GTA 5 PS3 review – Three men and a little LA deed sign the generation off in style
Five years of technological improvements mean that things look far prettier in GTA 5, and allow the world to be both more detailed and more populated. Where once city streets were deserted like a Daphne & Celeste comeback gig, now they hum with whiny software developers, irate mortgage brokers and disillusioned actresses rushing to casting calls. Certain roads get busier at certain times of the day; sun seekers flock to the beaches when ol’ shiny gets his hat on, and scarper for cover as the rain sets in (there’s a fully dynamic weather system); and squabbling foursomes fill the local golf course. Other crimes – some resulting in truly spectacular police chases – are undertaken by the city’s more nefarious inhabitants; couples argue in the street; there are boat races, street races, bike races. There has never been a more convincing world in the whole history of gaming.
But while the environment is undoubtedly the star, it is more than ably supported by three protagonists, every one of which puts all of the series’ previous leads to shame. There’s Michael, the monied middle-aged misery who’s having a serious life crisis. Franklin, the up and coming street hustler looking to graduate from repo work and gang crime. And then there’s Trevor, the psychotic trailer-dweller who defies classification as much as he does convention. But such summaries fail to do justice to any one of them, and each showcases their three-dimensionality far quicker than should be possible. If you think you’ve already picked a favourite or that one looks like a weak link then be prepared to reconsider: each of the trio is far more interesting and nuanced than expected.
To venture into the details of their backstories or the circumstances of their meeting would be to stumble into Spoilerville (and this itself is a process that’s far more rewarding than anticipated), but evidently the specifics of their criminal ambitions bring the three together. And it’s when they do converge that GTA V spreads its gameplay wings and showcases how the ambition of its mission structure can match that of its world building.
Naturally each member of the gang has a vast number of their own objectives, but it’s the collaborative heist efforts that are the headliners. These multipartite undertakings involve planning, recon, decision-making, crew-hiring and, ultimately, execution. Payoffs are big, but only in accordance with how smoothly all of these steps go – and there’s always more than one way to get your hands on the loot.
While the environment is undoubtedly the
star, it is more than ably supported by three protagonists, every one of which puts all of
the series’ previous leads to shame
Take the first of the bunch, the jewellery store robbery. You first need to go inside and scope the security system and cameras. You then need to ascend to the roof in order to photograph the outlet vent of the air conditioning system. From there, it depends. You can go for a more traditional, head-on approach, or you can play it sneaky. Going for the latter, as I did, you require some extra kit: namely sleeping gas, which has to be requisitioned beforehand. This is then lobbed into the air con vent you photographed, knocking out the unsuspecting bracelet shoppers inside and allowing you a free run at the precious metals.
That’s still not the whole story, though, because your success isn’t just dependent on the playable characters: additional team members need to be recruited. For this heist that means a hacker, a driver and a gunman. More capable crooks do their job better, but they also take a bigger cut of your loot. I hired a primo computer whiz, thus allowing me a larger time window to grab goodies inside the store, and a top-notch driver, meaning that we had the perfect getaway vehicles in place. But not anticipating any firefights I went for the poundstore gunman, who ended up bailing off his bike and dropping a third of the take. Turns out that, much like when visiting intimate waxing clinics, sometimes you really do get the results you pay for.
There are around half a dozen of these high-profile jobs, and each is totally different from the last in terms of motivation, setting and mechanics. While there could be more variation provided in the choice of approaches you’re offered for each – it pretty much comes down to ‘sneaky’ versus ‘loud’ every time – there’s precious little repetition in terms of content, and all are truly memorable high points.