SYSTEM: Sony PlayStation 3 (Xbox 360)
ESRB RATING: Mature
REVIEW RATING: 5.0 stars (out of 5)
"GTA 3" may not have been the first 3-D open sandbox game, but for most players it was the first experience they had with the genre. Since then, the series has become so wildly popular that many people actually call in sick to work whenever a new game is released. Now "Grand Theft Auto V" has been unleashed, and it's by far the best open sandbox game available on any system.
Unlike past games in the series, the plot for "GTA V" is both deep and convoluted. For starters, players are able to play three different characters and switch between them. Most of the time each character does his own thing, but sometimes they team up to perform dangerous yet profitable heists. Eventually, they will be pitted against each other, and it's up to the player to decide how the final events play out.
Players begin by playing Franklin, who is a street-wise gangbanger that yearns for more than basic hustling. His specialty is stealing cars and driving with expertise. In fact, Franklin can even slow down time while driving to give him additional finesse when maneuvering through tricky situations.
Michael is a retired bank robber who tries to lead a "normal" life with his family. Unfortunately for him, his wife's exorbitant spending forces him back into the criminal lifestyle. Michael specializes in deadly gunplay, and his special ability slows down time in gunfights, letting him take out multiple enemies at once.
Trevor is a drug-abusing, unstable redneck whose psychotic actions are hilarious in-game, but I wouldn't want to know anyone like him in real life. Trevor specializes in drugs and weapons, and his special ability allows him to deal double damage while only taking half-damage from enemies.
All three thugs do their dirty work in and around the sprawling city of Los Santos, which is an impressive locale to say the least! Not only is the city gigantic, but it also sports a multitude of unique buildings that can eventually be used as recognizable landmarks. In addition, Los Santos features a wide variety of scenic locations that range from open sandy shores to crowded city blocks.
Each character has their own missions to perform, and some missions team the troublesome trio together for highly profitable heists. There are also many optional missions and activities to keep budding gangsters busy such as playing the stock market and robbing jewelry stores. Players can even engage in sports like golf, darts and skydiving. Fortunately, one of my favorite activities from former games, launching vehicles off of per-determined ramps, makes a welcome comeback.
I also love how performing logical activities heightens the skills of each character. For example, achieving headshots and using the firing range improves the shooting skill, high-speed driving and performing stunts increases the driving skill, and so on. This lets player tailor their gaming experience for a more personal adventure.
It's just too bad that random bugs tarnish the experience. On numerous occasions, I saw vehicles partially embedded in the ground and sometimes they even got stuck on random objects. In addition, several pedestrians became stuck in repeated animations. These flaws don't ruin the experience, but they definitely detract from the immersion the rest of the game provides.
"Grand Theft Auto V" may not be perfect, but the deep game play makes it easy to overlook the flaws.
REVIEW SCORING SYSTEM
5 stars = Must Have
4 stars = Very Good
3 stars = Above Average
2 stars = Bargain Bin
1 star = Don't Bother
Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB)
E10+: (Everyone 10 and older)
T: Teen (13 and older)
M: Mature (17 and older)
To find out more about Jeb Haught and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.