January 12, 2015

Review: Grand Theft Auto V

Does the internet need another Grand Theft Auto V review?  It's receiving one anyway.

Plenty of ink has been spilled about both the previous version of this game available on the Xbox 360 and PS3 and the new version released for the Xbox One and PS4.  The game received heaps of praise when it was released last year and it deserved the accolades.  The characters are fantastic and they develop in interesting ways throughout the 30-40 hour single player experience.  The missions are varied and fun, but like all GTA games, it still feels like I'm spending a little too much time driving from one location to the next.  The single player content is largely the same as it was on the previous generation of consoles, but it's a much prettier ride this year and it has one big new trick up its sleeve: first person mode.

Trevor is your friend.

First person mode is about as well-implemented as possible given the mechanics of GTA.  One quick press of the touchpad and first person mode is engaged.  It's obvious that Rockstar took pains to make this a solid part of the port.  The player character's hands are rendered in the foreground.  They interact with things like phones and cars in a convincing manner.  From a technical standpoint, it's impressive to see that the game engine holds up so well to the scrutiny that a first person viewpoint affords the viewer.  Walk up to a poster on the wall and it's going to look pretty good.  But don't expect first person mode to transform Grand Theft Auto into Call of Duty.  This is not a perfectly smooth transition.  Movement in GTA does not work like a standard FPS.  There is a ramp up to full walking or running speed in GTA.  This carries over into first person mode and it feels odd.  The shooting aspect of the series has never been its highlight.  It's abstracted to the point that if you are looking anywhere near an enemy onscreen when you pull the left trigger to aim, the screen will snap to the center mass of your target.  It works great to provide a fast-paced, cinematic experience in third person, but I found the mechanic sickening in first person mode.  Rockstar provides plenty of options to configure the new mode, but none of them made the experience appreciably better to me.

Maybe she's the one who broke your phone.  Let's go ask her nicely.


Just because first person mode isn't a perfect feature doesn't mean you should overlook this next-gen version if you have already played the game on the 360 or PS3.  This is a pretty game.  It might be the best looking game on this generation of console.  It runs at 1080p, textures have been enhanced, the draw distance has been improved, and there are more objects littering the streets of San Andreas.

GTA V: Now with more pixels per butt.

I spent about 5 hours in GTA Online.  It feels like a pleasant, but largely unnecessary distraction. Rockstar ties the online component of the game into the single player with the appearance of some familiar characters.  It's a nice touch, but the whole thing feels like you are playing in a less-vibrant and alive version of the single player sandbox.  That's kind of an odd revelation for a mode that drops you and a handful of other human players into a single instance of the GTA V map.  Shouldn't a group of humans make this a more raucous time?  For the most part, it just felt like we were all too busily occupied by our own pursuits in the online world to interact with one another.  The few shooting-based multiplayer modes that I tried felt like spartan version of the more focused competitive shooting from Max Payne 3. 

Final Thoughts:

This will be a desert island game for many people.  If you enjoy the sandbox that Rockstar has created, they litter it with enough toys to keep you entertained for a long time...  or at least until they deliver the next genre-expanding open world game in their pipeline.

Rating: 5 out 5 stars

Review Inforamation:
  • Platorm: PS4
  • Hours Played: 40 hours in single player.  5 hours in GTA Online

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