November 17, 2014
Has it already been more than a year since Grand Theft Auto V first launched? Wow. Time flies, and while everyone already suspected that Rockstar's magnum opus would eventually get the new-gen treatment, the lengths to which it has gone are above and beyond anything we had expected. It's still that same incredible GTA V experience that you enjoyed a year ago, but with a lovely lick of high-resolution paint and a few new features that combine to ensure the game feels fresh.
The experience obviously remains the same then, but this is far more than just a cosmetic upgrade. GTA V on PlayStation 4 brings denser traffic to Los Santos and Blaine County's roads, new wildlife to the deserts, scrub, forests and ocean floor, more populated areas, beautiful foliage and a range of improvements to GTA Online.
It's the little things that you'll really notice though, like red and blue flashing lights on the DualShock 4 when the cops are on to you, or phone calls and police radio emanating from the controller's integrated speaker. Rockstar clearly knows how to make the most of PS4's unique features.
Everything just feels far more streamlined too, and it's in GTA Online where you'll find that this streamlining of the experience really shows, getting you straight into the action without having to work through pesky tutorials. Although they are still there if you're a newcomer, or need to reacquaint yourself with the basics.
If you had a character on the go in GTA Online for PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, you can transfer your progress from either last-gen version by linking to the Rockstar Social Club, meaning you're able to easily pick up where you left off. This is a one-time only deal though, so make sure you're committed to your new-gen platform of choice before you move your character across.
Online, you can now share an open-world with up to 30 players, and should you decide to make a new criminal from scratch, the character creator offers a few additional options over the last-gen version. The results are also far more aesthetically pleasing too, looking slightly less gormless and generic than they did on PS3 and 360. Even pre-release, Freemode is filled to capacity with online reprobates, and it all works impeccably right out of the box, which is more than you could say for GTA Online's shaky launch on last-gen. It's as fun and chaotic as ever.
New weapons, vehicles and properties join all of the updates released for GTA V to date, so there's an enormous wealth of content to explore. Playing with friends, GTA Online is still well worth delving into. Personally, it's GTA V's story that holds the most appeal, and playing it again only serves to highlight just how well the whole thing is written and put together. It's like falling in love with an old flame all over again.
Still, if you really want to shake up the experience, then you could conceivably play the whole game viewed from the new first-person perspective. Unsurprisingly, it's no Call of Duty (not that we expected it to be), but it lends the game a new lease of life as you view the world through the eyes of Michael, Franklin and Trevor.
Moments like rampaging through enemies with a shotgun, racing along the highway, or crashing and being launched through the windscreen of a speeding car are particularly thrilling highlights when adopting the new viewpoint, but you'll likely find yourself switching back to third-person after the novelty wears off.
First-person in GTA V is simply impractical at times, and doesn't feel nearly intuitive enough for some of the game's more challenging missions, but it's certainly a fun and interesting diversion, and appealing enough for you to give it a whirl for 15 hours. Just long enough to earn the game's solitary new trophy, as it happens.
Speaking of which, Grand Theft Auto V's trophy list is exactly the same as it was on last-gen, which is a mite disappointing, save for the aforementioned new trophy for playing in first-person view for 15 hours. That seems like a bit of a long time, but that's a cumulative number, so you can mess around in first-person view every now and again, which is something worth doing anyway.
I previously marked down GTA V's trophies for focusing on collectibles and grinding out side objectives, but in retrospect, the list makes perfect sense for the game, giving you ample impetus to explore beyond the story missions laid out in front of you. A little more invention would have been welcome, playing around with the boundaries a bit, but the trophy list works just fine as it is.
And if you've already sunk hours into GTA Online, you're probably already well on your way towards bagging the levelling trophies, so that's something. It's also worth noting that you can use first-person view in multiplayer, which counts towards your 15 hours for the trophy, so it's certainly worth experimenting with.
However, I prefer being able to see my protagonist in GTA V, especially when they're as strongly and brilliantly characterised as Michael, Franklin and Trevor. A lot of that character is lost in first-person, although there's a lot to be said for flying a helicopter or taking a parachute jump from the new perspective.
Initially, I was unconvinced that I'd want to revisit Grand Theft Auto V. I'd wrung every last drop out of the game, hitting 100% in the story and reaching a high level in GTA Online. But having jumped back into Los Santos, I became instantly smitten once more. One thing becomes abundantly clear upon replaying Grand Theft Auto V; it's an unreserved, indisputable masterpiece, a sharply scripted modern day satire bristling with character, and the best game that Rockstar has ever made, bar none.
GTA V's radio stations have been updated with some new tracks, which is a neat touch, and the audio is as fantastic as it ever was. The score and the voice performances are both an unparalleled delight.
It's shocking just how good GTA V still looks on previous consoles, so the increased draw distance, bump in resolution and other visual touches go a long way in making an already attractive game really sing on new-gen hardware.
Reassuringly familiar, playing GTA V is like slipping into a tailored smoking jacket. I don't own a tailored smoking jacket, but it feels like an apt analogy anyway. Playing in the new first-person can be somewhat clumsy, but enjoying GTA V the way it was originally intended is never anything less than video game nirvana.
Despite milking GTA V dry the first time around, it's worth diving right back in for another go. New activities and fresh things to discover will offer some small, but nice surprises for returning players, while familiar sights draped in shiny new textures will put a smile on your face.
The same list from GTA V on PS3, bar one new trophy for playing in first-person view for 15 hours, it's not really one for imagination. That said, it's a decent enough list that points you towards some of the many side activities to see and do in Los Santos.
Over one year on and Grand Theft Auto V is still a stunning, unmatched achievement. An open-world that's still utterly absorbing, characters that you'll still want to spend time with and enough new stuff to drag you back for more, all conspire to make GTA V on new-gen entirely indispensable. Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.