Review: Grand Theft Auto V (PS4)

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Note: This review focuses on the enhanced version and whether it is a worthwhile upgrade. For a look at the original gameplay components, refer to our initial review at this page instead.

Grand Theft Auto V sales crossed US$1 billion in just three days back in 2013. It’s evident that Rockstar’s open-world game remains an iconic figure in the industry today, and it’s done so by crafting believable worlds for us to dive into. That release was, however, for last generation’s hardware, so it begs the question: How is GTA V on modern machines?

Revisiting Los Santos feels just like it would any regular city – the landmarks, the shopping destinations, and the constant drone of traffic are all wrapped in familiarity. Yet the nostalgia stops there as I immediately notice how much livelier the whole place is.

Shifting to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One granted Rockstar greater technical resources to play with, so they pumped the streets with more traffic and pedestrians. We’re not talking throngs of people like a riot at Black Friday but enough to make it feel like a city and not some suburban mall. The traffic, on the other hand, is far more noticeable particularly during mornings. It sounds like a minor thing compared to the obvious graphical enhancements, but the heart of a city has always been in its inhabitants.

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Weaving through traffic in a high-speed chase now becomes a tad more exhilarating, starting firefights downtown stirs greater chaos, and even something as mundane as people-watching turns into an interesting distraction. The AI has the propensity to start amusing events by accident, and with more wandering around it’s simply a matter of time before players turn into an eyewitness. Ironically, these moments typically involve the police shooting at civilians, though I have seen an ambulance run over the person hey were supposed to save – they left without even stopping.

Helping us rediscover GTA V is the new first-person mode. Again, it doesn’t sound like a big deal but Rockstar went the extra mile here, adding a ton of animations to complement the new perspective. And what a perspective it is! Turning around to look at passengers talking, flipping the bird at other motorists, or glancing down at flight instruments all expose an unfamiliar side of the series. Shooting via iron sights is always fun too though it doesn’t handle like an actual shooter, so your mileage may vary here. There’s a separate menu in the options for first-person, so players are free to tweak sensitivity and more.

I’m not hailing this as some groundbreaking feature for open-world games (others have done it already, anyway) but it does heighten immersion when I want it – definitely give it try for downhill motocross or gliding. I still prefer playing in third-person for the most part but I’ll always swap when I need to make a call. Honestly, I’ll never go back to having the phone magically sliding up the screen again.

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It’s time I got back to those visual upgrades. The PlayStation 4 version boasts a 1080p resolution now, the better to appreciate those improved textures and lighting. The latter plays a huge part in setting lovely atmospheres, be it sunset watching in Blaine County or slowly cruising in Los Santos. When that’s done, get up higher to give the greater draw distance, weather effects and skybox a chance to show off.

It was on one of these random adventures that I chanced upon the game’s first piece of new content. In this case it turned out to be a Peyote plant, a new collectible that essentially makes your character hallucinate and think he’s turned into an animal. Other additions are spread all over the place, from new radio songs, vehicles, and wildlife to a bunch of side missions. Nothing overly attention-grabbing but there to flesh out the experience further.

Those improvements carry over to the online multiplayer too, which sees the player limit increase to thirty. This is where I’m supposed to talk about the highly anticipated Heists Mode but, unfortunately, it’s been delayed. Expect a separate article when that eventually goes live.

The one thing I would have loved to see are more interiors. Getting to visit (and steal from) an automobile dealer would have been great, as would strolling through a shopping mall. Old favourites like fast-food restaurants and gyms wouldn’t be out of place either. Rockstar probably had their hands full as it is, so let’s hope we get that in the next game.

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As far as remastered versions go, Grand Theft Auto V for the PS4 and Xbox One does a pretty stellar job. The improvements may be considered subtle to some but it’s these seemingly insignificant details that give Rockstar their claim to fame, for nobody else can make a city come to life better than they can.

Grand Theft Auto V (PS4)

  • Makes a good last-gen game even better for current-gen
  • First-person mode is a great bonus for rediscovering GTA V
  • Smatterings of new content to be discovered

  • New content might not be significant enough

THE VERDICT: ★★★★½

Grand Theft Auto V edition is an open-world action-adventure game. The enhanced version is currently available for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One,  with a PC release slated for March 2015. Developed by Rockstar North and published by Rockstar Games.

The online Heists Mode will be available sometime before the PC release.

A copy of the game was provided for this review.

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Ade Putra

Ade thinks there's nothing quite like a good game and a snug headcrab. He grew up with HIDEO KOJIMA's Metal Gear Solid, lives for RPGs, and is waiting for light guns to make their comeback.