A Sandbox Full Of Dreams
Rockstar says that this San Andreas is the biggest world they’ve ever created and I believe it. No, it’s not to the scale of Just Cause 2, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s been given lavish attention. This is an exaggerated take on Los Angeles through the upper desert, not to scale of San Andreas, but still plenty huge. As a non-native, I was able to enjoy the proportion of landmarks to real estate although, sadly, there’s no Convention Center this time around. On top of your story missions, there are plenty of character-specific tasks, but also fun endurance tasks like triathlons, a sport in my wheelwell, BASE jumping and yoga. Yeah, yoga. You can even purchase properties littered throughout the land, but in an annoying bit, only specific characters can purchase them and you won’t know until after you’ve hauled your butt across the map, often meaning you’ll need to switch characters and do the same thing.
It seems so odd that as the grandfather of the 3D open world genre, the best bits of Grand Theft Auto V don’t have much to do with what a sandbox game has to offer. Most of the missions, including the highlighting heists, are linear, tightly scripted affairs where Rockstar can show off some of their cool new cinematic tech (which we’ll get to in a second). That you’re in an open-world game where conditions can change serendipitiously helps the illusion, but Grand Theft Auto seems to task its massive worlds to service its missions, rather than the other way around. In games like Saints Row and Just Cause, you’re compelled to explore the landscape to either capture territory to help your cause or build your abilities. Not here. In fact, until the narrative commanded it, I had little reason to traverse the northern two-thirds of the map. On top of that, the bulk of your tasks net little to no gains and rarely any cash, to the chagrin of the characters themselves. They’re largely superfluous. Mostly fun, but superfluous. You can build up your characters’ skills, but as I progressed, I can’t honestly say I noticed my characters changing. Trevor, who starts with the lowest stamina, seemed to have no issue booking it at ten miles per hour any time I needed him to. Everyone drove and shot with no issue despite their levels.