What is it that makes GTA V superior to its predecessor? It?s not the visuals or the soundtrack. It isn?t the setting or the immense scale of the world. It isn?t even the story. It?s character.
This isn?t to say that any of the aforementioned points are inferior - quite the opposite. But eeking out more graphical embellishments and weaving a splendid yarn won?t wash for long, before the colour leaches away and we see a game in all its blandness; a series of tasks carried out in a world we care little about.
It?s this, the characters within the story and the texture given to the world, that places GTA V strides ahead of Nico Bellic?s days in Liberty City. But hold on! Character doesn?t make a great game, either, so let?s just a take a while to look at the nuts and bolts. Kick the tyres, or tires, even.
The City of Saints
Where GTA IV
rebooted Liberty City
, re-imagining the original GTA 3
to the point where it was barely recognisable GTA V
gives parts of the San Andreas game a rework. Those part are primarily the city of Los Santos and Mount Chiliad, with a few landmarks too. Like Liberty City ?HD? was a close simulacra of New York City and its boroughs, the new Los Santos so closely matches its real world counterpart it may has well be called Los Angeles.
Given an hour to drive around the city, and trust me - it?s not difficult to discover that you?ve done that without really intending to - you?ll spot most of the famous LA landmarks; Vinewood, the Vinewood Hills and of course the Vinewood sign.
Take a cruise up Marlowe Drive (the game?s Mulholand Drive) toward the observatory, and you can stop at the game?s own version of Dean Man?s Overlook to take in the famous vista of the valley and downtown skyline.
Head back down to the beach and over the bridge to the pier at Del Perro (Santa Monica) and you can take a ride on the ferris wheel or rollercoaster, followed by a bike ride down the promenade to Vespucci (Venice) and its marina. Things don?t just look the same, they?re positioned roughly in the right place. Even the skyline delivers recognisable architecture, from City Hall and the US Bank Tower, to the Watts Towers Arts Center and Capitol Records building.
So why not just recreate LA? Because it?s just not as much fun, that?s why. We?ve had True Crime: Streets of LA, and let?s not forget LA Noire. Both painstakingly modelled to represent their city, and both not as much fun to tear up the asphalt.
does get dangerously close to being too close an approximation; if you find you?re having to travel east-west through downtown regularly, it becomes intersection after tedious intersection, packed with standing or crossing traffic. Here, one the games strong points - traffic, and lots of it - works against it, as it can start to feel like LA Taxi Simulator 2013
, especially in the earlier missions where you?re instructed to avoid damaging the cars.
Thankfully, the game moves beyond this and you?ll soon be trading paint with wilful abandon. If you can find them, you can nail the Super Jumps too.
The amount of detail the game delivers (again, a plus point that does work against it at times) makes it near impossible spot the jumps before it?s too late to make a line for them - and backing up and taking a run up is nowhere near as gratifying as spotting it while doing 100mph, tweaking the steering and barrelling over the edge into who-knows-what.