The critics have spoken. We round up the top reviews of the most highly-anticipated game of 2013, Grand Theft Auto 5.
Grand Theft Auto 5 is easily the most anticipated game of 2013, and costing more than some Hollywood blockbusters to make, but Scottish developer and publisher Rockstar will be eager to see positive reviews for the series' seventh major outing.
GTA 5 is one of the last games to launch exclusively for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 and will therefore be seen as a embodying what these consoles could do.
Ahead of the official launch on Tuesday (17 September) games critics around the world (along with some lucky fans) have been given early access to the sprawling Los Santos game world and we've rounded-up reviews from around the internet, to give you an idea of just what people think of the new game - and possibly help you decide if you are going to buy it or not.
Stuart opens by saying videogames could soon replace US TV series like Breaking Bad and The Wire as "the preferred form of mass, culturally meaningful entertainment." But not just any videogames:
"Unlike the vast swathe of wondrous entertainment the video game industry produces, this series cannot be safely pigeon-holed or ignored by non-players. For the last decade, Rockstar has wielded a sledgehammer over public perceptions of what video games are or can be; now it has struck with merciless force."
Stuart describes Los Santos as "a warped mirror of Los Angeles" and praises the three-character format as it "emancipates the narrative, jettisoning the awkward requirement for one protagonist to be everywhere, witnessing everything in this vast world."
The result? Well Stuart sums it up by saying:
"The result is a freewheeling joyride through genre cinema and literature: there are psychotic mafia bosses, insane motorcycle gangs, xenophobically sketched triads, corrupt secret agents and cynical movie producers - their stories twist and interconnect, slithering around the lives of our protagonists. It's dizzying at times, but also daftly compelling, and the influence of multi-strand dramas such as The Wire is obvious."
It seems that the size of the GTA 5 environment is something which is overwhelming for most of the critics - including Kelly:
"Los Santos, San Andreas. A sprawling metropolis, and a city of contrasts, from the golden sands of Vespucci Beach and palatial homes of Rockford Hills, to the the crime-ridden, graffiti-covered suburbs of Davis and Rancho. At night, looking across it from the Vinewood Hills, it seems to go on forever; an endless sea of lights, teeming with traffic and buzzing with helicopters. It's the most dense, intricate Grand Theft Auto city yet and, amazingly, only makes up a quarter of the map."
Kelly returns to the three-character format, highlighting that missions are hugely varied as a result:
"There are missions where the characters work alone. Michael dealing with his unruly kids, Franklin repossessing cars, or Trevor clashing with rival drug dealers. But it's when they team up that the character-switching system comes into its own. If you're assaulting a group of enemies, Trevor could rush in head-on while Michael lays down sniper cover from a nearby hill. Then, taking advantage of the distraction, Franklin can sneak in through a side entrance with a silenced pistol. But that's just one arbitrary example; there are countless combinations, and half the fun is experimenting. As you flick from character to character, the AI controls the others in your stead."
Speaking about the missions within the game, Plante says that giving players choices before the missions makes things much more interesting:
"Before each heist, the game offers a number of choices: whom to hire, how to break in, how to get away and so on. It's inspired - heists imbue the filler missions with a needed sense of purpose. Stealing a car, buying masks and learning how to upgrade weapons all become integral steps to a bigger job."
Plante did however have an issue with the portrayal of female characters in the game, a problem which has plagued the entire series:
"There are more interesting female characters on Grand Theft Auto 5's disc art than there are in Grand Theft Auto 5; the female cop and female criminal printed onto the disc are never seen in the game's vast world.
"I counted roughly (and generously) six semi-important female characters in the game, maybe a couple more if I include the occasional quest giver or victim of theft. None are playable. All but one are shrill buzzkills; the latter has Stockholm syndrome. And the two grisliest murders in the game happen to women. One side story involves the persistent and unsettling harassment of an absent female character, the purpose of which is to show the cruelty of Trevor, but which goes upsettingly far beyond what feels necessary to the story."
With the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on the horizon, Plante says GTA 5 is a fitting way to sign off:
"It's fitting that the game arrives at the cusp of the next generation of consoles. Grand Theft Auto 5 is the closure of this generation, and the benchmark for the next. Here is a game caught occasionally for the worst, but overwhelmingly for the better, between the present and the future."
MacDonald calls Grand Theft Auto 5 "preposterously enjoyable", "breath-taking in scope" and "bitingly funny". She says the sheer number of activities to do in GTA 5 is "bewildering":
"There is a bewildering multiplicity of things to do in the new San Andreas - tennis, yoga, hiking, racing on sea and on land, flying planes, golfing, cycling, diving, hunting, and more. The missions are an able guide to both San Andreas' locations and its activities, touring you around the map and whetting your appetite for independent exploration of it all. The way that we're introduced to San Andreas never feels artificial - the map is completely open from the start, for example - which contributes to the impression that it's a real place, somewhere you can get to know."
MacDonald also warns players that Rockstar is purposely pushing boundaries here which could have the morality police up in arms:
"It's worth mentioning that when it comes to sex, drugs, and violence, GTA V pushes boundaries much further than ever before. If the morality police were worried about Hot Coffee, there's a lot here that will provoke moral hysteria. It's deliciously subversive, and firmly tongue in cheek... but once or twice, it pushes the boundaries of taste, too."
Bramwell, like pretty much every other reviewer out there loves the game. He highlights the heist as the high point of GTA 5:
"The high points are the heists, where the gang's tech wizard friend Lester puts together a plan, you choose the approach and backup personnel, and then the trio spread out and collect the materials needed to pull it off before everyone plays a part in the score. It's all very scripted and stage-managed - go buy three boiler suits, steal a fire engine, modify some cars and stash them under a bridge - but each heist has a blockbuster set-piece feel to it, and when they go to plan and you walk away with a thick stack of cash to spend on Los Santos' many expensive distractions, you feel like you're living the life."
However, Bramwell says the GTA 5's story loses its way after an interesting start and there is something missing from the game:
"All the heist stuff is difficult to reconcile with the world Rockstar has built, too. This is a game pretty much designed from top to bottom to equate the American Dream to some sort of elaborate pyramid scheme, but the message is that hard graft buys you a mansion in the hills, a helipad downtown and a fleet of tricked-out sports cars? This contradiction was at the heart of Vice City, too, but it made more sense in a love letter to Scarface. GTA5 captures the absurdity of modern life, but I expected it to do more than join the party."