GTA 5 review: The finest game in arguably the greatest series ever made


The highly anticipated Grand Theft Auto V hits stores this week, but does the game live up to the hype? Simon Rice takes a drive around Los Santos

After numerous teasing trailers, various launch date delays and enough ‘leaks’ to create a tide of frenzy among gamers - finally it’s here. And the 25 million expected to purchase GTA V over the next 12 months will find it’s been worth the wait.

The latest release in the franchise is set in a parody of California called Los Santos, and much of the pre-release talk has focused on the pure expanse of the game - something that only became a bigger issue when the map was leaked last week. There have been claims that the world is bigger than GTA IV, GTA: San Andreas and Red Dead Redemption combined - and it has been the promise of this new playground that has whetted the appetite of fans more than anything.

Upon starting the game, this new world is free to roam - no locked out areas as has been the case on previous incarnations of GTA - and the size is as incredible as it is imaginative. Trucks clog the freeways as you pass through the industrial district while deer jump out at you in the countryside. Taking a quad bike up to the mountain tops means avoiding the hikers who are also enjoying the terrain, while sharks can be found sharing the water if you go for a dip at the beach. It’s a world that feels genuinely alive, more so than any of the previous games. It’s as if you’ve just popped in to visit - and of course to cause a bit of mayhem. Such an ambitious setting threatened to be unwieldy with drives across town becoming timely and tedious. However, the pure richness in detail make roaming Los Santos almost as rewarding as any structured mission.

Gamers will at first find themselves introduced to Michael - a retired criminal going straight. Unsurprisingly, he’s quickly drawn back into the underworld, the circumstances of which are hilarious. However, the likeable Michael - who in a nod to the Sopranos spends time visiting a shrink - is not the only character available. In a new development for the GTA series, gamers control three intertwined characters simultaneously, with the ability to flip between them as and when one chooses. Franklin, a low-level criminal with big ambitions and Trevor, perhaps the most insanely violent character ever created. It’s a fine development, creating a more layered storyline and greater variation in how players progress through the game.

That progress is still centred on undertaking missions which vary from the mundane - such as towing an abandoned car - to the incredibly imaginative. Without wanting to spoil anything, think combinations of boats, heists, getaways, planes, drugs, women, motorbikes, revenge and recklessness and whatever you dream up will probably be in there. A welcome advancement sees users involved in the planning, as well as the execution of missions. Gamers will have to decide whether to undertake a well-planned heist or go in all guns blazing, and then decide who to hire for the job, weighing up the size of your cut against the ability of the criminal. The process of deciding these elements is quick and simple, ensuring it doesn’t detract from actually playing the game but creates a more customised experience.

The gameplay will be extremely familiar to those who have played the previous incarnations. Shooting, driving and controlling your character has the same feel and fluidity that have made the series so playable since it went 3D.

Other elements are also identical to what has gone before. The stars that reflect your ‘wanted’ level by the police, the ability to perfect your aim at the shooting range at Ammu-Nation, and yes, if you so wish, the option to pick up prostitutes.

Perhaps mindful of pushing new boundaries in the series, there are more in-game activities available to your characters than ever before. Gamers can take Michael for a round of golf, play tennis with Franklin and his wonderfully inept friend Lamar and even try their luck at a triathlon. While this feature of the game is entertaining - the activities on offer are not sufficiently complex and challenging for prolonged enjoyment. This particular gamer made it through two holes before the golf club was used for hitting something other than a ball. They may come into their own when the online element of the game is launched on October 1, but having been prominently featured in the official trailers for the game, they were a disappointment.

Despite all the violence, the humour in GTA has given the series a unique charm - and the most recent instalment excels in this area. Among some highlights are Franklin’s dog Chops being distracted during a mission to go and copulate with a stray, watching an oddly familiar English accented judge on the TV show Fame and Shame and taking a visit to the offices of social media company ‘Lifeinvader’ - complete with posters on the wall with slogans such as ‘Keep calm and carry on sharing’.

GTA V has all the elements that stood the series apart from rival titles. From the humour to the gameplay and the soundtrack to the imaginative missions. When set against the incredible backdrop of Los Santos – a flawless experience ensues. Where previous titles in the series have been labelled ‘game changers’, this feels more like GTA doing what it does best. More risks could have been taken by the developers - a female lead character perhaps - but that aside, it is the finest game in arguably the greatest series ever made.

The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
Life and Style

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Software Developer

    £35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

    Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

    £35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

    Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

    £30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

    Senior Change Engineer (Windows, Linux, VMWare) - London £35k

    £30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

    Day In a Page

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past