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Grand Theft Auto V

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Developer: Rockstar Games
Release Date: Nov. 18, 2014


PS4 Review - 'Grand Theft Auto V'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Nov. 24, 2014 @ 2:00 a.m. PST

Set in the sprawling city of Los Santos and the surrounding area, Grand Theft Auto V delivers a world of unprecedented scale and detail bursting with life, from mountaintops to the depths of the ocean.

Buy Grand Theft Auto V

One of the most-anticipated releases of the year was also one of the most anticipated releases of last year. Grand Theft Auto V was a giant game with a budget to rival a Hollywood blockbuster — and the sales to match. It's no surprise that when a next-gen port was announced, people's ears perked up, especially when it became clear that it would be an enhanced port with new features and extra graphical polish. It might be going up against games like Far Cry 4 and Dragon Age: Inquisition, but it says something about Grand Theft Auto V that people are excited to play it for the second time. Of course, all that would be for naught if the second time wasn't as good as the first, but Grand Theft Auto V for the PlayStation 4 lives up to expectations.

On the surface, GTA5 hasn't changed much since its debut last year. Our earlier review still holds true in most ways. The core strengths and flaws have been almost untouched. This is an upgraded port, not a full remake of the game, so if you played the first release of GTA5 and disliked it, you're unlikely to change your mind now, unless the issues were largely technical. Of course, if you loved GTA5 on the previous console generation, then you'll love this iteration even more.

The game has a fair amount of new content. There are murder mysteries you can solve as Michael, additional races, new vehicles, new weapons, new collectibles, new costumes, and so on. None are particularly huge additions, and none of them add much to the game. The murder mysteries are little more than an additional collectible, and the rest are more of the same content. They add some value to the game, but they're not going to change anyone's opinion about the game. Those who love doing everything in Grand Theft Auto will love the new things to find, but they're not a substitute for true missions. The PlayStation 4 version also features support for Remote Play and makes amusing use of the DualShock 4's lightbar, which gives it a slight leg up on the Xbox One version, but it's not significant enough to influence your decision.

There is a significant new addition to the game: first-person view. Introduced in the opening of the game, the first-person view puts the camera in the eyes of the character you're controlling. This doesn't just shove the camera into a new position; it actually alters the controls and gameplay to match what you'd see in an FPS. The game even has new modeled interiors for cars to give them a more realistic look when you get inside. You can swap in and out of first-person view at a moment's notice and use it at will. If you dislike it, you never have to touch it. If you love it, you almost never have to swap out. Unfortunately, the title doesn't support the first-person view during some minigames.

The first-person mode is a matter of taste. It's a worse camera angle for most of what the game does by making gunfights and driving more difficult without offering much in the way of benefits. In many cases, it's more worthwhile to swap out of to get a better view of your surroundings. At the same time, it's very immersive. It's impressive to see your car tumble as you make a wrong turn, duck behind a pillar as bullets plink around you, and see San Andreas through the eyes of your characters. The first-person mode is subtle, but it does wonders for making the game feel different. In particular, it benefits the size and scale of the city. Everything feels bigger and more imposing, and the city feels more real. There are a number of effects, some that can be toggled, which improve the reality. Some of them, such as the subtle bob of your head, feel incredibly natural. Others, such as the way the camera spins like a madman when doing a dodge-roll, are less so.

Gameplay problems do exist. The combat system just isn't designed for first-person shooter gameplay, because the cover system doesn't play well with the first-person camera. There's not enough vision provided, and you can't reasonably peek out to spot your enemies without regularly getting shot. It's realistic but not overly fun. Likewise, the driving is more difficult without the added vision from the third-person camera. Several of the missions were clearly not designed for the first-person viewpoint. Trying to catch someone dangling from a moving car is borderline impossible. Fortunately, switching between occurs at the touch of a button, and it can be customized to your preferences, so this is far from a crippling problem.

Multiplayer was absent from the original release (and thus our original review) of GTA 5 but has since been added to the game. In Grand Theft Auto Online, you create an avatar and hop into the big city with up to 30 players at once. Once you're in, it's effectively a sandbox. Want to drive around with friends? Go for it. Want to race? No reason not to. Want to randomly shoot people? Sure, but you might get shot in response. It's hard to judge Grand Theft Auto Online because it's a lot less goal-oriented than most online games. If you just want to hang out and do things, it's supportive of that. This isn't a focused experience; there are missions to do and goals to complete, but they're to earn money for clothes or cars. Several features have been weakened or neutered to support this, but microtransactions are available for those who wish to skip some of the grind. There are also several measures in place to keep players from trolling others, which may be a positive or a negative, depending on how you play GTA. One of the biggest promised features is online heist missions, which have the potential to add some goal-oriented gameplay . Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, they haven't been added to the game, although they are supposed to be added in the first major patch. The online play is great with friends but a bit more limited with random players.

Of course, all the gameplay changes come second to the immense visual upgrade. GTA5 was one of the most impressive-looking games last generation, and it is just as true in this console generation. Textures have been bumped up, lighting effects have been improved, crowd density has increased, and the list of changes goes on. Some are so minor that you won't notice unless you're looking for them. Some, like the addition of extra animals or car interior, are impossible to miss. There is less pop-in, better detail in the environments, and generally, the game just looks amazing. There are times when its last-generation roots continue to linger, such as some odd-looking character models, but they're relatively few and far between. The only real disappointment with the upgrade is the frame rate, which is certainly better than it was last generation, but it still has dips and drops, which is odd considering it's a last-gen port running at 30 FPS. It isn't enough to sour the experience, but it feels like it should be better.

Grand Theft Auto V for the PlayStation 4 is easily the best version of the game available at the moment. At the end of the day, it is still functionally the same game as before, with most of the same flaws and strengths. Some new features expand the gameplay a bit, including a very cool first-person mode, but nothing here will change anyone's opinion of the franchise. Some minor technical flaws, including an inconsistent frame rate, drag down the game a little, but it's largely a step up from the last-gen versions. It's bigger, prettier and smoother, but it's still GTA5.

Score: 9.0/10

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