Controversies aside, Rockstar knows how to make great games. Whether you’re a washed-out ex-cop diving and shooting baddies in Brazil, or a Russian man trying to make it in America while telling his cousin off for spamming his phone with invites to go bowling, it’s safe to say you’ll have a good time trying out the many sides of the Rockstar universe. Grand Theft Auto V released last year on PS3 and Xbox 360, and although it would blow all other GTA titles out of the water in terms of execution, it lacked in many ways.
Poor frame-rate, washed and saturated graphics and terrible initial loading times spelled the gradual decline of players, and although Rockstar made very sure to make the experience tolerable, it was assured that people would wait for the release on a higher-end console before returning to the streets of Los Santos. One year after the first release, Rockstar finally released an updated version of the game on PS4 and Xbox One (soon for PC), and added a load of new content to fit the polish. However, the questions beg to be asked: “Is GTAV still worth it? Should I buy the game again when I get a PS4? What exactly is different?” Let’s find out.
[The beginning of this section is a rough summary of the game. The end of this section contains the new gameplay mechanics that were introduced in the updated version; so scroll down if you’re already familiar with the PS3/X360 versions.]
Grand Theft Auto is a sandbox shooter, and GTAV is no different. However, from the get go, you have immediate access to the entirety of Los Santos; no bridges to cross, no waiting for story arcs to end, just run rampant and have fun doing so. GTAV is much more than that, though.
Starting with the story, you play as three guys whose only goal is to strike it big with a big heist. Otherwise known as “The Big One.” You start off as Franklin, a guy from San Andreas that just wants to get paid without getting the run-around. You also have Michael, a former robber who feigned his death after a heist went bad. Finally, Trevor, an enigmatic meth dealer from the desert that did the job with Michael.
Suffice it to say, all three of these characters aren’t exactly likable. In fact, most of the characters you will probably hate when you first meet them. However, in a strange way, you grow to love all of them by the end of the game. Somehow, Rockstar managed to make the characters good after everyone’s been introduced and they meet in various circumstances. On top of that, they made those three main characters that aren’t good on their own probably one of the most enjoyable groups I’ve ever seen in a video game.
Not everyone is cut from the same cloth, though. All three of those characters have a special ability that can help you in drastic situations. Franklin can slow down time and have insane control while driving, Michael can slow down time while firing, and Trevor can cause extra damage to enemies while reducing the damage he takes.
Along with this, you have an immense amount of weaponry at your disposal that unlocks as you progress through the story. You start off with the simple handguns and gradually progress to fun things like sticky bombs and miniguns. This is however, one of the many things you can buy throughout your journey in Los Santos.
Among other things, you can purchase and modify vehicles, buy new clothes, and even various properties. This is apparent even in GTA: Online, Grand Theft Auto V’s persistent free-roam online mode. You can transfer your GTA:O characters from the previous generation and use them without any penalty.
The story greatly shows off how capable the game’s engine is from the get-go, allowing nearly seamless transitions between characters if they’re close to each other during a mission. However, the most important thing about the PS4 version is the incredible optimization they’ve put into this game. Loading times are reduced, while at the same time, not sacrificing a stable frame-rate. This makes basically everything in the game much easier to control. Although the game is locked at 30FPS, it’s constantly at 30FPS, and that’s forgivable. (Have fun modding that, PC players.)
The PS4 version utilizes the DS4’s touchpad and speaker. While driving, you can swipe left/right to change your weapon, and up/down to change the radio station. While on foot, the weapon switching is the same gesture as driving. While aiming down your sights, swiping up will throw whatever explosive you have equipped. While fun to mess around with, the really only useful gesture is throwing a grenade. It’s simply easier to use the weapon wheel to switch. The speaker is used during in-game calls and can be turned off in the settings. It’s a neat use, but again, isn’t necessarily useful.
Also new to the PS4/Xbox One versions are an exclusive first-person mode. This mode is something I experimented with for the entirety of the GTAV campaign and during GTA:O. I can safely say that is actually really fun, and has a very robust amount of customization. If you want to shoot in first-person, but drive in third-person, you can adjust the settings to do so; this also applies to many dynamics, like entering cover, or going into ragdoll mode. (You can even adjust the FOV while on foot.)
In first-person, you have two aiming modes, basic aim and sight aim. Toggling sight aim is as simple as pressing in the right stick. Everything else in terms of controls is largely unchanged.
In GTA:O, they’ve added more missions and increased the lobby size from 18 to 30, with plans to implement heists in the very near future.
With any port, you should expect an update of graphics, and you won’t be disappointed with the current-gen versions of GTAV. The graphics are much sharper than they were in all dynamics. The lighting got a much deserved improvement, and vehicles are no longer made of plastic; now offering a pristine reflection of nearby lighting effects. This also follows suit when various weather effects occur; rain being a highlight, where collective puddles of water properly reflect nearby lights and characters.
Along with this, the animation quality has gone up substantially, adding more unique animations and refining them. This includes the new weapon animations that are seen in first-person mode. In first-person mode, vehicles now have incredibly detailed dashboards and weaponry have even finer details, right down to the imprints on the slide of a handgun. HUD elements have been polished as well, allowing for a much sharper, cleaner, and more eye-catching experience that has ever been seen before in a GTA game (without needing mods). If you play this game, stop and look around whenever you can; you won’t be disappointed.
Sound is the strangest thing to note in GTA. Most of the noticeable sounds are usually the music; licensed, naturally. In that aspect, GTAV does not disappoint, as they’ve added over 100 new songs to the already large track list. Any in-house songs are neatly raised in quality, along with the voices, which are also very well done. Sounds while in first-person are improved with more nuanced sounds, like hearing the gear shifting in a car or hearing the slide of a handgun click with each pull of the trigger. There isn’t much else to note here, it’s just well-done.