Grand Theft Auto V Review‏

Grand Theft Auto is one of the most revered and critically praised series in video game history (and rightly so), but despite its place amongst the industry’s finest, it has never been a series that really clicked for me. Sure, I’ve played every game from I – V, but despite all offering moments of enjoyment, I always ended up boring of the experience long before the final credits. I think my issue has always been the rather unsuccessful marriage between a relatively believable world and the utter nonsense that subsequently takes place there.

Steal a tank, run over 1000 pedestrians, blow up half the city, get dropped off at the local police station with a minor fine. I appreciate that a 30 year prison sentence doesn’t lend itself well to video games, but it is nonetheless one of the primary reasons that I preferred Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption – the actions and subsequent consequences of that world always seemed a much more natural fit. While this ill-fitting balance of realism and cartoon levels of criminal excess are still present and accounted for in GTA V, I can tell you right now that I no longer care. It’s impossible to care when a game is this good.

GTA V isn’t a perfect game, but it’s ambitions are so great and its scope so monumental that you can’t help but overlook its minor flaws. Yes, there are still issues in regards to the balancing between story and actions and, fundamentally, this is still a game of ‘go there, do that’, but it’s all so well put together, so well planned and presented that you can’t help but be impressed.

As you’re almost certainly already aware, GTA V was (and still is) a fantastic experience on its native PS3 and Xbox 360 platforms, but while the fundamental gameplay remains largely unchanged, this updated, upgraded and utterly souped-up current-gen iteration is unquestionably the version of choice for anyone looking to take their first stroll down the crime-ridden streets of Los Santos.

There have already been an array of current-gen updates of old PS3 and 360 titles, but unlike a number of releases that have seen fit to do little more than crank up the resolution (yeah, I looking at you Naughty Dog), Rockstar have gone the whole hog in making every effort to make GTA V feel like a game custom made for current-gen consoles.

While they have been unable to smooth over every last-gen crack, GTA V on Xbox One and PS4 nonetheless provides a vastly improved visual experience with the array of online additions and the much vaunted first person mode doing more than enough to encourage a second dip for those who have already played the game on PS3 or 360. As one of those gamers who put 30+ hours in to GTA V on 360, I thought I was done with the game, but honestly, a combination of an even more immersive world and a whole new perspective with which to view it from has seen yet another bumper time commitment to Rockstar’s magnum opus.

There are a handful of new missions and 150+ new songs (which really does make a massive difference), but really, it’s the visuals and the view that really sell this as a ‘new’ experience. Beyond the improved textures, draw distances and much livelier game world (the increase in pedestrians, traffic and wildlife is keenly felt), it’s actually the technical improvements that arguably make the biggest impact. GTA V was already a great looking game, but despite working miracles on last-gen technology, there were plenty of moments in which the hardware began to strain under the pressure. Those issues haven’t been completely eradicated, but for the most part, this is a much slickers and infinitely smoother experience.

These technical improvements make the game that you remember better than ever before, but it’s the first person mode that often makes it feel like a totally new experience. Rather than simply adding a PC-style mod and being done with it, Rockstar have gone to extreme lengths to ensure that the game works as well and looks as good as it does in traditional third person view.

It can be a tad disorientating and there are certainly instances in which it works better than others, but there is no doubting the fact that you could very conceivably play the entire game from this viewpoint and enjoy just about every moment. Either way, switching between each view is as simple as the press of a button. Personally, I found driving and general ‘pissing about’ more immersive in first person with combat etc more successful form the traditional view. That might not be the same for everyone, but the choice, as they say,  is yours.

Online too, while certainly not overhauled, arrives on next-gen consoles after a year’s worth of spit and polish on last-gen consoles. With tons of game modes, additional player numbers, and what appears to be a very steady infrastructure, GTA Online now represents a much closer approximation of what we all hoped it would be first time around. The character creation is still a bit iffy, but other than that, GTA Online is basically a game unto itself and, like the single player mode, looks better than ever on current-gen consoles.

GTA V, with its brilliant cast of characters, fantastic story and unparalleled game world remains a striking achievement and the standard by which not only open world games are measured, but arguably the industry as a whole. The fundamental experience might be largely unchanged, but this feels like the game that Rockstar wanted to deliver when creating GTA V for last-gen consoles. The technical improvements are myriad and the first person perspective does give the game a new lease of life for even the most seasoned of GTA V gamers. It was fantastic first time around, but make no mistake about it, GTA V feels at home on current-gen consoles and is unquestionably better than ever.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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