This year’s biggest releases, at least in terms of hype, are GTA V, Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts. There is no doubt in my mind that they’ll all sell like crazy, but will they live up to the almost impossible amount of hype? Now that GTA V is here, we can answer a third of that question with a resounding “yes!”.
Ever since making the leap to 3D in Grand Theft Auto 3, every new iteration in the series has pushed the envelope further. Sure, there were thematic changes with San Andreas and Vice City editions, but the real innovations always came whenever a true sequel appeared on the horizon. Grand Theft Auto 5, or GTA 5, is no exception. As a current-gen release (for the moment), it pushes the boundaries of what’s technically possible on current systems even more so than GTA 4 did, but the real innovation is in its gameplay.
Not content just pushing the envelope further from a technical perspective and slapping a new story on an already very successful concept, Rockstar has introduced a gameplay style where the story is moved forward with an approach that uses multiple characters and angles. You constantly find yourself swapping between the three main characters Michael, Franklin and Trevor, each with a different background and role to play.
The move is a brilliant one, as it’s the next evolution in creating a truly open gameworld experience that shifts away from the still relatively linear experience we’ve seen in countless games over the past 10 years. In GTA V, your characters keep on living their lives when you’re not controlling them, so when you switch back to them they might be involved in completely unexpected situations or locations. This shifts the gameplay dynamic, makes the experience more unpredictable and makes the game come more alive.
Of course, despite an unprecedented amount of freedom, the game still has an overall storyline. Without spoiling anything, the story brings our three characters together despite their different background, and they end up accomplishing spectacular missions together as a team. During these missions, the action shifts between the different characters dynamically for a very movie-like experience. Every now and then you’ll also recruit or hire extra help, and your choices can affect your chances of pulling off your job successfully as well.
All of this is delivered in a spectacular, over the top, fashion. The violence is often gratuitious and even involves torture scenes. I could see critics treating scenes likes that as controversial, but my personal opinion is that it’s all done in such an exaggerated style that some of the game’s mission border on political satire like movies such as Robocop or Starship Troopers do.
GTA 5 doesn’t just deliver on the hype, it managed to set a new benchmark. Rockstar chose to release this as a current gen game, possibly making this the best swan song the X360 and PS3 could have. I can’t wait to see what they can do with the next generation of consoles!