Grand Theft Auto V: As We Play

As we play offers the thought strands of the reviewer as they’re going through the game. This offers unique content for the reader so they can come to understand the conflicting feelings of the reviewer as they’re playing a game for the very first time.

All feedback on this concept is welcome.

Prepare for a week long, constantly updated As We Play. We will also be offering multiple points of view on this overview from various members of Expansive staff and including your comments.

Stay tuned to this post for regular updates.

As You Play…

As Tom Plays..

As Andrew Plays..

 …As Ray Plays…

Rockstar know how to make an entrance

As the hype train suggests, GTA V is full of the same brass and bravado one can expect from a Grand Theft Auto game. Rockstar North just know how to make an instant impact. They know how to set the tone of the game immediately. They know how to elicit equal measures anger and intrigue. You’ll feel just a little bit repulsed you’re taking part in a bank heist, but at the same time compelled, eager to learn how this point was reached and desperate to learn more about the masked assailants you’re in charge of.

They also realise that not every game has to have a fucking title screen.

One minute and i’m sucked in.

A nod to LA Noire?

I think some of that facial tech from LA Noire has been used here, though characters don’t appear quite as expressive. Yet! I could totally go for some LA Noire esque missions in GTA. Using an NPC’s emotions to gauge whether they’d be a good fit for a gang, or if they’re hiding something from the player. Probably wishful thinking on my part, but we’ll see!

Cover and shoot

Thank Thor Rockstar finally got the GTA cover and shoot mechanic right. Past games have felt so clunky and haphazard, but this is already feels smooth and comfortable. The auto-snap works quickly and precisely. Cover doesn’t expose the player and won’t leave them vulnerable.  Totally how it should be.

I’m also a big fan of switching between characters. Being held hostage as one character, then being able to flick and click the D-Pad, assume another persona then fire the bullet that frees the captive character is a stroke of genius. This concept could work for so many other franchises and could totally change the sandbox game all over again. It’s unquestionably going to offer some exciting mission possibilities.

Rockstar, I could give you a big fat, wet, sloppy kiss right now.

That Dialogue

Yes, that dialogue. Punchy, witty, thought provoking. People always take the game at face value. People assume Grand Theft Auto is all about hijacking cars. It’s about robbing banks. Killing innocents and starting riots. Yeah, sure, the core gameplay in the missions does encourage wanton destruction, but the magic of the franchise is in how Rockstar create a character. The opening scene with Michael puts him right under psychological scrutiny. He’s got millions in the bank. He’s got a family, a beautiful house overlooking the beach. He’s ‘living the dream’, yet he feels lonely and empty. He feels as if he has no one to talk to and the bottom of his world has fallen out.

In the opening sequence, we learn more about Michael as one of three protagonists in a brief few minutes than most games manage to accomplish with one lead across thirty hours.

Say what you want about Grand Theft Auto, but that is hugely impressive.

The crossover between changing character perspectives is also seamless and spot-on. Both personalities are so very different that it creates a fascinating early parallel. Nicely played.

Franklin doesn't like you. Or me.

Franklin doesn’t like you. Or me.

Mission Parameters

Bit of a fan of the mission stats and development perks. It adds a real flavour of replayability for nuts who want to 100% everything and show off their skills on Social Club. Obviously a lot of the online elements aren’t fully formed yet but you can definitely see how the future of the game can expand. Get a bronze on a mission because you crash the car too many times or kill a civilian, there’s inspiration to return and go for gold. I like that.

And while performing certain actions in game in order to level up the experience of a character isn’t new, it’s nice to see the mechanic make a proper return to form. I’m still a big fan of what Rockstar did with San Andreas; allowing CJ to get fat when eating too much fast-food, forcing the player to keep him active in order to make sure he is in peak physical condition. While that’s not playing so much of a role here, Franklin can evolve traits such as stamina, strength and stealth. It’s not as in your face as San Andreas, but GTA V has definitely taken cues from the PS2 classic more than GTA IV. That already gives it double brownie points in my book.

But on a graphical note

After playing GTA V for two or so hours, I think the high-res screenshots make the game look better than when you’re actually playing it. GTA V isn’t an ugly game, far from it. But i’d be lying if I didn’t say that the look has underwhelmed me ever so slightly. To be fair, i’ve not really ventured far outside of my objectives, so I’ve not had the opportunity to look at the panoramic beauty that’s sure to come. This is still one of the most beautiful games to appear on current-gen, but GTA V challenges these consoles so hard and really exposes the need for the next evolution.

I’m also really fed up with the way Rockstar characters interact with the environment. Still randomly destroying things just by walking into them and the character model not reacting in anyway. It’s clumsy, dated and lazy. I know its been a staple of the games since GTA 3, but haven’t we moved on from that yet? I just find it so strange. Rockstar put all this time and effort into painstakingly creating a world, putting powerful, emotive dialogue in their character’s mouths and making sure the handling and physics of the cars is so right and the shooting is sharp and precise. But they can’t make their character react a bit more realistically with environmental collisions? If I bang into a desk, I’m damn sure gonna keel forwards. I may even crumple to the ground.

Perhaps i’m just not as hard as Franklin?

All that said, take a look at this Vine submitted by @McKirk – It sort of invalidates my above point.

Returning to the fray

Really appreciate the game happening in the background. I sign in to hear Franklin tell me he’s been drinking but he ain’t gonna drink no more. Rockstar want to emphasise the life going on after you leave the GTA World. Even if i am left with a pisshead on heist duty.

Ugh…Racing…

As much as I’m behind the cover and shoot system, the racing remains as frustrating as ever. The cars only need the slightest tap to send them spinning and taking on tight corners in street races really doesn’t help that fact. The first real race in the game and I’m already beating my head against the controller. This won’t end well…

20 tries later. I beat the first race. Yeah, the first. Making this 100% ain’t going to be easy. Or pretty.

Somebody saaaaave me

Oh, man. The saving system is so much better. Always hated having auto-saving after missions or significant events in GTA, but just opening the phone and tapping a button makes sure your game is always secure. About time!

No, they din’t…

Di…did GTA V just rib on Saints Row 4 with one of its cranky, mysterious stranger missions? Yeah, I think it did. One minute Michael is chatting to this street vendor, the next he’s smoking the shit and gone all Saints Row levels of crazy. Hah!

Volition have taken potshots as and where they can, but this is something new for Rockstar, though it’s a joke that wears a bit thin after the initial 30 second surprise. Something Volition is very clever about avoiding, by the way.

Of course Rockstar do humour. They even do ribbing quite well, but this joke fell flat fast. Still, it gave me a little chuckle.

In the hood

Just me sick of listening to ghetto lingo? Don’t know what it is, I’m not a fan of the lingo much anyway but it seems overly excessive and even forced in GTA V. Listening to Franklin converse with his crew is actually making me cringe and distancing me from the game just slightly. I almost want to skip his missions because I’m so tired of listening to these guys talk about respect and turf. I truly think the struggles of the hood have been done to death in games of this type, and not only do I expect it, I find myself switching off during cutscenes.

I really wish Rockstar had mixed things up and given me someone to care about or tried a new type of protagonist. I’d rather spend time with Chop than listen to these guys babble on..

Heisty

The Heist is an excellent addition to GTA. The missions no longer feel like pointless A to B errands that take you all over the city. Everything feels like it has a purpose. That it’s building towards a conclusion. While I’m not entirely sold on the characters (Franklin especially) the story is moving at a nice, engaging pace. Better than I’ve seen from any prior GTA.

Thank Thor for Trevor

Oh, Trevor. You loveable, crazy, sadistic bastard you. If Franklin and Michael embody everything we know about GTA characters already, Trevor spits in the proverbial face and curb stomps those perceptions into dust. He’s got zero redeemable qualities and you know damn well you shouldn’t like him, but you can’t quite stop yourself from laughing at his outrageous antics and overbearing dialogue. He offers an entirely different perspective on this game. Exactly what it needs. Precisely when it needs it.

About the author

Ray Willmott

Ray is the founder and editor of Expansive. He is also a former Community Manager for Steel Media, and has written for a variety of gaming websites over the years. His work can be seen on Pocket Gamer, PG.biz, Gfinity, and the Red Bull Gaming Column. He has also written for VG247, Videogamer, GamesTM, PLAY, and MyM Magazine,