Does Rockstar Games have what it takes to make a great game even better?
Being a gamer there is always those special two or three game that I look forward to year after year. Some of which tend to deliver the same content as year’s prior and other’s that I cannot bear to even give my hard earned money to just end up seeming like last year’s model with a few tweaks here and there. Then when all else fails. There is Grand Theft Auto.
This time around Rockstar Games decided to change things up by giving gamers the chance to play out the story of three different characters. Michael, Franklin and Trevor. What I really enjoyed about these characters is you can instantly tell just how distinct each of the three characters personalities are and what you can expect from them during the course of the story. Michael is what I would like to call the more responsible and skilled of the three not to mention Michael seems to have things going pretty well for him in life. He has a very nice home and a family albeit a very dysfunctional one which tends to be a source of Michael’s problems.
Franklin is the youngest of the three and it seems that throughout the game that Franklin is really in touch with the sense of how he is trying not to be a part of the criminal game yet knows that it is really the key to his success. Coming from a poverty stricken family he starts of the game as a car booster with his good friend Lamar. As much as this gets him paid he knows deep down this isn’t something that he wants to make as his living and that it is a game that can be both rewarding and yet very deadly at the same time. A game that he tries not to be a part of.
Then there’s Trevor. As soon as you meet Trevor you can tell just how much of a psychopath he really is and yet he provides the most comic relief of the three. When you first meet Trevor you can tell that he is a real backwoods kind of guy that is better tailored for the easy laid back non city life. I also found that Trevor has some of the best character switching scenes in the game out of any of the three characters.
Once you finally get to see the interaction between all three characters is when the story really starts to play out. Michael and Trevor have a past that gets mentioned on and off in the game that provides a lot of back story of the two. Franklin kind of seems like the odd man out here however that makes his role as the mentor for both Trevor and Michael and perfect role. As you get to know their lives in and out the story really makes you care about these guys and you really can tell that Rockstar was trying to create three very different and distinct stories that come together in such a very excellent way.
The one thing that I really am pleased with is that Rockstar knows exactly how to make the gameplay one that is engaging with the player and something that doesn’t keep the player bored. There is a ton of things to do in Los Santos whether it’s participating in a Triathlon to Skydiving over the beautiful Vinehood Hills. There are plenty of races such as boating to street car races. You can even join others in a ATV race in Blaine County which is just north of Los Santos. You will never bored of all the activities you can find in this game.
A gameplay mechanic that Rockstar added this time around is making the missions and how you play them very important by implementing sub-missions in the game. Depending on the mission you can earn a bronze, silver or gold medal. In one mission you might have you tow a car and bring it back to the auto shop without any scratches or dents while in one mission getting a gold could based on just how accurate you on when landing from a skydive.
With a story focused on three main characters Rockstar has given players a unique way in which to be able go from playing as Franklin, Trevor and Michael with the introduction of the Switch system. The Switch system allows you to be able to switch on the fly between any of the three characters depending on the situation. So if you are setting up a heist involving all three characters you can have Michael go inside and grap the goods while you can then switch to Franklin to make sure the getaway car is out front and ready to go. This gives you the ability to play certain missions of a different point of view making the way you play never the same. What I really enjoyed the most about the Switch system is in between missions when you switch to a different character the game will switch over to let you see whatever the other character is taking part of or involved in. There was a time when I switched from Michael to Trevor and Trevor was passed out on the beach and woke up drunk to bodies laying everywhere or another time when Trevor was being chased by the police thus instantly throwing me in the middle of a four star police chase.
The mini-map in the lower left corner of the screen has changed from a circular map to a much bigger square that allows you to see more of the map but still not taking up that much space. Underneath the map there are several multicolored meters that represent your overall health, armor, stamina and a new meter which represents the players special ability time. Each of the three main characters have their own special ability. Franklin has the ability to slow time while driving which can be useful for making those tight turns while evading the cops, Michael can slow down time while shooting which is similiar to that of Max Payne and finally Trevor’s special rage ability allows him to take less damage while doing even more damage to enemies. Another improved feature in the game is driving. Driving in this game has greatly improved from that of GTA IV. Cars turn better and you are a lot less likely to go sliding off the road from a simple bump from another car.
Speaking of cars you have the ability to now fully customize just about any vehicle in the game by simply driving your car to the local Los Santos Customs. Here you can change your car’s color, upgrade the armor, change the sound of your car’s horn, window colors as well as wheels, engine upgrades and body kits. Later in the game you have the ability to purchase different businesses that are character specific, some of which provide bonuses such as Franklin can purchase Los Santos Customs giving you the ability to purchase upgrades to your vehicle for free.
One of my favorite parts of the game is the new Stock Market mini game. You have the ability through the in game internet to purchase stocks from several businesses which can rise and fall. Money in this game is quite important whereas in previous games you were thrown money every time you completed a mission where GTA V makes you realize how important money is and the Stock Market is going to end up being your source of money making unless of course you decide to increase your life of crime up robbing any one of the many gas stations and liquor stores that are spread throughout Los Santos.
From the moment you begin your journey you will see just how much detail that Rockstar has given to making Los Santos one of the most beautifully design cities I have ever seen. Not to mention one of the most detailed mountain ranges in the game with Mount Chilliad being so elegant in design. Los Santos is a bustling and thriving city full of thieves, psychopaths and killers alike yet with a glance could be viewed as one innocent city. However once you being to walk the streets, climb mountains, or watch an amazing sunrise from the peak of Mt. Chilliad you truly being to appreciate what Rockstar has accomplished.
I know gamers such as myself are the kind where graphics don’t really matter but here I believe is where the setting of the game is actually a character in itself and you can’t help feel that this game wouldn’t be the same if the graphics were not upgraded in some way. Sure there is some texture pop here and there, but that’s a given due to the massive size of the area in which you have to roam (area bigger than that of GTA 3 and 4 combined) and something that after awhile you won’t have a care in the world. There were times where I found myself appreciating the scenery while driving which ended up with my character going through the windshield after a head on collision, but in the end it was completely worth it.
In all Rockstar Games accomplishes something with Grand Theft Auto V that few developers these days do. Showing exactly how video games are a craft that with the time and patience definitely pays off. Although GTA V went through a few delays and years of waiting I have to say that the wait was well worth it for what has to be one of the best games I have ever played and quite possibly the best game ever made.