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GTA V Remastered Review

by William Schwartz

When Grand Theft Auto V launched last year on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 it capped off an impressive run of open-world games on the aging platforms.  Some were made by Rockstar, and others jumped on the bandwagon, but it was undeniable that GTA V was the biggest and most ambitious open-world title to date, be it from Rockstar Games or anyone else.  Los Santos and it’s sprawling layout, the attention to details which brought the city to life, Grand Theft Auto V was the cream of the crop when it comes to open world, last-gen video games.

It was also kind of weird that Rockstar was jumping ahead of the launch of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One by only a month with the original release of GTA V.  It left many early adopters of the new consoles wishing that they would’ve had a next-gen version at the ready.  Whatever the reason may be, the wait is over.  Xbox One and PS4 owners can now partake in Rockstar’s biggest and best Grand Theft Auto game to date.  That wait has paid off.  There have been a number of improvements made to Grand Theft Auto 5, and it’s not just technical improvements.  While it’s immediately noticeable that things like resolution, textures, and lighting have been improved for the better, there’s a lot of little features that make a return trip to Los Santos very enticing.

Grand Theft Auto V on the Xbox One and the PS4 is a remake though.  As much as it has been improved, it’s the same game that released last year.  The same really, really good game that we thoroughly enjoyed and wholeheartedly recommended. Judging from the sales statistics for GTA V on PS3 and Xbox 360, not many people held off for new-gen versions. For those that waited patiently for Grand Theft Auto V to arrive on new consoles, the hype of that original release was indeed real. Grand Theft Auto V captured the soul of series: the dark humor, colorful characters, all the open world craziness that you would expect from a Grand Theft Auto game, and placed it in one of the most impressive and detailed sandboxes that the series has ever seen.

But it’s the changes to the gameplay structure that really set GTA V apart from other entries in the series. Using a three-pronged approach to telling the story, introducing players to three playable characters, and giving players the freedom to switch between these characters on the fly. Each of them seemingly carrying on their daily lives in this city that teems with activity. It introduced players to an insane amount of content in this set-up. Side missions, story missions, heists, and a copious amount of open world fun to be had. And that’s not including Grand Theft Auto Online, which, as it turns out, happened to be Rockstar’s most ambitious online offering to date.

Rockstar could’ve very easily increased the resolution and called it day. The “Remastered” games that have arrived on the Xbox One and PS4 have been hit and miss. Some have had a lot of additional work put into them, and it’s obvious. Others, not so much. In the case of GTA V, there was obviously a lot of work done to this game to make it worthy of a double dip.

The most obvious improvements are to the game’s graphics. Increased resolution to 1080p and a fairly stable 30fps is a big improvement, making what was an already good looking game, instantly more attractive. Anti-aliasing, sharper textures, and tesselation put that resolution bump to good use, there’s an incredible amount of detail that just wasn’t seen in the previous versions of the game. These improvements find their way into just about every aspect of the game, there just isn’t much to see in Los Santos that hasn’t been altered for the better in some way. Weather effects are more realistic, blood and damage more realistic, better lighting adds a level of realism impossible on old consoles, and characters across the board, whether NPC or story related, are decked out head to toe in high-res textures, right down to their accessories and tattoos. It all makes the story in GTA V that more immersing.

And for those that want and even more immserive experience. A full-fledged first-person mode has been added to the game. While we’ve seen mods and other attempts at bringing first person to GTA, Rockstar has done it best. This is no gimmick. First person in GTA V is not only completely playable, but enjoyable. The first person mode let’s you assume the role of these characters that you’ve previously had some detachment from in their sometimes horrific exploits. It puts a whole new perspective on the game, and weirdly allows you to see and hear an incredible new amount of detail in the world in doing the smallest things. First person mode makes GTA V more personal, whether that’s something enjoyable or not will rely on the player. What it does do is also make you appreciate the scope of the game, which had already felt massive to begin with.

See, Los Santos doubles as both a sprawling single player playground, and a massive online arena to be accessed at the press of a button. Where GTA Online came as an add-on down the line at the game’s initial release. It’s now a fully functional, ready-to-roll experience in the Xbox One and PS4 versions. For those who put in time on the Xbox 360 and PS3 GTA Online modes, Rockstar allows those players to carry their characters over into this version. Player counts have been increased, and the game now facilitates 30 players and two spectators in a given lobby. All the content, including the updates that have been made to the game mode, vehicles, weapons, and other in-game content have carried over into the new version as well. The mode also supports the first person view, which means that many of the mode’s competitive elements could play very differently than they previously had, but it’s up to lobby hosts to select whether they want to force the perspective or not.

Regardless, few online games offer the unscripted open world madness of GTA Online’s Free Roam mode. Add into that equation the increased player count, and it’s definitely a sight to see. GTA Online isn’t for everyone though. The dog eat dog aspect of free roam gives players little guidance as to what to do, but Rockstar’s many game modes, user created content, and the upcoming Online Heists should remedy that. For many, the last year has been filled with GTA Online on the PS3 and Xbox 360, with Rockstar’s attention to adding updated content for the mode, that fun could continue in the remainder of this year and the next.

The Verdict

Grand Theft Auto 5 still makes a great case for it being one of, if not the, best Grand Theft Auto game to date. It’s certainly the best looking, and the visual upgrades in this remastered version make what was an impressive game on 8-year old hardware, shine bright on the new consoles. Though Rockstar’s remaster of GTA V isn’t all eye candy. The introduction of first person perspective, and the many refinements and additions to the game make it a trip worth taking if you’ve been here and done this before. If you haven’t yet taken the plunge into the world of Los Santos, GTA V Remastered might be one of the best games you play all year.

"loved"
loved

Grand Theft Auto V

  • Available On: Xbox One, PS4
  • Published By: Rockstar Games
  • Developed By: Rockstar North
  • Genre: Open World, Action
  • US Release Date: November 18th, 2014
  • Reviewed On: Xbox One
  • Quote: "The visual upgrades in GTA V take what was an impressive game on 8-year old hardware, and makes it shine bright on the new consoles. The introduction of first person perspective, and the many refinements to the game make it a trip worth taking, whether you've been there and done that, or not."
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