Old wine in a new bottle. That’s an allegation that has always been levelled at the Grand Theft Auto (GTA) series of games. Ever since the first GTA title emerged on the gaming horizon in 1997 in all its 2D glory and dazzled users with its sheer ‘openness’ giving users an immense amount of control over their actions and allowing them to drive around seemingly at will, fulfilling missions (often of dubious legality) and if not in the mood, simply ignoring them and continuing on one’s own free path.
Subsequent editions of the game have brought more elaborate storylines and cutting-edge graphics to the series, but at its core has always been the ability to jump into a car and drive around a city, with hardly any restrictions, legal, moral or geographical. It has been a potent formula, and one that has generated in sales of over a 100 million units of the game.
And it is a formula from which Rockstar North, the developers of the game, do not wander too far in the fifth part of the series. Yes, GTA V has a stronger story element in it than its predecessors -- you switch between three different characters -- Michael, Trevor and Franklin -- all of whom (in best GTA tradition) are shady in the extreme, and are planning a series of bank robberies, and there are a number of neat additions, including the ability to switch between characters almost at will, building character skills (an RPG element sort of) hire accomplices, and graphics that are mind bogglingly good -- there is even Max Payne -- like bullet time, letting one of the protagonists dodge bullets in slow motion.
But at the end of the day, GTA V, like the titles before it, is all about driving around and getting in and out of trouble. There are guns and bombs galore, and yes, more than enough to outrage the moral police (no, do not let the kids anywhere near this game, please). And yes, when you have not undertaken a mission, you are at complete liberty to drive around the mythical town of Los Santos, which seems inspired by Los Angeles. There are new cars, and even a spot of flying and scuba diving added to what was already a very potent cocktail of action and adventure.
Yes, the essence of GTA is very much alive and kicking in its fifth reiteration. We could go on and on about the size of explosions, the plots, the ability to mess with car audio, and the risque dialogue, but what for us continues to make the game an epic experience is the fact that one has so much control over one’s own destiny. One can drive around, play some tennis or a round of golf and when the ennui sets in, go rob a bank or pinch a car. Or vice versa. It is a vast, vast world out there, beautifully designed and you can literally spend hours just discovering it.
Old wine in a new bottle? Largely, yes. But wine does get better with age. And the bottle (graphics and presentation) is a magnificent one. One of those games you just have to play. It’s not really about the guns, the cars, or the missions, or even about Michael, Trevor or Franklin. GTA V is about freedom. Play it. Experience it.
>> Good storyline
>> Sharp graphics
>> Switching between characters is easy
>> Not meant for kids
Price: Rs 2,999