Grand Theft Auto V (PS4/XBO) Review – Heist Heist Baby!

A commendable amount of improvements to an already great game, GTA V comes to the new generation of consoles with more than a fresh lick of paint.

Developer: Rockstar Games
Publisher: Take-Two
Format: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
Released: November 18, 2014
Copy supplied by publisher

01

The Grand Theft Auto series isn’t the punk rock it used to be. Its ceaselessly irreverent tone, rebellious antisocial premise, and once-controversial violence represent more of a status quo in entertainment than a shocking subversion of it. GTA is big business, one of the true titans of the industry next to Call of Duty and Halo, and its particular brand of anarchy is no longer unexpected – after so many years in the field, one could almost call it quaint. What I liked most about Grand Theft Auto V was how it seemed to acknowledge this very fact with a story that revolves around the series’ place in the world, even if that wasn’t Rockstar’s intention. To me, the three principal antagonists of represent the GTA series itself – Franklin is ambitious but may not be as smart as he thinks he is, Michael is old and wants to change, but eventually learns that sociopathic mayhem is what he’s good at, while Trevor is a joyful celebration of everything degenerate, shocking, and macabre. And none of them are worth looking up to. Grand Theft Auto V is as much a game about Grand Theft Auto as it is about Los Santos’ trio of antiheroes, and while it’s become popular to resent the game in the year since its release, I still confess that I love the unsubtle, sometimes disturbing thing. Maybe I shouldn’t, but them’s the breaks!

In a year that’s seen a remarkable amount of rereleases, Grand Theft Auto V comes to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, joining the likes of Tomb RaiderSleeping Dogs, and The Last of Us. Unlike some of this year’s prominent double-dips, however, Rockstar has done an impressive amount of work in justifying asking for money a second time around, providing more than a simple visual upgrade. Every facet of GTA V‘s visuals has been given an overhaul, with more detailed character models and clothing, more densely populated city streets, and an increased draw distance that makes Los Santos feel bigger and more believable than before. New animals can even be seen running around the world, because why the hell not? At first, the upgrades don’t seem quite as dramatic as something like The Last of Us, which delights with sixty-frames-per-second (sadly not seen here), but once you play for long enough, you get to appreciate just how many subtle additions have been introduced to the presentation, making for something that doesn’t instantaneously impress, but thoroughly pleases over the long haul.

Even better is the fact that Rockstar acquired a whole bunch of new music for the game’s radio, and now boasts one of the best licensed soundtracks in the sandbox genre. The Non-Stop Pop station is absolutely crammed with guilty pleasures and unironic joys, while Los Santos’ various DJs and talk show hosts have recorded a bunch of fresh dialog to further add to the experience.

02

Much has been made of the game’s new first-person mode, a highly customizable feature that allows a fresh way of experiencing the city. New animations have been added to make the transition seamless, while car interiors have been remodeled to make the whole thing feel like a truly integrated option as opposed to a hastily cobbled-together gimmick. That said, however, it’s quite clear that the game was never suited for first-person viewpoints, and while I won’t call the mode unplayable, it’s certainly… challenging. The way the camera thrashes around when jacking cars, the way one has to walk eye-first into doors in order to open them, and the general lack of spatial awareness while driving makes this view rather difficult to cope with. There are multiple control options, and one can even choose to make first-person contextual – for example, you can choose to have the game switch to it only while firing a gun, allowing for greater combat accuracy while retaining traditional control in other circumstances. While I wouldn’t recommend this new mode for full-time play, it’s definitely worth screwing around with, and toggling options to see if there’s a context that works for you. The fact that one can switch in and out at any time makes dicking around with it tempting, even if it’s not altogether convenient.

I’m a sucker for DualShock 4 controller gimmickry, and the PS4 version of GTA V delivers the goods. NPC phone conversations, as well as police radio chatter, can emanate from the controller’s speaker, which also lights up blue, green, or orange depending on whether one’s using Michael, Franklin, or Trevor. The light also flashes between deep red and blue while being chased by cops, a little aesthetic touch that I found quite charming. As always, none of this particularly adds to the gameplay, but I’ve always appreciated the touch, and it’s great to see Rockstar toss it in when it didn’t have to.

03

GTA Online is now included with the base package right out of the gate, so one won’t have to wait a month to see it unlocked. As well as boasting every content update released to date, all the visual upgrades and options present in story mode can be enjoyed here, while the campaign also gets weapons and vehicles that were introduced through Online. The player count has been bumped up to 30 with two spectators. Returning players will be able to transfer their existing GTO characters while acquiring exclusive content, and my experience with it so far has been stable and free of trouble, though loading times can be thoroughly exorbitant at times. Loading is, overall, a prevalent issue throughout the production, and it’s a shame the generational leap couldn’t have made more marked improvements to the waiting times. Also, GTO is still more than happy to mop up your cash with microtransactions, something I’ll forever be displeased with in a full-priced retail game, and would be a lot more disappointed by here if GTO wasn’t part of a package that validates its asking price with the solo campaign alone.

Writing reviews for games that have been rereleased a year or two after their debut is often a difficult prospect, as one struggles to find new things to say. It’s telling, then, that I was able to find talking about Grand Theft Auto V‘s improvements so easy, eating up almost a thousand words on detailing all the advancements. More than perhaps any other game out there, GTA V could easily have gotten away with churning out a slightly better looking game and calling it a day. That a game could be guaranteed money no matter how slapdash the production, and still go above and beyond what other publishers have done this year, is incredibly laudable, and at least worth a golf clap. Even if you don’t care for the series, one cannot deny the pride Rockstar appears to have in its games. While I’d love 60fps, and could do with the overall controls feeling a little bit tighter, I can’t deny that Rockstar’s put the effort into this one, and it’s one of the few double downs I’d feel relatively confident recommending to those who’ve already played it. That, in itself, is profound.

04

As for the game itself? Well, I already reviewed GTA V back in the day, I loved it back then, and I love it now. Its attempts at clever humor can be embarrassingly misjudged, its content is often alarming, and I think those who point out the game’s problematic elements are perfectly within their right to do so, and they’re very rarely wrong. Still, I can accept that the game is troubling while still enjoying it, and the extensive augmentations found within the PS4/Xbox One version makes it all the more pleasant. Also, Trevor is still Trevor.

Damn, that Trevor!

9/10
Superb

SaburoDaimando
Guest
SaburoDaimando

I’m gonna hold out for the PC version coming next year.

Trappr
Guest
Trappr

Hey Jim, great review!

Just wanted to mention that I’m very pleased by your decision to say upfront how you obtained your copy of the game. It’s a small detail but I appreciate it greatly and I don’t believe I’ve seen other reviewers do it before. My $5 a month is going to a good place, keep up the good work!

Stove
Guest
Stove

Just as an FYI, Polygon puts that information at the bottom of their reviews as well. I agree that it’s a nice piece of disclosure that I wish more publications included

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Fire
Guest

This makes me excited all over again. Can’t wait till next year so I can play it on the one true platform. Heck knows I’ve been waiting long enough.

mjc
Guest
mjc

No heists = no buy. The copy I paid full price for last year is still unfinished. Why the hell would I pay full price for a second copy that’s also unfinished? This much lying to customers and having the balls to ask people to double dip on a game that’s still not finished them puts them right up there with Ubisoft and EA as one of the shittiest publishers around. Screw you, Rockstar Games.

Greaves
Guest
Greaves

I wouldn’t compare them with Ubi and EA. It’s not like they released GTA 5 in a broken or empty state. There’s a fuckton of value to be had, and in fact has so much content that paying 50 or 60 balls is really a no-brainer. The multiplayer lets you combine so many genres that buying Call of Duty or Need for Speed really seems pointless.

Luneth spark
Guest
Luneth spark

nice review jim I have to get this game PS4 version FTW

dxBIGBOSSxb
Guest
dxBIGBOSSxb

Is Jim’s picture a Space Ship…. Or a “Dick and ballz”?

dxBIGBOSSxb
Guest
dxBIGBOSSxb

Hey guys. I wanna donate to Jim. Should I get a prepaid card just in case?

Jordy
Guest

Still… Waiting… For… PC… Version!

dxBIGBOSSxb
Guest
dxBIGBOSSxb

Ugh and in January along with the Saints Row 4 Gat out of Hell expansion! Two of my favorite sandbox franchises clawing for my attention yet again!

Cam
Guest
Cam

I remember loving/hating GTA V when it came out. Not for the violence, since that is what consumers should be prepared for in a RockStar game, but for the story. There were too many escort missions and not enough “spectacle missions” missions like the one where trevor chases the crashing airplane, or the mini gun heist. However, I can’t deny how beautiful the open world is, and Trevor and Michael are the best characters I’ve played as in a long time.

Germanicus
Guest
Germanicus

I loved playing it as Trevor, even though the Welsh accent was frankly rubbish.

dxBIGBOSSxb
Guest
dxBIGBOSSxb

I thought he was Canadian?

Dale
Guest
Dale

Its a difficult conundrum on whether to repurchase this game for next gen especially when there are so many new titles out at the moment.

That said and with buggy being the less expletive word of the moment coupled with “new” in the sense that its essentially the same tired content being released year on year (whilst demanding a title of innovative) im not sure my argument holds weight.

Leslie
Guest
Leslie

Thanks for the review Jim. Will be looking for this when it comes to PC next year. I do like the idea of first person view, at least some of the time.

Spencer Fox
Guest
Spencer Fox

Am I bad boy for sitting on my hands until PC? Rockstar breaks my heart every time they release a freakin game :C

dxBIGBOSSxb
Guest
dxBIGBOSSxb

Ugh, just hope it’ll run better than GTAIV and it’ll be worth the trouble. 😉

Shaun
Guest
Shaun

Jim, are your comments about the loading times soley related to the online aspect of the game? Or does that include single player too?

I was put off trying to Platinum the PS3 version because of the huge waiting times when restarting missions.

I was hoping the current gen versions would load much faster.

Shaun
Guest
Shaun

Jim, are you comments about the loading time soley soley related to the online aspect of the game? Or does that include single player too?

I was put off trying to Platinum the PS3 version because of the huge waiting times when restarting missions.

I was hoping the current gen versions would have faster load time.

Cameron
Guest

Hmmm…. I passed on GTA 5 the first go-around. Maybe I should check it out now. But damn, does the revamped Sleeping Dogs look amazing.

Mel
Guest
Mel
The first person mode always seemed like a shoe-horned idea. People seem to really like the notion of it, though. So much of this game was designed with a third person camera in mind, I can’t see how it’d be a great idea to play this first person the entire time. The gunplay worked well enough in the original, the driving (in cars, boats, airplanes, etc.) almost demands a third person camera, and you miss a lot of cool character animations while running about as Tevor and the gang. If this game gets a big price cut I might pick… Read more »
Alt+Doom
Guest

This is making me anxious to get my hands on the PC version. Hope they do a good job on the port, this time around. Max Payne 3 was well optimized so maybe they upped their PC focus. We shall see though.

Oscar
Guest
Oscar

Hi Jim, thanks for the review. I’m really looking forward to playing this on PC next year. Will you be reviewing Dragon Age: Inquisition? I’ve already read a couple of reviews but I’m interested to read about your impressions.

Joe Mitchell
Guest
Joe Mitchell

Good review. I was curious as to why you do scores? I understand they are a small printed number at the end of your reviews vs other people who focus only on the number. But why do it at all? The review itself is important, not the number that goes with it. 🙂

Again, good stuff. 9/10 is agreeable as a number, I just don’t see the point in using one in the first place.

dennett316
Guest
dennett316

He likes scores…and he did a Jimquisition explaining why.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIe_QTGuT4I

MorbidComplex
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MorbidComplex

I think the number score is great if it is not focused on, but rather a thing put on at the end.
It serves as a TL;DR. If someone doesnt want to read all of it, just know if it is good or not. Some cases to avoid spoilers if there are spoilers. Or to blind play a good game for the surprise.

I think its good the score is there.

The Game Scouts
Guest

Fantastic review!

Spinaker
Guest
Spinaker

GTA V was a good game but I didn’t enjoy it as much as most others did. It’s definitely one of the weaker GTA’s, with my personal favorite remaining Vice City to this day

Belsameth
Guest
Belsameth

Vice City is absolutely the best in the series!
Still, I wasn’t even close to disapointed with V either (especially after the crap that was IV). I just wish they didn’t split up the story between 3 characters, which seems needlessly annoying.

Mitch
Guest
I remember liking the game more than most people did, and I kind of liked Trevor in the same way I liked Kane & Lynch in their first game: Playing him wasn’t “fun” (though some of the dark humor got me) and watching him wasn’t “fun”, exactly, but it was fascinating to play such a thoroughly detestable person. Sounds like the new additions are pretty great, too. When/if I get a PS4, this is going on my “must buy” list along with The Last of Us and (trust me, I know it’s not a great game, but the PS3 version… Read more »
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