Return to the sunny beaches of Los Santos in Grand Theft Auto 5

Daniel Woodhouse

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The GTA saga is one of gaming’s oldest and most recognizable staples, and has returned for the fifth time so players can lose themselves in limitless freedom once again.

Set in the city of Los Santos (Los Angeles), GTA 5 centers around the intertwined stories of three different characters: Franklin, Trevor and Michael. Michael and Trevor are both former bank robbers who have reunited after nine years of both believing the other to be dead. The two team up with Franklin, a gang banger trying to go legit, to pull off a series of high-profile heists that will set them up for life, financially speaking. During the course of the story, the protagonists come across a variety of ruthless criminals, business tycoons, washed up celebs, corrupt bureaucrats, hapless journalists and many other colorful characters in a plot riddled with twists and turns.

The folks at Rockstar Games have once again proven their mastery of writing by creating a story filled with fleshed out, three-dimensional characters. A paragon of this is the character Michael, a sympathetic protagonist who is attempting to pay off a debt while trying to be a good father and failing. The dialogue is brilliantly written — it effectively captures the lingo of a wide array of social groups from the eloquent snobbish tone of the high-society to the ghetto slang of the gangsters. GTA 5 also does a hilarious job of critiquing idiosyncrasies found within American culture, such as using satirical names like Weazel News (Fox News in the GTA world) and Lifeinvader (Facebook).  GTA 5 hyperbolically exposes the flaws of modern society to the player, yet the characters within the game act like nothing is out of the ordinary.

The gameplay is an absolute blast. The player can steal a jet, rob a liquor store, have a shootout with the cops, go mountain climbing and simply go for a walk with their dog all in the same day. There’s so much to do and see that it’s easy to lose yourself in the experience. Freedom is the game’s primary appeal. The player can essentially go anywhere they want, from the city’s sunny beaches to industrial slums or into the mountains.

The gunplay, as always, is fun and energetic. It includes a wide variety of melee weapons, firearms and explosives. But try not to get too carried away with causing mayhem on the street, because what may start out as a couple of obese, inept patrolmen will quickly turn into an army of full tactical SWAT teams who will turn the player into minced meat. As for the bank robberies, each is unique in their own way, like one where the player utilizes a Gatling gun to clear a path through a police blockade, which is very reminiscent of the famous scene from Terminator 2. There are also numerous side activities to be explored, such as carnival rides, jet ski rides, movie theaters or even just sitting down to watch TV — pretty ironic.

The environments are absolutely stunning in both detail and scope. From the quiet nature preserves to the dirty congested urban sprawls, the game is beautiful. The people, animals, vehicles, plants, buildings, water, wind and fire all look and behave with a great degree of realism. Along with a well-written musical score, the game features a broad selection of music from a variety of genres.

Rockstar Games has once again struck gold with the latest installment of the Grand Theft Auto series.

5 out of 5 stars