«

»

Grand Theft Auto V review for PS4, Xbox One


Platform: PS4, Xbox One
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar North
Medium: Disc/Digital
Players: 1-30
Online: Yes
ESRB: M

Earlier this year there were precisely 3 games on my  “must double dip ASAP if they are remastered for next-gen” list: The Last of Us, Journey and Grand Theft Auto V. With two of them now available in all their enhanced 1080p glory, and the third scheduled to launch sometime in the near future, is it really worth it to revisit a game after dumping countless hours into the old-gen game just a short half-generation ago? Well that kind of depends on: 1) how much love a player has for the source material and 2) the effort that a developer puts into “remastering” their titles. In the case of Naughty Dog and Rockstar Games, two developers well-known for putting extra effort into all their releases, the answer is a resounding “yes”. With Grand Theft Auto V for the PS4, Xbox One and soon PC, Rockstar has certainly gone above and beyond what most fans would have expected from a new generation re-release.

“Above and beyond” in the case of Grand Theft Auto V doesn’t just mean higher quality textures, increased display resolution, more consistent framerates and better lighting. We’re talking a whole new way to play the game, meaningful new content, interesting new features, and a much better experience even for those who absolutely enjoyed the original. Of course that bonus content for returning players doesn’t hurt either.

Dustin gave the original GTAV release an “A-” grade back last year when he reviewed the game, and in my opinion, he hit the nail on the head. Rockstar is a developer that likes to mix things up a bit, for better or for worse, and divvying up V’s story across a trio of characters was certainly a risk worth taking. The seamless nature of jumping into and out of Michael, Trevor and Franklin’s lives all throughout the game’s timeline is still just as impressive now as it was back then — maybe even more so now with the snappier PS4 and Xbox One load times.

GTAV_NG_091

The big change here in the new generation version of Grand Theft Auto V is the recently revealed first person experience mode that gives players the ability to play nearly the entire game from the viewpoint of the main characters. From driving cars, bikes and planes from a first person perspective, to the surprisingly customizable gameplay, display and combat options, Rockstar North didn’t just blindly hack the first person experience into the game. They added new gameplay features, created working speedometers and radio station displays for vehicles, and quite obviously put real thought into what gamers would want from a first person GTA (NSFW “Hot Coffee”-style content included).

Playing from a first person perspective isn’t perfect in GTAV, though for a game of this scale not originally designed to accommodate that type of experience, it’s still exceptionally well done and most definitely more immersive. Running around corners and driving certain vehicles can feel a little overly sensitive at times, and I found that the slight fish-tail effect gave me a touch of motion sickness here and there — but not enough to stop me from playing. Chasing a target down the street, through an alley, over obstacles and around traffic, just to catch up and knock them out with a running punch will never, ever get old. The combat in first person view feels generally more challenging depending on the how the gameplay options are configured, so it may also depend on your personal preferences to an extent. With the ability to easily jump into and out of the mode on the fly it’s totally worth spending time with and it’s enough of a game changer that I would expect Rockstar to include it as an option in future GTA releases. R* didn’t reinvent first person open-world gameplay by any means (Ubisoft’s Far Cry series has done it right for a number of years now) but they have opened the door a little more for this type of experience for sure.

GTAV_NG_Screenshot_112Back when it was originally released in 2013, I honestly don’t remember complaining much about the older-generation Grand Theft Auto V’s visual presentation. With the well rendered environments, striking skylines and unmatched attention to detail, any performance issues were largely forgotten. Now that we have our hands on what can be best described as a more polished new generation remaster, it’s a little hard to go back to the PS3/Xbox 360 version. The 30fps framerate still fluctuates a little bit in super dense intersection traffic, and there are some spotty textures, pop-in and effects that give away the game’s last-gen roots, though by and large, the game’s upgrade is a significant one. The bump in traffic and pedestrian density is certainly noticeable, as is the exponential increase in foliage and wild/domesticated animals in the city and countryside. Higher quality textures and effects, including reflections, shadows/lighting and weather effects tie it all together into an even more impressive package. Just hanging out in Los Santos observing the more realistically rendered city and the NPC population going about their daily lives is as fascinating as ever.

Beyond the obvious visual upgrade, Grand Theft Auto V is loaded with thoughtful additions and tweaks all around. I’m a sucker for developers who spend a little extra time to utilize a platform’s unique controller features, and in this instance, Rockstar has made some excellent use of the PS4 DualShock 4’s integrated speaker (phone calls and police chatter), touchpad (gestures for changing weapons and  radio stations), and the controller lightbar (to indicate low health or a police chase event).  Xbox One owners get treated to some haptic rumble effects in the Xbox One controller.

GTAV_NG_Screenshot_006

In terms of sound design and writing, Rockstar is usually in a league of their own, and sharp, witty dialog and a progressive soundrack have been Grand Theft Auto staples for generations now. The radio stations and song selections in the 2013 release of GTAV were just slightly below standard when compared to some of the very best in the series (Vice City especially), so it was great to hear (pun intended) that Rockstar licensed around another 100 tracks and mixes for this new generation release.

The single player GTAV experience is so fulfilling that I didn’t expect to ever really get involved much with GTA Online. It didn’t take much to suck me in though, and it can be an addictive and fun time waster depending on who you roll with. I’ve spent a fair share of time online, and although it’s been slightly shaky here and there, nearly everything that Rockstar Games has promised is more or less working. Of course, the elephant in the room is the anticipated Heists mode, which fans have been seemingly waiting for forever. Tackling co-op crime jobs in the GTAV universe sounds like a ridiculous amount of fun, so we assume that Rockstar is fastidiously working to get it right before they unleash it to the masses.

GTA Online_PS4_011

Grand Theft Auto V was one of my personal top 3 games of 2013, and thanks to the new level of polish, additional content and worthwhile features, it’ll likely be up there for 2014 again. If for whatever reason you were highly offended by GTAV or previous games in the series, or the open world gameplay just didn’t work for you, you should feel ashame… err… it’s entirely possible that this new generation release of Grand Theft Auto V may change your mind.

Grade: A

Grand Theft Auto V – PlayStation 4


Manufacturer: Rockstar Games
ESRB Rating: Mature
Platform: PlayStation 4
Genre: action-game-genre

New From: $43.14 USD In Stock