|Review by PJ Hruschak|
A billion dollars. That is how much Grand Theft Auto V has already made in sales its first week. One billion. One game. Such an extreme about of money is only fitting since the game is about extremes.
There is so much to do in GTAV that it may actually be too much. The game is sometimes so realistic that it is occasionally too realistic. And you have to perform extreme acts of craziness.
Even so, for the second five hours of GTAV, I was able to settle into the game a bit more and get used to the hyper-realistic traffic , creepily plastic characters and learn to love drifting cars around corners.
DON’T MIND IF I SKI DOO
Following the game’s story a bit more, we learn that Michael’s family is truly dysfunctional, perhaps because of their father’s shady past and current inability to relate to normal people.
Or escape the ’80s.
Or some third thing.
Anyway, Michael eventually jumps a yacht once he learns that his daughter is hanging out with a bunch of guys making porn, Michael jumps a yacht, punches a few guys and takes off with his daughter on the GTA equivalent of a Ski Doo.
What ensues is a high-speed chase through the city’s many waterways which, as I’ll learn in the next five-hour chunk of play time, can be quite extensive.
Seems that Michael can also play a bit of tennis, one of the many games-within-the-game you can play.
Tennis, as well as running around town, helps build stamina, meaning they can run longer and faster throughout the game. Giving the characters unique attribute is rather nice, as it allows the game designers to disperse responsibilities across the characters when they partake in missions.
Likewise, there were several street races that unlocked for Franklin, which will also hone his driving skills and help tame the very floaty cars in the game. I find the controls frightfully frustrating most of the game, with nice cars being virtually undrivable. There is where the hand brake come sin especially handy, offering an easy way to drift around corners.
Here’s where the realism of the game kicks in a bit: AI traffic sucks. Cars sit at Stop signs way too long, pay attention to the red lights and hog the lanes. It often makes getting around town about as exciting as sitting in rush hour traffic. And, since the cops are almost hyper alert, driving along the sidewalk and clipping a pedestrian now means you’ll trigger at least one Cop Star (the pesky indication system that alerts you to how wanted you are by the Police – the more Cap Stars the more intense the Cops’ aggression).
BACK TO REALITY, KINDA
The game also includes Internet access through computers and via the iFruit phone.
Rockstar has also tied the iFruit app – for your real phone – into the game so you can sync things like dog training with the game. You can also visit the game’s pseudo-social network to view silly adverts and “Stalk” companies or people to earn in-game coupons. That alone makes it worth the effort since money seems especially difficult to earn (and each trip to the Hospital after being “Wasted,” i.e. killed, costs money).
Rumor is that some of the things you do online in the game also affect things that happen later. I’ll let you know when it does. In the real world, the iFruit app (notice the icon, essentially a big ol’ middle finger to Apple) allows you to train the dog – Chops – to do a few tricks which can then be used in GTAV.
I also watched a bit of TV and went to movie in the game at the theater. You’ll be quite surprised at the production value of both. Most of the TV shows are animated mini shows packed with silly innuendo. The movie I watched, however, was one of the weirdest bit of faux foreign film I’d seen in quite while that lasted at least 10, maybe 15 minutes. That’s a lot of value for an in-game movie that many people may never see, let alone sit through.
Even though I’ve stressed the game’s hyper realism, I have become a bit annoyed at the inability to talk to anyone. Maybe it’s because I recently played Diablo III, where you have to talk to pretty much everyone, but the open world of GTAV seems perfect for actual interactions. Instead, whenever you approach anyone, especially a group of pretty ladies, they insult you and dash off in disgust.
One of my pet peeves with CGI humans is when they look real enough to be fake. Yes, I understand that we’re used to seeing and interacting humans all day long that anything but the real thing seems odd. This uncanny valley, as the theory goes, means I cannot help but be a big creeped out. But that is not it. The people actually move pretty well (when not over rotoscoped) and look pretty good.
It’s the teeth.
The teeth on the characters are simply too white and noticeable when characters talk in the cutscenes.
|This one’s from GTA4. Same dental issues.|
They are so white with clear outlines that they do not match the rest of the body. At the wrong angles, the teeth create a weird inner shadow effect – although it’s not really a shadow – that makes the head look like it’s a hollow ball. If they toned, shrank and darkened the teeth just a little, it would do wonders for the overall look of the cut scenes. Sure, it’s a small thing but even the tiniest thing can make a huge difference.
GET BACK IN THE GAME, MAN
The game includes a lot of random missions as well as a few side special event missions. This is where I really began to have fun. The GTA series, at least for me, has been more about the stuff you can do on the side and around town that the story. Finding ramps, getting nookie and otherwise causing mayhem with little recourse was an enjoyable outlet.
Anyway, in one of the special event missions, a legalize weed advocate gives Michael a cigarette which launches an alien invasion. Yep, a grand hallucination that has you wielding a rail gun and taking down aliens before they abduct you. That was easily one of the best missions I’d experienced in the game so far. Fail the mission once, it’s worth it.
I also drove a pair of celebrity missions.
In one, as Franklin, I rescued a Myley Cyrus-esque style celebrity from paparazzi. About 30 minutes later, as Michael, I helped the paparazzi get a few beaver shots of her on the road. Both were hilarious and also paired back a little in terms of difficulty as compared to the main story missions.
I did not have much luck with the few random missions I happened across, mostly because they involved a single robber (purse snatcher) running down the sidewalk. Michael could not (yet) keep up and getting into a car and trying to run them down too way too long (to get the car) and was way to frustrating. Smashing through light posts, mailboxes and other sidewalk obstacles, as well as killing pedestrians, slowed or stopped the car and often resulted in a Cop Star which means I was now on the run. Bah.
This chunk of time is also when I learned to embrace some of the other features that proved to be uber helpful.
First there’s the Quick Save feature on the cell phone. Early in the game they teach you that you have to go home and use you bed to save. Forget that. Going home will simply send you into the next Story mission. Blech. Instead, use the Quick Save feature and save a bunch of time.
The game’s map is also key in getting around without aimlessly wandering. As with its predecessors, you can set Waypoints on the map to a destination so that a line will help guide you. While the GPS’s path is about as reliable as a real GPS, sometimes inconveniently changing the route or not being able to clearly mark the correct road (especially on the highway), it does save time especially when you need to make a B-line to the chop shop to escape the cops. Just don’t go home because now they follow you up the driveway.
THE NEXT FIVE
In this five-hour chunk, I was finally starting getting into a groove with the game where I experienced at least as much fun as frustration. Yeah, that is a lot of time to put into a gem before coming to those terms but, considering the massive content in the game (and that I’m about 9% through), that’s not too bad.
At the end of the first 10 hours with GTAV, I’m getting the feeling that I soon to meet dude number three, the crazy guy, so I can go on more complex missions. Or am I? I just took down a house. A mother friggin’ HOUSE.
I guess you’ll have to wait and read what happens next.