I’ve only spent about three hours in Los Santos so far, but I’m already smitten. Grand Theft Auto V has proven, from the get-go, to be even better than my wildest dreams could have hoped. Yes, that sounds like hyperbole, but believe me, it’s not unfounded. Either that or my dreams just aren’t that wild, but whatever.
The game’s visuals – seen for the first time on the actual console I will be playing the game on and not in high-res videos watched online – were even better than I had been hoping for. They were so good, I could hardly believe I was playing an Xbox 360 game.
The world itself is absolutely massive, and the character-switching promised by the preview hype is so smooth – and so cleverly done – that it in no way broke the sense of immersion that developed in my brief time with the game. I really got the sense that Rockstar had employed only the best of the best to make this game – everything from the car design to the motion-captured movement of the character models to the dialogue and cut-scenes struck me as being pitch-perfect, and up to if not exceeding Hollywood-level standards.
Of course I played through a handful of missions to get a feel for things, and that old GTA feeling came over me at many, many points in each. The driving felt responsive, with just enough challenge to keep me on my toes, the dialogue between characters that played out as I drove was reminiscent of the other GTA games I’ve played and loved, and above all, the world looked and felt natural, not forced at all.
I loved the commentary passed by pedestrians and motorist as I drove by, the attention to detail given to every tiny aspect of Los Santos’s presentation and the new touches Rockstar added to their franchise like the ability to control cars in mid-air and the expanded RPG-like features that gave me the option to improve my characters’ abilities through repetition of things like walking, running, fighting.
And of course there is all-new and super-detailed character customisation, all of which brings together everything I loved about San Andreas and GTA IV, two incredible games in their own rights, into this new and clearly improved game. Turning CJ into a fat, afro-wearing dude who rode everywhere on a bicycle was one of my fondest memories of San Andreas, and I look forward to doing the same – or something similar – to Michael, Franklin and Trevor.
And that was after just three or so hours with the game. I can’t wait to explore more, to see even more things that the developers hid for me to find, to play through the multi-faceted stories of each of the three main characters and indulge in all the fun things there are to do. Speaking of, there is apparently a TON of those in GTA V from what I saw, things like playing tennis, towing cars for cash, going to the new shooting found at Ammunation stores and even hanging out at strip clubs.
So far, everything I’ve seen about GTA V has totally justified the five year wait between Nico Bellic’s journey of revenge and redemption through Liberty City and this new, bigger, more complex, more amazing, more everything game. Best of all, I have clearly only scratched the surface of what the game has to offer and I seriously can’t wait to get home today to play more.
Sure, it sounds like I’m in the beginning stages of a brand-new relationship, and no doubt I am. I will likely discover my new love’s manifold shortcomings soon, but for now, just let me bask in the warm, fuzzy feelings my short time in the game has inspired.