Grand Theft Auto Five literally starts with a bang, with the explosives being used as part of a breathless beginning which sees you swapping control between Michael De Santa and Trevor Philips as you attempt to rob a bank and escape through some beautiful snow covered countryside. Unfortunately your daring heist ends in death and a desperate escape. Fast forward ten years and you find yourself in the shoes of low level repo man employee Franklin Clinton.
The next hour and a half of gameplay started filling me with a sinking feeling, this was GTA IV all over again, an amazing living, breathing city and po-faced gameplay that wasn't all that fun when you scraped down to the bones of it. Then the supposedly deceased Michael pops up in the back seat of Trevor's car after one of his repo jobs fails to go to plan.
Just like that the game throws the fun switch, the interplay between these characters is amazing with the voice acting being absolutely perfect, we're talking Breaking Bad levels of acting here, and to be frank it leaves pretty much every other game in the dust, coupled with the incredible animation you will believe in these characters, they may not have LA Noire's facial capture technology but they manage to carry more weight and believability throughout the duration of your play time.
GTA V's narrative steps up a notch when Michael catches his spouse knocking boots with her tennis coach, and in his rage enlists the help of Franklin and pulls down his house on the hill with a tow truck. Unfortunately for Michael he got the wrong house, it actually belongs to big-shot drug lord Martin Madrazo. Having to pay for the repairs or face death he's sucked back into the exciting world of bank robbery and money-making, Franklin becomes his willing protégé and eventually Trevor finds his way back into the fold too.
All of this is good news for the game of course, you choose how you'd like to go about your heists, loud and direct or quiet and intelligent, this then opens up more missions from stealing a van load of sleeping gas for the air vents or maybe a crate of weapons in you choose the more violent path. You also get to choose your own crew, but don't forget that people who are better at their roles will demand a larger cut of the money when the job is done, pick someone cheaper however and carry them safely through a few robberies and they'll level up making things easier, however they'll always take that initial lower cut. Whether you take that risk or not is entirely up to the player.
Of course this being a GTA game means that the story missions aren't all people have come here to see, so what else awaits you on the mean streets of Los Santos? Well first of all not far into the games playing time you'll be able to swap between all three of the characters at will, this takes a hell of a lot of hassle out of exploration. Make it way out into the sticks and can't be arsed driving all the way back? Switch character and let him do it himself while you concentrate on something far more fun. Maybe one of those Freaks and Strangers missions that have been polished up from GTA IV and given more of a Red Dead Redemption sparkle.
Combat has also been improved immeasurably in GTA V, I found the previous games shooting to be clunky and overly difficult, but here Rockstar have used their experience making Max Payne 3 tell. Everything flows well and the controls work much better than they have before, Michael even has a Matrix style bullet-time special move in his pocket to compliment Franklin's driving ability, which slows down time and lets him weave between traffic and corner with ease, and Trevor being Trevor has access to a rage which lets him do double damage whilst taking half as much himself. All of these being activated by a simple double click of the sticks.
GTA V includes such a wealth of content on it's two discs that it's conceivable you could be playing this game for months, you can speculate to accumulate on the stock market, play tennis, take in a round of golf, race an ATV and even go scuba diving, which has to be seen to be believed, I let out an audible gasp on seeing the way water moved and flowed, and my jaw dropped when I dived under it, How Rockstar managed to achieve this level of fidelity on seven year old hardware is difficult to believe.
That Grand Theft Auto Five comes at the end of this current generation is truly fitting, there is no way this could be bettered on a technical level, and as a game it ticks all the right boxes and proves that Rockstar can be peerless when it comes to creating a mature story with characters you can love or hate, Sometimes even both at the same time. So as our old consoles are pushed out on to the river in their longboat, that GTA 5 is the flaming arrow should come as no surprise, five years in the making and you can feel every second in your hands as you bomb around the beautiful city streets.
One of the best games this generation, one of the best games ever made, Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Grand Theft Auto Five. Take a well deserved bow Rockstar.