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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Grand Theft Auto 5 for the Xbox 360 Review

***Update***
On Friday, I traded in the Xbox 360 version of Grand Theft Auto 5 and got the Xbox One version in its' place.  Will post my experiences on the Xbox One version on a later post.


I remember almost a year ago, I purchased the Xbox 360 version of Grand Theft Auto 5 and beat the game back in November 2014 (even got the 100% completion rating).  This game was definitely a fun thrill ride for me.

Overview of GTA 5:


This game is the official sequel to Grand Theft Auto 4 and takes place in San Andreas / Los Santos.  Just as GTA 4 makes you feel like you are in a virtual version of New York City, GTA 5 will make you feel like you are in Los Angeles and Southern California.  The map is pretty big stretching all of the way from the city of Los Santos in the South and of the island to the smaller coastal city of Paleto Bay at the north end.  Lots of terrain changes too, as you have city, coastlands, mountains, farm lands, and even a good sized desert to trek through in the game.  Like GTA San Andreas, airplanes and helicopters are back too (besides helicopters in Grand Theft Auto 4, planes were largely absent in that game).  Unique to the Grand Theft Auto 5, you will be playing as 3 protaganists that you can switch off using the d-pad on the controller: 1. Michael Santos - family man with a criminal past that seems to be living a seemingly normal life, at leas till the events of Grand Theft Auto 5.  2. Franklin - he is an African American man who lives in the heart of Los Santos and was a former grove street gang member and repo man looking to move off the streets and live am more fulfilling lifestyle.  3. Trevor Phillips - a psychopathic kind of guy with a short temper..  The game follows the trio as they live out their lives, get back into the life of crime (what is a GTA game without crime after all?), and eventually go up against corrupt government officials.  Several unique features GTA 5 offers includes:

- Single Player mode and online mode
- Heist missions.  Heists are fun and yet challenging too.  Throughout the course of the game, the players have to peform various heists and they usually come with their own unique planning, set up, challenges, difficulties and rewards.  Besides the bank robbery mission that takes place in the game's prologue, the game's first real heist takes place relatively early on in the game.
- Working with 3 protaganists instead of 1.  This seems to be the first time since 2D era gta games where you control more than one protaganists.  By the way, one of the 3 can be killed off at the end of the game, depending on what you do for the final mission of the game
- 3 possible endings.
- Some choose your own adventure elements (such as choosing how to perform heists, how the game ends, how some side missions end, etc).
- Open world adventure, aside from storyline missions, side missions, etc, you are on a huge island Los Santos on the South End, Paleto Bay on the north end.  In addition, there are many roads and highways to explore, my favorite is probably the Great Coast highway that goes up the west coast, much like highways 1 and later highway 101 (North of the Eureka area, onwards to Oregon and Washington) do in real life.  Like GTA Andreas, the island also features a vast country site, farm land, mountains (with the biggest one being Mount Chillad), and even a large desert area to explore too.  Lots of collectable items to collect too, including hidden packages, UFO spaceship parts, letter scraps (there is a murder mystery you can solve in the game by getting all of the letter scrap), along with stunt jumps, under the bridge locations (there are achievements you can get by going under under bridges) as well as knife flight locations.
- There is a military base you can check out too (at your own risk, since going onto the base will increase your guy's wanted level), called Fort Zancudo
- There are several paranormal elements in the game too, including UFOs (though most won't appear till you have gotten 100% completion and you have to know where and how to find them), at least one sasquatch roaming the woods and even a real ghost you can find when exploring Mount Gordo on the north east side of the island
- GTA Online mode: if you thought that story mode was too short, that only covers 1/2 of the game.  You can also access GTA Online (assuming you have an Xbox Live account) and do more missions, competitions, and it even has its own storyline you are following.

Here is what I liked about GTA 5:
- Tons of things you can do.  Besides the missions and all, you can explore the land, play golf, rob gas stations, go on rampages, participate in races (including a triatholon events), play online, browse the net, do activities with fellow NPC's, go on a Vinewood tour (basically GTA 5's version of Hollywood), watch movies, play tennis, visit a movie studio, spot a ghost (yes there is at least one confirmed scary ghost in the game that you may come across if you know where to look or when to look, see http://rjvideogamer.blogspot.com/2014/10/halloweenish-moments-in-grand-theft.html for more info), drive on freeways, swim in the ocean and much more.  Plus by being able to switch between characters, there is much more you can do if you get bored playing as the same character every time (for example, if you get tired playing as Fraklin, you can always switch to either Michael or Trevor assuming they are available).
- Stunning graphics.  You definitely feel like you are in Southern California.
- More variety in missions.  I remember in Grand Theft Auto 4, Nikko was often an errands boy and doing other peoples' dirty work (like the many assassinations you have to do in GTA 4 where you have to chase a target down and shoot him/her).  Sure you might get a few errands boy style missions (especially some of the "Strangers and Freaks" missions), but you also get other kinds of missions too, including: performing heists, being a repo man (as Franklin at the beginning of the game), going on races, running an arms business as Trevor (where you drive a dune buggy or fly a stunt plane delivering weapons to customers for cash as well as taking out competition), and many others.  My favorite was as Michael where you can join a cult (the Epsilon Program) and take part in the missions they give you and possibly earn $2,000,000 in the end (depending on how you play the final epsilon mission).  There are so many different kinds of missions you can do, so it would be difficult to list them all, but I won't spoil the game for you.
- Some characters from previous GTA games make appearances too.  Perhaps the most notable one is Packie McReary from GTA 5 and he does prove to be extremely valuable for heist missions.  Even Nikko makes a cameo appearance on a Life Invader page (GTA's version of myspace).
- I also like how you can switch between 3 different players.  Besides the bank heist in the game's prologue, you start with one character (Franklin) and as you play through the storyline missions, you can also unlock Michael (he appears rather early in the game, about 4 missions in) and later Trevor (he appears after the jewlery store heist).  You can switch off between the 3 characters, have the characters hang out, and some missions do require the trio working together too.  It can be amusing when switching between characters too as you never really know what the other character is doing when you switch.  Michael can be hanging out with his family (being a family man himself), stuck in traffic on one of the several freeways in the game, or even going on a stroll in Los Santos.  Franklin can be hanging out at his safehouse (moreso after he unlocks his second safehouse which comes available as the game progresses), hanging out at the vanilla unicorn strip club, going on a drive somewhere, or even interacting with Chop (his rottwieller dog).  Perhaps the most random is Trevor.  When switching to Trevor, you never really know what he is up to as he could be hanging out at one of the airfields he owns (like the one he uses for the 2 arms delivery side missions you can do), hanging out at his trailer in Sandy Shores, get into fights with random NPCs (like scenes where he seems to throw someone off a bridge), or rarely getting pursued by cops (when that happens, you will have a 2 star wanted rating to evade).
- Long an interesting storyline too
- Online mode extends the gameply significantly too since story mode can get dull after a while (especially after beating the story mode portion of the game) and run out of things to do.
- I also like the new structure the game offers when it comes to failed missions.  In GTA 4, if you fail a mission, you usually have to start over from the beginning, buy more armor and ammo if needed,  and if you get busted during a mission, you lose the weapons you have which means you have to buy more.  In GTA 5, whenever you fail a mission (such as getting killed or busted), the screen will say mission failed and you automatically get options to retry a mission, restart a mission, quit a mission (which means that you will have to start over and if you were killed, end up at a nearby hospital, or if you were arrested: lose all of the ammo you have), or sometimes (though not always), skip a mission (can be useful if you are struggling on a particular mission).  Obviously hard core gamers will probably not like the new structure (though they can opt to start missions over if they want as well as resist the temptation to skip a mission), but I do like the new structure (especially when it comes to the harder and more frustrating missions).
- You can also win medals from missions from completing extra requirements (by completing missions you automatically get a bronze medal, but you can also go for silver and gold medals too by meeting extra requirements, such as completing a mission within a certain time frame, not getting scratches on your car, doing head shots, etc).  By the way, you can replay missions if you want a better score.
- If you get busted by cops, they don't confiscate your weapons like they do in previous games.  Instead, they confiscate the ammo you have.  While you still have to buy ammo, you don't have to rebuy the weapons.

Drawbacks of GTA 5
- Obviously being at typical Grand Theft Auto game, Grand Theft Auto 5 will likely be offensive to some.  I am a 32 year adult, and I can handle it, but I am sure that the same cannot be said for everyone.  The game does have some dark elements to it too.  Some examples includes: Franklin performing home invasion robberies (like the one he does at Michael's house early in the game where he has to "steal" a car in the garage), Michael's family issues (as well as dark past), issues with Trevor and is he is probably the most violent out of the bunch and does not hesitate to commit murder, (especially when he is in a rage mode, which does happen on more than one occasion during the course of the game) get into fights, and commit other crimes.  Plenty of other potientialy offensive stuff too, including being able to use alcohol (players can get drunk or even pass out), use drugs (such as smoking a bong in a safehouse, going on acid trips, and even huffing gas and blacking out), kidnap hitch hikers and deliver them to a cannibalistic cult (aka Trevor taking passengers to the Altruist cult near Mount Chillad), racial slurs, getting mauled by cougars, getting attacked by sharks and many others.  Definitely the type of game that mothers will hate (from personal experience) and may make you look over your shoulder sometimes.  Even in the online mode, people don't always play nice, they can troll, accuse you of being a "bad sport", and rarely, try to kick you from the game, even if you have done nothing to me wrong (almost happened to me once when I first started playing on the online mode, I guess somebody didn't like newbies).
- Replay value is kind of limited.  There are some missions and side missions where you will probably want to do again and see how they might end differently (for example: in the merrywetther heist mission where you can choose between using a submarine for the mission or infiltrating a freighter ship at port).  Also, there are 3 possible endings for the game too.  However, eventually you probably will run out of things to do (moreso after 100% completion) and then the game can get real dull,  Luckily the online mode can extend the gameplay significantly.
- Getting wasted (killed) in the game can be painful moneywise.  Unless if you are an expert at not dying in games like GTA 5, you probably will get wasted (i.e., falling of buildings, getting shot, getting attacked by animals like cougars, dogs and sharks, car accidents, etc) on various occasions and when that happens, you will respawn at a nearby hospital or clinic (like the one at Sandy Shores) and they love to charge you lots of ingame money each time.  At first they don't charge you very much, but as your money accumulates in the game (especially $100,000 or more), the fee goes up significantly, capping at $5000 each time you get wasted.  Obviously if you die alot in the game, that can get real expensive fast.   Saving the game often can be useful here (especially if you are in a situation where death can come very easily, like attempting the "under the bridge" side mission).  Also, when you fail a mission, I always try to resist the temptation to "quit" the mission, especially if my guy gets wasted or busted during a mission.  Also, if you decide to go on a rampage in the game, you will probably want to save first and reload later to avoid losing too much money or getting your weapon ammo conficated if you get busted.
- When playing online, watch out for trolls.  Some people online can be jerks and sometimes will try to kill your player, talks smack, etc.  There are also occasions where people will try to kick you from the game even if you have done nothing wrong (and I have seen stories online about people getting kicked for no reason).  I have only encountered a kicking attempt once (ironically, I was just starting out on the online mode when it happened, not sure why other than the fact I was a typical newbie at the time), but it seems to have tapered off (possibly because people are migrating over to the Xbox One and PS4 versions of GTA 5).  Also, people can place bounties on your characters too.
- Switching off between characters will definitely take getting used to for some.
      
Well, that is all for now.  Despite the set backs, GTA 5 for Xbox 360 definitely makes a very good final installment for the Xbox 360 era GTA series.  By the way, Rockstar has already released GTA 5 for both Xbox One and PS4, so you may want to opt for that version instead.

Official grade for the game: A

Want to get your own copy of GTA 5?  You can buy them on Amazon.com by clicking on the links below

Important disclaimer about Grand Theft Auto 5: this game is rated M for mature and is not advised for people under 17 or people that are easily offended by violent video games (considering that this game will likely be offensive to some).  Also, for your own good, anything you see on Grand Theft Auto 5 (and any other game in the series for that matter) should never be recreated in real life.  Like all GTA games, grand theft auto 5 does seem to glorify crime in many ways (even in comical ways too), such as rampages, heist missions, stealing cars, drugs, and just about any other thing you can't normally get away with in real life. Obviously getting ideas and recreating things you see in GTA 5 may lead to serious consequences, including trouble with the law, lengthy prison sentences, or even death.  Never try anything you see in Grand Theft Auto 5 at home.  Being a fellow gamer, I take no responsibility for making poor choices as a result of playing GTA 5 (i.e., stealing cars, committing other crimes, murder, etc).

Similar Games:

- Grand Theft Auto San Andreas (also features Los Santos, regular Xbox era)
- Grand Theft Auto 4 (in that game, you play in Liberty City, which is basically a virtual version of New York CIty).  By the way, GTA 5 assumes you have played through Grand Theft Auto 4, so if you haven't played through that game, feel free to check it out.
- Red Dead Redemption (wild west style game that has some GTA style elements).  By the way, there is an easter egg in GTA Online that lets you make a character that has John Marston as one of his/her parents.


Gamer to Gamer tips:
1. Money.  If you are a typical newbie looking for ideas on how to earn money in the game, there are several ways you can do so, including:
- Killing pedestrians (often times they do drop cash when killed), though killing people is risky since it will cause your wanted level to go up and cops will try to arrest or (more likely kill you) when that happens.
- Robbing stores: you can hold up stores in the game and earn cash that way, though like killing people, it will almost always cause your wanted level to go up and so you have to deal with cops as a result
- Buying properties.  As you progress throughout the game, you will be able to buy various properties (such as the Mckenzie air field, scrap yard, downtown cab company, etc) and they do generate income for your characters during the course of the game. As Trevor, you will be able to acquire this airstrip near Grapeseed where you can do side missions where you can deliver weapons via buggy or plane as well as taking out rivals and get paid that way too.  Some properties earn you more than others
- Driving a taxi cab.  Like in other GTA games, you can opt to drive a taxi cab and pick people up and drop them off at various locations for easy cash.
- Heists.  If you do heists properly, you can score lots of extra money (especially the final heist in the game, which can yield up to $30,000,000 for each character).  Poorly setting up for heists (such as choosing helpers that are not qualified for the job) can cause you to lose money though.
-  Buying the scrap yard.  This property can also yield good money as you get $150 per ingame week for every car you destroy in the game (or $1500 for every 10 cars you destroy).
- Diving in the ocean and finding hidden packages.  These often yield money.  Warning: sharks do lurk in the ocean (you will know when one is nearby because they will appear as red dots on your in game map and radar) and will try to eat you.  What happens is: if you dive in the ocean, and a shark is closeby, it will swim around you for a little while back and fourth like a typical fish, but after a while, a cut scene will occur showing the shark eating your character (much like Jaws) with one hit kills.

2. Dealing with cops
- Hiding can be useful for getting away from cops, but not always (sometimes they can find you and you and try to shoot you or arrest you when they do).
- Between getting killed or busted by a cop in the game, I'd rather get wasted by them.  I they bust you, they will confiscate your ammo and you will have to go to the nearest ammunation to buy more ammo.  If you get wasted, you keep your weapons and ammo, though it will cost you money each time though.
-  The higher your wanted rating is, the more aggresssive cops become.  Also, shooting officers will automatically result in a 3 star wanted rating.
- Restricted areas (like Fort Zancudo): enter them at your own risk.  Usually trespassing at restricted areas will result in your wanted level going up and will probably inevitably end with your character getting wasted (or busted).  At Fort Zancudo, for example, trespassing on base will result in a 4 star wanted level and tanks and military personnel going after you.  If you really want to explore restricted areas, you might want to consider activating invincibility cheats.
3. Skipping and retrying missions:
- Only use skip as a last resort.  If you find a mission too difficult, you can usually skip after several tries (though not every mission has a skip option).  Some missions will probably take several tries.
- I don't recommend quitting a mission unless if you have to since then you will have to start the mission over.  If you die during a mission and quit, you will be taken to the nearest hospital by he way.  Get busted and quit, you will be taken to the nearest police station and stripped of ammo.

4. 100% perks:
- when you have beaten the main storyline missions, the game is not yet over.  I recommend getting 100% at least once.  Plenty of perks for 100% completion too.  By the way, if you want to see the hidden UFOs in the game, most won't appear till after you have gotten 100% completion.

(more tips will be added over time).

That is all for now?  How was your experience with Grand Theft Auto 5?  Do you have a different take on the game?  Feel free to leave your comments below.

Note: I got the Xbox One version of GTA 5 recently, so I will share my thoughts on that version on a later post.