Grand Theft Auto V Review – Rockstars of a New Generation
Rockstar’s release of Grand Theft Auto V on last generation platforms broke records, introduced innovations at every turn and raised the bar for developers around the world but did they manage to impress a second time round? Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 18 months you’re probably already well versed in the content that Grand Theft Auto V and Grand Theft Auto Online have to offer so this review will focus mainly on the differences between last and current generation versions alongside the advancements in GTA Online. My original article on the PlayStation 3 version features a more in-depth review of the story and characters, you can check that out here if you’re brand new to the game.
Originally I intended to air this review a lot closer to the original release but after several hugely successful GTA streams on our Twitch.TV channel it became clear that an alarming number of people were unwilling to commit to a second purchase of GTAV until the Heists content was launched – an updated that was originally intended for Spring 2014. And with plenty of traditional release window reviews available, we wanted to provide a review with an approach more in-tune with our community.
The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 releases of Grand Theft Auto V came with a bevy of exciting changes including higher resolution graphics, increased draw distance, additional wildlife, denser traffic, improved weather effects (more on that shortly) and better foliage. Yup, even the bushes are given a next-generation makeover. Although these elements combine to create a clearly superior visual experience, it’s the added option of exploring GTA in first-person that really sets the two generations apart.
If the thought of launching explosive projectiles into a convoy of police vehicles, beating your change out of a working girl or just staring in wonder at the sights of Los Santos appeal to your darker gaming urges, doing so in first-person will undoubtedly result in an awesomely uncensored experience of epic proportions. Despite the very simple transition to first-person view and the expertly tuned controls my familiarity with the third-person perspective of the Grand Theft Auto franchise resulted in frequent switches between the two, never quite feeling confident enough to rely on first-person during more difficult segments of the game. The different perspective does create an entirely unique angle on the GTA V experience and with the exception of some rather dull and poorly textured car dashboards, it’s flawless throughout.
So assuming the original content in last generation versions was worth your money, is a full priced upgrade on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 worthy of the investment? In a word, yes. I won’t pretend that the leap between console versions is ground-breaking and although the graphical differences are clear, they wouldn’t make or break the experience either way. The game looks great on every platform, although I’ve often found myself strangely captivated by puddles on the PlayStation 4….Yeah, the type created by downfalls of rain. It’s actually rather saddening to admit that in one single sitting I spent more time admiring the wonderful creations of virtual puddles than I ever have marveling the real thing. It’s not rare for developers to boast visual improvements and upgrades with improved version releases but it’s seldom so easy to spot these improvements.
Value for money is always a topic of hot debate in this industry. On one hand you have those glad to accept the $60 average price tags of a game considering the man hours and costs that go into producing a AAA title in today’s environment but on the other, you have those that are tired of forking out for a full price release for games that struggle to entertain for longer than several hours. I won’t go into the developers releasing games with $50 worth of DLC on day one but I will say this, Grand Theft Auto V is the best bang for your buck you’ll spend on your console, and that includes buying it twice.
Although Grand Theft Auto V’s single player content remains much the same as it did at launch, the huge amounts of new content introduced to Grand Theft Auto Online, which was already a free addition, is incredible. From the initial updates including vehicles and weapons, to the final release of the highly anticipated heists content, the longevity of the GTA experience is astounding. Available on all platforms GTA Online is an incredible freebie but even more so with the leap in player count on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, allowing 30 players to duke it out in a bevy of different match-ups.
Adding yet more credit to the GTA experience is the recent release of arguably one of the most anticipated free updates in history, Heists. Despite suffering from massive delays, severe post-release technical issues, and a hype train that was approaching a year-long journey, the introduction of the Heists content was incredibly well-received. Both myself and Johnny Hurricane had become convinced that the Heists would disappoint, if only for the reason that we’d been waiting for so long. I am happy to report however that the wait was worth every minute.
The Heists feature much in the same way as the single player missions, you form a group and perform a series of tasks before attempting a more difficult mission at the end. The risks are big, potential payoff huge and fun along the way unmeasurable. I want to avoid spoilers as much as possible but I will leave you with this. Gathering your crack friends of ultimate skill and taking a boat into the wide ocean before boarding and attacking an aircraft carrier is an experience unlike any other. Surpassed only as you take off from the deck in a stolen fighter plane to Topgun’s Highway to the Danger Zone…..It’s a moment of creative genius and one that rivals the fantastic addition of Skrillex in Far Cry 3.
As more and more developers decide to focus on cheap gimmicks and ridiculous monetization options in $60 titles, one stands alone in delivering high-quality entertainment worth every penny, Rockstar have done it again.