Who HASN’T heard of the Grand Theft Auto series? GTA is arguably the largest series in gaming, and almost everyone on the planet has at least heard of the series, with a large number having played at least one of the series’ games. Grand Theft Auto V is the latest release, and is bigger, better and more advanced than every GTA which came before it. Read on for our full review of the new blockbuster title.

GTAV has been in development for a long five years, however, once you see the game, you will understand why it has taken so long to craft. Rockstar North has, to sum it up in once sentence, given us a next generation game on current generation consoles. It baffles me how they managed to create such an advanced, feature-rich game with the limited hardware specifications on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. The game has had a massive media presence in recent months, and has smashed pre-order records.

So, before we kick off the review properly, I want to make clear that we did not get a chance to fully explore the game before reviewing. We didn’t get review code a few days in advance of the release, but we have been playing it almost non-stop since it arrived, for a total of 22 hours of gameplay. It would be impossible to deliver a timely review, and fully explore the game in the limited period of time we had. The online multiplayer component of the game, GTA Online, will not arrive until October 1st, and we will publish a separate review to cover it.

ENVIRONMENT & GRAPHICS
I will be kicking off the review by discussing the environment and graphical quality of GTAV. The game has the biggest map ever created for a Grand Theft Auto game. You may think that smaller areas of the map may be ignored, but you’d be wrong; Rockstar North have ensured that every nook and cranny of the map has been designed in high detail, with the same level of vividness, atmosphere and culture being presented in all.

Everything in the game looks outstanding. Character models in particular have been much improved, and appear more realistic than ever. There has been a huge amount of attention to detail applied to every singe element of the game; whether it be the buildings, the UI, the map, the environments, the character designs, the character personalities or the car designs. The game remains consistently phenomenal throughout its entire offering.

Now, in terms of the vehicle offerings; GTAV presents a huge lineup of cars, trucks and motorbikes. As you explore new parts of the map, or even progress through the game, you will probably notice new vehicles that you had never seen before. A massive number of cool cars are present, which makes the game more fun to explore than ever. Randomly hijacking and crashing cars is one of my favourite parts of GTA, and Five does a better job at enhancing this than any game in the series has done before.

MECHANICS & GAMEPLAY
Now, to get into the improvement mechanics and gameplay offerings! Firstly, lets start off with changes to the interaction of the characters themselves. When you are shot, or run into something in GTAV, your character will react more realistically than ever. The mechanic used to create this effect is the rag-doll physics, and it just adds to the overall realism and impressiveness of GTAV. Later on in the review, we’ll move on to talk about the new characters in the game, so, hold tight for now :)

After the character mechanics, the next change you will be most likely to notice is in the shooting/firing system. Thankfully, the game has adopted an easier lock-on targeting system, and makes it simpler than ever to take out foes. Shooting in the game feels very natural, again fitting in with the general realism the game offers. Don’t have any doubt in your mind; GTAV has NOT become a shooter, and the combat mechanics do not make it feel like a shooter. It still feels very much like GTA, and retains its uniqueness (rather than adopting an FPS shooting technique).

The game involves three new characters who engage in bank robbery. You play through each of their developed, unique stories in the game, and each of them have their own personalised attitude and style of movement and actions. There are many, many mission in the game, and it is very difficult to track them all without a companion. This is where the Brady Games guide comes in, which we will be reviewing very soon. The missions range from classic pickups, to bank robberies. All the missions are extremely fun, and bring back the nostalgia of classic GTAs, while improving on them infinitesimally in comparison to even GTA IV. Missions have a lot more character and strategy to them now, and you have to think tactfully about how to go about them. It, again, helps fund this increasing level of realism in the game.

Now, in terms of the new vehicle mechanics, Rockstar North offers the most realistic vehicle damage system to be included in a Grand Theft Auto game. Axle, body and tyre damage are all now independent, and damage to each of these parts of the vehicle will result in a change in how your driving experience will unfold. Gone are the days of endlessly shooting at a car until it goes on fire; now, with GTA V, you can shoot at the tyres to slow the vehicle, then finish the job by removing the driver from their vehicle and killing them. Aircraft flight has also been added to GTA V, and it is quite difficult to master, but once you keep practicing, it will eventually make sense. Both flying and driving mechanics contribute to the realism of this masterpiece.

STORY & CHARACTERS (minor spoilers)
We won’t go into detail about the story, as we know this is one you will definitely want to enjoy for yourself. As we mentioned earlier, the tale revolves around three men (Trevor, Michael and Franklin) who rob banks. You play as all three characters throughout the game, taking part in various missions playing as each character. Each character has their own very developed, unique identity, and the fact that Rockstar North were able to create such impressive personal identities for each of the character is outstanding. This even extends to other characters in the game, all of whom have their own unique back story (which you can look into in the video below).

The way in which the personalities are revealed, and the background are told makes the game very engaging, and really helps you to bond with the characters. You will definitely notice that each of them are very different, and behave in different manners. Rockstar didn’t have one protagonist’s story to write, they had three. This adds, of course, to the outstanding nature of Grand Theft Auto V. You can switch between characters as often as it pleases you within the game, which allows the game to stay fresh if you are sick of hearing, or controlling one character.

Not only do they have very unique identities, but the characters also built skills as you control them. Engaging in a lot of manual combat (punching, kicking) will build up your skill in this area, which will result in an increase in damage from punches, but also on all activities which involve your arms. For example, if you used a lot of kicking in your combat, not only would your damage from kick build up, but so would all activities involving your legs, such as running. This adds another level of value to the already outstanding game.

SOUND & VOICE ACTING
What can I say about voice acting other than… PERFECT. I cannot find a single fault, each character is voiced perfectly, the dialogue is written excellently and the game’s story and characters remain fresh and engaging throughout. Sound effects and music are also fantastic, and vary a lot. The radio stations in the game play many favourite hits (one artist which stands out is Rihanna) and the songs vary more than they do on real radio stations!

Grand Theft Auto V is a masterpiece. It has literally improved on every aspect that was present in each previous title in the series, and adds a huge amount of depth and advancement, all the while delivering an outstandingly designed world. How Rockstar North managed to make this game function on current generation consoles I cannot fathom, but I will say… this game sets the bar for next generation titles. It is certainly, in my view, a contender for GAME OF THE GENERATION.

Thanks for reading our review, we will be bringing a separate review of GTA Online to the site once it launches on October 1st!