Grand Theft Auto V PlayStation 4 review

Grand Theft Auto V has arrived on current generation consoles with a bang, and is more than a simple HD remaster...

In truth, I’m not a fan of the increasing trend of remastering releases not even a year old, I personally find it to be an ugly cash grab, and Rockstar isn’t innocent here. Although Rockstar was being tight-lipped at the time, it was clear there was a move to maximise profits going on, and that a next gen version of Grand Theft Auto V was also in the works. If Rockstar had officially announced a next gen version ahead of time, a lot of people would have held off for that version, meaning the original Xbox 360 and PS3 release would have sold less. Of course, that wasn’t the case, and it quickly broke all sales records.

Well, you know what? It’s probably going to do it all again, as the current gen version is here, and I’m fairly confident that PS4 owners will buy the game second time. Well played, Rockstar. Two sales per person. You nailed it.

The thing is, in this instance, it’s actually not a bad thing, and the extra purchase is warranted. Why? Because Rockstar hasn’t taken the easy route here, and hasn’t simply tweaked the graphics, much like Tomb Raider and The Last Of Us. Instead, Grand Theft Auto V for the current gen has been vastly overhauled, so much so it even plays like a totally different game, and that’s no exaggeration. Let me elaborate.

Same story, different day

Grand Theft Auto V for the current gen is the same game at its core we saw on the last generation. The same characters, story, and all content is here, including all of the previous DLC, and, of course, GTA Online, which is part of the package here, unlike the separate download and install required last time. This has all been given a full makeover, with improved visuals, and more densely populated world. There’s more traffic, more pedestrians, and more wildlife. Everything is richer, and overall this is undoubtedly one of the best-looking games of the generation so far, and unlike some recent releases, it all runs perfectly sooth.

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The level of detail Rockstar has crammed into the world of Grand Theft Auto V may have impressed before, but this time it’s even more complex. There’s just so much to see, in much higher detail, and so many picturesque vistas and interesting things to photograph with your in-game camera, that this could keep you busy for days on end on its own. In fact, a new addition of a wildlife photography contest advocates this, and gets you hunting around the world for animals to snap.

But as impressive as the visuals are, a mere graphics overhaul isn’t enough to justify buying a second copy of a game, and it’s when you look underneath the new polish that Grand Theft Auto V‘s current gen outing really excels.

I see you

The crown jewel of the current gen version in my opinion is the addition of a full, first person viewpoint. This is no simple camera reposition, though. Rockstar has gone back to the core game design, and has reworked the whole game and mechanics to facilitate a true, properly implemented first person mode. There are full, separate controls for first person, totally new models for weapons and character limbs, and even cars and vehicles all have their own unique dashboards, which all work, with moving speedometers, and even working radios that show the station, song, and artist. It looks fantastic, and more importantly, it plays well too.

Although first person controls aren’t as smooth and solid as the likes of Call Of Duty, Rockstar has spent plenty of time making sure the first person mode plays well, and well enough to be a solid mode to play the entire game through with. Gunfights are now much more hectic, with realistic movements such as hiding behind cover, or performing combat rolls that throw the camera over and over to simulate the movement (these motions can be turned off if they make you queezy). You can utilise full, iron sign aiming, and a quick upward swipe of the DualShock 4’s touch pad lets you quickly toss a grenade. As always, you can choose your degree of aiming assistance, and if you’re not a fan of full, first person cover, you can opt to use a mixture of first, and third person, with the game switching to third person when you use cover. First person also makes melee combat enjoyable.

It’s a good system, and I thoroughly enjoyed the combat, which has always been a little restricted in previous Grand Theft Auto games due to the over-reliance on an aiming system that snaps to targets, effectively taking away the need of real skill. Here you can run auto aiming off, and have a blast. That said, you may need to play with the sensitivity setting, as the aiming motion and overall feel is a little sluggish and unresponsive by default. It could do with being faster and smoother really.

The first person mode also translates well to behind the wheel action, and vehicle chases are a whole new experience. As you’re now in the thick of it with a more realistic view, your reactions and awareness need to be much more focused. The first person driving was one of my favourite aspects of Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs, and Grand Theft Auto V does it far better. What’s more, Rockstar has reworked the car handling to accommodate the view, so it only takes a few minutes for you to get used to it. There’s also a new driving and shooting control system, which makes it far more accessible, and you can now actually aim for enemy drivers or tyres with some accuracy.

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Even the mobile phone has been remodelled to fit into the first person view, and this, as well as everything else, makes this outing of Grand Theft Auto V the most immersive yet. It’s fantastic, and has the added side effect of removing Grand Theft Auto‘s restraints.

As a series, Grand Theft Auto has always been great, but there are only so many times Rockstar can effectively get away with releasing the same game over and over. Now that the series has truly broken the first person barrier, here are so many options open to Rockstar for future releases.

I’m a chicken!

On top of the improved visuals and first person mode, Grand Theft Auto V for current gen also features extra content not seen, or heard, before. The expected new content like extra vehicles and weapons is there (the rail gun is immensity satisfying), as are some new jobs for Grand Theft Auto Online. The radio stations now have a slew of new tracks, and there are some new missions to play, including a murder mystery for Michael, and the aforementioned photography challenge.

Aside from the major additional content, there are also some quirky hidden extras, most notably so far the peyote plants. These new collectibles can be found all over San Andreas and, once taken, turn you into animals, such as a chicken. It’s a rather bizarre addition, but we already had pot-fuelled alien rampages and clown attacks, so why not?

Always online

Grand Theft Auto Online has quickly become a huge success for Rockstar, and many of the improvements in this version also make it into this component, including the visuals, the first person view, and some more specific enhancements.

This includes a larger player count, from the maximum of 16 per session, to 30. You can also have 30 players in races and deathmatches, which makes for some seriously crazy antics.

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If you’ve already played Grand Theft Auto Online in the last gen version, you can transfer your character to current gen, thus keeping all of your progress, property, cars, weapons and so on. You can, however, choose to change the look of your character during this transfer if you wish, so if you wanted to reshape your online avatar, now you can. This was buggy initially, with some unable to transfer, but I had no issues, and any problems have now been patched, according to Rockstar.

Grand Theft Auto Online at its core hasn’t changed all that much, but playing it in first person certainly has a similar effect to the single player. It feels like a different game thanks to the reworked controls, and the view gives way to new tactics and opportunities, especially tense hide and seek contests. Sadly, it also exposes the sluggishness of the controls, and don’t even think about using free aim, because no one else will. As much as I like the first person combat here, you really do notice the lack of experience Rockstar has when you jump back into dedicated FPS titles like Call Of Duty or Far Cry.

Seconds please!

Rockstar has always had a knack of showing other people how things are done. With Grand Theft Auto it showed the world how an action sandbox can work, GTA III launched the 3D open world, Grand Theft Auto IV showed how to do good, decent DLC, and now it’s demonstrated how to properly do a remastering of an existing title. Barring some issues with first person shooting, you can’t fault the game, and it’s another masterpiece for the constantly great series.

Grand Theft Auto V for current gen is brilliant, and is sufficiently enhanced, and different enough from the original to warrant another purchase. A must-buy, really.

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5 out of 5