Grand Theft Auto 5 is the latest installment of the Rockstar classic heist video game.
GTA:V transcended both 7th and 8th generation consoles, having originally been released in September 2013 and then re-worked, and re-leased for the next generation PS4 and Xbox one the following November. Whilst I am sure many were skeptical by Rockstar’s re-lease of the game in 2014, but there is now no denying that the re-release is an upgraded, and far slicker version of the previous sandbox with a whole new perspective thrown in for good measure. The first person player option, combined with the resolution enhancements to the scenery and vehicles, has made it almost indistinguishable from driving around the real life Los Santos, Los Angeles, highlighting how far the franchise has come since its inception in 1997 with the pixelated birds-eye view version.
With both first and third person perspective playing options available (as well as new online interactions), gamers can experience for themselves the intertwining exploits of criminals Michael, Trevor and Franklin as they travers the masterful and epic open world of San Andreas’ Los Santos and Blaine County.
Having visited this city last August, I was amazed by the accuracy of the portrayal of the streets, the architecture and particularly the lighting of the weather on the roads and cars. The golden pink and yellow hues of the region could not be much truer to life and the glistening buildings and vehicles were a joy to see. The virtual trip up Highway 1, over the Bixby Bridge and into the mountains made me pang for the warmth and gorgeous wilderness of California.
It is nothing short of beautiful.
And whilst it may sound a little odd, if you are thinking of visiting SoCal, it is not a bad starting point to familiarise yourself with the sights and highlights of the region. It is, of sorts, a guide book, but to be taken with a degree of caution, of course. What becomes apparent when you visit the real Los Angeles is its sheer scale. Whilst it was only a relatively short distance from Hollywood to The Bixby Bridge in the game, in reality, it is a whopping 4 hour drive along 300miles of the coastal highway. The Salton Sea (home of good for nothing Trevor) is an area 170 miles South West of LA. Even within Los Santos, the sights are relatively close together, and you could hijack a Vine Tour Bus and take in the landmarks at your leisure within a few minutes. Not such an easy feat in reality. Traffic is hectic, and you soon realise that having to be a law abiding citizen seriously affects your sightseeing agenda!
So here you have it. The top sights from the Los Santos and Blaine County area (PS4 screenshots) compared against what you will actually see if you visit Los Angeles and the Pacific Coast.
*No (real) pedestrians were harmed in the photographing of this blog*
GTAV – Road Trip
Part 1 – Vinewood/Hollywood
Von Cranstenburg Hotel, Vinewood Boulevard A.K.A Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Hollywood Boulevard
Oriental Theatre A.K.A Grauman’s Chinese Theatre
Vinewood Bowl A.K.A Hollywood Bowl
Vinewood Sign A.K.A Hollywood Sign & Dam
Galileo Observatory A.K.A Griffiths Observatory, Griffith Park
The Griffith Park observatory will be familiar to Terminator fans as this is the location where Arni confronted Bill Paxman and his punk acquaintances.
Badger Building A.K.A Capital Records
Part 2 – Rockfort Hills/ Beverly Hills
Weasel Plaza A.K.A Fox Plaza A.K.A Nakatomi Plaza (Die Hard)
Part 3 – Downtown
Maze Bank Tower A.K.A US Bank Tower, downtown
Los Santos Storm Drain A.K.A LA river
Part 4 – Del Perro/ Santa Monica
Del Perro Pier A.K.A Santa Monica Pier
Pleasure Park / Pacific Park
Ambulance (popular get-away-vehicle)
Casa del Mar
Life Guard truck and Beach hut
Part 5 – Vespucci Beach a.k.a Venice Beach (Gold’s Gym)
Part 6 – Miscellaneous
Big Creek Bridge A.K.A Bixby Bridge, Pacific Coast Highway, Big Sur
Le Brea Tar Pits & Angels Flight & Disney Concert Hall (available in L.A. Noir)
More than just a heist game
As hopefully this comparison has demonstrated, there is no denying that the franchise has come a long way since it’s very first release back in 1997 when all the detail you had was a 2D bird’s-eye-view of Liberty City, San Andreas and Vice City.
Whilst not a gamer myself, I must confess that I had not expected the realism or indeed, scope of GTAV. For me, it was not the heists, main plot line or the characters that fascinated. Instead, it was the painstaking detail of the sandbox world of Los Santos that moved me: the beautiful sunsets, the flora and fauna, the uplifting soundtrack. I can certainly say that it was GTAV that ignited my newfound love affair with the West Coast of America.
Who knows where Rockstar will take us next – A trip back to London may be fun…
Where to Stay
Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (www.hollywoodroosevelt.com) – Fabulous Art Deco, Hollywood Glamour hotel right on Hollywood Boulevard, and sits right opposite the Chinese Theatre. The hotel itself is beautiful, a gorgeous pool side area and the wonderful Spare Room games suite. A great central location for those wanting to explore central Los Angeles.
Casa Del Mar (www.hotelcasadelmar.com) – A must for a visit to Santa Monica. Located right on the beach and with a perfect view of the pier, it is truly luxurious. One of the best hotels we have ever stayed in.