Grand Theft Auto V Review – Part 1: Living in Los Santos

That’s the best way to describe it, really. If you’re not one of the millions of gamers who contributed to Rockstar Games’ one BILLION dollars in opening week sales for its latest orchestration of unbelievable violence and dry wit, then you need to know that Grand Theft Auto: V will consume your life.

GTAV is still as wonderfully wild and cinematic as you’ve grown to expect this franchise to be. The biggest hurdle to get over with a series as notorious as this one, which has had past entries outright banned in some parts of the world, is how to keep pushing the bar. Rest assured this game will leave you cringing even after hours of mercilessly mowing down pedestrians and getting into shootouts with law enforcement for fun. More than a few times I have found myself questioning exactly what I was just asked to take part in, but kept pushing just to see how it could possibly be topped.

Centering on the lives of three protagonists this time around, GTAV’s storyline winds and weaves until they come to a head and pull off some rather impressive criminal feats. Michael is the slick talking ringleader trying to lay low after a life of crime, obviously to no avail. Franklin is an ambitious young man fighting to make it out of the ‘hood who gets taken under Michael’s wing as his protégé. Trevor is a retired military pilot, loose cannon, and Michael’s former running buddy who hasn’t made me fear Canadians this much since James Howlett. All of the characters are scumbags in their own ways, can be swapped on-the-fly, and are parodies of personalities you’d likely find roaming the underbelly of this fictional Los Angeles.

Nearly as impressive as the game’s lovable antiheroes is the massive world they inhabit. It takes approximately six minutes of straight speeding to get across the map, assuming you don’t get sidetracked by one of the many available activities or random events that bring you even deeper into the lives of Los Santos’ many strangers and freaks. If taking your high-end custom detailed sports car into the desert for a game of darts doesn’t sound like a good time, maybe exploring the ocean depths for briefcases full of cash is more your thing. For a real thrill, you could even try sneaking onto a military base riding a scooter and see how long it takes you to steal a fighter jet. Tennis matches, triathlons, plane races; there are so many things to do in GTAV that you can spend weeks just improving your characters’ stats and social standings without completing the over 100 hours of content available.

A lot of the things that had nagged me in previous iterations of Grand Theft Auto have been addressed in this latest outing. If you find yourself lost in the boondocks after dropping off a citizen to complete a side mission, the instant character swapping mechanic can get you right back into the heart of the city for more action. The pacing between dramatic storytelling and anarchistic endeavors is well-balanced, and the wide variety of side quests (and signature incredible sound track) can draw anyone in for hours. Make sure you don’t have the game linked to your Facebook account though, unless you want all of your friends to know how much time you’ve spent in a virtual gentleman’s club getting double dances while listening to West End Girls.

If you’re looking for an incredible open-world action opus that has transcended the gaming world to become a cultural event, then Grand Theft Auto V is the game for you. As someone who tries to be a responsible consumer and only make cost-effective video game purchases with extensive replay value, I really believe that this title will rest in my tray for months on end. Considering that Grand Theft Auto Online, the game’s online multiplayer component hasn’t even gone live yet (launching October 1st), there’s still a whole lot more to explore.

Grand Theft Auto V is now available on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.