Grand Theft Auto V is a phenomenal achievement and an unashamedly brilliant game. The sheer quantity and diversity of side content packed into the world is deserving of applause, from the seemingly endless quirky side-missions to the cinemas screening French arthouse films, from varied TV programming to the series’ traditional wealth of radio stations. That’s all before you start pouring time into the stat-boosting hobbies such as tennis or golf, too – added extras that almost constitute full games in their own right. In fact, some of GTA V’s best moments – its cleverest writing, its sharpest satire, its wildest carnage – are all in the ‘everything else’.
The core plot, meanwhile, has you switching between three protagonists – Michael, a career criminal living a resentful life in witness protection; Franklin, a street thug looking to step up; Trevor, a psychotic ex-military officer and Michael’s old partner – with their heists becoming more and more dramatic as their stories unfold.
But it’s in the relationships, rather than the plot itself, that the writers really get to show off – Michael seeing Franklin as the son he always wanted, rather than the spoiled stoner brat he has; Franklin’s weariness with his loser hood mates; Trevor’s frayed mental health and unbalanced personality. Despite the trio being a cadre of broken souls and foul human beings, there’s something relatable in each of them.
And for these three characters, Rockstar has created a vivid, beautiful world that begs to be explored (and, true to its predecessors, you can spend many happy hours simply driving around the vast locale). From the natural wonder in the hills and mountains of Los Santos to the urban grime of downtown, you’ll have hours and hours of gameplay to enjoy just poking about.
One little niggle, however: for all the off-colour humour and anarchic violence, for all its great voice acting and immersive world-building, for everything that it does so well, the truly glorious freedom it promises isn’t always there, with Rockstar’s incredibly high standards potentially leaving some with the feeling that for all this space and colour, there’s not quite enough to genuinely interact with. But this is a minor quibble that only springs to mind when you’re playing such a great game, and one of the last big guns of this generation of consoles.
Reviewed by Ali Plumb