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By Danny Contreras
Over the past fifteen years Rockstar Games has been producing modern epics through their main franchise, Grand Theft Auto. What started as a bird’s-eye-view, 2-d game has become a beautiful, 3-d world with on-point renditions of American cities like New York, Vice City and Los Angeles. On September 17, Rockstar released its latest epic: Grand Theft Auto V.
Returning for the first time to Los Santos, San Andreas since 2004, the team at Rockstar once again renders a beautiful, fictionalized version of Los Angeles. With the addition of a northwestern-inspired area that includes realistic forests, and dry-barren wastelands, the game is a living world holding one of the best stories ever told in a videogame.
The story is fairly simple and universal: the search for glory through money. For the first time ever in a Rockstar game we are told the story through three main protagonists: Michael De Santa, a former bank robber long thought deceased who is brought back into the bank-robbing game; Franklin Clinton, a repo man/ gangbanger- turned bank-robber; and Trevor Phillips, a deranged pilot with as much affinity for women as he has for murder, and former accomplice of Michael De Santa.
The story takes place over 60 missions, some exclusive to one of the protagonists, but most told through all three. After 10 years following an unsuccessful bank heist, long retired and under witness protection, meets Franklin Clinton, a repo man working under a crooked car dealer. Following an altercation between Franklin’s boss and Michael, which results in Franklin’s firing, Michael takes Franklin under his wing, mentoring him into a life of crime. Following a successful jewelry store heist, Trevor Phillips becomes aware of Michael’s existence, and sets for Los Santos in order to find his former friend, and have questions answered from ten years ago.
The gameplay is open-ended and much more refined than previous titles. Players accustomed to ‘GTA IV’ or other Rockstar titles like ‘Red Dead Redemption’ or ‘Max Payne’ will feel right at home with the controls largely unchanged from the previous titles. The shooting mechanics are still relatively hard to get used to on manual mode, but the game does offer assistance. The driving feels more arcade than in ‘GTA IV’ where the cars handled more realistically. Yet, the biggest return to the game is the aerial-vehicles, with more than 5 planes being available for use. In addition to motorcycles and helicopters, players can once more drive helicopters, and submarines—yes—submarines.
The game looks beautiful with the map being bigger than ‘GTA: San Andreas, Red Dead Redemption, and GTA IV’ combined. Los Santos is a replica of Los Angeles in full, with a financial district, LAX and the suburbs being replicated almost fully. There’s a full highway that connects downtown Los Santos with ‘Sandy Shores’, a backwoods, desert town full of rednecks and bikers, and the Oregon-like area of ‘Paleto Bay’ surrounded by amazingly rendered forests. Within each area there is a lot to be explored with Los Santos having a working public transportation system, a thriving underworld with police working against it, and the Paparazzi’s of Los Santos’ ‘Vinewood’. In ‘Sandy Shores’ and ‘Paleto Bay’, the players can see wild life (coyotes and cougars), hunt game, and take place in off-road races.
The whole game is a living world that continues to live even when the player turns off the game. There are far too many additions to mention, but it would be unfair to say that this is not Rockstar’s best title ever. A definite candidate for game of the year, GTA V is a game that proves that videogames are works of art that can be intuitive, and can teach gamers something. The game will create controversy, especially with some specific scenes, but there is too much social commentary within the game to be considered “just another game.” If you are not playing GTA V you are missing out on a masterpiece.