If Grand Theft Auto V isn’t the best game of this year, it probably is the most game of this year. There are games of equal and even greater size, but you would be hard-pressed to find one with as detailed a world as Rockstar created in San Andreas. Upon unveiling the map, I was struck by the sheer enormity of it.
Size and detail isn’t new to the Grand Theft Auto series. GTA 3’s version of San Andreas was huge, as was GTA 4’s Liberty City. What’s different this time is the volume of activities and the enjoyability of those activities. There is a full, competent golf game inside this open world masterpiece. Tennis mechanics are as tight as any single-purpose tennis game on the market. Want to go skydiving? Mountain biking? How about driving out to knock over an armored car? These are all options inside what appears to be a living, breathing San Andreas.
There has been no shortage of controversy surrounding some of the events of the story (how was that a surprise in a GTA game?). There are also mixed emotions about the quality of characters throughout the game, but what is indisputable is how well-realized the main characters are. Michael, Trevor, and Franklin all have their own motives and obligations. This guides their own personal missions and actions. No longer is a redemptive character like Niko Bellic tasked with mass murder or kidnapping. Those missions fall to the sociopathic Trevor, who shows little-to-no redemptive qualities himself. This is a believable match, and makes sense in the narrative.
Grand Theft Auto V
Gameplay elements are vastly improved in Grand Theft Auto V. Previous Rockstar games were great experiences, but Rockstar developed a game that is fun to play. Shooting feels good, driving feels even better, and even flying has its own set of nuances. When flying in a turboprop across the backroads of Blaine County, you’ll feel a gust of wind that knocks your plane off-course just a bit. When coming in for a landing, the downforce gets more severe. Rockstar have implemented a concept called “ground effect”, and it’s a real thing. And it’s in a game that is, primarily, about stealing cars.
There is so much more to say about this game – The thrill and carrot-on-the-stick compulsion of heists, the unique and perfectly weird random encounters, and the dynamic stock market that is affected by in-game actions are only a few. The sum of all of these things: Grand Theft Auto V surpassed enormous expectations. Of everything else the game accomplished, that may be the most impressive.