All of this is opinion. My opinion. I'm saying that so that I don't have to constantly repeat "to me" or "imo" out the ass. Good? It's gonna have to be.
6/10 - Let's see, the map. It is most definitely above average, especially when speaking in terms of detail and diversity. It's a class leader in that regard.
But I've experienced much better and by far more immersive map layouts especially when it comes to the look and feel of rural areas and rural terrain, and even small towns. I'll sum up my qualms by simply stating that I'd like to do a lot of deleting, replacing and rearranging. Los Santos itself isn't really the problem. Although I'd like a vaster East Los Santos and a few more modern residential areas to replicate that signature Southern California suburbia and a lot more places to enter, I have to say that Blaine County is the problem. The overall layout is the problem.
When it comes to the level of detail, Blaine County continues to impress to this day. There is certainly a lot to look at. But photo taking is the funnest activity to take part in out in the country. I like to drive, a lot. I'm a gearhead and so a capable car and scenic tarmac go hand in hand with me and if the tarmac is good enough, I can play for hours. Blaine County was a pleasure to drive through during the first several weeks of playing, but I found out that that was mainly because it was all new to me.
You see, after a few more weeks or so, I sort of limited myself to driving in the city, mainly staying on the Great Ocean Highway whenever I ventured out into the countryside. And then eventually I stopped taking trips out to Blaine County altogether, only doing so every so often. Why? In short, it got boring. Again, the attention to detail was/is beautiful but beauty only gets you so far. I struggled to find reasons to visit Paleto or Sandy Shores or even go out for a scenic drive. Paleto is a decent drive whether you take the ocean highway or the interstate but when you get there, what are you supposed to do? Maybe take a photo, drive on a couple of roads or maybe some trails, then leave? I know I always want to leave more than I want to stay otherwise I'll get bored. Sandy Shores? Again, picture then leave. Maybe boat around that oversized lake for a little while before crashing it onto a bank out of boredom. I've tried to make it fun, believe me. I'm a huge roleplayer. I'll take a pickup truck towing a speedboat behind it out to Alamo and try to have some weekend fun but it's just so dull and unrewarding and when I come back, my truck is gone so. Would be worth it if there were things to find other than just pure eye candy.
Just, there are no exciting reasons to want to go out and visit the small towns or "attractions" across Blaine County. Okay. There are a few cool sites like the waterfalls in Banham that I never get tired of visiting. But stuff like that is few and far in between. In most cases, I'll go somewhere or do something and experience it then not care and not want to bother with experiencing again. Hell, a lot of areas and activities just feel like eye candy and have nothing to offer other than to give the game quantity or pretty graphics.
Look, I love the countryside. I live in Texas. The Hill Country is less than 20 miles away from where I'm sitting. Taking drives out to Kerrville is fun. Fredericksburg, Bandera. Visiting the lake is fun. Exploring trails is fun. Some areas are so beautiful that you just want to sit there and relax for hours enjoying the views. The roads are fun to drive on and very scenic. But most of all, it feels distant and secluded and timeless. It feels so far from the city as soon as you exit the metro. Blaine County never feels secluded. The only areas that feel even remotely secluded are Mount Gordo, Palomino and a few more stretches of the east coast that sadly has little to offer other than a rather tedious hike.
My problem centers around this. The mountains are all pushed out towards the edges of the map, the center is relatively flat and simple. The roads are for the most part straight and boring. There's a huge lack of fun canyon roads and secluded four lane passes and even freeways. California has a plethora of fun and engaging mountain roads, oh god do no get me started. It's so fast, if you've got a sports car and want to drive for hours on end on winding switchbacks then you are set. Not in Blaine County. Everything is easy to navigate. Simplistic. Artificial. Dull. Manmade structures are also everywhere. Trees? Okay Southern California lacks in that department but myriads of little mountain ranges, rolling hills, dry brush vegetation and canyons make up for that and supply a distinct, barren and secluded look and feel. Blaine County lacks 95% of that. Which is why I absolutely am never reminded that Blaine County is their take on Southern California. They are remarkably dissimilar. And Paleto is supposed to be a taste of Central/Northern California, maybe even Big Sur, but that cheesy little forest it has simply doesn't cut it. It needs an expansion, or should not exist at all. And Mount Chiliad could not have been positioned worse or more awkward to look at. It's the layout that almost ruins it for me. The lack of seclusion, placement of everything. It's such a dull layout. And of course I have my pet peeves. There's a lot of very slow moving traffic and overtaking them gets tedious especially during roleplaying. The fact that the Great Ocean Highway is only two lanes and not four is offputting because once again the traffic moves too slow and I'm not keen on swerving all over the place.
The atmosphere? Eh. I have to use my imagination a little more than I'd like to. Mainly to make myself feel like I'm not near any sort of big city and that I'm in the countryside. That Southern California country vibe? Totally absent. The environment often feels nice but kind of lacking in personality. It could be anything.
Of course I still play V. I still drive a lot and all of that. You kind of accept everything for what it is but never forget about what it could be. Every map could be better. Oh of course. But many have the capability wowing you and being timeless that they rarely even remind you of that fact. Perhaps my perception of the map is affected by other things. Such as the driving mechanics which although I still enjoy, still can't quite get into them and find them lacking too much in depth and feel to enjoy. Maybe it is that, because as I've said in the past, I drive like 80% of the time. The layout of a lot means a lot to me. And as ridiculous as it sounds, I thought Burnout Paradise had a far more enticing and engaging and interesting countryside layout. Honest.