I'm a rare gem among gamers. Been gaming for over 30 years, since the early days of the Atari. And I've stayed with gaming through it's good points and bad ones. Moreover, I've skipped games like Bioshock because despite their pedigree and innovation, they do still tell the same story, the same way. GTA V, and GTA Online, don't offer anywhere NEAR the same story. it grabs you by the neck, and drags you along for a ride through the grimy underbelly of a world very nearly like ours. But I'll save the story for last.
Let's begin with core of any sandbox game: the controls. GTA V is a master's lesson in giving you the tools to do what you need to, without letting the tools become overpowered. The driving is excellently handled this time around, with cars having noticable differences in weight, acceleration, grip, top speed and turning ability. Being able to mod them can give you a great boost in overall performance, but even with 100% armor, bulletproof tires, and a turbocharged engine, police and helicopters are very credible threats to you. Going from driving to on foot, gives you solid shooting and grenade controls. it's clear that Rockstar has taken key notes from games like Gears of War, Splinter Cell and Mass Effect in regards to control and cover mechanics and quick shooting. In the single player game, the special abilities of the three protagonists, often help to carry the day against overwhelming odds. but Online, when it's just your skill against a bunch of police, spotter helicopters, grenade launcher toting soldiers, and tanks.....well, you did have enough skill to get all that attention. :-)
The graphics of GTA V, aren't on the level of say Bioshock Infinite. You've got nice uses of color and texture to help shape where you are. The day/night cycle, runs about 45 minutes from one to the next, so you'll often get a great sunrise or sunset when you're playing. But the biggest draw, is something a little innocuous; unless you jump in a taxi, or head to the start menu, you will never see a loading screen. Even with a fast car, it will take you a good 30-40 minutes to just do a single loop of Los Santos and Blaine County on the roads. And you never once get checked or forced to wait for something to render in front of you. There is some pop-in if you look behind you, but largely, the game is seamless in it's presentation. Wanna run up Vinewood Hills and touch the letters? Give it a go. Wanna run a gauntlet of military security to steal a fighter jet, go on a storm of destruction in Los Santos, and then jump out from so high up you can only see clouds before parachuting to safety? They sell chutes and armor at the AmmuNation. Pick up a clip of machinegun ammo while you're there.
The gameplay of GTA V, is more like life than any other game I've seen. Missions can be completed at your leisure, there's always people who need your help, and if you want to just be part of the crazy, there are random events that will ping on your minimap. From stealing back someone's car, to getting mugged, to blowing up a moving armored car, you'll never know what's coming next in your GTA experience. Online however, is the star of the show here. It takes the "lots of little tasks" ideal of GTA, and brings them to a 16 player experience where everyone can shoot rockets, drive tanks, or call in air-strikes. :-) Granted, Online launched with a slew of problems, which Rockstar made no effort to hide, even admitting the first few weeks will be a major shakedown of the servers and matchmaking to fix the torrent of glitches. But this isn't Error 37 from Blizzard. Within about two days, most of the problems on the 360 were fixed out. The PS3 has taken a little longer, but Rockstar has still rolled out new updates for both consoles to repair what is needed, and offered advice to avoid the pitfalls of others.
Which brings me to the real star of the singleplayer experience, and the reason that, Online or not, GTA V, is worth way more than the $60 they charge. The story. Told from the point of view of three very different protagonists, GTA's story hits almost every emotion, and sin, out there. It can be funny, it can be sad, it can be agressive, it can even be scary in how far the characters go to keep themselves afloat in this world. The three "heroes" are really just different kinds of criminals. Michael stands in for all the DeNiro and Pacino criminal fans, as an expert heistman, straddling the wrong side of retirement. Living the high life with an unappreciative wife and kids, he catches an odd paradox of being the decision maker of the three, while living a hen-pecked life at home, and doubting everything he wants to stand for. Franklin calls out to those of the Ice Cube and Snoop criminal style, as a disenchanted street criminal, who wants to steal his way out of the hood. With more ambition than direction, he struggles to put the drug game behind him, and make real money with his companions. And then, there's Trevor. I say this with 100% conviction; There has NEVER been a character like Trevor, in a video game. He is a man for whom the word "restraint" does not exist. In one moment, you may find him beating the snot out of some yuppie while explaining the reasons "trickle-down economics" are viable, and the next you might even see him *!$%$ing with his !$#%& in %!$#&* in his girlfriend's $#^ after $(!*ing her ##$#@$#@(No I'm not spoiling it. You HAVE to see it to believe it.) But it's the interplay of the three, that really brings out the strength of the story. For the most part, none of them entirely trust the others. But they aren't always given the choice of who they work with. The mistrust does a great job of keeping you from ever being sure who's going to survive. Trevor's the kind of crazy that makes killing him a viable option. but at the same time, he's among the most dangerous and insane characters in the game(the fact that statement is actually a TOUGH fight in this game, says a lot to the quality of the story and acting Rockstar fought for). GTA really conveys the sense that he's only tolerated, because no one wants to be the one who tried to, but DIDN'T kill him.
All in all, GTA V is the kind of game that will become a standard that the next gen games like Titanfall and Destiny are going to be measured against. What's really crazy, is that Rockstar's doing this NOW, with THIS generation of tech. It touches a point to almost every genre out there, without feeling generic in doing so. In a world of specialized games that can be good or bad, GTA V is great at everything, even if it isn't always perfect. By the time you notice a flaw, you've moved on to doing something else. I cannot recommend this game highly enough. I can only say that if Rockstar can build on this success in the future, GTA V may well be around in four or five years, being pitted against the successors to Project 1884, Destiny and Titanfall.