Welcome to the beautiful city of Los Santos, where the sun always shines, the water is always warm and the people are 75% plastic! We dive right into Rockstars much anticipated Grand Theft Auto 5 exploring the vast landscape along with all of the extra goodies it possesses.
One of the biggest questions people had was “Will the entire map be accessible from the start of the game?” The answer? Yes! You’re free to explore Los Santos and Blaine County as one of the three protagonists you control in Grand Theft Auto 5. The only draw back to the open world exploration is that the map remains fogged until you explore new areas, the more you explore the greater the space you can see on your map. To say that map is big would be a massive understatement, so explore as much as possible!
We must say that developer Rockstar Games certainly did not disappoint in this reincarnation of sunny California. If Liberty City was all about displaying the American Dream, Los Santos is all about displaying just how fake and hollow people have become, focusing on plastic surgery, Sandy gyms along the boardwalk and expensive cars. But what of the Wanna-be heroes that take the reigns of a confused, deranged 21st century?
The game first focuses on Micheal and Trevor, retired criminals specializing in big heists and giant payoffs, after an ambush operation in the prologue the focus turns to Micheal in his new shiny home in Los Santos, San Andreas where his children are the typical spoiled brats who hate everything that lives and breathes and his wife is the standard in rich living. Which means she’s also banging the Pool guy, the Tennis Instructor, the Yoga teacher and hell, maybe even the Pizza guy is getting some on the side! All while our protagonist pours himself a stiff drink and sits by the pool. Trevor on the other hand disappears, we’ll leave you to find out where he’s gone by yourself to avoid spoilers.
Franklin, the street busting, gang banging hustler who hates his life starts his career by boosting cars with his friend Lamar, and due to a series of unfortunate events, crosses paths with a very angry Micheal, who later becomes Franklin’s Mentor, making him the third and final protagonist. Each person plays their own vital roll in making the narrative so amazing, what we expected to be an expert team of swift thieves is actually a Motley Crew of misfits that fumble between jobs, heists and random stranger events all while trying not to kill each other over the several disagreements and arguments that progress throughout the game. You very quickly get a sense that each Character has their own distinct personality. Making it very easy to relate with all of them. I often found myself making decisions that I thought the Characters would make. Since Franklin is a fantastic driver, I bought a nice car for him when I rain into some money, Micheal can slow down time in a Max Payne style Bullet Time Fashion so I bought him a precision rifle. Trevor is absolutely insane and has no distinction of what is right and wrong, so I packed his inventory with volatile explosives and Light machine guns.
While you’re not shooting cops and stealing purses from old women however, San Andreas is your oyster, and it becomes quite apparent that the story isn’t going to stand in your way of exploring and discovering new things for yourself. The things you explore is nicely interwoven with the narrative so that you have the freedom to explore without the fear of falling behind as you leave the next job on the back burner.
When exploring, Rockstar has prepared several extra activities and Mini-games for you to take part in. Head to the club and play a round of Golf, head to the courts and pick up your tennis rackets, Base jump from the top of the infamous Mount Chilliad, or Sky dive from several thousand feet, while you’re at it, why don’t you slow down and do some Yoga? Because you can do that too! Los Santos is the epiphany of procrastination as you juggle different stranger events, activities and customization.
One of the most popular features in Grand Theft Auto history returns in number 5; the ability to customize your vehicles. Each vehicle has it’s own different variations and variety of custom tuned fun, ranging from spoilers, hoods, engines, transmissions, windows, exhausts, suspensions, license plates, colors, and tires, you can even upgrade your cars Armor rating for some extra punishment and purchase bullet-proof tires. You can even choose what color your tire smoke is when you’re burning out.
That’s not all you can customize however, as Rockstar has given us complete freedom to buy new clothes, haircuts and tattoos for each protagonists, for example you’ll often see Franklin buying baggy jeans and fitted caps, while Micheal prefers a more classy approach, wearing suits, leather jackets and denim shirts. Each of the three protagonists also have different hairstyles to choose from and tattoos to adorn. Be cautious with Tattoos though, as the customization isn’t quite perfect. If you buy a chest or back Tattoo you don’t have the option to explore Los Santos shirtless, meaning that those expensive tattoos you just bought are going to be hidden by a T-shirt or other top. Scuba gear has been assigned to Submarines and Dinghy’s, meaning you have to find one of those 2 vehicles before you can swim underwater without fear of drowning. Once you beat the game however, you unlock certain outfits that can help you show off your ink even if walking around in your underwear is a tad revealing.
Rockstar games promised us a game we wouldn’t forget and the delivered with both beauty and precision, the driving now feels like you’re driving on the road instead of above it, meaning you have greater, more realistic control of your cars and each vehicle handles differently, for example you can feel the change in weight when going from an ATV to a Pickup truck and must adjust your steering accordingly. The landscape is beautiful both above and under water, the new Weapon wheel makes sure you have easy access to all of your weapons without clumsily mashing the Directional pad until you find the weapon you want and the new combat mechanics are incredibly well done, making action packed missions and heated gun battles much more manageable and much more fun.
Grand Theft Auto V is a stunning example of just how far the Xbox 360 can be pushed and how beautiful video games can be. The Narrative is fantastic, the extent of customization is mind blowing, gun play is ridiculously fun and driving is in perfect balance with both control and speed. It’s an endless thrill ride that takes the player prisoner as you quickly lose sight of time, finally realizing that you forgot to cook dinner for your wife and kids.