The Alien Critic Reviews...
The Alien CriticReviews...

TAC Reviews...Grand Theft Auto 5

 

Originally Grand Theft Auto 5 (or GTA 5) was released in 2013 for PS3 and Xbox 360, however after the Xbox One and PS4 hit the shelves and it was obvious that neither console had any decent games out for them Rockstar decided to give Grand Theft Auto 5 a graphical update, throw in some extra missions, and make San Andreas a little busier then rereleased the game in 2014.

 

Grand Theft Auto 5 Boxart

 

As you know I played the PS3 version of GTA 5 but in all honesty lost interest in the main single player campaign and started playing the game for Grand Theft Auto Online. Since I acquired my PS4 I also got the new version of the game so after following the same pattern for a while I decided to return to main story campaign and play it through. Now GTA 5 takes things in a different direction to previous Grand Theft Auto titles by having three playable main characters that you can switch between almost at will. If you aren’t familiar with a Grand Theft Auto game I’m going to right ahead and assume you’ve been living in a cave for the last few years, but allow me to give you the low down.

 

So, initially we start off as Franklin Clinton, a young African-American guy who dreams of having more to his life than boosting cars and making small amounts of money. His friend Lamar has aspirations of becoming…I believe “gang-banger” is the correct term…but Franklin doesn’t see it happening. Whilst working for a corrupt guy named Simone who leases cars to people with ridiculously high payment premiums Franklin breaks into a house to reclaim a car, steals the vehicle, and finds a gun to his head. The man holding that gun is Michael De Santa…

 

Michael was once a career criminal who gave up the life after a robbery went wrong and he joined the Witness Protection Programme. He now lives in a mansion, has a wife that sleeps around, and two kids that hate him. Franklin immediately sees Michael as a means of getting into the big time, and befriends him. After Michael accidently destroys a house belonging to a powerful crime figure in the Mexican Cartel named Madrazo, Michael, Franklin, and a small crew rob a jewellery store to pay Madrazo back. During the robbery (whilst in disguise) Michael tells a incapacitated guard “You forget a thousand things every day, make sure this is one of them”. After the robbery Michael and Franklin go to ground and we switch to a man pounding some crack whore from behind over his kitchen cabinet…This man is Trevor Phillips…

 

Now Trevor is a complete and utter psychopath, with no regard for human life, laws, ethics or basically anything that makes someone human. After having sex with the girlfriend of a local biker gang leader Trevor goes to war with the gang, murders their leader, and tries to get Trevor Phillips Enterprises off the ground by slaughtering anyone who looks at him funny. He hears of the jewellery heist and realises that Michael, a man Trevor believed dead, is in fact alive and kicking. Trevor heads to Los Santos and reunites with Michael and meets Franklin…the lives of the three start to unravel as rival criminals and corrupt government officials close in on them.

 

I have talked a lot about GTA Online but basically I quickly lost interest in the story missions, and that had to do with jumping between three protagonists. Now how a Grand Theft Auto game usually goes is that you start off as a lowly street thug or immigrant or whoever and you work your way up through the ranks becoming the new big cheese. This is what happened with Tommy Vercetti in Vice City, CJ in San Andreas and basically every other GTA game or crime sandbox like Saint’s Row. That is what we are used to, and when sitting down to play a game like this you accept that initially your character will get tired after running for more than five yards, have the lung capacity of an asthmatic gerbil, and have the strength somewhere between a new born baby and a toddler. The thing is that as the game progresses you learn skills, go to the gym, eat food or whatever it is to beef your character up. The best example I had seen of this done in a GTA game was San Andreas, CJ could eat to the point where he was a huge fat bastard, he could go to the gym and get on the treadmill to increase stamina and could take various self-defence classes to learn new fighting techniques. GTA 5 decides to fuck with this winning formula.

 

Initially you are playing as Franklin, and I was happy to play as Franklin, I was working on upgrading his skills, I am pretty sand-box happy which means I’ll spend hours exploring every nook and cranny of the world. None of it was closed off this time so if you want to drive to the far side of the map and explore a sewer tunnel then go right ahead. The thing is, if I have spent hours upgrading Franklin’s flying ability by completing the Flying School side mission, I don’t want to then get a mission whilst stuck as Michael and the game tells me that Michael’s flying skill is not good enough so I need to go and do the flying school again. Structuring the game like this was a little different but I am not sure I like it. I don’t want to spend hours getting one character’s stats up only to be forced to jump to another one to upgrade them too. As I recall this is what made me abandon the story mode on the PS3 version, and the PS4 version is no better, but, in all honesty you do get used to it, and there are a few unique missions that each character has. Trevor is the first one to acquire property so can do various weapon delivery missions in which he drops them from a plane or uses a dune buggy to collect weapon drops. Michael and Franklin also gain the ability to purchase properties later on in the game and they also have certain missions attached to them so you are encouraged to switch between the characters frequently rather than stubbornly just playing one of them.

 

The city itself looks pretty amazing on the PS4, Los Santos is busier and is more like a city that people actually live in. NPCs in the world have different dogs that they walk, I mention that because it shows that Rockstar took the time to put different breeds of dogs into the game so they didn’t just buff the graphics and rerelease the game which I kind-of suspected they had done. The conversations of the people on the streets are more varied and the vehicles that you discover around the map are a lot more diverse than they seemed to be on the PS3 version. When I was playing as Franklin there was a mission that involved helping a photographer, afterwards he enters you into a competition in which you take photos of animals in the world. These range from different breeds of dogs, to cows, to birds and wild animals like deer or boar. This encourages you to go and explore areas of the map that Franklin really has no business to be in. More than once I would screech to a halt when driving because I had spotted an animal that was on my checklist and go running into the undergrowth to pursue a rabbit or something.

 

San Andreas is also a welcome breath of fresh air from the stale and dull grey of Liberty City, we have been in Liberty City a million times and it is basically just a rip off of New York. In San Andreas there were street gang missions, a Vegas Strip type-location, a mountain to climb and a desert. Thankfully Grand Theft Auto 5 has a nice big map with plenty of differences in the location so importantly you want to go and have a look around to see what you can find. Plus the Stranger and Freak missions are also pretty good fun with each character having unique missions that are given to them by random people in the world.

 

Honestly there is a hell of a lot to like in Grand Theft Auto 5 but the biggest problem for me was that I didn’t really like the characters. Franklin was my favourite but he is basically a pussy, he goes along with what the people around him want to do, and seems to spend a hell of a lot of time complaining. His girlfriend leaves him because he “isn’t real” or some other bullshit and after he becomes more successful and has a home in the Hills she turns up on his doorstep to tell him he’s a sell out…???….so when he is repossessing cars or killing rival gang members he isn’t real and when he betters himself (admittedly by just doing more upmarket crimes and getting more influential friends) he is a sell out. Now I don’t claim to understand how a human woman’s mind works and trust me you can’t figure it out through extensive probing either but when she turns up at his house to have a go at him why doesn’t he just slam the door in her face. She emails him during the game to tell him she’s moved on, is getting married, and so on but then turns up at his house to tell him he’s sold out. If any of my skin sack’s ex-girlfriends ever turned up at my door (they’d have to find my ship first but none-the-less) it would be slammed in their face pretty promptly that’s assuming I just didn’t vaporise them for giggles.

 

Let me ask a question: What is the point in these games…??

 

 

Thanks I couldn’t have said it better myself. But Michael already lives in a mansion so doesn’t need more money and spends most of his time shouting at his adulteress whore of a wife or his lay-about son or wanna-be slut daughter. He claims to love his family but his way of dealing with family issues is to scream at them and hope that makes things better.

 

Then we come to Trevor, who is completely and utterly insane. There is really nothing to like about him. When he tracks Michael to Los Santos he drags his friend Floyd along who says that his cousin lives in the city so Trevor marches into said cousin’s house then makes himself at home. Later when the cousin’s girlfriend returns and is obviously furious that her home is filled with criminals and tries to kick them all out…well…it is never shown what happened but the next thing you see is Trevor leaving the flat covered in blood. So it is pretty obvious that he has murdered them both, these weren’t criminals, this was an innocent couple who had this lunatic force his way into their lives and were slaughtered by him. Plus this isn’t the only time in the game this happens, Trevor decides to take over the local (and only) strip club in the whole state of San Andreas and just murders the owner/boss then puts himself in charge. He tortures, maims and kills, with little to no provocation most of the time. How are you supposed to root for that much of a psycho?? Killing biker gangs that deal drugs and such, fine, kill police that are trying to kill you, okay, but innocent people that have done no harm just proves that Trevor is nothing more than a wild animal that needs to be put down.

 

Now one of the new features that we haven’t seen before are the Heist missions, basically there is a score of some sort so you do various preparation missions that may involve hiding get away vehicles, securing documents to get into a building, or whatever before doing the actual mission itself. Again these are pretty fun and the game gives you two options which are always stealthy or loud and bloody, so you can choose which way you want to do something. The thing is that there are some heists that are pointless. Trevor decides to do a heist and steals something from the local PMC (that’s Private Military Corporation if you aren’t cool enough to know). Thing is it turns out that the item you steal is a nuke or something and the moment you steal it, you have to return it before the government find out you took it, thus the entire mission is pointless. Seriously you don’t get better weapons or equipment to use on a subsequent heist so why was it in the game at all?? Thankfully the heists don’t generally miss the mark and are pretty good fun with you controlling who is recruited and micromanaging aspects of the mission itself.

 

Now, since Vice City every Grand Theft Auto game has given you the chance to buy property and you can do that here too. However, the properties themselves are generally massively expensive so there is really only one way to get enough money to buy them and that is Lester’s assassination missions. Basically GTA 5 has a stock market mini-game and a contact of yours named Lester gives you assassination missions to complete which will affect the stock market. The stock market is something of a mystery to me but essentially what you do is invest money when stock prices are low and sell them when they are high. You can do this at anytime during the game, but when you are doing the assassination missions you can directly affect the stock market. So buy cheap stock then murder the CEO of a rival company so their stock tanks, your stock rises, and you sell them later on. This technique can and will earn you millions but you basically need to wait to the end of the game to have enough money from the final heist to make investing worth it. When you buy the businesses random missions pop up once in a while but as you have completed the game at this point there is really no reason to still be playing. I don’t want random missions, why can’t we do what we did in Vice City and buy a business, do a few missions to set it up then you get a steady profit every week…why doesn’t this game do that??

 

The game expects you to play it a certain way and if you don’t realise the significance of the assassination missions because you weren’t paying attention when Lester explained it, or to you the stock market is an inaccessible to you as a titanium chastity belt, then you are never going to get enough money to buy these properties.

 

What the game boasts though is the fact that there is tonnes to do and there are different features which encourage you to still be playing the game when you aren’t actually playing the game. Lamar decides to leave his Rottweiler Chop with Franklin, and if you download the iFruit app to your phone you can access aspects of the game that you couldn’t before. You can do things like create custom number plates for your car but the main reason for the app is to play Chop the Dog. In this game you feed Chop, take him for walks, can teach him tricks, and clear up his shit. The walking mini-games involve Chop pulling women’s bikini’s off at the beach, trying to mate with a bitch in the park, and stopping the Ballas from smashing up Franklin’s car. If Chop is happy then in-game he can look for secrets and collectables for you, thus giving this app an actual point. The thing is Chop can’t die, so it isn’t like the virtual tamagotchi pets of years ago that died if you dared take your eyes off them for more than a minute or two so basically get the app, and just before you switch the game on, feed Chop, take him for a walk, and then when you play as Franklin Chop will be happy so will find you stuff.

 

Grand Theft Auto 5 is really the first game that has online features I’ve actually used, the Chop the Dog app, or having personalised number plates is pretty cool, but if you have an online crew (which I have) then not only can you view the stats of each character but it will also tell you where the collectables are. Even better, which ones you have already collected. So if you are a 100% completion weirdo (which I am) then you don’t have to spend hours and hours searching every square millimetre of the immense map with a magnifying glass to find all the hidden stuff.

 

I did like the game and thought it was leaps and bounds ahead of the dreary Grand Theft Auto 4 unfortunately I can’t see myself jumping back into the story mode anytime soon because it means starting from scratch. The is no +game mode so if I began again I’d be starting off as the pot-less Franklin and have to level him up again which I just cannot be asked to do. As far as sand-box games go Saint’s Row 2 and Grand Theft Auto San Andreas were the best…that is not up for debate that is a fact…now whilst GTA 5 has gotten closer to the brilliance that was San Andreas what it lacks can be summarised with a simple question: In 2004 Grand Theft Auto San Andreas had a jet pack, it is now 2016, so does Grand Theft Auto 5 have a jet pack??

 

We all know the answer to that question…no, it does not.

 

Anyway, there is a lot to like in this game and the franchise seems to have taken a couple of leaps out of Saint’s Row 2’s book and decided that the gritty realism of Grand Theft Auto 4 took away a lot of the fun, so has made this instalment more fun, more colourful, and much more fun to play. Grand Theft Auto 5 gets a Thumbs Up because it is a great game, there is plenty of it, and if you are a fan of crime sandbox games then look no further than Saint’s Row 2 (also GTA 5)

 

 

7/10 - The biggest problem was having three protagonists, give us one, and if he isn’t a filthy, psychotic, and deranged lunatic that even the player thinks needs to have a bullet in his brain then that would be swell.

 

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© Chris Sharman