Rockstar’s ‘Grand Theft Auto V’, alongside Naughty Dog’s amazing ‘The Last of Us’ (which, incidentally, has also been remastered), was my game of the year in 2013. It was, in my eyes, everything a game should be: open, fun, cinematic, engaging and interactive. GTA 5 on the PS4 improves on almost everything (make note of the “almost”… more on that later) the PS3 version delivered by giving us: a massively increased draw distance; considerably improved graphics, lighting and textures; a revolutionary first-person mode; more vehicles, weapons and songs; and a bigger, 30-player online. Grand Theft Auto V for the PS4 is, quite frankly, the best game I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing.
The story follows three main and playable characters: Michael, an estranged father and husband living in the right area of Los Santos; Franklin, a “gangbanger” with higher aspirations for his life; and Trevor, a psychotic and murderous weirdo living in the arid and isolated Blaine County within the fictional state of San Andreas. Michael and Trevor are old friends who, following a bank robbery gone wrong (which is covered in the game’s dramatic prologue), were separated for nine years. After these nine years, Michael is lonely, distant from his family and lost in life. When an opportunity arises to get back into the game he once played so well, Michael takes it and, through one or way another, Trevor re-enters his life… better for us, worse for Michael.
The story, whilst generally over-the-top and downright ridiculous in places, feels addictive and, in a weird way, grounded. This is all down to the great script and even better voice-acting. Special credit should go to Steven Ogg and the work he did for his character, Trevor. Whilst he initially comes across as unlikeable and excessively aggressive, he soon develops into, arguably, the game’s best character, which is mainly thanks to his extremely fun missions. A particular highlight of mine is a mission that involves Trevor jumping onto a train carrying gold on a motorbike, before hijacking it. However, this doesn’t mean that the characters of Michael and Franklin are under-developed or not instantly engaging… far from it, in fact. If anything, Michael is the most developed of the bunch.
The story itself follows these three characters as they work their way up, heist by increasingly daring heist, to the top of the San Andreas criminal underworld. Unfortunately, as the heists are so over-the-top and fun, it’s hard not to feel like there aren’t enough of them; a problem which plagued the original game.
Another issue which troubled the PS3 release was the mini-map and the GPS/sat-nav system. At times, it was incredibly difficult to read accurately, even if you were entirely focused on it rather than driving. This problem became most noticeable when driving on a highway, as it was challenging to know whether the map was trying to tell you to get off at the upcoming junction or not. Unfortunately, this problem still remains, although the basic look of the mini-map has been updated.
What has been improved and evidently worked on, however, are the graphics, lighting and textures. Colours are now much more vibrant and pop out at you, especially bright colours like neon which can be found in the centre of Los Santos; faces, even those of the NPCs that litter the pavements (or sidewalks) of the map, look well realised and show various emotions; the tarmac of the numerous roads looks incredibly real, with chips eating away at its surface in various places. Also, no longer will you walk into a random field and find flat, murky textures for as far as the eye can see. Foliage is now everywhere, and the game looks all the better for it. If you thought GTA 5 on the PS3 looked good (which it did), this version looks downright amazing.
Rockstar have clearly made use of the power provided by the next-gen hardware, and this is clear, if nowhere else, in the higher resolution (1080p) and frame-rate (60fps)… although the refresh rate does appear to drop in random places. I was also incredibly impressed when I was driving in the Vinewood Hills and a group of deer suddenly jumped out into the road ahead of me. Loading has also been noticeably reduced, which impressed me.
Traffic, on the other hand, disappointed me. As Rockstar was claiming that one of the most noticeable things in the next-gen and PC versions would be the much denser traffic, I was expecting almost realistic amounts of traffic to appear on the roads. This, unfortunately, isn’t the case, and traffic is practically as dense as it was on the last-gen version as far as I can tell. Also, pop-in does occur, but this is forgivable due to the huge, loading screen-less world that is completely open to you. Hopefully, these issues can be improved on in a later patch.
A feature that doesn’t require a patch, though, is the first-person mode. My God, the first-person mode. Rather than being lazy and simply moving the camera to a first-person view, Rockstar have added in whole new animations to ensure that you are fully immersed in the experience. For example, instead of your character’s phone simply appearing on the bottom right-hand side of the screen, it now appears in the character’s right hand. When handling a weapon, you are able to aim down the sights of it, which greatly increases accuracy and realism. Prior to hearing about the first-person mode, my plans for GTA 5 were to play purely online as I had already finished the story on PS3. After hearing about it, my feelings had changed completely. The story is well worth completing again, not only because it’s great in its own right, but because the first-person viewpoint makes it an entirely new experience.
One of the biggest worries I had surrounding the new first-person view was driving. One of GTA’s trademarks is its twitchy, Hollywood-style driving. With this in mind, it concerned me that vehicles would be extremely hard to drive/pilot precisely, and each attempt may end with you just spinning out of control and probably dying. This is most certainly not the case whatsoever, at least from my experience. Of course, it takes a while to get used to it, as with anything in life, but I highly recommend you give it a fair chance before simply dismissing it.
GTA Online was a welcome addition to GTA V that added in hundreds of hours worth of extra content, even if it wasn’t necessary (which it wasn’t). If you played the original’s online segment at all, your character can be carried over into this game, provided your PSN account is linked to your appropriate Rockstar Social Club account.
Whilst Rockstar are yet to add in the co-op heists promised way back before it was released last September, the amount of content, both Rockstar and player created, is vast. You can choose from: competitive, PvP multiplayer matches; online jobs that have you complete various tasks, either against other players or enemy AI; a stupid amount of races against other online players; or you can simply roam the map doing as you please, whether that be robbing stores or enjoying the view. Also, all of the updates that have been made available on the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions can be found here out of the box, meaning that anything you may have missed out on is now there for you to experience.
It is important to note here that whilst GTA Online is mostly seamless, I have experienced two or three kicks, in which I or multiple people besides me were simply kicked from a server.
Grand Theft Auto 5 isn’t just a GTA game; it is the GTA game. In fact, it isn’t just a game. It is an absolute masterpiece; a work of art that Rockstar should be extremely proud of. I know that I’m being a bit forward thinking when I say this, but it leaves you wondering: what else can Rockstar possibly do and where can they go from here? Give it about 6-7 years, and we just might have an answer. Rockstar, you know what to do… *cough* planes to Los Santos and Liberty City, please *cough*
So, my first 10/10 rating goes to Grand Theft Auto V. Do you agree? Please feel free to leave your comments in the comments section below or over on our Facebook page!