I've been waiting all week to write about playing Grand Theft Auto V. While I have been playing a week full of Grand Theft Auto games, I've also been sneaking in GTA V whenever possible. Sure, all the older games were fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed my week, and while it was great to get the context I didn't already have for the series, they are all old games. Sure, the last game didn't look bad at all, and was actually quite enjoyable, but compared to the new hotness? Yeah, not even close.
Before I even jumped into the game myself, which I did get on release day, I watched my cousin play some. I sat there in awe, watching him play, which is quite odd considering that I usually don't like watching people play games. When I finally got to play the game myself, I realized that after a couple of hours, my experience was already drastically different than my cousin's.
Sure, the main story missions are the same, but the overall experience when you factor in the totally optional side missions and exploration of the massive world, it's mind blowing how different our games have developed.
When I say this map is massive, that is the understatement of the year. Taking place in the fictional city of Los Santos, which is modeled almost identically to Los Angeles, the city is breathtaking in both it's size and it's detail. As I watched the entire series develop over the course of the week, I saw the level of detail raise with each game, finally culminating in this masterpiece. When driving around, you can clearly see off into the distance of the city, or mountain range, or wherever it is you're looking, but instead of just being background details, what you see is actually ready for exploration. In the industry, they call this "draw distance," which effectively just defines how far in-game you can see of the environment that you are actually in. In GTA V, the draw distance is second to none.
There are details upon details in this game. Apartment buildings you think you would just drive past can actually be explored. They have no baring on the game at all, but Rockstar insisted on not keeping you from the open world experience as much as possible. You can find the Playboy mansion, which would be in cool in its own right, but they went a few steps further by totally recreating the actual mansion's grounds, from the famous grotto to the bunnies lounging by the pool and partying in the evening.
Another thing I have noticed is just how lively the city is. At any given time, you can encounter random acts and scenarios that sometimes lead to side missions, and sometimes are there for no other obvious reason than just because. When switching between your three characters, you will drop in on them as you take control, but rather than them just sitting around their house, they are actually living in the world. Sometimes they will be out driving, other times grabbing coffee, but always doing something. This keeps you engaged in the world you are playing in, as it begins to blur the lines between a video game you have control over and a booming digital metropolis that is its own entity entirely. Essentially, we are a couple steps away from The Matrix actually being a thing.
Unfortunately, my play through the story is a slow one. I'm taking my time, enjoying the sites and side missions and all the little things that this game offers. I've heard some people point out how the graphics aren't the best, and while they are good, they aren't anywhere close to games like The Last of Us. But that game is very linear and much smaller in scope, so when you take a look at the sheer size of GTA V, the graphics are pretty incredible, all things considered.
It's a fun game, and I don't know how I will ever be able to finish any games for a while with GTA V sitting there, waiting to be explored. Just like the rest of the games, it's clear that Rockstar knows what they are doing. There is a reason this game made over a billion dollars the first week. It's an experience like no other, and the perfect send off for this generation of consoles.
And My Week Long Grand Theft Auto Crime Spree...