When “Grand Theft Auto III” hit the scene over a decade ago, it changed the gaming landscape forever. Its open-world nature has inspired games as varied and diverse as “Saint’s Row” and “Red Dead Redemption.” It’s even worked its influence into franchises such as “Fallout” or “The Elder Scrolls.” Now, Rockstar is bringing the franchise back to end the current gaming generation on a high note with its most ambitious project yet: “Grand Theft Auto V.”
The latest and greatest twist to the “Grand Theft Auto” formula may end up being one of the more significant mechanics to be introduced to the open-world genre. The player controls three protagonists, alternating between them on his or her own terms. This gives the game an almost co-op feel without feeling intrusive. With three characters open to solve the many problems the story presents, the game feels very rewarding to creative players.
The game literally opens with a bang: a heist by two of our three leads almost a decade before the main campaign’s events. The new three-protagonist mechanics are gracefully introduced in this opening sequence. The scene acts as an incredible way to introduce the mechanics, and the developers did a fantastic job of making them feel natural almost instantly.
After that, the story follows the lives of Michael, one of the robbers who’s now retired under witness protection; Trevor, the other robber who’s psychopathic and violent; and Franklin, a repo man who meets and becomes good friends with Michael as the game unfolds.
The story is fairly par for the course of a “Grand Theft Auto” game, but these wonderful characters make the story all the more compelling.
However, that’s nothing compared to the game’s greatest character: the city itself. The people feel real, the buildings feel real, the atmosphere feels real — everything here feels real, even with the relatively low graphical quality of current-gen consoles. This is a world that lives and breathes with activity and personality, with almost too many things to do. The game handily borrows the best elements from the series, from the RPG elements from “San Andreas” to the heist missions from “Grand Theft Auto IV.” There’s a dizzying amount of things to do and participate in.
Again, that’s par for the course of a “Grand Theft Auto” title. But in this case, “par for the course” is all players will need. Fusing old mechanics with incredibly engaging new ones, this is the current magnum opus of the open-world genre. And for a series about crime, refusing to pick up this latest entry may be the greatest crime of all.
Note: Consumers are advised to pick up the physical, retail versions of “Grand Theft Auto V,” because the digital versions contain many graphical glitches and bugs that may not be patched for a long time. Unless they get patched, stick to the discs.
Title: “Grand Theft Auto V”
Developer: Rockstar North
Platform: 360, PS3