Grand Theft Auto V
Developer: Rockstar North
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Release Date: Out Now
Players/Online features: 1, 1-30 Online
Words By:

When we reviewed Grand Theft Auto V this time last year we unhesitatingly gave it 10/10. With both an epic (a genuine 30 hours+) and funny, yet strangely socially relevant solo story and the life-changingly addictive juggernaut that is GTA Online it was clearly the game of the year material. Twelve months ago it was equally clear that only the power of the forthcoming Xbox One and PS4 could improve the game. Now on the ‘next gen’ in 1080p HD, completely re-skinned with new textures making Los Santos and Blaine County look more detailed and realistic than ever before, Rockstar North have given us an even more amazing environment to play in!

Just in case you’ve been living on the dark side of the moon for 18 months here’s a recap on what to expect from GTA V. For a start there are now three playable characters; Michael De Santa, Franklin Clinton and Trevor Philips. These guys couldn’t be more different, and an inspired gameplay mechanic allows, and even requires, that you switch between them, both on and off mission. Sometimes one of the characters will be in danger (outnumbered, pinned down etc) and their icon will flash and a musical warning tone will sound to let you know you should change to them, but it’s rarely forced upon you. This works superbly, allows for a lot of freedom of choice and means that no one is going to have the same gameplay experience. When switching between the three characters, I even found myself taking on their individual persona; trying to sort things out smoothly and clinically as Michael, stealing any vehicle that looked expensive and driving like a pro as Frank, and acting like a completely perverted sociopathic lunatic when playing as Trevor.

The three guys each have a special skill (activated by clicking both thumb sticks) which can be used whenever your yellow special gauge is at least partly full. The gauge is extended by continued use and topped up by all sorts of actions including driving fast, having near misses, drifting on corners, getting stealth kills and head shots and, in Trevor’s case, even colliding with things.

Frank’s special skill allows him to slow down time when driving or riding a bike, and added grip means you can get round corners at what are normally impossible speeds and squeeze through gaps you’d be unlikely to get through at full speed in real time. Trevor’s skill only works on foot and makes him practically indestructible; he enters a kind of “berserk” mode where enemy fire seems to either miss or have no effect. Mike’s skill also only works on foot and slows down time for everyone but him (just like Max Payne’s Bullet Time), thus giving him a huge advantage in shootouts.

As mentioned earlier when on a mission you’ll sometimes be prompted to switch between characters but you also have some freedom, meaning that some missions can be played in quite different ways from the three different viewpoints. When “off mission” and just free-roaming switching to another character will find them going about their daily lives; Frank may be leaving a nightclub, waving a girlfriend goodnight and putting her into a taxi or even something as mundane as ironing; Michael may be trying to throw his weight around, having a thoughtful smoke on a park bench or just watching TV, and Trevor could be chasing strippers, unconscious in a dumpster, trying to have sex with somebody or something or disposing of a body. I was amazed and delighted that you can actually manoeuvre the three into the same place at which point they’ll communicate, often arguing but usually asking if you want to “hang out.”

A hallmark of the GTA series ever since it went 3-D has been the ground vehicle handling and physics, which seem as good and diverse as ever, and made even more so by the solid 30 frames per second that Xbox One and PS4 maintain through almost any amount of on-screen action regardless of the number of traffic vehicles and NPC characters in the immediate area. The cars seem to have more grip and finer steering control than GTA IV, and many classic models from previous games return. All of the vehicles that came in the regular updates on the last gen game are in here from the start, with the added bonus of some completely new vehicles. Most vehicles can be customised, enhancing their power, handling and looks with a variety of add-ons, body kits, wheels and different paint finishes in a vast selection of colours. To be critical some of the upgrades don’t make much sense or alter the car’s handling as you might expect but it’s still a welcome feature. Some of the new car models are simply stunning, and as usual rather than being real-life licensed cars most are based on or are a blend of real designs; you’ll recognise cars that closely resemble the Bugatti Veyron, Ford GT, Rolls Royce Ghost, Mini Cooper, Jaguar F-Type, various Mercedes, Audis (including 2 versions of the R8!), BMWs, Ferraris, Chevrolets, Aston Martins, a Porsche, a Koenigsegg, a Lamborghini/Pagani cross... and a spectacular-looking Tesla Roadster lookalike (a hybrid which whizzes along barely making a sound!) A new addition to the handling and physics is that ground vehicles can now be strongly steered/rotated when airborne, making some missions and racing feel a lot like PS2 classic Smuggler’s Run.

The game is playable from three third person or chase cam views, as well as the much-vaunted first person view, plus cinematic cameras that automatically change. The new first person view makes the game feel entirely new and fresh, with new animations for just about every action or activity-first person melee fighting is now an extremely ‘in-your-face’ experience! Rockstar North even intelligently thought to give you the option of automatically switching to third-person view for cover mode shooting (which makes a lot of sense once you try it) and when driving to make the rear view flick to an out-of-car view when reversing-if the rear view from the driver’s seat is too restricted.

Other new features include driving feedback through the rumble triggers on Xbox One which make the driving feel amazingly tactile, and phone conversations coming through the joypad speaker on PS4, as well as the joypad lights flashing red & blue when you’re being chased by the Cops (although you’ll probably only notice this if you play in a darkened room.) There are new car & bike races and tests of your piloting skills in the solo game, and new missions in GTA Online.

There’s also a new wildlife photo competition run by the tourist board, and so I took a photo of a sleeping cat (all animals now have fur rather than flat textured skin), then woke it up and it ran off, I chased it around for a while-the traffic even screeches to a halt when a cat runs in the road!-and the speedy pussycat even made splashes when it ran through a puddle!

As well looking amazing the vehicles also have the most extensive and realistic body damage yet (including extra scratches, dents, detachable bodywork, punctured tyres, smashed windows, bullet holes, blood smears and fire) the vehicles also get dirty, so it’s just as well there are car washes dotted around the city. Smash the front of your vehicle at night and you will miss the headlights. Steal a cop car and if it gets damaged the siren starts to malfunction in a sadly comical way.

GTA V reportedly cost £170 Million to make and you can see, hear and even feel where the money went.

A major flaw of the GTA series ever since it went 3-D has been the way vehicles load in blocks, so as you travel around despite there being a huge variety of vehicles you’ll often see a lot of the same type. This is no longer the case and even with more traffic on the streets the vehicles you see will represent a true cross section of the vehicles in the game, and I’ve only rarely seen two similar vehicles in the same area at the same time. Disappearing cars (another GTA hangover) are less of a problem and now when you leave a vehicle or stow it in one of the many garages or allotted parking spots it’ll be there when you come back, with a few inexplicable exceptions during story missions when you seem to be forced to abandon a vehicle, which will probably never be seen again. Vehicles abandoned (or impounded when you get ‘busted’) can be reclaimed from the car pound for a $250 fee but you’ll still lose the occasional favourite. It’s a shame they didn’t include the same tracer/insurance mechanic as is in GTA Online in the solo story, as it’s possible to spend thousands of dollars on a car only to lose because you drove it to a certain mission start. The three guys each have their own personal vehicle which seems to turn up back at their home base no matter how many times it gets abandoned or destroyed, which is a nice idea, but why on earth can’t you trade it for something else as you progress through the game? This would seem like a natural, logical progression.

The aeroplane handling is sublime too with a more realistic flight model than most so-called flight sims. Aircraft bob and sway in turbulence (flying in a thunderstorm can be a hairy experience!), will stall out and bounce on the landing gear if you touch down too hard. On the down side I’m not sure what they thought they were doing with the helicopter handling; initially they lurch and sway around to represent the fact that you’re a rookie pilot, but feel more like they have technical problems. Thankfully the handling of the choppers smoothes out as your character’s flying skill improves (this can be speedily maxed out by completing the flight school at the airport) but particularly from the new first person cockpit camera it can be a nausea-inducing start to your helicopter flying career in San Andreas. If your plane or helicopter gets too badly shot up the engine will start to smoke, misfire and eventually cut out, but the flight model is so realistic that you can glide or ‘auto rotate’ to an emergency landing-handy if you have no parachute! Making an emergency landing is often the best approach as ditching a plane or chopper over a built-up area will also usually gain you wanted status.

The water, which was quite simply the best seen on the last generation of consoles has set a ‘high water mark’ for aquatics to come on Xbox One and PS4...

The original GTA V reportedly cost £170 Million to make and was worth every penny. I have no idea how much this version cost but you can see, hear and even feel where the money went.The new scenery in Blaine County is amazing; the architecture varies from glass & steel skyscrapers in the city to swanky multi-million dollar houses in the Vinewood hills to wooden shacks and trailers in the desert. Everything looks impressively realistic and pleasing to the eye, and the wildlife and vastly increased flora (trees, plants and undergrowth) look incredible-even the graffiti looks real. If you played Red Dead Redemption then you’ll get a similar feeling when you’re “out in the sticks” and a pair of deer or rabbits run across your path, or a cougar growls, or coyotes howl. You’ll see moths, butterflies, various birds, deer, pigs, wild boar, cattle, cats, dogs-even rats. Some of the wildlife can be hunted and the mountain lion (cougar) needs to be given a wide berth or shot on sight as they can kill you with one swift pounce, even if you have full health and body armour. During my play-through of the game I came across literally hundreds of buildings and locations so interesting and so detailed that you’ll feel that they surely must feature missions or in GTA online shenanigans, but they don’t-they’re just there because they would be in real life. It’s just hard to believe that so much detail was lavished on scenery that might never be seen by the player, but that’s Rockstar North for you.

The water, which was quite simply the best seen on the last generation of consoles has set a ‘high water mark’ for aquatics to come on Xbox One and PS4. Rivers flow with strong currents, in the ocean waves roll, form white horses, floating objects get swept by the current, the tide rises and falls, the sun or the moon glints off the surface and swimming underwater feels remarkably realistic too. The underwater exploration missions and scuba diving are done so well, the watery environment so convincing, that with a little work they could probably have been released as a standalone game.

Los Santos has an over-ground/underground passenger transit train circling the city, which you can ride on, and a series of massive goods trains rattle around the county too, which you can also hop on (although they don’t stop anywhere and you can’t steal one and drive it anytime you want as in GTA San Andreas.) With the amount of railway tracks, rolling stock and a general level of detail that would delight the average trainspotter, I expected the railways to play a bigger part in the game than they did; perhaps a job as a freight train driver or shunter in the goods yard?

You’d be a very odd and incurious individual if you didn’t play around with the a fuel can at some point...

Los Santos is well-populated by “normal” people, but there are also plenty of prostitutes, strippers, homosexuals, transvestites and transsexuals, as well as assorted murderers, thieves, drug dealers, gang bangers, cultists and psychopathic killers to meet. The number of different characters and faces is remarkable, and the amount of animation quite staggering. Little things, just a few of which, while avoiding spoilers, I’ve listed below:

• Your character looking around nervously when being chased by the cops.

• Moving their hands realistically when you steer or blow the horn.

• The three guys show battle scars that heal over time.

• People walk hurriedly with their shoulders hunched when it rains.

• Dip and main beam headlights on vehicles, electric roofs on convertibles.

• The submersible actually expels air when you dive.

• The different reactions of people to your driving and general behaviour.

• The guys’ shirts sweating through when the weather’s hot or they’re exerting themselves.

• Footprints in snow, sand, mud, even pig shit manure, and going knee deep in estuary mud that slows you down.

• The rain and thunderstorm weather effects, and clothes that get soggy wet from the downpour or when you emerge from swimming, and dripping water that leaves a damp trail behind you.

• The sheer fact that there’s a collision detection with birds, so that you can not only shoot them for target practice, but also kill them accidentally with your helicopter blades or aircraft collisions.

• The reflection, lighting effects and shadows are some of the most complete and realistic ever seen in any game, and the way the game engine simulates distance looks remarkably realistic too.

• Heat haze from aircraft engines, and dust trails and tyre tracks from vehicles that put dedicated flight and driving sims to shame...

Early in the story when playing as Trevor you even pour a trail of gasoline through a house and then set it alight, with spectacular results. Cans of gas (petrol) can be found at most gas (petrol) stations or bought at any Ammu-Nation gun store, and can be used for setting fire to just about anything, including Cop cars! Sloshing a very realistic looking trail of gas around and then setting it alight looks amazing, and although I’m sure we were all told not to play with fire from a young age you’d be a very odd and incurious individual if you didn’t play around with a fuel can at some point.

Although I feel some things could have been more interactive and there could maybe have been even more destructible scenery, the attention to detail is second to none. Blaine County is a wonderfully inviting environment, and one that rewards exploration and experimentation.

The internet and TV is alive and well in Los Santos, and Google, Facebook and Twitter get lampooned by GTA’s equivalents Eyefind, Life Invader and Bleeter, and instead of America’s Got Talent, American Idol or X-Factor we get GTA veteran ex-disc jockey turned-TV presenter Lazlow hosting Fame or Shame. You can access the internet from various computers and even from your personal phone, and there are TVs all over the place on which you can view various programmes such as; Jack Howitzer, Kung Fu Rainbow Lazer Force, Impotent Rage, Republican Space Rangers and the noire-ish Moorehead Rides Again that will keep you entertained for literally hours if and when you want a break from the action. As well as browsing a veritable plethora of websites you can also access your bank and the Los Santos stock exchange. Initially Frank lives with his aunt Denise in a small house, but some dirty dealings with a shady computer geek named Lester can make him a very rich man. By completing a certain side mission he moves to a luxury abode in the Hills, and thanks to Lester’s timely stock market tips he can become a very rich young man. If you’re smart you’ll obviously buy the stock with Trevor and Mike as well, but you need to remember to keep an eye on the share prices and sell at the right time.

The sound will surely win awards again. There are 16 or more radio stations that will keep you humming along with a vast selection of catchy tunes from every genre you can think of, and the talk radio stations (the sex-mad Fernando returns) supply the usual amount of laugh-out-loud moments. As in GTA IV there are various forms of entertainment, and you can visit any of the cinemas dotted around the city and watch well made and lengthy movie spoofs. As I mentioned earlier, the TV channels are well worth watching too, with plenty of irreverent digs at just about every facet of modern life, the entertainment business and news media.

GTA V has some brilliant dialogue, the usual amount of GTA humour, witty rebukes, rebuffs, retorts and one-liners, a lot of which will make you laugh out loud, unlike certain other games that try to be funny and fail.

New tracks include tracks by Queen, Bob Seger, Elton John, Stevie Wonder. Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Snoop Dog, C.W. McCall, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Gerry Rafferty, Simple Minds, Stevie Nicks, The Weirdos, The Doobie Brothers, Cult, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, All Saints, Hall & Oates, Mis-Teeq, Steve Miller Band, Pet Shop Boys and Wham appear, as well as a massive collection of other artists performing everything from punk to classical music.

Vitally for a game with so much gunplay, the shooting mechanic and aiming seems like an step up on GTA IV’s and the ‘sticky’ cover mode has been improved, but some of the same old third person shooter aiming issues still arise when you’re stuck to certain surfaces. In the main the shooting action is exciting stuff, the weapons feel and sound right and GTA’s default lock-on assist helps pick out concealed enemies or enemies who are just so far away they’re hard to see. Like me you’ll probably appreciate this aim assist (that I’d probably turn off in most other games) as unless you drive like your granny and act like a saint it’s very easy to get into trouble and being able to instantly pick off an enemy is very useful. The Cops are extremely aggressive, a single star wanted level (which can be gained by a cop car running into you, or just doing something as insignificant as dodging a cab fare) will mean they shoot at you if you resist arrest. One star can soon turn into 2 or 3 stars, and once it gets to 4 stars you’re in real trouble. The cops now search for you rather than being psychic and the mini map shows their field of sight “cones” so you can gauge where best to hide; a winding path with several turns down alleyways will often do the trick, but escaping a police chopper search (3 stars or more) will usually require hiding you and/or your vehicle in, under or behind a structure. Escape a 5-star wanted level and you’re really doing well. If anything both cops and other enemies are too plentiful and accurate with their shooting, often out-shooting you with inferior weapons and cover, and nailing you mercilessly from moving vehicles; once you’re under fire health and body armour don’t last long unless you treat the enemy and their bullets with a lot more respect than the law and use the cover mode tactically and often or drive like a pro.

The default aiming reticle (gun sight) is a simple point on screen, and piddlingly small and difficult to see even on a large HD TV. Fortunately you can change it to “complex” in the options menu but this still leaves thrown weapons with the single tiny point to aim with, which is daft. Aiming while driving is also seems more fiddly and ham-fisted than ever; shooting at a car while driving requires steering with the left stick, controlling the throttle and brakes with the two triggers, firing the weapon with ‘LB’, aiming with the right stick while often needing to select rear view by holding ‘R3’ clicked in! At times this had me groaning with anguish and thumping the arm of my chair with frustration as the AI enemy seem to have no such problems, presumably because they have more fingers and thumbs. It’s another thing that should have been addressed after GTA IV and wasn’t-aim assist is ‘on’ by default for normal on-foot gunplay so why the heck not when in-vehicle when you really need it? Whatever the case, Rockstar clearly need to put their game testing out to gamers with normal reactions, the normal number of fingers and thumbs and normal eyesight, and not the team of eagle-octopus mutants they presumably used for GTA V.

Dogs are a great addition to the series (and I’m no dog lover) and really add to the believability of the environment. There are plenty to be found in the game; some friendly, and some definitely not. Frank “inherits” Chop, a young Rottweiler from his homie Lamar. You can take him for walks and throw a ball for him to fetch. In return he’ll protect you, attacking anyone who you target or who shows aggression towards you. You can teach him tricks (including a very useful ability to send him searching for the nearest collectible or pickup) if you download the iPhone, iPad or Android app, but then you have to keep feeding and watering him by playing the inane minigames or he ceases to be ”happy” enough to perform, which is worryingly close to Tamagotchi country.

And now to the real gripes. One really, really stupid occurrence is an auto save routine that means that if you rob a security truck or do a business maintenance job, the game pauses, makes a quick save then STOPS your car dead in its tracks-this is obviously ridiculous if you’re trying to escape from the cops or chasing someone. This can be solved by turning the auto save function off, but then you better remember to save regularly or potentially lose hours of progress. Although most of the server-related problems of the last-gen version now seem cured, GTA Online could also have been a slicker experience, and some loading times seem interminable. This new version also has the same annoying feature as the original with Chop the Rottweiler; why can’t we train him and feed him in-game, or play the training and feeding app on a laptop or PC? I’d also question the structuring regarding characters’ abilities that are unlikely to get anywhere near capped during a normal play-through of the story unless you deliberately boost them, and the price of some items ($3 million for a battle tank, $150 million for the Golf Club!) is way outside anyone’s budget until right at the end of the game, and then only if you invested wisely in the stock market.

With the amazing amount of quality animation in the game anything unrealistic really stands out, and your character can get caught out by the scenery and fall in a silly, unconvincing “ragdolly” way, which can be annoying when running from the cops or chasing someone on foot. Another thing that can annoy and looks silly is the way that the characters walk in such a leisurely manner when taking control of a vehicle-even when being shot at! The guys will now enter a vehicle if you press ‘Y’ as much as 30 yards away, but do they rush when their life depends on it? Nope.

Although you can now “rock” vehicles back up the right way should they end upside-down after a crash, you can’t push boats or jet skis back into the water when they’re beached (you can respawn in the water if they get grounded in an online race). An anchor for boats would have been nice too, with all the scuba diving to be done the number of times your boat/jet ski/submersible drifts off while you’re underwater gets irritating. I’m also amazed and disappointed that we didn’t get a more elegant way of entering and leaving watercraft; we have the same simplistic and silly game mechanic as GTA Vice City, so a character will rarely do the logical or realistic thing when you drive a boat near a dock, and will usually jump or fall in the water rather than clamber ashore. Sleeping Dogs managed it, so why couldn’t GTA V?

I mentioned how the vehicles load in ‘blocks’ and how this is a hangover from GTA 3, well another throwback and major let down is how various taxi driving (all three guys) arms dealer (with Trevor) and towing (with Frank) missions soon repeat. This seems really weak as they soon recycle the same targets, the same locations and same vehicles over and over again.

You can partake of typically San Andrean pastimes in the form of Golf and Tennis, but as fun as it is, the golf has very basic controls, and although you can hook, slice and put backspin on the ball there are some dodgy ball physics and someone keeps forgetting to put the flag back in on a couple of holes. Whatever the case, you MUST try it with Trevor just to hear some of his acerbic comments and see his stylish golf attire. The tennis suffers from some terrible line calls and although the players themselves swear plenty, some of the calls will have you cussing too, and it’s a bit laggy if you play it in GTA online with a transatlantic friend, but it’s more fun than the last full-price tennis game I reviewed (TopSpin or Virtua.) simply because it’s in GTA. You can also play darts, but quite why you’d bother is beyond me. A return of the GTA IV air hockey, pool and bowling or something like Frisbee golf or archery would have suited the game much better.

As far as the other pastimes are concerned then despite some obvious “rubber banding” during street races I had more fun with the various events than with let’s say, Drive Club or Forza Horizon 2, and the car handling is certainly more realistic and intuitive than the former. The jet ski, parachute jumping and aircraft stunting/gate racing is better than the classic Nintendo Waverace and Pilotwings games, the hunting side game better than any of the so-called hunting sims (despite far too many mountain lions roaming around), the cycling better than the Tour De France games and despite some inevitable gripes many of the shoot-outs provide action more realistic and more exciting than many of the recent “big name” third person shooters.

Now a huge part of the GTA V franchise is GTA Online, the chance to play around in Los Santos and Blaine County using your own character, teaming up with other players in co-op missions, or against them in a dog-eat-dog open world game or one of the many massive deathmatch zones. The first thing you have to do is design your character. This is done with a weird and wonderful selection system that has you defining what your character’s parents and grandparents looked like, and then how much like your character’s parents they look with a sliding bar scale. You also have to decide which gender you want to play as, as well as your character’s lifestyle and appearance. This has been significantly improved over the PS3/Xbox 360 versions and now the characters don’t all have the same generic facial appearance. Female characters, in particular, look a lot more attractive, although it’s a shame you can’t define how tall a character is, and regardless of parentage they all seem to look like they need a boob lift-which is kind of inexplicable when you see the perky hooters on the NPC females in the game. A great feature for the new game is the ability to transfer your character, money, vehicles and apartments over to the new game. By linking your gamertag/ID to the Rockstar Social Club you can even cross-format transfer a PS3 profile to Xbox One or an Xbox 360 profile to PS4 if you wish, and will also have the opportunity to create a new character model.

Once you’ve made your character (you can randomise one if you hate this sort of thing) and done a couple of introductory tutorial jobs, GTA Online allows you to play various sports (tennis and golf) and games (arts and arm wrestling), do solo jobs, missions, races (on bikes, motorcycles, various car classes, cars, SUVs, jet skis, boats, helicopters, planes and even parachutes), take part in heists with random crews, deathmatches (scratch teams, solo or crew), a survival mode and there’s even a spectator mode so you don’t have to just sit in a lobby and wait for a race/job to finish. You can buy just about everything you can think of, from clothes to vehicles, weapons, garages and apartments, and there’s even a GTA Dollars cash card for those who can’t be bothered to earn or steal their own money. You will normally get launched into an open game with random players, but you can set up a game for friends or crew only (there are a lot of people out there who seem intent on nothing but mayhem and spoiling other players’ days.) When it works as intended it’s amazingly slick and seamless, but there’s a big “but”...

...despite being a completely unpredictable nutjob, Trevor is quite simply the best game character ever, and should have his own spin-off series.

As well integrated as it is to the single player game (you can jump into a friend’s online game straight from the solo story), GTA Online still suffers from a lot of well-publicised problems. While it now seems to be more stable, we’ve experienced many arbitrary lock-ups and disconnections, and match-making and loading is still slower than it should be. Once you’re in a session with friends though, the game is as good as ever, although we’ve yet to experience anywhere near the 30 players in an open game that is supposed to be possible.

Back to the story mode and I’ve got to say that despite being a completely unpredictable nutjob, Trevor is quite simply the best game character ever, and could probably carry his own spin-off series. His worryingly complex character allows you to play in any way you want, and removes any moral shackles you may have when playing as the other guys. At the same time as being a psychotic killer and raving, seemingly bi-sexual sex maniac, Trevor loves the ladies, in a love/hate romantic/misogynist kind of way. I’m not going to try and pigeonhole Trevor, mainly because he’d most likely stomp the pigeonhole to pieces then try and have rough sex with whatever’s left.

As the 3 characters get more ambitious with their criminal careers the preparation and set up stage for heists are really interesting, and the reward/cost for paying for a talented crew or trying to do the job on the cheap only become apparent after at least two play-throughs, so it’s a good thing there’s a neat ‘replay mission’ facility so you can try a job both ways.

I will also definitely be replaying missions and trying to get all Gold ratings, and as frustrating as some missions are there were several I thought "I really want another go at that!", and I can't think of too many games where that is the case. The different criteria for a Gold rating will often require extreme accuracy and or speed, meaning that you’re encouraged to replay missions more than once and try different approaches and fine tune your aim or route.

Grand Theft Auto V thunders its way into contention for the game of the year for the second year on the trot.

As you’d expect GTA V on Xbox One and PS4 is a visual delight, and the frame rate only ever very rarely drops below what looks like 30fps, making it much smoother to play than on the last-gen machines. As regular “admirers of the female form” the only other thing we’d have a mild criticism of are the strippers. We mentioned the perky hooters on the girls but when you get really close to these girls (first-person camera remember!) sadly they do look of the last generation in terms of detail and body jointing. They deserved a real overhaul and it’s a shame this rather dodgy section of the game didn’t get a bit more time spent on it-I mean, if you’re going to allow a game to have a stripper rub wave her boobs in the player’s face then at least make them look as good as possible, which is clearly not the case.

While I’m suggesting things that would have made the game even better I’d also have liked have seen a replay mode. Yes, you can save game clips on both Xbox One and PS4 but being able to watch some of your more amazing (or just downright funny) stunts or action sequences back from a cinematic camera would have been a priceless addition to the already bulging package.

GTA V is a tale of murder, deception, theft (grand auto and otherwise), cheating, double-crosses, shameless depravity and a few other things I’m sure I’ve forgotten, but because of its remarkable environment, cool, varied gameplay, high drama, amazing changes of pace, cinematic quality, humour and most of all the strangely endearing trio of main characters and their bizarre buddy story, it left me feeling uplifted-at least with the ending I chose first (there are three possible, and they aren’t all “happy”.) Regardless of whether you’ve played GTA V on the last generation or don’t even consider the incredibly addictive online component in the purchase or not, Grand Theft Auto V thunders its way into contention for the game of the year for the second year on the trot. You’d be a fool to miss out on it just because of blinkered opinions, misconceptions and even past experiences. I guarantee you will have a good time in Los Santos, at least some of the time.

Best Bits

- A feast for the eyes.
- First person mode provides a whole new experience.
- An amazing vitual environment that provides the best ‘sandbox’ yet.
- A huge variety of things to do.
- 2-30 players online.
- All the vehicles and items from the last-gen game are in from the start.
- Design your own multiplayer arenas and race tracks.
Worst Bits

- They didn't remodel EVERYTHING, so some things look a little less gorgeous than they could have done.

by: Masonic Dragicoot

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