Remember that line from the trailer? I certainly do. After spending countless hours in every GTA since 3, I was expecting a truly remarkable "living breathing world." But was that really what we got? I'm not so certain.
For starters what makes a living breathing world? I would say "life" does. And that life to me, comes from all the different people walking around in the game world. This means drivers and pedestrians. I've invested probably close to 200 hours in GTA V just wandering around in free roam checking out various locations and just observing the game world, and while it is beautiful, it's far from "alive" as the trailers liked to describe it. Everything feels very scripted, and even then there is not much going on at any given time. The most life you can hope for is a cop car speeding by chasing a random civilian and maybe if you're lucky, they get into a gun fight.
Now let me contrast this to a scenario I experienced last night in San Andreas:
- Walking down the street and bump into a drug dealer
- He asks me if I would like to buy any, I say naw man.
- Decide I might want to kill him and take his money so I start setting up in stealth for a knife kill
- Another pedestrian approaches him and does a deal, holy sh*t
- As soon as the dealer hands the product to the random pedestrians a cop car pulls up with lights flashing
- The officer gets out and draws his weapon on the dealer, intent on arresting him
- A small gun fight ensues, and the dealer flees on foot
- The cops chased him down and killed him
- Shortly afterwards an ambulance came and revived the drug dealer
This whole scene that played out totally at random, in a game almost a decade old, felt more alive than any other moment I've had in GTA V. It was executed so perfectly you would think the cops were running a sting operation on the dealer, it was that good. And yet it wasn't, it was just by chance that a cop happened to be patrolling the area and witnessed a drug deal going on between two random pedestrians, and jumped into action. It was incredible to witness and really made me that much more aware of why San Andreas was titled the best game of the PS2 generation by IGN. It truly was a marvel for it's time, and still is giving me quality experiences to this day.
And this reminded me, where are the patrolling cops in V? What happened to making arrests? Why are there no drug dealers approaching Franklin asking him if he wants any?
Where is this living breathing world you advertised to me Rockstar?
Sure the graphics are pretty, but this game is about as dead as a free roam game can get. And that hurts to say, because what GTA V does right, it does amazing. The gunplay, the graphics, the missions all are fun and incredibly detailed. But man, that free roam is really truly dead.