kick up an event, you have to wait for about half an hour to get enough players to play because it only invites people in the same “world” as you. Is it not too much to ask to set up a bit of matchmaking across all servers like on any other game?
There’s a connection issue too, once you get into a game. I have friends (I know, you’d never believe it!) and you can be in the same mission or fire-fight, having a great time and suddenly BAM! One of you disappears and takes half of the team with him!
It’s especially irritation when the disconnected player is the driver and you are left in a car that is slowly grinding to a halt as your quarry buggers off.
The worst part about the online is that while you’re not in a game, (and let’s face it… you won’t be for the majority of the time because it’s too much effort and as soon as you do get into a game you find yourself disconnected) there’s sod-all to do but drive around and wait for someone to try to kill you. It’s just a bit boring, sadly.
Now we come to my main point. This is the thing that has disappointed me above all else. This is something that all the sexy graphics and glorious gameplay in the world can’t hide…
The main campaign.
It’s not a bad campaign and I’ve certainly played worse, but Grand Theft Auto games promice so much more and Grand Theft Auto players demand so much more.
It has the whiff of an unfinished masterpiece: so much potential unfulfilled.
The heist system is particularly inspired and the way that you can level up crew members is a great idea, but what’s the point if there’s only ever going to be four heists in the game? Seems to me like they’re building up for some DLC, but unless it’s free it doesn’t belong in this review and it would be just another game released unfinished.
Also, whilst it’s not the shortest game in the world, in places it feels awfully rushed. There’s a whole section when you’re on the run in the wilderness that lasts what seems like all of two hours. So much more could have been done with that! Hillbillies vs Micheal or Franklin… who doesn’t want to see that?
The map was my favourite part of the game, but with the campaign it is also my biggest disappointment by far.
There is so much on the map and so many interesting settings that are completely unutilised by the main story, or at all!
After finishing the game, I found that there were huge swathes of land that I’d never been to before. I got in a helicopter to go and explore them and I found a dam, a couple of factories/refineries, a religious retreat, a windfarm, a vineyard… I could go on for quite some time, naming all of the places that would have made the campaign longer, more varied, more action packed and that might as well not be there at all!
It is difficult to put into words how utterly enraged I was that such a fantastic resource was wasted so shamelessly. The map design team must be absolutely livid, and rightly so!
…Anyway, Here is my summary:
GTA5 is a really good game. It is a joy to play and is fantastically fun. GTA has its sense of humour back and returns to us in style.
My only fear is that it will not age as well as its predecessors. It will be remembered as the game that wasn’t quite as memorable as the games that came before it or the characters in it.
In ten years’ time, people will struggle to recall what the campaign was all about and what parts were most funny. All people will remember is how the game played and how it made them feel…
…And you know what? That’s no bad thing.
One hell of a game. One hell of a missed opportunity
8 submerged UFO’s out of 10.