Well my Amazon pre-order finally arrived (of course on the last day of the week and I'm going on holiday until mid-next week). I still played an hour to look what this game had under hood: overall and with such little gameplay time, it looks very promissing however there's room for a few improvements.
The driving wasn't as horrid as I was left to expect by all the forum posts, but it could use some tweaking I guess. In the first Franklin mission where you steal the sports cars, I must say I found it quite difficult to master the driving of the white Audi R8 look alike car. I spun out 4-5 times. It was ok but not particularly impressed. I then drove the AMG Black which felt a bit easier to drive but didn't feel fast even though it should be. Also the other problem I have (I got an older 360, disk 1 installed, disk 2 in the dvd drive) is i got a lot of lag. This is kinda crappy especially when you're trying to drive fast but I guess this game really pushes the 360 to its boundaries. I'll have to try installing disk 2 to USB...
Anyways, before quitting, I took a drive out in the country side (map is huuuuge) on the highway, stole a pick-up truck and thought I'd try damage out. Drove on the wrong side of the road into the first car that came and then again in another one: damage looked...meh. I mean if you did this is GTA IV you'd see a nice amount of damage in the front of the cars. I don't want to get in the whole "this is not realistic debate", just saying that compared to GTA IV it's a bit disappointing.
But here's what I realized after playing. I think that most people who complain or say this game is bad are faced with a simple problem: the gap between GTA SA and GTA IV was immense in every aspect of the game. Graphically, GTA IV was millions of miles better looking that GTA SA and a lot of things were simply new for GTA games be it ragdoll physics, "realistic" damage and driving etc. GTA IV was really new on every aspects of the game, not only the story.
On the other hand, GTA V isn't not a complete remake of the franchise as GTA IV was and I think this is why many gamers, over-hyped by a new GTA opus feel let down by this episode. In some ways and from what i've played, I'd dare saying GTA V is more of a GTA 4.75 . It's GTA IV + new stuff to do + new story + bigger map. But graphically, it's the same game.
Anyway, I'm looking forward to playing it more and hope R* will improve a thing or 2 in time. Stop hating this game and take it for what it is: a great sandbox game!