GTA Critical reception
Grand Theft Auto V was released to critical acclaim. Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating in the 0–100 range, calculated an average score of 97 out of 100 based on 50 reviews for the PlayStation 3 version and 58 reviews for the Xbox 360 version. The game is Metacritic’s fifth-highest rated, tied with a number of others.[k] Reviewers liked the multiple lead character formula, heist mission design and presentation, but some did not agree on the quality of the story and characters. IGN’s Keza MacDonald called Grand Theft Auto V “one of the very best video games ever made”, and Play considered it “generation-defining” and “exceptional”. Edge wrote that it is a “remarkable achievement” in open world design and storytelling, while The Daily Telegraph’s Tom Hoggins declared it a “colossal feat of technical engineering”.
CNET’s Jeff Bakalar felt that the game encouraged players to engage with all three characters. Edge found that switching players was helpful for avoiding long travel times to mission start points. Because of the switching mechanic, Game Informer’s Matt Bertz noted that players are kept “in the thick of the action” during shootouts. Eurogamer’s Tom Bramwell wrote that switching added a tactical element to shootouts as characters set up in strategic outposts would cause fewer “shooting gallery” situations than previous instalments. IGN’s MacDonald felt the switching feature gave players more choice in their approach and made missions less predictable.
Giant Bomb’s Jeff Gerstmann considered the heist missions a welcome deviation from series typical mission structure. Eurogamer’s Bramwell likened them to “blockbuster set-pieces” and GameSpot’s Carolyn Petit cited the 1995 film Heat as a stylistic influence on their design. Joystiq’s Xav de Matos felt creativity and methodical approaches were encouraged. Polygon’s Chris Plante likened rapid character switching during heist missions to “film editing, with the player serving as editor, switching rapidly to the most interesting perspective for any moment”. Computer and Video Games’s Andy Kelly felt that overall mission design was more diverse than and lacked the escort errands of its predecessors.
The player character with their back to the camera, and the sprawl of an urban city centre in front of them.
Los Santos, the city featured in the game’s open world. Reviewers praised its design and similarity to Los Angeles. The departure from Grand Theft Auto IV’s Liberty City was also well received.
Edge praised the game’s graphical fidelity and absence of load screens. Play complimented the draw distances and weather and lighting systems. Eurogamer’s Bramwell considered the lighting system to be the game’s biggest advancement. Official Xbox Magazine (OXM)’s Mikel Reparaz thought that the game was “probably the Xbox 360’s greatest technical achievement”, and was surprised that the open world could render on the console. Reviewers lauded the open world’s design, some further complimenting the game for streamlining Los Angeles’s geography into a well-designed city space. GameTrailers’s Brandon Jones considered the Los Angeles emulation authentic and the open world “full of voice and personality”. IGN and PlayStation Official Magazine (OPM) made favourable comparisons between Los Santos and Grand Theft Auto IV’s Liberty City. OXM’s Reparez felt Los Santos surpassed the “grey and gritty” Liberty City. Reviewers praised the world’s satire of contemporary American culture—OPM’s Joel Gregory opined that “the scathing social commentary is, of course, present and correct”.
Destructoid’s Jim Sterling called the sound design “impeccable” and praised the actors’ performances, original soundtrack and licensed music use. IGN and Giant Bomb commended the music selection and felt that the original score enhanced dramatic tension during missions. GameSpot’s Petit wrote that the score “lends missions more cinematic flavour”. Edge said that the licensed music enhanced the city’s “already remarkable sense of space” and that the original score improved the atmosphere of the gameplay. They summarised the game as “a compendium of everything Rockstar has learnt about the power of game music in the past decade”.
Many reviewers found the land-based vehicles more responsive and easier to control than in previous games. Game Informer’s Bertz explained that “cars have a proper sense of weight, while retaining the agility necessary for navigating through traffic at high speeds”. In addition to the vehicle handling, most reviewers noted the shooting mechanics were tighter than they had been in previous games, but Destructoid’s Sterling felt that in spite of the improvements, auto-aim was “twitchy and unreliable” and cover mechanics “still come off as dated and unwieldy”. Some reviewers felt the game solved a continual problem by adding mid-mission checkpoints.
The story and characters—particularly Trevor—polarised reviewers. Some felt that the narrative was not as well written as previous Rockstar games and cited Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption’s plot strengths. Others felt that the protagonists’ contrasting personalities gave the narrative tighter pacing. Edge thought the choice to host multiple leads was crucial, writing “what [at first] seemed like a gimmick ultimately proves to be the bedrock for the game as a whole”. GamesRadar’s Hollander Cooper thought the game negated inconsistencies in the story of previous entries, whose single lead protagonists had muddled morality. GameSpot’s Petit considered Trevor in particular a “truly horrible, terrifying, psychotic human being—and a terrific character”. Eurogamer’s Bramwell found Trevor “shallow and unconvincing”, and felt that his eccentricities hurt the narrative and overshadowed Michael and Franklin’s character development. Joystiq’s de Matos faulted the protagonists’ lack of likability for him, and found the ambivalence between Michael and Trevor a tired plot device as their conflict grew into a “seemingly endless cycle”. The Escapist’s Greg Tito had difficulty connecting with the characters’ emotions since they acted out of greed with no sense of morality and thus gave players little reason to support them.