More than five years later, it has all added up to this. Rockstar has finally released a new instalment in its open-world crime simulator, and this time, you play three protagonists instead of just one. We spent a few hours, and while it’s not exactly enough time for a review of a game this big, we decided to give you a preliminary look at how it has shaped up.
One of the first things you’ll notice when you start up the game and go through the hefty (and slow) 8GB install is the revamped interface. Rockstar has taken hints from all of its other games, incorporating the weapon selection from the likes of Red Dead Redemption and Max Payne 3. The same radial menu is also available for when you want to change the radio station.
Much-improved shooting controls make gunfights actually fun for a change
Weapon controls have been revamped too. It still has the classic GTA lock-on system, but it has been improved a lot. Instead of being a chore (like in GTA4), the combat is actually fun this time. This, coupled with the new animations for the characters, make any shootout feel alive. Movement feels fluid and gameplay is fast. The smoothness of the animations help make fights feel dynamic despite combat itself being overall slower than Max Payne 3.
Of course, with a name like Grand Theft Auto, you’ll want to know how the cars work. Gone are the pseudo-realistic and clunky vehicle controls of GTA4. Rockstar has taken the game to its arcade-y roots with high speeds and quick hairpin turns. The vehicle controls feel reminiscent of Rockstar’s own open-world racing game Midnight Club: Los Angeles.
Driving is much better than it was in GTA4
The story doesn’t start out as slow as it did in GTA4. Its pacing is more akin to San Andreas with a heist at the start and a medium-paced build-up to the three major protagonists eventually crossing paths and teaming up. Mission structure is quite different from other games, and this is in no small part thanks to the ability to switch between characters. An early moment provides an apt example (and tutorial) for this mechanic where a guy sneaks up on one of the characters from behind and holds him hostage at gunpoint. At this point, you can switch to another character that can simply shoot the guy.
Have I mentioned how big the world is yet? It’s huge. Despite spending half an hour doing nothing but driving around the city, I seem to have only uncovered a small portion of it. This is testament to the sheer scale of the game. Rockstar had promised that we’d be given a huge world to play in, and the company did not disappoint.
The sheer size of the world is jaw-dropping
True to its heritage, GTA5 has amazing music. With so many radio stations spanning across almost every major genre, everyone will undoubtedly find music that they like. I personally stuck to the Los Santos Rock Radio station, which is DJ’d by Kenny Loggins. Running over pedestrians while listening to Queen's Radio Ga Ga, Gerry Rafferty's Baker Street or Def Leppard's Photograph has its own charm.
It may be too quick to call GTA5 the refresh that open-world games desperately needed, but so far, the game seems to be heading in the right direction.
Platforms: PlayStation 3 (tested), Xbox 360