A little confession – I played approximately 4 hours of GTA 5 when it was first released in 2013. In the course of this review I picked up a second hand copy and merrily went through comparing the two copies. Any reference to previous generation titles was recent experience and not representative of playing upon first release.
When Grand Theft Auto 5 was released last year the world rejoiced; GTA5 was an excellent open world adventure that followed three characters, each of whom encompassed their own satirical caricature, on a grandiose adventure in the most vibrant and populated city ever realised in a Grand Theft Auto game.
As an avid Grand Theft Auto fan I was keen to discover what changes could have truly improved an already solid experience, and was happy to find this wasn’t a simple slap and dash effort where Rockstar are looking to capitalize upon a whole new market (Star Wars remasters – I’m looking at you)! But it is, from the ground up, a completely overhauled experience.
The enhanced textures coupled with a jaw dropping draw distance truly allows you to appreciate the San Andreas region, with new lighting that adds an additional level of depth to the game that runs at a solid and appreciable 1080p. The bar set for open world games almost feels like a challenge to competitors, as Rockstar creates quite simply the most beautiful open world region to date. When the rain fell in the dimming evening light I couldn’t help but stop and be astonished at the level of detail that has gone in to this edition of the game – a truly stunning and stand out performance. I noticed very few slowdowns from the 30 frames a second put out by GTA 5 and then only momentary shudders rather than complete stoppages that were a game changer.
The use of the PS4 controller is an absolute revelation; the players phone call now plays through the PS4 controller’s speaker while the controller will flash red and blue when the player is being pursued by the police. While these are minor in the grand scheme of things it’s the best implementation of the PS4 controller features I have experienced to date. They’re not so vital that they become a requirement but also add a nice bit of flair to the experience.
The big new gameplay feature is the addition of a first person view, which literally brings a new angle to everything you do. Rockstar makes it simple to go in and out of first person, but also allows you to set defaults for driving, flying and walking; to stop you consistently fiddling with the controls. In first person mode you’ll move around the world in an entirely different way – this isn’t something you’ll want to take for granted and discard because the dimension it adds also provides a sense of immersion. You’ll watch you character sip away at a coffee or check his phone while walking down the street. Or, of course, if you’re anything like me you’ll drive up to a street gang slam you brakes on and do a quick drive by and then pause, flip them the bird and ride off into the sunset. Although I think the first person mode is excellent, I did struggle with the lacklustre shooting (And just coming off the latest COD made that tougher) therefore played most of the on-foot game back in third person but loved being able to pop into first person for all my driving antics.
The online portion of the game is OK – and something I feel hasn’t seen much development over the past 12 months unfortunately. Although it’s fantastic to get a small crew of friends around and create havoc across the world, however you’ll struggle to get the large scale games that promised 30 players and will spend a lot of your time stuck in lobbies while you try to find a game.
There’s no doubt in my mind that everyone should experience Grand Theft Auto 5 like it is now, however the base game simply hasn’t changed, therefore a buying decision will be down to the individual on whether they’re ready to go back. The story still goes to that questionable place in the second act and the heists remain the standout portion of the game – although there is still far too few to really get in and enjoy. It’s a shame the online section hasn’t seen any vast improvements to the previous generation or that the promise of online heists hasn’t yet come to bare. All being said, Grand Theft Auto 5 is a ‘must play’ game for all gamers, and is a truly unforgettable and epic experience.