This is the hardest review I’ve ever had to write. Unabashed love for all things Rockstar produces aside, I just don’t want to type any of this right now. I’m at roughly forty hours logged between story and multiplayer, and all I want to do is play more Grand Theft Auto 5.
To call this the most anticipated title of the year would be a gross understatement. Rockstar is known for releasing some of the best games of the past two console generations; this entry takes the bar that they always set so high and throws it directly over the sun. The game has been in development for five years, after you sit down with it you’ll understand that not a second of that time was wasted. Every aspect of the franchise has been improved, each frame absolutely drips with the highest attention to detail we’ve ever seen in a video game. All of the signature trappings GTA is known for are thankfully included: the radio stations, the commercials, the fake movies and television, epic stunt jumps, hidden items, random pedestrian banter, political / social commentary, and the shameless parody of American life. Everything in the title is presented with an impeccable and unprecedented level of care to even the minutest detail, the game is a brilliant masterpiece that will be imitated but certainly never equaled.
Let’s start with the feature I wasn’t excited about at all: the three unique protagonists. My first thought when this addition was touted was “So what? That’s exactly like GTA4 with two other people.” Shame on me for being a doubter, character switching practically makes the game for me. The other playable characters function completely separately in the world, and rotating between them on the fly is absolutely encouraged. Just finished skydiving with Franklin and stuck with a long drive back from Mount Chiliad? Time to catch up with Michael, you might find him mid argument with his adulterous wife. Tired of catering to Michael’s spoiled rotten children? Switch over to Trevor who you’ll find passed out in his underwear straddling a balcony overlooking the city. You can also swap seamlessly to your multiplayer character at any time, and throughout the many times transitioning I never found any of the characters in the same situation.
The world of Los Santos is so gorgeously detailed I found myself following random pedestrians on the street just to hear their side of hilarious cell phone conversations. A couple of the radio commercials and conversations made me laugh so hard I paused mid-mission just to hear the end of them. Other games have shown similar levels in depth of world, but none of them have made me feel like the city existed without me playing the game. You’ll lose yourself in Los Santos for hours on end, even if the game was only single player it would take awhile to get bored with everything you can explore and interact with. I’m still hearing songs and hilarious commercials on the radio I’ve never heard, seeing signs and references I didn’t notice, and coming up with new ways to stymie the police. Honestly, I don’t even feel like I’ve scratched the surface, I’m sure there are thousands of details, jokes, and allusions I haven’t even noticed yet.
The online world is also an absolute treat that adds exponentially to the gameplay. Unfortunately not all of the bugs have been worked out yet, I did get to play a lengthy session with a few buddies this past weekend and we all had an unadulterated blast. I can’t wait to see how everything shakes out after all of the issues are fixed; the multiplayer is essentially a celebration of everything that makes the single player so incredible. The day one bugs were displeasing, but only if you were completely bored with the single player game.
Rockstar didn’t invent the sandbox style game but they have proven multiple times over that they are undoubtedly the pioneers of the genre. Grand Theft Auto 5 is a fitting goodbye to this generation of consoles, one that truly shows the untapped potential our hobby still has still yet to uncover. I can’t recommend this game enough, but odds are you are already playing it. Enjoy every second of the experience; it might be another five years before we get to see something this prodigious and wonderful.