7 Hours in Los Santos; GTA V First Impressions

People mysteriously on sick leave for a week, gamers locked in their rooms for hours at a time, the media suddenly discussing violence in video games and its effect on the real world. That’s right, Grand Theft Auto V is finally here.

Arguably the most anticipated game of 2013, GTA V sees the player return to the setting of 2004’s GTA San Andreas. Only this time is much bigger, busier and prettier. Now with a game as big as this, and with it only being released this week, consider this a first impressions review, it might surprise us all and end up being god awful after 10 hours or so.

In a deviance from the norm, GTA V introduces the ability to switch between three separate characters, every so often crossing paths with each other, working together and dealing with each other’s demons. The switching mechanic allows for more varied story lines, different skill sets and, in Trevor’s case, more impromptu car chases.

I’m sure the ability to switch will have some excellent uses in the later story missions, but I’m only 7 hours in and have only just bought the crew together.

The main story does take some time to start up, but that’s to be expected from a game so vast and so full of things to do. But it avoids the same mistakes as GTA IV. Five is fun and exciting from the get go. The game’s first mission sees you on a high speed race through down town Los Santos, instead of the countless cab journeys and endless bowling with your cousin seen in its predecessor

But this is GTA, so the story is expected to fall by the way side to the faffing around factor that the series is known so well for. The entire map is open from mission one, if you want to go to the highest mountain, ride a BMX down it and crash into a ravine, you can. There’s no mysterious storm blocking every bridge out of town.

And in this free roaming chaos (or tranquility, yoga is an option) the switching mechanic comes into play again, making the game an even more effective ‘time sink’.

You see, when you switch out of a character, they go about their daily business, even (and I have tested this) if you leave them at the bottom of a ravine with nothing but a busted up BMX for company. What this means is when you get bored of racing through the streets, or have abandoned your plane in the middle of the desert as Franklin, you can switch to the city as Michael and play tennis, golf or the stock markets. Or if you’re feeling the need for some backwater madness, see what highly illegal activities Trevor’s up to.

So I’m 7 hours into my holiday in Los Santos and what can I say? I mean apart from the great characters, improved controls and mechanics in every way, and a great variety of missions and activities? You should know that I’ve had to get far, far away from my Xbox to write this review, there is just so much fun to be had.

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