Easily the most anticipated and most hyped video game release of the year, Rockstar’s GTA V is actually the 15th title in the series and the first since 2009’s The Ballad Of Gay Tony. It’s been a long time in the making, having been first announced in 2011. No matter whether you’re a gamer or not, you’ve probably seen the multi-million euro ad campaign on a screen, billboard or bus near you. It has undoubtedly worked, as the first three days of sales saw GTA V become the fastest selling entertainment product of all time. But is it any good? Yes, yes and yes again.
Set in the seedy, sun-drenched highways and byways of Los Santos (a fictionalised version of LA), the game doesn’t just follow one protagonist, but three. We have Michael De Santa, a retired gangster who’s not above shoot-outs on the open road; Franklin Clinton, a young repo man who’s keen to make his mark on Los Santos’ underworld; and Trevor Philips, a gun-totin’ nut-job who makes The Sopranos seem tame by comparison. Our three anti-heroes’ stories interconnect as you make your way through the game, through a mixture of exploration and missions, both in car and on foot.
The three leads are superb, each with their strengths and, of course, foibles, but there’s another character that’s just as important: the city of Los Santos itself, which is a huge, sprawling metropolis, complete with upmarket mansions, low-rent projects, gang-ran lock-ups and, of course, a seedy strip club where you can enjoy the dubious delights of a virtual lapdance (and even get roughly evicted for being too, ahem, hands-on). As well as the city itself, there are also a number of interesting towns to explore on its outskirts.
The ability to switch between three playable characters, however, is the biggest innovation and, far from being a gimmick, it works incredibly well, particularly for some of the stunning set-pieces, including the best heists ever committed to video game.
Even aside from the missions, there’s plenty to keep you occupied, as you find yourself playing tennis, studying yoga or taking part in a street race at various locations in town, as well as changing your appearance regularly at the barbers – a good goatee could mean the difference between being recognised by the cops or not. Add in the usual array of GTA bells and whistles (multiple radio stations, superb voice acting, great ancillary characters, hilarious ad campaigns etc) and you have a huge, sprawling crime epic that’s equal parts Breaking Bad and The Fast and the Furious.
Platform: PS3, X360