It’s been five years since the previous Grand Theft Auto IV which was set in the fictitious ‘Liberty City, site ’ based heavily on New York. The newest edition to the series is set back in San Andreas, based primarily around Los Angeles (Los Santos in the game) and the surrounding regions of rural southern California.

Perhaps the biggest change to the usual format is the replacement of one protagonist, giving the player three to chose from; Michael, a mid-40s semi-retired bank robber with family issues, Franklyn, a young african-American repo man working for a dodgy Armenian car dealer, and Trevor, a borderline psychopath and alcoholic meth and arms dealer living out in a trailer in the middle of the desert.

New additions to the gameplay include the ability to organise and conduct heists and the ability to fly planes (a feature conspicuously absent from IV).  The physics are also a major improvement since the last game, especially noticeable when driving, so there’s no crashing every five minutes.

The game is every bit as good as the hype would suggest, including excellent gameplay, well plotted storyline and great voice acting and motion capture – not forgetting the usual biting satirical take on American life and culture, poking fun at western consumerism, crime, the media as well as ethnic and cultural stereotypes. Of course, if one is not interested in all of that you can still steal cars and drive around San Andreas, chased by the police.

Evan O’Quigley