“Grand” Billion Dollar Baby

In a jaw dropping, yet not entirely unexpected, launch for the highly anticipated fifth enstallment to the Grand Theft Auto series, Rockstar broke  industry sales records, earning 800 million dollars within the first 24 hours of the title’s launch. Within three days, “GTA V” earned Rockstar one billion dollars.

Courtesy of Rockstar Games

Courtesy of Rockstar Games

These sales numbers are attributed in no small part to the overall quality of the game itself, being highly immersive and incredibly dynamic throughout.

“Grand Theft Auto V” wastes no time in diving into the first heist, with heists being the central focus of the game’s progression. In conducting these missions, the player assumes the roles of protagonists Michael De Santa, Trevor Phillips and Franklin Clinton in the game’s sprawling counterpart to modern Los Angeles: Los Santos.

The main plot is unlike that of any other entry to the franchise, allowing the player to switch between three main characters on the fly, all of which are effectively developed through the side and primary missions of the game.

The city of Los Santos is masterfully crafted, with streets and locations meticulously created to mirror its real life equivalent. From the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame to the Santa Monica Pier, the game replicates such places in its own fashion, Hollywood being changed to Vinewood and so on.

While the game maintains a constant pace with the story’s development via heists, they are far from repetitive for the player may choose different ways to approach a mission. Selecting the right crew members for a theft, as well as mission approach, becomes integral.

This adds a more-than-welcome depth to the game, providing the player with a well deserved sense of satisfaction when a mission is successfull and a sense of wonder as to what heist may be tackled next. No two heists are identical, and each is more enjoyable to play than the last.

Those same feelings of satisfaction and wonder are then carried on into the game’s remaining side missions and storylines, of which there exist enough to overwhelm the player with opportunities.

The player is granted the ability to do almost anything anywhere to anyone, yet this unfortunately includes completely mundane activities such as running triathalons or riding bicycles.

Like all well-written titles in the videogame industry, a swift connection is made to the game’s entire cast, the voice acting is exceptional, and the quality of each character’s interactions with one another adds to the amazing experience that is this sandbox’s story.

The gameplay mechanics are vastly improved this time around, and the driving and shooting mechanics are much crisper than that of the seemingly “drunk” movements in “GTA IV.” Each playable character becomes available with improvable stats, ranging anywhere from shooting to driving skills.

The game does not extend the crisp nature of vehicle movement to helicopters and planes, however. Despite having the flying stat completely maximized, the controls still felt offputting, and a smooth landing was almost impossible without nearly killing myself attempting to align with a runway or helipad. Other stats immediately contribute improvement when maxed out in contrast.

Graphically, “GTA V” delivers. Despite the sheer size of its world (and initial data install), the textures remain smooth and in certain moments beautiful. A level of hyper-realism is introduced in the title’s shifting weather and thriving cityscape.

Overall, from its opening to its resonant and near perfect conclusion, “GTA V” stands as Rockstar’s crowning achievement.