The biggest game to launch this year and for some time I would say, after amassing $1 billion worth of sales in just three days, Grand Theft Auto V is finally here, emerging from all the hype but was it for something special?

Breathtaking.

Breathtaking.

Paying a visit to Los Santos are the three main characters: Franklin, Michael and Trevor. Franklin carries a lot of resemblances to CJ from San Andreas, with his gangster appearance and looking to be his own man. While Michael has his own problems concerning his family who are always at his throat for some stupid stunt he’s just pulled. Trevor on the other hand seems to be the psychotic one of the group, with his erratic behaviour and violent outbursts. It’s safe to say that you probably wouldn’t find these three being friends in the real world, but it seems to work for GTA V.

On entering Los Santos it seems pretty massive, especially when you compare the world size to GTA IV. One of the things Rockstar has really worked on in GTA V is the atmosphere within cities and out in the sticks where Trevor resides. Civilians pass you by and acknowledge your presence and you can even interact with them, admittedly with an insult but still it’s nice to know that you exist. If you decide to hurl one of these insults at someone a little tougher like a gang member, then you might not get such a friendly reaction, as they’ll more than likely try to beat you to a pulp.

I’m not going to go into the main story, as this is something which defines GTA as a game, but it won’t leave you disappointed. Outside of the missions there are plenty of activities filled in this diverse world, ranging from taking part in a triathlon to base jumping and even tennis which can be used as a way to improve your character’s stats such as stamina. It’s important to stay fit and play a range of sports in order to improve your effectiveness in missions (anyone for a round of Golf?) maxing out your stamina will give you infinite sprint so you can make a quick getaway on foot.

Cheer up Michael!

Cheer up Michael!

Other skills include: special, shooting, strength, stealth, flying, driving and lung capacity. You can increase your stats by completing certain activities or by just using them normally over time. Driving and stamina are probably the easiest because that’s something you’re going to be doing a lot of, whereas lung capacity will require you to go out to sea and do some diving underwater. The underwater world has certainly opened up more to explore, although don’t expect to find too much other than lost submarine parts and waste for a collectible mission. However, it’s still nice to know that you can strap on your scuba gear and go exploring deep under the Pacific Ocean.

Control wise, the game feels a lot more fluid to previous titles, with the exception to cars which can still prove to be a little tricky to handle at first when going at higher speeds, it also probably doesn’t help that the AI drive like lunatics. After encountering a random event out in the Grand Senora Desert, I had to open fire on a bunch of patriotic bikers, which I killed and then unexpectedly had a tractor mow me down after spooking the driver with my shooting. The roads are certainly a dangerous place, in a vehicle and on foot, so be careful and follow your highway code.

Another difficulty with the controls are the shooting mechanics while driving, as you’re given the smallest dot on the screen to aim and sometimes you can barely see it if the sun is in view. Using the special ability by pressing in both thumbsticks can certainly help with slow-mo as it makes it easier to aim at your target. I think it’s safe to say that I prefer the old crosshair used while driving on GTA IV.

This seemed like a good plan at the time.

This seemed like a good plan at the time.

One of the things that shows your success is the amount of money you have earned. Heists are the best way to earn cash, but most of the activities when completed always reward a little bit of cash, however, it’s not on the scale of heists. They are also linked to the main story, once finished you can’t then complete a heist whenever you feel like it . After playing Payday 2 though, it felt very familiar with the masks and planning approach to each heist, not forgetting that classical heist music full of tension and anticipation.

In turn, your earned money can be spent on buying stocks in the stock market, which you can play to your gain. Head to the airport and blow the rival air company planes up and you’ll earn a stock rise in the company unaffected by your actions. You’ll probably have to lose the pesky cops though, since explosives and airports don’t lead to positive consequences, unless you include the profit you made from the stock market. Escaping from the cops has been made a whole lot more difficult now though with a variety of units including the army who throws tanks and fighter jets at you if you take to the air. Cops in their police cars will also try to ram you off the road, which will be really annoying as cars spin out a lot.

The annoying thing about cars are when they’re in the air, one small jump can have your car flipped over on its roof. I don’t think every car is made of carbon-fiber, but there seems to be hardly any weight distribution if your car does happen to go off on two wheels or completely flung into the air – by using the LS you can attempt to right a flip or just spin out some car cartwheels.

While driving you can also tune in to GTA’s famous radio stations. There’s a couple of big names such as Rihanna, Snoop Dogg and Fergie, and all the music seems to work well with the radio stations and there’s even some songs played specifically for missions to set the mood. A couple of more recent songs would have been a bonus though.

Give em hell Trevor.

Give em hell Trevor.

If getting around the city in style is your thing, then GTA V has you covered with an extensive transport network, ranging from trams, cabs or even in your own private jet. If you need to brush up on your flying, there’s even a flight school you can visit. In this deep world there’s plenty to do and explore, as there usually is with all GTA games. The story missions do seem a little shorter than I expected, which is my own criticism with the game’s length, as now I’m left doing things to 100 per cent the game such as finding all the strangers and freaks and doing the miscellaneous events.

One of the things I’ve noticed with the game is the lack of difficulty to the game, sure you crank activities up to hard, but that still doesn’t demand enough from you other than just more deaths and more planning. GTA IV used to have me scraping away for hours on some activities, but I don’t really notice that anymore. It’s like the game has taken a more casual approach with all these activities scattered across the world and it doesn’t really have that many serious parts. What I do like though, is that it still maintains the comical effect that GTA has been known for in its cut scenes and the strangers you meet such as the Epsilon guys.

So what happens when you’re done and it’s just you alone in Los Santos? Well that is where GTA Online will step in next month, promising so much in terms of online crews with friends, properties and your own cars whilst sharing the world with other players. You’ll be able to do so much and I’m really looking forward to seeing what Rockstar can do to improve the online experience of GTA. That’s been my one criticism with GTA and that’s online play and keeping the activity going, well GTA Online should be a brilliant solution to that, so fingers crossed.

Grand Theft Auto 5 brings a fresh new look to the GTA franchise, delivering a lively world and with so much promise to its online experience. If you’re not too busy in the strip club, you’ll be base jumping off a skyscraper onto a moving flatbed lorry. There’s just so much enjoyable fun to be had with the game and it isn’t going to stop there when you can take it further with your friends and other players online. For me, Rockstar are king of the open world franchise, they just keep delivering and impressing and they’ve shown that they can make new worlds just as well as they did with Red Dead Redemption.

About The Author

Jamie is the Assistant Editor for Xboxer360. He shares a passion for gaming and will happily play most genres. He also loves FIFA, The Walking Dead and print t-shirts,