Grand Theft Auto V Review
Grand Theft Auto V was a mammoth achievement. The upgraded version is that same mammoth achievement with another layer of gloss and intrigue. The newly added first-person mode changes the entire dynamic of this legendary franchise and while not everything works in this perspective (driving, for instance), the option is appreciated and the technical upgrades are just awesome. There’s nothing quite so mind-bogglingly impressive as Los Santos with even better draw distances and overall detail, and it makes replaying the game even more enticing.
If you’re one of those strange individuals who never played GTAV, well, talk about a no-brainer.
For most games that receive a graphical upgrade, you look at the latest iteration, shrug your shoulders, and say: “Yeah, it’s nicer.” I mean, your jaw doesn’t drop through the floor; after all, you’ve seen it before and now, it’s just a little clearer and sharper. But with a game as large as GTAV, with such a gigantic, dynamic and comprehensive landscape, even minor updates make a huge difference. Faces are more defined, effects are more…uh, effective, and the city, seen from a certain height, is that much more beautiful. Overall, this is one of the most ambitious, accomplished graphical overhauls I’ve ever seen.
The sound doesn’t boast the same type of drastic upgrade but this category didn’t require much improving to begin with. The voice acting is superb, the soundtrack is expansive and diverse, the effects are crisp and often surprisingly realistic, and the overall audio presentation is just plain splendid (wait, should the words “plain” and “splendid” be right next to each other?). Anyway, there’s really nothing to complain about here, unless you’re not really a fan of the music in the game, which is purely subjective. From a technical standpoint, the graphics and sound are absolutely top-notch, even when analyzed through a “next-gen” lens.
Yes, we produced that epic review late last year and GTAV is the same game. However, there’s still plenty to talk about, so let’s begin with the addition of that controversial first-person mode. It’s a critical alteration that completely changes the dynamic and perspective of the game, which is historically third-person. The first-person viewpoint brings you closer to the gritty action than ever before, and this includes getting up-close-and-personal with both enemies and prostitutes. It’s a more visceral experience and lends the game a darker, more sinister aura. In third-person, GTA always seemed like a virtual farce, an uber-violent yet still tongue-in-cheek crime extravaganza.
With the first-person view, and coupled with those sharper, more detailed visuals, the atmosphere undergoes a drastic alteration. How you react to this alteration depends on a number of factors and I honestly can’t guarantee you’ll like it. What I can do, however, is evaluate its functionality. For instance, it’s certainly easier and more intuitive to toss explosives in first-person, and the adopted FPS mechanic feels just about right. On the other hand, the cover system doesn’t work quite properly and driving feels touchy and awkward. The control is just far too sensitive to offer the level of precision you’d want, and that’s a problem.
In other words, certain activities are more difficult in the first-person view, while others are easier. But remember, this is an option and really, who’s going to bitch about an option that encourages experimentation? Considering that it entirely changes how we play the game, it almost feels like two games in one. Okay, so some of it doesn’t work that great but personally, I see this addition as being 98 percent positive. Seeing this huge, expansive virtual world via third-person and first-person views allows you to appreciate the work of the developers even more. Rockstar are, quite frankly, rockstar designers, and that’s exquisitely obvious throughout.
As for Grand Theft Auto Online, it’s a much better experience right out of the gate. You might remember when GTAV launched last year, the online component had all sorts of problems, including significant server issues and glitches. However, all of that has been ironed out, and the upgraded GTAO features an enhanced character creator along with all 11 of the previously released updates. The first-person option is available here as well but it’s not advisable unless you spend a lot of time practicing. At any rate, being able to import your character from GTAO on PS3 or Xbox 360 is another huge bonus. You can just keep playing with your friends within the definitive version of the game.
There isn’t much need to rehash the game itself; as I said before, it’s pretty much the same game. That being said, the wondrous world of Los Santos attracts the eye at every turn, and it’s important to remember just how great the game was to begin with. Control has been greatly refined (especially when compared to its predecessor, GTAIV), the story and characters are excellent, the writing is perhaps the best it has ever been in the series, and the gigantic world is rife with activity. There’s a great variety of missions, too; it’s abundantly clear that we’ve left the days of repetitive missions behind. There’s just so much to do!
When GTAV first released, it represented an evolution of the open-world sandbox genre. That evolution is still amazingly impressive and now, it’s just that much prettier. There are more features and plenty of updated content, and fans will be satisfied with just about every element of this fresh effort. Better draw distances, more wildlife and general activity, a much more stable and focused GTAO, and underneath it all, a narrative arc that is filled with psychotic behavior and twisted characters. It’s a crime drama tour de force with tons of new detail and a glossier technical presentation. Even if you’re not a fan of all these re-releases in 2014, one has to admit they’re pretty dang awesome.
Grand Theft Auto V is a tremendous achievement and that achievement is all the more pronounced on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The inherent cinematic nature of the storyline keeps you riveted and when you’re not following the plot, you’re doing as you damn well please. You’re enjoying all that Los Santos has to offer, from its sun-drenched beaches filled with people to the bright lights of the downtown area. There are a few very minor issues, such as the occasional frame rate drop, and the first-person view isn’t ideal for all situations, but that’s about it. This is one of the best games ever constructed and yeah, it just got better.
The Good: Beautifully upgraded visual presentation from top to bottom. New first-person view adds a dynamic fresh perspective. GTAO is more robust and far more stable. More content and more variety bring the game to another level. Still the massively accomplished title it was, only better.
The Bad: Frame rate can dip occasionally.
The Ugly: “Unless you can’t stand violence, there’s no ‘ugly’ here.”
11/19/2014 Ben Dutka