A SPECIAL REPORT ON GRAND THEFT AUTO V
By Jonathan Tung
WARNING: THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR APPROXIMATELY ONE THIRD OF THE GAME. IF YOU HAVE NOT YET PLAYED THIS GAME, THEN PLEASE CLOSE THIS ARTICLE AND GO READ SOMETHING ELSE.
By now, those three names should be in the minds of just about every single gamer on the planet who has played or has yet to play Grand Theft Auto V, the latest in Rockstar Games’ long-running series of open-world sandbox games. And while each and every player plays out the story like it is told, there are also others who usually go off the beaten track and do whatever the hell they want, be it skydiving from Mount Chiliad onto a moving train or crashing a 747 airliner into one of the many skyscrapers that litter throughout Downtown Los Santos. But if you’ve owned a PlayStation 2 or an Xbox, you might have played through this landscape before: this was the setting for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, considered by some fans to be one of the greatest GTA titles ever made. And who couldn’t agree: three big cities to explore, miles of countryside to roam around in, and all kinds of stupid activities and missions to take part in, especially the one where you’re chasing after a train on a Sanchez motorbike (“You were supposed to follow the damn train, CJ!”)
But this is a different San Andreas. Gone are the days where you’d run through three cities; instead, you are stuck in Los Santos and the surrounding northern region of Blaine County. No longer are you stuck to playing as a single character; instead you have the choice of playing three (four if you include your avatar in GTA Online). This is the new San Andreas, the new one crafted from the supposed geniuses at Rockstar North. But is it a good game? That is what I intended to find out.
So yeah, I finally got a hold of Grand Theft Auto V after waiting in line at GameStop earlier today. Was quite surprised to see a line there still, especially since I was picking up the game sometime around the early afternoon. Regardless, I was able to get my copy after waiting in line for half an hour. 50 minutes later, I was back at home, waiting to install my game.
Following a rather lengthy installation that lasted about 10-15 minutes, Ihe game immediately kicks off to a flashback to sometime around nine years ago, where we see Michael, Franklin, and some of their mates in the middle of a major bank heist. Needless to say, things go south and they find themselves facing the wrong end of the law, resulting with some deaths and Michael getting shot, with Trevor escaping the cops and the FIB in the process. But oh ho! It turns out that Michael’s still alive, having faked his death for some mysterious reason.
Flash forward to the present day: Michael’s in the middle of a therapy session with his shrink, and it’s quite clear he’s in the middle of a midlife crisis, complaining about how his wife is cheating on him, his son is jerking off all day smoking weed and playing shooters, and his daughter is probably up to no good somewhere. Niko Bellic this guy isn’t: instead he’s more like Tony Soprano, only more clean and somewhat of a movie buff.
Soon after Michael’s therapy session ends, we’re immediately introduced to Franklin, out with his friend Lamar to repossess some pricy sports cars for their boss Simeon. Unlike Michael, Franklin is more of a normal hustler-type, similar to CJ in San Andreas, but only more responsible and mature. He’s a stoic individual, often feeling that he’s surrounded by idiots and deadbeat morons, be it his feminist Aunt Denise or his (probably assumed) ex-girlfriend Tonya, who often asks Franklin to tow trucks for her crack-addicted boyfriend JB. His only support initially comes from his friend Lamar, a fellow gang-banger/drug dealer, as well as his dog Chop. To me, he’s actually the easiest to play so far, since he has the ability to slow down time while driving, a trait similar to that of the Zone power-up in Midnight Club: Los Angeles, one of Rockstar’s earlier titles this generation. Either that, or maybe I just plain suck at driving.
So the first couple of missions I do are composed of repossessing a car or two for Simeon, followed shortly by a couple of requests from Tonya to tow a couple of cars or so. Pretty easy stuff, if you ask me. Soon, I found myself bored and instead decided to drive around town to see what ridiculous havoc I could cause. Twenty minutes later, I found myself being chased by a squadron of police cars and several helicopters after carelessly blowing up an 18-wheeler with a submachine gun. It was fun, and reminded me of the ridiculous chaos that I was prone to committing back in San Andreas.
Today I decided to venture out into the desert region of Blaine County in order to see how it compares to the world of Bone County in San Andreas. To say the least, it’s a bit disappointing to say the least: no longer are there sandstorms and rock formations; instead, it feels like a miniature version of the Mojave Desert and the surrounding communities. A shame, as I enjoyed flying around Bone County in a prop plane just to see how fast I can fly. Oh yeah, and I just noticed that my in-game cellphone came with a camera function. Gonna post something here:
Dayum, do I look handsome or what?! I also took more photos, but unfortunately, they failed to upload. Probably a fault on the Rockstar servers as usual.
Well, the Rockstar Social Club are finally up and running, no thanks to the heavy load that was pushed up the servers over the weekend. Regardless, I finally decided to get to work on the very first heist, which I think involved robbing some diamonds for some Mexican drug lord or something. But before I got to work on planning it out, some scouting was in order.
Upon successfully finishing up the heist, the game then shifted over to Trevor, who was in the middle of banging Ashley, the girlfriend of Johnny Klebitz (the protagonist of GTA IV: The Lost and Damned). Upon learning of the diamond heist, he ends up going mad, killing Johnny in the process and starting a war with the Lost Motorcycle Club over control of the drug trade in Sandy Shores. Not much could be said about him, save for the fact that he’s one crazy motherfucker. His best friends Ron and Wade fear him, as he is somewhat mentally unstable and is prone to randomly kill people over the tiniest of things (hence the Rampage missions). To say the least, Trevor seems stick out to me the most so far, as some sort of outlandish redneck gangster similar to some of the more unstable folks in Red Dead Redemption. He’s also starting to grow on me.
Following the destruction of a Lost outpost, I soon found Trevor talking to Maude about tackling some bail bond missions. These missions are quite similar to the Bounty Hunting sidequests in Red Dead Redemption: capture the target alive, and you get rewarded a nice sum of cash; kill him, and the reward is lessened. And then there’s the Altruist cult: essentially a group of crazed redneck cannibalistic cultists who would reward money to anyone willing to deliver any unsuspecting hitchhikers to their camp up on Mount Chilliad. Unfortunately, they tried to kill me after I delivered several folks over (I think it was either three or four); luckily I managed to score an automatic shotgun for wiping out the camp, along with some cash and an RPG. I could type some more, but I’m starting to get a little tired.
Today I decided to finish up a couple of missions and get Trevor down to Los Santos. After a rather awkward reunion with Michael, the two of them learn that Michael’s daughter Tracey is auditioning for Fame or Shame, which is essentially the GTA equivalent of America’s Got Talent. Fearing that Tracey might humiliate herself on network television, the two of them decided to head over to the auditions to try to put an end to this mess. This resulted in a rather hilarious car chase with the show’s host Lazlow (yes folks, the same Lazlow from the previous GTA games). What happened afterwards was quite funny, but I’m not going to spoil what happens (especially since a few of our readers have yet to play this game, which kind of saddens me, really).
Afterwards, i decided to fool around a bit more, and soon ended up spotting a familiar motorcycle: the Bati 801RR, aka the Bati Custom from GTA IV: The Lost and Damned. As always, I stole the bike and immediately brought it over to a nearby Los Santos Customs to pimp it out. I just hope the tires looks good.
As it turns out, I really hated the tire rim I applied to my Bati Custom, as it actually looks really ugly. Decided to go down to Los Santos Customs to find a replacement. Ended up spending ten grand trying to find the perfect rim.
I still think I should’ve went with the circular spikes pattern..
Regardless, I knew I was running out of money, and fast. At the current rate I was spending (not to mention the ever-growing medical fees), I realized that I needed to save up for something I could use for free. After consulting with some mates, I learned that there’s a LS Customs shop up for sale out north in the Grand Senora Desert. Unfortunately, the shop was way out of my price range: $349,000. What’s worse, none of the missions that I did were offering me a cash payout in the end, save for the first heist I completed a few days ago. I needed cash, and fast.
Luckily, thanks to the power of the internet, I soon learned of an easily abusable glitch which allowed the user to repeatedly obtain a suitcase filled with $25,000. This sounded too good to be true, until I realized that it meant diving deep into the ocean in order to recover said suitcase. What followed were a series of rather disastrous attempts at mining for cash, each of which ended with me drowning and running out of air. Clearly I needed scuba gear or something.
After spending approximately 30 minutes mining for cash, i was finally able to purchase the LS Customs shop up in the Grand Senora Desert, along with a Taxi Depot. Unfortunately, some moron in a tractor ran me over as I left the area. Luckily, I managed to come to a rather appropriate agreement with the poor sap, something that I believed was the most appropriate solution to our little problem:
Served him right.
I attempted the Merryweather Heist today. As it turns out, I am actually terrible at piloting helicopters, hence the two times I accidentally crashed the cargobob (once while trying to pick up a submarine from an airfield, the other when attempting to recover said submarine from the Pacific Ocean). Afterwards, I bought myself a Hockey mask for Trevor and ended up running around a construction site downtown doing nothing but bashing people in the face with a baseball bat, Hotline Miami-style. This was followed up by a frivolous muscle car purchase, which drove me to customizing the thing into resembling the car from Death Proof. Not sure if this was worth mentioning, but eh.
Today I decided to attempt the Blitz Play heist, which involved stealing a tow truck and ramming it into an armored car filled with cash. According to some of my mates, this was supposed to be a homage to an old Michael Mann movie called Heat, which I heard was quite entertaining for a film about an undercover police dude working with some bank robbers. The following shootout proved to be problematic though, as I accidentally died due to some rather careless mistakes (among them accidentally blowing myself up with the RPG). Afterwards, I decided to compete in an off-road ATV race in order to make some extra cash, followed by a jet ski race along the Zancudo River delta. This was soon followed up by some stupid antics, among them the accidental detonation of a tanker truck, which resulted in a rather lengthy police chase.
More on GTA Online to follow in a future post.