On reflection, I realised that 2014 wasn’t actually that great for video games. With the next-gen consoles starting their first full year of releases, it was hoped that it would be the time where more revolutionary development would get pushed. Instead, the Playstation 4 and Xbox One consoles weren’t that much in the focus, with most AAA releases coming to last-gen consoles too, and graphics and performance showing the only real improvements made with the new hardware. Out of the few exclusive titles that attempted to set things in a new direction, too many were overshadowed by an abundance of so-called “HD remasters” and pointless re-releases that muddied the market. Ranging from higher-definition masterpieces (The Last Of Us Remastered), to pointless collections of much older games (Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition), all too many of these titles saw little improvement and were tossed out to make a quick buck. Out of the murky depths of market saturation, however, came Grand Theft Auto V – the heavily rumoured ‘next-gen’ release. With the game originally arriving towards the back-end of the last-gen lifecycle, and with it heralding mighty review scores across the board, it would have been easy for Rockstar to quickly port their title across and still have huge success with it. Thankfully this isn’t the case, and as well as increasing the visual fidelity tenfold, there are some surprising additions that only go to improve the already stellar gameplay. If you didn’t think that GTA V could get much better, think again. This is definitely a re-release that you should have in your collection!
Continuing the tradition of creating fantastic stories, GTA V displays the finest narrative created by Rockstar to date. Offering multiple playable characters for the first time within the franchise, they are surprisingly intertwined with ease, with personal storylines worked in amongst the over-arching narrative of their partnership. No matter how good the story is on paper, it just wouldn’t be a GTA game without a colourful cast of characters, and Franklin, Michael, and Trevor are so different to each other that their scenes all feel fresh, and when placed together it makes for a captivating experience. This variety in the main cast brings with it thrilling confrontations, hilarious dialogue, and beautifully directed moments that’ll easily make you forget that you are playing a video game, and not watching a Hollywood drama. Seriously, the cutscenes in this game are nothing short of genius with the brilliant animation complimenting the phenomenal voice work perfectly. The whole story is simple to follow, complex enough to offer plenty of depth, and it’s so easy to invest yourself in that you’ll find yourself enjoying it all like no other GTA game before it.
The Grand Theft Auto franchise has always had an appetite for the over-the-top, and that certainly hasn’t changed with the latest release. While the entirety of Los Santos is built upon a caricature of Los Angeles, the true absurdities shine throughout the vast array of missions that are open to each playable character. If you’ve ever played a GTA game before (which I sincerely hope you have) you’ll be fully aware of the crazy adventure that lies in wait. With such a detailed game world and a whole heap of possibilities within it, it’s always hard to guess what the game will throw at you next. While the main mechanics of the game involve shooting, killing, driving, and committing crime, it’s the situations the characters finds themselves in that spices things up and puts you in for a rollercoaster ride. There’s so much depth to the game world that no single mission ever feels the same, and the living, breathing city gives any action that ‘epic’ feeling.
Perhaps what is the bread-and-butter of GTA V’s gameplay offering, Heists offer the biggest thrill of any mission, becoming available at pivotal points within the story and playing out very differently from your standard mission. Before these heists can even begin, players have to set their plan of action. Building your approach from the ground up, the planning phase provides players with choices to make that will dramatically impact on how these heists play out. Do you go with Plan A, or Plan B? Do you employ the hacker with more skill but with a higher pay-out, or employ the hacker with lesser skill and desire for a lower pay-out? These are just some of the choices that can not only affect your performance in the field, but also your reward too, and it’s interesting to see how these missions can change based off what/who you choose. What follows is a series of bite-size missions that largely involve you acquiring the various different materials, items, and vehicles that you need to complete the plan. The planning of the heists and the build-up towards them is incredibly refreshing, and the jobs themselves are always a great pay-off for your efforts, filled with both literal and figurative explosive set-pieces and scripted events that outshine most action flicks.
When you aren’t engaging yourself in any kind of mission, naturally players are able to explore Los Santos to their hearts-consent without any restrictions. Fancy climbing all the way to the top of Mount Chiliad and parachuting down? Feel free. Fancy gunning down several pedestrians and then going on a law enforcement killing-spree? Be my guest. Unlike previous entries in the franchise, GTA V contains no restrictions, with the whole city being open for exploration from the start. During your time within the city, the world is your oyster and you can commit as much crime and mayhem as possible. With a whole host of cars to jack and steal, with a massive arsenal of weapons available in the world and at Ammu-Nation stores, and several landmarks scattered around the game world, there’s a lot to see and do in this game that you never become bored of messing around.
Making your free-roaming more fun, random events can happen around the map that you can choose to interfere on. These events can range from a store robbery, to a mugger stealing a purse, to a builder caught up in an on-site disaster. There’s plenty of variety within these events and they are fun, albeit short diversions that offer rewards to the player should they take notice of them. On top of this, ‘Stranger’ missions appear from time to time that offer experiences more akin to the story missions, with their fleshed out gameplay and cutscenes. Some of these missions are one-offs involving new characters, while others contain recurring characters or situations, the latter being a joy to complete thanks to the continuing narrative and fun characters. The availability of these stranger missions depend on who you are currently playing as, with each character having their own selection to work through. Outside of this, the game world harbours races, challenges, ‘Rampage’ missions of old, and clothing/tattoo/barber/weapon shops that allow you to customise your character.
As mentioned previously, the move to next-gen hardware has seen the game make noticeable improvements. At the forefront of these changes is the major enhancement to the graphics. Models are now higher in detail, textures are much higher in definition, and the game world looks more ‘alive’ thanks to a boost in foliage, weather effects, higher traffic and pedestrian density, and a much sharper appearance on everything. An open-world game has never looked better, and aside from a few occasional frame-rate drops here and there, the game performs better than it did before too. Developers, please take notice: this is how you should be porting your games to new hardware – it’s seriously a huge improvement from its PS3/Xbox 360 original.
Aside from the obvious visual improvements, Rockstar even took the time to include new features exclusive to this version of the game, with the addition of a First-Person camera angle being the biggest, and best inclusion. The cynics amongst the community may lambast Rockstar for conforming to the modern trend of FPS games, but in truth it’s a camera placement that works stupidly well. Development hasn’t been rushed on this feature, and as such it feels really fleshed out and natural within the game. There’s also plenty of customisation within the options menu that allows you to tweak everything and really make the experience silky smooth. The improved graphics are displayed beautifully from this new perspective, and any kind of intense action or car chase feels even more action-packed through the eyes of each character. It also helps that car interiors are now wonderfully detailed and include working dials and screens that make driving around feel real. Honestly, I’ve spent most of my time with this game playing it in First-Person, and I honestly prefer it over the third-person angle. I’ve never felt so engaged in my own mayhem and destruction before, and I hope Rockstar continue to include this feature in future releases. Other extra features included is the ability to duck down in your car in order to dodge bullet fire (a feature that becomes very useful), plenty more licensed songs are now used on the radio stations, and there’s even a few surprising extra experiences thrown in that I shall leave to your own discovery.
Also included in this package is GTA Online, an entirely separate multiplayer component that allows you to create your own criminal, level-up, improve upon your skills, and get rich. The aim of the game is similar to that of the singleplayer, and it encourages you to become a great criminal and build up a name for yourself. Money is key in this mode, and you need to earn as much as possible so that you can buy more weapons/ammo, buildings, cars, and bet on your own performance in competitive modes. There really is a lot to do, but some aspects do feel weaker than others, particularly that of the PVP competitive modes that don’t work too well thanks to the GTA aiming system. The aiming works fine everywhere else, but with players running around everywhere and rushing the enemy, it can be hard to get much of a shot in sometimes because of how slow it can be. Players can compete in races too, as well as crazy competitive missions, parachute drops, or have the ability to free-roam around together.
GTA Online really comes into its own when you play with friends, especially when you can (largely) trust them to not shoot you in the face and steal your money. Though the Role-Playing elements are a nice addition, and they fit around the different style of play offered within this game, there are limitations to causing lots of havoc, and it can be frustrating when all you want to do is kick-back with some chums and commit mindless slaughter. In my opinion, the whole thing is a concept that’s has always sounded better on paper than it has done in practice. Obviously I’m not saying that it’s devoid of fun, because that would be a big lie, but it just doesn’t play as fun as it sounds, and I’d much rather stick to the singleplayer and mess around there. Ultimately it depends on what you want out of this mode, but either way there’s fun to be had and hours to be sunk in. The game has improved drastically since the days that it launched on last-gen, but the multiplayer still isn’t the barrel of laughs that I expected it to be.
Grand Theft Auto V on the next-gen consoles is the same great game from before, but made even better. Not only improving the visuals by a hell of a lot, Rockstar have also implemented some new features and extra tid-bits that freshen the experience, making this more than a simple port. It’s honestly extraordinary how fun the world of GTA is to experience from an FPS perspective, and while not only doing well to highlight the upgrade in graphics, it also immerses yourself in Los Santos like never before, allowing you to really engage yourself in the action, the world, and the story. Even without touching these new features however, it’s remarkable how fun this game is to play once again, with the cutscenes, missions, and general gameplay feeling timeless and ever-enjoyable. Despite sinking a large part of my life into the original release, I couldn’t help but return to this new version and do everything I had done previously all over again – and that’s a true testament to the almighty quality that Rockstar have achieved here.
- The same great game that you remember from before.
- Brilliant narrative and fantastic directing.
- Multiple playable characters work really well.
- Los Santos is HUGE.
- The best gameplay to date within the GTA franchise.
- Visuals are hugely improved – it’s easily the best looking sandbox.
- The FPS mode is a very welcome addition.
- Occasional dip in frame-rate spoils a few moments.
- GTA Online has improved, but is still rather disappointing.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.