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Well after four years of teasing, Rockstar Games, finally delivers their pride and joy, Grand Theft Auto 5.  Was it worth the wait?  Does it compare to its highly acclaimed predecessor, Grand Theft Auto 4?  Are people as outraged as they have been with Rockstar’s previous installments?  Well, in short, I’d have to say yes and then some.

Rockstar pulled out all the stops to creating GTA 5.  By spending about $265 million dollars to develop the game, Rockstar made history by making GTA 5 the most expensive video game ever made.  But Rockstar more than made up for that steep budget by just how commercially successful the game was.  GTA 5 broke industry sales records by earning $800 million in its first 24 hours of release and $1 billion within its first three days, making it the fastest selling entertainment product in history.

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The Story

GTA 5’s story centers around three characters, Michael, Trevor and Franklin.  Criminals whose stories interconnect as they complete missions.  While playing the game, players can switch between each character at will by simply selecting the character with the directional pad.  Each character pertains to a certain part of the city: Franklin to the north, Michael to the west, and Trevor to the east and the players multiplayer avatar to the south.  During some missions, the game may automatically switch to another character in order to perform certain objectives.  Throughout the game, the player will be required to plan and perform heists and will often need the help of additional AI-controlled accomplices.  These accomplices can be picked during the planning stage and sometimes you will be able to have accomplices that you have helped in other missions join you.  If the accomplices survive, they will permanently gain more skills that will help you on your next heist.

Each of the main characters that you play as are completely different from the other.  Michael was once a big time thief and heist planner back in his prime but now is bored with his dysfunctional family and constantly reminisces about the good old days.  Franklin is stuck in the hood and the hood lifestyle.  All he really wants to do is get away from all of that and make a name for himself.  Then there’s Trevor, a psychotic, practically insane, meth dealer and producer who lives out in the outskirts of town.  Michael and Trevor have a history and Trevor is determined to right wrongs that Michael has caused, no matter who gets in his way.

The story is truly phenomenal.  Throughout the entire game, there was never a dull moment.  Whether I was repossessing cars that were just sold to naive customers, or I was sent out to assassinate key CEOs of companies so that the games stock market leaned in my favor; I truly enjoyed every story mission that came my way.  It truly appears that Rockstar has learned many things from their previous games and combined all of those elements and threw them into GTA 5.  Elements such as the random events that occur as you travel through the city which was first seen in Rockstar’s western game “Red Dead Redemption,” to the facial expressions and motion capture that went into the characters faces, which was used as one of the main selling points to Rockstar’s 1950’s detective game “LA Noir.”  Even the characters remind me of characters from Rockstar’s previous GTA games.  Michael resembles the main character from “GTA: Vice City,” Franklin is very similar to CJ in “GTA: San Andreas,” and Trevor reminds me of the main character from GTA 4’s biker gang downloadable content “The Lost and Damned.”

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Controls and Graphics

The game runs smoove.  As smoove as butter.  The amazing thing is that there are no loading screens between areas.  Everything just loaded in the background so that the player could stay engaged and immersed in the GTA 5 world.  Controls were also spot on.  No longer are there aiming woes that used the plague the earlier GTA installments.  Thanks to the lock on system, all you have to do to aim your weapon is pull the left rigger and push the right thumbstick in the direction of who you want to aim at.  The game will do the rest. The games cover system is also much improved.  By running up to a wall and pressing the right bumper, the character will automatically take cover against the wall and by pressing which way you want to go and the right bumper, the character can easily jump between cover positions.

The graphics are nothing short of gorgeous, but her is where I have my one, very tiny, only gripe.  It could just because I played the game on a console but there were times when the graphics would take a while to render.  It could just be because of the games massive scale and the amount of processing it takes to run the game.  I think my xbox 360 was just being pushed to its limit.  Luckily the new consoles are on their way and we won’t have to worry.  When the graphics were rendering like they were suppose to, the game looks flawless.  It actually seems and feels like a real living city.  People on the street are all going about their business and sometimes stop and talk with others.  This also brings up Rockstar’s new physics engine they created for the game.  The “Rockstar Engine” helped the developers make all of the games physics seem as realalistic as possible.  If you run into a pole with your car, your car’s hood will dent and fold, your windows will break, all the same way they would in real life.  If you get hit by a car, your character will realistically flop to the ground in pain.  It all is truly amazing how much detail and effort Rockstar put into their work.

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Summery

Overall, GTA 5 is pretty much near perfect.  Unfortunately, GTA Online has been having some difficulties since its launch two weeks after GTA 5 released.  Most of these issues are server issues and for a game of such size and popularity, I kind of figured the servers would crash due to the sheer number of people all trying to get on at the same time.  There is so much wrapped into this game that it is definitely worth your $60.  Not to mention all of the original music that was created just for the game by some of today’s most popular artists in all sorts of different genres.  As soon as GTA Online is all fixed up and running, this game will be a shining example of what can be accomplished in a video game.  I highly recommend getting this game.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go rob a virtual liquor store.

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