Five years after Grand Theft Auto IV took an HD bite out of the Big Apple comes the boldest, brashest and silliest GTA ever. The game broke records, taking in $800 million on opening day. Reviews have been raves (with one slight issue, see No. 2 below) and earlier this week, Los Santos went online with GTA Online! Unlike the single player game you can actually play as a female, more in that below.
Back to the main story mode: So far we've clocked in over 26 hours and we're only at 34 percent on the 100 percent completion meter.
Online or not there's plenty do in Rockstar's latest version of Los Angeles.
1. Welcome to Los Santos: Said to the bigger than the previous GTAs and Red Dead Redemption combined, the world is huge. Front and center is Los Santos, which is basically, Los Angeles with numerous landmarks: the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood (or known here as "Vinewood"), the Beverly Center, downtown Pershing Square even the famous Carney's train-car diner makes an appearance.
Missions and general mayhem are easier than ever with a very forgiving checkpoint system. Even better, the missions feel organic not tedious or generic. You'll also be waking up in a morgue, and later rappelling down a skyscraper!
2. For Better (and Slightly Worse): V is exclusively, a dude's club. For the first time in the series, GTA's storyline follows 3 men: middle-aged former criminal Michael, repo man/aspiring criminal Franklin and Trevor, a meth dealer, addict and all-around psychopath. "T" is the guy who gets things done by any means necessary. Whether he's talking about the plight of the worker bee, the idiocy of the liberal elite or the hypocrisy of the military complex he's often hilarious. As funny as he is, we prefer to hang out with Michael who, in another first for the series, has a wife and two kids and is already wealthy at the start. His bonding moments with his millennial brat Jimmy (who sports an "entitled" tattoo) are awesome.
The biggest new feature is the ability switch between the 3 men on the fly. Dropping in an out of their lives delivers unexpected results—for starters, why is Trevor in area full of dead bodies?
On the downside, since there's no playable female character, all the women in Los Santos come across as petty, hysterical and foolish. The men are just as superficial, but since we never see things from a woman's POV there is a feeling of sexism throughout.
3. The Driving Rocks: One of the knock's that players had with GTA IV: the "floaty" nature of the vehicles. Rockstar took the complaints seriously: The new cars handle like a dream, feeling more grounded (though just as fast and furious) to handle hairpin turns. You could just cab it, or take public transportation, but this is modeled after L.A., so driving is preferable. A new feature on the radio gives song titles. Nothing beats Stevie Wonder's "Skeletons" vibe as you cruise through the hi-def Grove Street.
4. Choose Heists Wisely: After raking in a cool billion in two days, GTA V is the biggest debut for an entertainment product ever. You'll get to tailor your own schemes to bring in a haul in the hundreds of millions. Do you want to go in loud and dumb, guns blazing? Then make sure you've got a crew that can survive a Michael Mann-style shootout. Or maybe choose the quieter, smarter route which means less money to the gunmen, but a bigger take for a skilled hacker. The choice is yours. Most likely you'll want to do both. V allows you to replay any mission, so try everything!
5. The Sky's Literally the Limit: Open world sandbox games thrive on all the crazy things that you do when you're not involved in story missions. A lot of the time this amounts to mini-games that get old fast. V has plenty to do that feel like full-fledged games themselves. Like any retired fat cat, Michael is a tennis pro, but yoga is tricky for him. Mountain biking is postcard scenic. As in previous GTA outings, flying planes is way easier than those still hard-to-control helicopters. Then there's the water sports: Jet Skis, swimming and a fully operational one-man submarine for Trevor. Or maybe just hang with Franklin while he teaches his dog new tricks.
Have you already finished the main story mode? Did it live up to the hype? Sound off in the comments!