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
Unfortunately, the soundtracks of old are still in a league of their own, but Grand Theft Auto V blows its predecessor's radio offerings out of the water. The classic rock, all-time pop, hip-hop, and country stations are particular highlights. A few stations miss the mark with vague branding, but this is a respectable mix of tracks that shuns the obvious hits in favor of lesser-known gems. The game's original score, with understated synth and elevating beats, kicks into effect during crucial missions when, more often than not, in-car radio is turned off by default. In these and other cinematic moments, the original score was always a perfect fit, and I loved every second of the dramatic backdrop it offered. Still, with Grand Theft Auto V's increased reliance on and utilization of the cellphone popularized in IV, I'm disappointed that you can't use an app to sort playlists of your favorite in-game songs for customized playback. Sure, we'd be missing the game's stellar commercials and original programming, but these are fairly one-and-done delights. After first listen, most become obstacles to the songs we just want to hear again and again.
Of course, it's hard to nitpick over custom tracks when, frankly, I'm astonished that such a complex game can look this good and even run at all. In all but the most secluded locations, texture detail is excellent. Dynamic, motivated lighting bursts from expected sources, creating detailed shadows that perfectly mirror related animations. The draw distance is staggering, yet through all this visual complexity, Grand Theft Auto V runs remarkably well. Only in combat-heavy moments with lots of explosions do I notice framerate drops with any gameplay impact; for the most part, things stay remarkably smooth, and texture pop-in has been significantly reduced from past entries. Grand Theft Auto V is a technical marvel and a stunning showcase of late-gen graphics.
Indeed, Grand Theft Auto V is a stunning triumph in just about everything it attempts. Marrying gameplay brilliance to compelling characters and a world matched only in size by the number of things you can do in it, Rockstar's magnum opus gives this console generation the send-off it deserves. Hundreds of hours of incredible fun, thought-provoking commentary, and storytelling excellence await, but you should play Grand Theft Auto V for another reason. It is a masterpiece--one of the greatest games ever made.