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Rockstar North releases it's first GTA in over 5 years, to great success.

Thoughts & Impressions – Grand Theft Auto V – Week 2

Are you still playing Grand Theft Auto V? I know all of us here at Free For All certainly are! And so we’ve once again combined our powers all Captain Planet-like and have brought you the second installment in our ongoing thoughts on the biggest game of the year, the generation, and just entertainment in general. Enjoy, and don’t forget to check out or ongoing SpoilerCasts on GTA as well as tune here in next week as we discuss… GTA Online!

 

Play Time to Date: 27hrs 09min

This week has been filled with family commitments, my 9-5 job, and just the general busyness of life. So needless to say, while the desire is ever-present, the ability to actually turn on my Xbox 360 and play a little Grand Theft Auto V has been limited. And so instead of talking about the handful of main story missions and one additional heist I’ve been able to enjoy the past week, I thought I’d talk a little about some of the wonderful folks I’ve met along the way to becoming a master criminal. I will say this one thing about the main story before I leave the subject though — it’s not just great, it literally gets better with every hour I had to my time with the game.

Now, on to some strangers and freaks! There are many a colored “?” on the GTA map as you progress through game, and as with any of the other mission indicators, they’re color-coated to signify which of your three characters they belong to. While all three of our lovable thieves have some great side content in the game, there are certain personalities that you’ll meet along the way that are just too good to not talk about, and it’s really these characters, not the main trio, that make these particular missions such a treat. I want to talk about three of these characters a bit more in-depth and get into why I enjoyed them so much.

grand theft auto v

This is Barry. I won’t detail him here, but if I were you, I would go get high with this man.

The first character on the list, and these are in no particular order, is actually less of a character and more of a duo. A highly unusual duo. They call themselves the Civil Border Patrol, and as they see it, it’s their duty as true American patriots to protect our border against illegal immigrants. Well, as it turns out, they really just want to protect the borders against anyone they perceive as illegal. The three missions you’ll take on involving these two are some of Rockstar’s most blatant political satire in the game thus far. Joe and Josef — Josef, by the way, is assumedly not an American himself and speak nothing but Russian — enlist you to run down a few folks they believe unfit to be in the states, and go so far as to toss their paperwork proving otherwise out the window. Political views aside, because lets face it everyone is insulted at some point in the game, they thing that makes these two on of my favorites is the hilarious commentary between them. Joe with his stereotypical redneck accent going on about how illegals have ruined our beautiful country and the Josef commenting in turn, but in nothing but angry sounding Russian. I found myself laughing out loud more than once as we cruised the deserts of Blaine County in their most likely stolen border patrol truck.It also is worth noting that even Trevor finds these two to be completely insane.

grand theft auto v

Lets chase down famous people!

Next up we have Beverly. Beverly is just an honest young man, camera in hand, trying to make a living. I mean sure we points to camera at celebrities and public figures in their most private and indecent moments. You’ll meet Beverly while playing as Franklin, and you’re somehow roped into helping him as he chases down movie superstar Miranda Cowen for a few money-worthy pictures. This of course turns into a long and promisingly fruitful partnership as Beverly will enlist your help several more times after that. Beverly makes no apologizes for his somewhat sleazy job and the predicaments you’ll end up in with this guy are a ton of fun to play and often completely insane. In the end though you’ll have to decide what’s more important — Beverly’s friendship or getting paid.

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Chocking people… cause it’s funny… right?

And last but not even close to least is Nigel. Trevor runs into this very proper gentleman as he rummages through a random celebrity’s garbage with his dear friend Mrs. Thornhill. The two of them just love celebs, and they more greatly love all of their tossed aside junk. It’s a bit of a hobby you see. They’re both obviously not in their right mind but to see them pillar through trash and discuss the great find of some used underwear while they both speak to you in very proper British accents is, to put it mildly, hilarious. And though I won’t spoil it, the last two missions you’ll undertake for these two are easily the best and most outrageous in the game, and even as you’re completely these normally hanious acts, Nigel talks as if you’re having a cup of tea while you watch a rather boring game of crickett. It all makes for one of my most memorable experiences in the game to date.

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Dudes playing Crickett… just cause…

And to there you have it, a few of my favorite strangers and freaks from the game. There are still two or three I’ve yet to meet and I’m hoping to do that, and complete the main story, very soon. With GTA Online looming in just a matter of hours, goodness knows I will have a whole new challenge to tackle then.

Play Time to Date: 50hrs 00min

Two weeks in, the city of Los Santos still doesn’t know I’m a master criminal.  Yeah right, they totally know, because in the past two weeks I’ve knocked over multiple banks, air lifted military hardware out of the ocean and off of their own bases, shot down planes carrying federal evidence and taken out entire buildings.

So, to check in on my progress, I can reveal that not only have I beaten the story mode for Grand Theft Auto V, I’m well on my way to a full 100% completion, sitting around 50 hours and nearly 87% complete.  I’ve done every strangers and freaks mission I can find, with a particular bit of joy coming from Trevor’s Rampage tactics.  On top of that, I have collected all 50 of the hidden spaceship parts, gone under 47 of the 50 bridges in a helicopter (more on that in a second) and have started in on the unenviable task of stunt jumping.

Franklin & Crash begin their night with fun and funnel cake at the pier.

Franklin & Crash begin their night with fun and funnel cake at the pier.

But let’s talk about the bridges.  I know for a fact that I’ve actually flown under each bridge, which should have given me the opportunity to move on from that aspect, but the problem is that despite having completed the acts properly, the game did not register 3 of the bridges, and I have no way of knowing which ones.  This forces me to one day find a list of every bridge I need to fly under, and do them all over again until I’ve gotten my 50.  It brings a flaw in the game under a bright light for me.  The side activities and collectibles, which plentiful and overall still fun, have some technical snafus behind them, and have yet to yield a reward worthy of the time spent achieving them.

With the stunt jumps, they are so action packed into the city of Los Santos area that it is easy to lose your way and forget which of the many difficult to complete jumps are.  With the spaceship parts, after scouring the entire city for 50 small glowing briefcases, all I was given was a semi funny cutscene and a very bad sci-fi styled dune buggy, which is slow, handles much worse than the other buggies in the game and only adds some basic spaceship themed horn options.  It’s unfortunate, because I really want to complete the game 100%, but with the issues surrounding them, I may just abandon them and continue wasting my time on other activities of my own unique creation.

They made it to the top of the mountain!  Be sure to follow Franklin & Crash on the R* Social Club and Twitter @FFAJosh.

They made it to the top of the mountain! Be sure to follow #FranklinAndCrash on the R* Social Club and Twitter @FFAJosh!

But, maybe that’s ok.  Grand Theft Auto has always been more about experimenting and wreaking havoc as a psychopath in an open city, and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.  As discussed in our podcast recap last week, I have taken to stealing golf carts as Franklin and taking selfies with it all over the town, as if the two were best friends.  Earlier today I took over Trevor and climbed to the roof of the Cluck’n Bell factory and started sniping people.  Finally I saw my opportunity and blew up a gas tanker, got the police on my tail and thought I’d create a perfect action movie scenario.  I sniped a cop or two, heard the train on the tracks behind me and took off for the edge of the roof.  Without having to stop and wait, I jumped from the roof onto one of the flatbed cars from the train to make a clean getaway.

I died, Trevor landed on his head and couldn’t survive, but that’s the fun of GTA.  Doing crazy crap like that you never thought would be possible 10 years ago.  Jumping a dirt bike onto a train and James Bonding your way along the top of it, hovering a helicopter miles above a city and jumping out, parachuting onto the top of a blimp before parachuting from there to the top of a skyscraper…it’s all there and it’s up to your own imagination.

Technical issues aside, these distractions have proven to me just how much fun I’m going to be having come Tuesday and the launch of GTA online.  Hopefully there is more to it than simply GTA with more people, but we’re in wait and see mode as of now.  Now back to my jet ski races and to get my golf cart to the top of a mountain.

Play Time to Date: 22hrs 07min

So I’m a little behind when it comes to GTA V sadly. Out of the four of us here, I’m probably the biggest fan of the franchise, but I was away on business for the first week of its release. Yet 22 hours in one week isn’t too shabby and I have to say that I’m more than a little bit impressed.

I admit it. I have a problem. An addiction really. I like to explore. It consumes my time in most games. I am consistently taking around 5 hours longer to finish most games than my colleagues do. I truly have found my Everest. I wanted to tear up the first time I got a good look at the world I was playing it. I think the world of Los Santos is one of, if not the greatest achievements in console gaming history. My head hurts just thinking about what it took to make this world come alive. So that’s what I’m going to talk a little bit about today; the side missions and all the extra activities I’ve been doing.

So let’s talk about some of the returning activities. Let’s talk about races. I know some of my friends here, namely Chuck, really hate the driving in this game. I love it. I think it’s the best it has ever been and I find it really challenging and fun. The cars handle differently depending on the type and the mechanics are really appropriate for each car’s size and the momentum that you have going. Before, in GTA IV, I felt that they constantly tried to convince you to go race. I was constantly bombarded by emails from Brucie. In V, I really want to go race. They have made them a great way to see all the different aspects of the map and all the different vehicles that you can choose from. Not only do you have the classic street races, you have off road races (my favorite), water races (hell yes jet skis), and even triathlons. I thought the addition of bicycles was one of the best additions to the game. I actually enjoy riding them, and they allowed the bike trails up the mountains to be put in. Which I successfully went to the top of in a Suburban.

off-roading is a ton of fun in the game.

Off-roading is a ton of fun in the game.

Remember in GTA III when you had to find all the cleverly hidden drug packets all over town? Well that has been a tradition that GTA has carried on and I love what they did in this installment. There are two different collection side missions in this one. One is a Strangers & Freaks mission that has you looking for scattered UFO parts. Josh has told me that the payoff for this isn’t worth the time, but I am still really enjoying doing it. The other search mission is my favorite. It isn’t started in a side mission or anything. You just kind of stumble upon it eventually. It’s a murder mystery that happened 40 years ago to a woman named Leonora Johnson. You are looking for scraps of paper laying on the ground that are clues, and there are 50 hidden across the map.  First off, I’m a sucker for a mystery so I was already hooked. But I also love how cleverly they are hidden. A few can only be reached by helicopter and a couple have to be precisely parachuted to. This has led to countless hours of me wandering to the most remote places on the map. I only have a few so far, but I will find them. Oh yes, I will find them.

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The scraps are cleverly hidden. Sadly this is one of the easier ones, and you wouldn’t see it unless you just randomly climb onto this dumpster.

Have you been eaten by a shark yet?! If so, then I am totally jealous. I have spent far more time in the water than I should have to this point. I remember the days in GTA when accidentally falling or driving into the water meant instant death. Finally we were able to swim, and now we can finally explore underwater. It’s an amazing addition to the game. You can both dive underwater and swim, as well as take a submarine exploring. Rockstar did an amazing job with their underwater graphics, as I have spent far too long just swimming underwater and looking around. They did add an element of danger by adding sharks to the Pacific Ocean. I literally swam into one and he didn’t eat me, but it will happen.

Perhaps my favorite new addition to the game is the improved cell phones. GTA IV introduced us to smart phones and the ability to use their cameras. Rockstar has done an amazing job upgrading the smart phones and parodying the iPhone and Android phones. Being able to surf the web from anywhere is a massive upgrade. Especially considering the need to explore the stock market which was a genius idea in and of itself. You can invest in all sorts of businesses located in Los Santos and you can spend time crippling their competition to drive your stock up and make tons of money. The best addition to the phone however is the improved camera and the ability to take selfies. It has become my passion in life on this game. It is so much fun to document all the crazy stuff you run into in this world by snapping a photo of you and it. The ability to upload this to the Social Club and then share you pictures with the world is way more fun than I ever thought it would be.

Just enjoying the beautiful view from high atop the mountain..... with a random naked guy I found.....

Just enjoying the beautiful view from high atop the mountain….. with a random naked guy I found…..

There are literally hundreds more things to do to kill time in GTA V. We didn’t even touch on tennis, golf, or sky diving. But the best thing you can do is go out and find them all for yourself. I spent my first half hour in this game running along a train. I have now progressed to trying to jump off a moving train and tackle somebody in mid air. I love this franchise because it really is what you make it to be. That has never been more evident as it is in V, as they have changed the way we look at “open world” games. 22 hours down, hundreds to go!

Play Time to Date: 

So it’s been two full weeks since the debut of the hottest selling game that has taken the country by storm. And that game is, of course, Hot Wheels: World’s Best Driver. Haha. Anyhoo, GTA V is still selling like hotcakes (or pancakes…or latkas…or any other flat bread-like items that go well with syrup); but has the shine worn off? Read on to find out what I think.

Some super cool fan art of the LS3 working their magic

Some super cool fan art of the LS3 working their magic

So…where were we? Ah, yes. I had just gotten to Trevor’s story and protected his meth lab. Once I had Trevor down in Los Santos proper (looking for the former friend and previously thought dead Michael) things started getting very interesting. Several side missions started popping up all over the map for all three characters. First, Franklin (our young African American “hero”) finds a fellow by the name of Beverly. Beverly is a paparazzi photographer who sends you on quests ranging from secretly filming a young actress’ sex tape to snapping a few pics of a foreign dignitary buying drugs. After performing several missions for Beverly, he essentially refuses to pay you for your work (since he is busy filming a reality show of himself) so you are left with a choice: let him be or beat the ever-loving crap out of him…I chose the latter. And I loved it. Another memorable set of side quests is from a gentleman named Nigel and his lovely companion. Both Nigel and his lady friend are elderly people from England who are infatuated with American celebrities. So infatuated that they enlist Trevor (whom they confuse with a “B” list celebrity) to get them some celebrity nicknacks and memorabilia from around Los Santos. These missions are hilarious and have Trevor doing everything from stealing a golf club to knocking the gold tooth out of someone’s mouth.

The main story revolves around completing heists for the FIB (Federal Investigation Bureau). These missions are set forth by Michael’s government contact, Dave. Dave is the person who has been hiding Michael and his family for the past ten years in their swanky mansion up in Vinewood Hills. Dave is accompanied by the super-douchey Steve Haines. Steve is in a big time conflict with a rival government intelligence agency call the IAA (Internal Affairs Agency) and wants Michael, Franklin and the newly reunited Trevor to do some dirty work to undermine their rivals…and protect his secrets. These missions will have you stealing some IAA money from an armored car convoy, sniping a known informant and accomplishing a daring kidnapping via helicopter. The most memorable of these sequences is the much maligned torture sequence. This scene (which has come under heavy scrutiny from the media) has Trevor using several forms of torture (including bashing an arm with a huge wrench, electrocution, water boarding and yanking out teeth with pliers) to get information out of a very reluctant person all while making sure he doesn’t keel over from a heart attack. I will admit, it was pretty brutal…but entertaining. In the end, Trevor dismisses torture as an effective means of gathering information and let’s the man go. The last mission I did for these clowns was a very detailed heist involving a getaway vehicle, boiler suits, monkey masks and a helluva a lot of action. It was a ton of fun (especially switching from character to character…it was easy, amazing and a blast to do)…but I really want these dudes to burn. I’ll give the full rundown in my final review.

Now, let me preface this next little bit by saying this: I really like this game. I have several more issues with this game since the last time I posted though, so I’m gonna let you hear ’em. First and foremost is the driving. I hate it. Granted it has come a long way since the previous boat-esque handling of all of the vehicles in GTA IV…but it’s still bad. Driving around the city free roam is fun, but when you get into any mission or race, the game’s AI cheats to no end and it changes the entire experience. Hint: If you don’t have Franklin and his super-car-handling power DON’T GET INTO RACES…you’ll thank me later. Another problem with the driving is the camera angles. Even if you have the camera pulled back as far as it will go, it still doesn’t angle up enough to where you can see what’s in front of you (especially if you’re in a truck or cresting a hill)…it sucks.

Also, why is there no fast travel in this game? In a world as massive as Los Santos/Blaine County it is unforgiveable that I can’t zip around and skip at least some of the driving. Yes, you can switch from character to character to help with the situation, but you don’t know exactly where the other characters are at any given time. You can also use taxis as a form of fast travel, but it costs money to use them and you can skip the ride all together (which will take you to a designated mission or waypoint) but that costs extra. Making safehouses a way to fast travel would have been the easy solution, but who listens to me anyway? No one, that’s who!

This Trevor based heist is super fun, but the sub is slow and handles like a...well, a submarine

This Trevor based heist is super fun, but the sub is slow and handles like a…well, a submarine

Also, why is it that the game can’t remember what cars I want to save? My good buddy/co-host of the Free for All Podcast Josh Barnett also made mention of this fact during our GTA spoilercast (which you can listen to here). I didn’t realize how correct he was until I swiped a Benefactor Surano and dumped around $30,000 into boosting it’s stats…only to have it disappear after I parked it in my garage! The game should allow you to dismiss cars you have currently in your garage and choose what cars that you want to keep. That would have been soooooo awesome!

This is a super nice car! Don't get used to it, though...it probably won't stay in your garage

This is a super nice car! Don’t get used to it, though…it probably won’t stay in your garage

Next week we’ll discuss the much ballyhooed GTA Online. We’ll form our own crew and devastate the city of Los Santos and Blaine County to no end. Police and gangs will feel the sting or our bullets and bank vaults will hold only cobwebs when we’re through. I am seriously looking forward to this aspect of the game and have already joined some crews through the awesome and very detailed Rockstar Social Club. Will this mode help move the needle on my score at all? More than likely. The biggest question for GTA Online? With the success and massive sales numbers for GTA V, will Rockstar’s servers be able handle the stress of so many people going live at once? My guess is no, but check back and we’ll give you the scoop next week!

A pic of what's to come with GTA Online...man, I can't wait!

A pic of what’s to come with GTA Online…man, I can’t wait!

 

About Trey Elliott

Trey Elliott
Trey is a video game enthusiast, movie junkie, and cultivator of one fantastic beard. He loves to write original Gregorian chants, play the spoon harp, and speak of whatever comes to mind on the Free For All podcast.