Grand Theft Auto V Review: A stunning triumph, one of the greatest games ever made
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Marrying gameplay brilliance to compelling characters and a world matched only in size by the number of things you can do in it, Grand Theft Auto V is a masterpiece--one of the greatest games ever made.
- Enthralling gameplay, with refined shooting and driving
- Breathtaking world with hundreds of ways to occupy hundreds of hours
- Thrilling story, with memorable characters and performances
- No custom music playback
- One particularly gratuitous scene
In fact, the allure of wealth is the primary motivator for all three characters throughout the game's 30-hour story. It's all about the score, the next big take, for these career thieves, and a series of progressively more challenging and complex heists are memorable narrative cornerstones. Each heist puts a varying degree of choice in your hands, from the mission's fundamental plan to which extra crew members to hire and what getaway car to use. Pre-heist procurement and setup missions can be challenging, monotonous, or a casual breeze, but all build to an inevitable climax of intense spectacle--or quiet, nervous execution, if you chose a more subtle approach. And because there are so many things to spend money on, from exotic cars to property and weapon upgrades, the consequences of your pre- and mid-heist choices are felt. If you opt to hire a less-experienced gunman because he asks for a smaller cut of the take, you'll need to try extra hard to protect him during the inevitable shootout, lest you end up with one less guy for carrying out the money. Your window of time for smashing up a jewelry store is only as good as the hacker keeping the alarms at bay. If Trevor's Shooting skill isn't up to snuff, you'll spend more time making your escape with cash bags that lose money by the second.
As if Grand Theft Auto V's scope wasn't already astounding, some of the best heist crew members can only be hired after you've met them through side encounters. Meanwhile, the cash rewards from races, smuggling missions, and other activities can be a necessary supplement for weaponry and car mods that could push a heist, or any mission, to success. You're encouraged to explore the world and make use of resources outside of main story missions. Few missions are hard enough to give you trouble beyond two or three retries, but a great performance can yield more money and better mission medals. The latter, new to the series, grade effort with bronze, silver, or gold accolades based on optional objectives that are only made known after you've completed a mission for the first time. Mission replays will be necessary for PS3 trophy enthusiasts.
Mission medals are far from the only new feature in Grand Theft Auto V, and after 40 hours with the game, I know there's so much more to see and discover. An in-game stock market offers investment opportunities and responds to events (say, the assassination of a tech company CEO) spurred by the player. Purchased properties offer return on investment, management missions, or a place to save the vehicles you acquire. Many of the game's collectibles are tied to characters and stories that offer narrative context for finding, say, 50 spaceship parts, or letter scraps left behind by a serial killer. A 9-hole golf mini-game rivals the mechanical depth of full-fledged golf games. Unique special abilities, one for each playable character, can turn the tide of a shootout or car chase. You can play tennis, rob a liquor store, and convince strippers to go home with you. Submarines can be piloted to the impressively detailed ocean floor. Franklin can play fetch with a Rottweiler named Chop.