The core mechanics that have been on display since the very first 3D GTA, GTA III. Missions are laid out throughout the map along with other points of interest.. The first few introduce you to the game mechanics; driving, shooting, movement, you get the gist. One of the new additions to player control are the special ‘abilities’ that each of the characters possess. Franklin can concentrate and up his responsiveness whilst driving, providing some advantage when you’re being pursued by the pesky cops or racing around the city. Michael can also slow down the world around him and focus his efforts on firearms, not unlike John Marston in Red Dead Redemption. Trevor’s ability allows him to go into a feral rage allowing you to run around like a crazy fool dealing and taking more damage than usual. They work well and don’t feel tacked on or more importantly, overpowered. You have to earn the right to use the abilities, whether it be straight up murder a bunch of folks, perform daring drifts or take out enemies (or civilians if you’re so inclined…) with headshots.
The new-first person in GTA V is a bit hit and miss at times. Driving around the city through the eyes of your character is really good fun, looks great and lends a tad more realism to the over-the-top parody-ridden romp. However, I still found myself moving back to the familiar third-person when I was required to pursue a target or when there were far too many of the terminator-esque boys in blue chasing me down.
The same holds true with the gunplay and general combat. It works well, but it still feels a little bit raw around the edges, especially with GTA V’s default cross hair settings, but it fares a little better when switched out to the bigger, more traditional cross hairs. Whether GTA V can be played all the way through using the first-person mode is something I don’t think I can fairly comment on, I struggled to stay alive in crucial situations and was again forced to opt for the traditional third-person mode. I suppose it could be just because I’ve been so used to playing GTA V from the third-person that the new mode will take a bit more getting used to. Still, it’s a nice addition by Rockstar and it’s obvious they’ve taken on board what fans have been asking for and it should make multiplayer a little more competitive.
Gameplay in general is just as tight as the original release with missions playing out superbly, whether they’re the big heists that require you to complete a series of smaller jobs leading up to the main event, or just your bog-standard point-to-point event. Some of the games missions will dictate how you play whilst others will allow a little more freedom, but be under no illusion, this is a scripted story and you’ll be forced to follow the beaten path more often than not.
The real freedom comes from the huge open world that’s provided. You don’t have to go along with the narrative if you don’t feel like it, you’re free to explore the biggest GTA map to date with no limitations and where you can go due to the game taking place on one island instead of the traditional three.
Some of the finest moments come from the unscripted and unexpected events that occur. I was driving around, minding my own business when out of nowhere a speeding ambulance smacked into the side of my vehicle, tipped itself over and crushed three members of the public to death. I had to laugh out loud, it was hilarious! It’s these small moments that make beating the streets of Los Santos an experience and not a chore.
One of my personal favourite ways of moving around the map is through the air, most of the time in a jumbo jet. Flight is still a little off at times, especially when helicopters are involved. It’s still as awkward as ever trying to engage in combat and maintain steady control, but that’s something evolution will have to take care of; we just don’t have that many thumbs, yet.
Once you’ve finished the main campaign and scouted out the side-missions and completed them, or at least attempted to, there’s not a lot else to do. Taking on the big city and the desolate mountains are fun for a while, but the appeal soon wears off an it becomes apparent that a vast amount of the game world is nothingness. The big city of Los Santos is well populated and if you’re bored and fancy a cop-chase or just to play some mini-games, it’s easy enough. Once you move out of the city and into the desert, that’s when things take a turn. Outside of the missions there’s not really much to keep you coming back to the Sandy Shores or it’s surroundings other than rounding up the collectibles. It’s unfortunate and it feels like it could have been avoided had Rockstar included the original three areas that were found in GTA: San Andreas.
There are very few shortfalls with GTA V’s gameplay and the transition to PS4 has been kind to the re-release. An enthralling campaign filled with some of the most exhilarating set-pieces will keep you entertained for hours. The largest GTA open-world to date is still a riot to run free in and cause mayhem, but exploring alone just isn’t the same fun as going at it with a few friends.
GTA V is available now for PS4 and Xbox One from Amazon.