Through the eyes of three separate but interconnected characters, you’ll get to experience Los Santos from different perspectives. Michael, a former thief who now leads a rather mundane life, spends his days watching movies, arguing with his “wife” and being disappointed with his two entitled kids. His path eventually meets up with Franklin, a young wheelman that repos deadbeats cars for the owner of a car dealership. Michael sees Franklin as a protégé, relating more to him than his own son.
That leaves Michael former partner in another life, Trevor, a psychotic individual that personifies how the majority of players playGrand Theft Auto. Trevor will gladly gun down or run over anyone in his way without remorse. Initially seen as an insane, offensive meth dealer, there is more to Trevor than his outward appearance shows, as he actually quite intelligent. Originally, Trevor believed Michael perished on a botched heist ten years ago, but when he gets wind that he is still alive, he pays Michael a visit. The constant tension between Michael and Trevor, creates an interesting dynamic throughout, especially when Franklin is added into the mix as Trevor doesn’t always get along with him. Franklin may be running with two of the best criminals in the city, but he still has a conscience, unlike Trevor.
The missions are engaging, but the highlights of the game come from the planned heists. Starting off choosing one of two possible approaches, each way changes how the heist plays out. On one of the heists, you are trying to steal a top secret weapon off of a cargo ship in the harbor, with the options of using a helicopter or a submarine to steal the cargo. Another heist has us trying to rob a jewelry store, but allows you to either take a guns blazing approach through the front door or the stealth approach using gas to knock everyone else first.
Some of the heists require preparation, which are generally boring snatch and grab missions: stealing vehicles, buying disguises or specific weapons ahead of time. Crewmembers must be chosen and those with higher skills will end up wanting a larger cut. Hiring less experienced criminals will leave you with a bigger cut, but may compromise the heist. During the aforementioned jewelry store heist, a less experienced hacker means less time before the cops show up. With three characters, you’ll occasionally switch mid-mission between them. At one point, Michael donned a scuba suit, while Franklin covered him with a sniper rifle with Trevor waiting in the water in a submarine.
Anytime when you are not in a mission, you can switch at will between the characters. Sometimes you’ll find them in the middle of everyday activities, such as Michael playing tennis or more often than not, waking up from night terrors. I’ve switched to Trevor as he woke up in the middle of nowhere sans clothes more than once, clearly he had very productive evening. The strangest happened when switching to Franklin as he was in the middle of fighting with the muscle heads at the beach, catching me completely off guard.
There are plenty of actives to do around Los Santos that has no bearing on the narrative such as playing a round of golf, tennis or take part in illegal street races. Earned currency can be used to purchase properties around the city or you can try your luck in the player driven stock market. Every now and again you will come across random events, such as a thief stealing a purse or an armored truck ripe for the picking allowing you to interfere or go about your business. Rockstar has packed Los Santos with so much additional content, I doubt anyone will see every little thing in the game. Franklin can take his dog Chomp out for walks, or feel free to cruise around town with him in the passenger seat. Through the iFruit app for iOS (an Android and WP8 version are nowhere to be found as of this writing), you can train Chomp, which will translate into him finding hidden items in the game.
You don’t need any scripted narratives to have your own fun however. Maybe you enjoy driving around the city through grenades out your window or maybe you simply want to steal a helicopter and fly through tunnels and parachute out of it, as it crashes into a crowded intersection. If you’re tired of looking at the same mugs for 20 or so hours it takes to get through the narrative, each of the characters can change both their hairstyle and facial hair. You’ll also find plenty of different clothing to buy, given each character a new each day.
Driving around, you’ll notice that different cars handle differently, giving you a reason to utilize your home garages and save the cars you truly enjoy using. I didn’t enjoy many of the provided radio stations when compared to GTA IV, but it may be my taste in music. The combat feels similar to the recent Max Payne 3 and Red Dead Redemption. At times the control still feel awkward, especially attempting to shoot out the window while driving. This requires you to hold down an additional button to shoot and use the right stick to move the reticle around, while avoiding other cars and road hazards. If you are looking for more of a challenge, you can disable the aim-assist and use the free-aiming option, but I’ve found the shooting mechanics to be more enjoyable with the aim-assist on.
Unlike GTA IV, the police in GTA V don’t give up the chase too easily. Back alleys are a perfect hiding spot when being chased by multiple patrol cars, but then you aren’t entirely safe. Strangely enough, heading out into the hills is the easiest way to remove your Wanted level, even if the police should be able to see you.
I’ve found the narrative in Grand Theft Auto V to be more enjoyable than any of the past Grand Theft Auto games. This time I actually wanted to finish it, seeing what happens to all three of the colorful characters. In the previous games I found myself spending way too much time causing chaos in the city, but with GTA V, Rockstar has included so much content to experience even outside of the main narrative, I never felt the need to go full-on Rambo on the city’s population. There’s also the ambitious online part of the game, which could be more addicting than the single-player portion once the game breaking bugs are finally squashed.
Note: The Grand Theft Auto V review was written based on the PS3 version game provided to us for review.