Grand Theft Auto V PS4 Review

by on November 17, 2014
Details
 
Release Date

November 18, 2014

 

“In many ways, Grand Theft Auto V is a culmination of the current generation; it’s a summation of everything we’ve seen in the last eight years, a love letter, if you like, to the 360 and the PS3.”

I wrote those words in the closing paragraph of my original GTA V review just over a year ago, and I meant every one of them: Rockstar’s last outing on the previous generation was an exceptional, larger-than-life crime caper that still managed to recreate a living, breathing world better than Watch_Dogs did eight months later on new hardware. Rockstar know what they’re doing, and they should, because in almost every way counts, this is their genre.

But in moving their blockbuster onto next gen consoles, Rockstar created a new challenge for themselves: how do you take a game that already earned its share of perfect scores and make it better? How do you make it definitive? For most, this is achieved by a higher resolution, faster framerate and, if you’re lucky, a bundle of DLC. Rockstar have done this and could have stopped there, but they’ve also gone a step or five further.

Grand Theft Auto V PS4

The first time it really stood out to me was when I found myself back in the shoes of hoodlum-with-a-heart Franklin Clinton. Stepping into a litter-strewn alleyway alongside wannabe gansta, Lamar, I was startled by a stray cat that leapt into my path before shooting into the road where it was promptly squashed, causing a mini pile-up in the process. I immediately restarted to see if it was a scripted way for Rockstar to show off the increases in wildlife, traffic, and dynamic events, yet to my delight it was simply a classic GTA random occurrence. That simple happenstance certified one thing for me: this may look like the San Andreas I tore up last September, but it is not the same beast. Not quite.

“Denser” is a word Rockstar used in their pre-release marketing quite a lot, but it’s no buzzword. The PS4 version contains every ambient detail that the PS3 version did, only there’s more here, all packed tighter within a smoother, cleaner framework. Stepping out of that alleyway in the wake of the unfortunate moggy, I drank in San Andreas afresh, and found it just that little bit sweeter. I saw birds in the sky, more stray cats in the alleys; a group of cyclists trundled by at a sedate pace and I caught myself idly wondering if they were friends, before I reminded myself that what I was looking at wasn’t real. Don’t get me wrong, next gen GTA V is not photoreal, or even any more truly alive than the next game, but the illusion is a powerful and enduring one.

Suffice to say, it’s utterly stunning. Astounding in places. The new and improved weather effects hit me with a rainstorm one dark night and as I drove down the street on my way to nowhere in particular I marvelled, actually marvelled, at the store and streetlights glinting through the blanket of rain. I remember being left breathless during my last visit on the 360, but the power of GTA V on next-generation consoles is a force to be reckoned with.

GTA V ps4 animals

For the eleven people who didn’t play the original release, Grand Theft Auto V is the story of Michael De Santa, a retired bank robber who spent ten years in witness relocation in the opulent personality vacuum that is Vinewood (GTA’s more decadent and superficial version of Hollywood). After fate brings him into contact with ambitious repo-man Franklin, both men find their world rocked by the re-appearance of Trevor, Michael’s pyschotic, amoral former partner and ex-best friend. You control all three protagonists as they struggle to take control of their lives against vapid families, crime syndicates, corrupt law enforcement and, well, being assholes. It’s not the greatest plot, and it requires some excessive suspension of disbelief, but the writing is pin-sharp and it’s never anything other than utterly entertaining.

The incredible open world is a playground of opportunistic mayhem, while the story missions are many and varied, crowned by the multi-stage heist missions that you plan and carry out with a variety of options. In between things, you’ll deal with Strangers and Freaks, side-quests similar to those found in Red Dead Redemption, go visit bars and strip clubs, play golf or tennis, or invest in the stock market and buy real estate. San Andreas is enormous, and it’s rammed with things to do. The next-gen version includes a handful of new activities to take part in, one of the best being wildlife photography. Not just a way to show off all the new beasties in the game, but also a game in its own right, the photography can take up hours of your time as you creep around the wilderness trying to capture the perfect shot and not get eaten by anything.

Other additions include a smattering of weapons and vehicles that you may or may not spot as new, but the improved blimp is certainly good fun. You can order it right from the start, and taking it for a cruise at night with the city sparkling and sizzling below you is a sight to behold. Once again, Rockstar know exactly what they’re doing. While I couldn’t fully test how the online mode works pre-release (we’ll bring you something on that after launch), Rockstar have confirmed that the number of players in the world will increase to thirty, and all the free DLC will be available from the off. You can also transfer your online progress into the new version from the old.

GTA V ps4 Trevor

Perhaps the crowning achievement here is the new first-person mode, not only because Rockstar were mad enough to add it at all, but because it works so well you’ll forget it was absent before. Hitting the touchpad on PS4 transports you into your protagonist’s head, but it’s much more than just a viewpoint shift. Rockstar didn’t just whack a gun barrel in the middle of the screen, instead they went to lengths to recalibrate the aiming and the collision sensors, added animations for reloading, opening doors and climbing fences. The auto aim is a little too forgiving in this mode, but you can turn it off in the settings, and you can adjust the cover behaviour so it switches to third person when you press up against a wall like in Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Driving at speed can be a terrifying exercise in first person, but leave the mode active for half an hour and you’ll forget it’s something that’s been added – like every new addition, it’s seamless to the point that you’ll have a hard time listing what’s new and what was there before. It’s not all as obvious as railguns, killer whales and a brand new perspective.

What is obvious is the graphical boost. What was undoubtedly one of the most beautiful games of last gen looks even better now, but the busier streets, more detailed textures and improved weather effects push the engine until the framerate suffers, stuttering at times during the faster chases. It’s not a major issue, and it’s compensated for somewhat by reduced loading times and a stunning level of detail.

GTA V ps4 review

It’s fair to say that one of the best games of the last gen has been made even better. Rockstar have located whatever empty space they could find and stuffed it with more content, while tweaking the existing mechanics and polishing the visuals to an impressive level of realism, itself offset by the madcap bombast that the franchise embodies.

Anyone concerned that this was just another money-spinning “definitive edition” can rest easy. As ever, Rockstar don’t do things by halves, and Grand Theft Auto V on PS4 feels truly next-gen. It’s not just a remake, it’s a testament to the quality of the original that GTA V can effortlessly stand among the best titles so far available on the new consoles and, in many cases, surpass them. It can’t be easy to make the re-release of a year-old game feel essential, but Rockstar have done exactly that.

Review code supplied by publisher.
Positives

FPS mode is excellent.
It's so beautiful it will melt your eyes.
Feels like it was meant to be next-gen.

Negatives

Framerate stutters occasionally.
Vehicle handling still isn't quite tight enough.

Editor Rating
 
Our Score
10

SCORE OUT OF TEN
10


In Short
 

This enhanced edition of Grand Theft Auto V seems determined to make you forget it was ever last gen - and it will probably succeed, too.

comments
 
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  • Rotmm
    November 17, 2014 at 11:18 am

    Got this arriving tomorrow and pretty excited. I didn’t get around to finishing the game on the 360 (probably about 1/2 way through the story?) because I just couldn’t find the time investment required. Then when I COULD have gone back to it during the release lull this year, they go and announce the new-gen versions.

    That said, even though it’s arriving tomorrow I may hold off and give it to my wife to give to me at Xmas, as again I just don’t think I can invest the time. It doesn’t help that it’s a “after the kids have gone to bed” game 😉

    Reply

    • November 17, 2014 at 11:25 am

      It does seem like a nice “Christmas Game”, and I must admit, never finished it on 360 myself. But that first-person mode has me…yeah, frothing at the mouth to play it.

      Reply

  • November 17, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    This may be the first game I have been guilted into playing. I have Far Cry 4 and Dragon Age: Inquisition arriving on the same day, the last thing I need is another open world game to loose my life to. But sometimes you can’t argue with quality.

    I can’t wait to see how it performs on the PS4 and 1st person mode is… well, gamechanger is too light a descriptor. If this becomes the standard for Rockstar I will literally loose my mind when the next Red Dead hits the streets.

    Reply

    • November 17, 2014 at 1:07 pm

      I’m genuinely thinking I’ll play the entire game in first-person. And I can’t be alone, right?

      It’s gotta be time for a new Red Dead, right? Or maybe Bully 2? Please?

      Reply

      • Owen
        November 17, 2014 at 1:23 pm

        Absolutely not! I can’t wait to get it in first person and leave it like that for the whole game. Also like the idea of using 3rd person only when behind cover but I’ll see what it’s like in 1st person before changing it.

        Reply

    • datdude
      November 17, 2014 at 6:36 pm

      That’s a lot of good gaming you’ve got planned.

      Reply

  • datdude
    November 17, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    I’m one of the people who never bought it for my ps3/360, choosing to wait for the ps4 version I hoped was coming. I really didn’t miss it last year because I had quite the backlog of games to catch up on, but come this Tuesday, it’s going in the machine and it’s not coming out.

    Reply

    • Saul Till
      November 19, 2014 at 2:54 pm

      You chose to wait for the next-gen version?! That’s some SERIOUS restraint on your part!

      I have to say I considered doing the same, would have loved to have done the same, but the thought of waiting 24 hours to play it if my P.S.3 release day preorder had been late was unbearable enough. I would have been foaming at the mouth after a week, never mind a year and a bit.

      Give yourself a little pat on the back – you get to play the definitive version, from the start, fresh. I’m a bit jealous.

      Reply

      • datdude
        November 19, 2014 at 3:45 pm

        I hear that…I felt the same way about The Last of Us…a bit jealous of those who had never played the ps3 version and their first introduction was the remaster with the dlc included. I had no expectation that TLOU would arrive on ps4 when that game first came out though, primarily because no one knew just how successful or how great it would be. I was certain GTA would be on new gen.

        Reply

        • November 19, 2014 at 8:48 pm

          So much agreement. When playing TLOU Remastered, and now GTA V on PS4, I keep thinking how insanely good these two games must feel to someone brand new to them. Have a great time in Los Santos!

          Reply

      • SilentRain16
        January 9, 2015 at 12:44 am

        This is a bit late to comment, but how bout this? I never had a game system til early December (2014). So I missed out on literally EVERYTHING. lol
        Now I have PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Wii U and a gaming PC. Let’s just say before I never had any money, now I have a lot of it. Even had to buy a new TV to game on cause I had an OLD 20″ crt (sd) tv.So some people haven’t played this game even yet if they were poor like I was, I still have yet to buy GTA 5 (PS4) cause of other games I am playing but am picking it up this Monday. I am super excited, omg! 😀

        Reply

  • Mark
    November 17, 2014 at 11:45 pm

    I need help. I never played this on last gen because I have always felt that GTA games got too repetitive after a short while (gasp). This sounds incredible though (Payday 2 is one of my favorite games ever). I did however love Far Cry 3….and Dragon Age looks good too (but I hated skyrim)….Mass effect is by far my favorite game series ever though (bioware)
    My question is… Given these facts….Which one of the 3 (no just buy all 3 or 2 of them) would you suggest to me this tuesday and why? Thanks in advance

    Reply

    • Master Rahool
      November 18, 2014 at 7:43 am

      Haha, tough choice man! Seriously…I personally liked Far Cry 2 but didn´t fully enjoy FC3 much because to me, this game felt extremely repetitive. It was fun but about halfway through it became kind of a chore to me personally. All you do is shoot stuff and driving from mission to mission. The missions didn´t have a lot of variation to it really. I couldn´t get into the DA franchise but Inquisition looks really, really good, I´ll wait for a pricedrop though because I am not sure if I will be able to enjoy the game. Buying it day one could end with me becoming a new fan or I could regret my purchase. I will buy GTA first. I am not the biggest GTA fan. IV was a let down to me and I actually never finished it but I think V looks extremely promising and offers a lot of variety in mission design. Sure, it is repetitive as well, most games become repetitive after longer playtimes but there are a lot of things to do really and it offers you a crazy amount of gameplay and replay value. If you love Payday 2 I bet the heists in GTA will be your thing. If you are planning to play this with friends I think GTA will give you even more bang for the buck. I´d say get GTA V first (AND the fantastic, mindblowing Alien: Isolation). That would make 2 great games that are very different gameplaywise for the winter. If you also add Smash Bros to the list, you´ll probably be in gaming heaven.

      Reply

      • Mark
        November 18, 2014 at 2:09 pm

        Is Alien Isolation scary? Suspenseful? What is so amazing about it? Maybe I should just get Gamefly

        Reply

        • Master Rahool
          November 18, 2014 at 2:36 pm

          It does build up tension really really well. The game does an amazing job to get you immersed within it’s universe. You really feel like being on that space station, trying to survive. I didn’t expect much from the game but I was blown away by it. It is produced very well too. Very polished and lots of details. One of the best games that I have played this year but I bet it’s not for everyone. It is extremely slow paced but that benefits the overall experience. The pacing and the way the story unveils itself is spot on in my opinion. I usually don’t enjoy stealth based games but here I loved it because it really felt intense. The review on this page pretty much nails it imho.

          Reply

          • November 18, 2014 at 5:36 pm

            Would add to that, Alien: Isolation is a genuine game of the year contender. It’s the tension that does the trick. But, that said, I do think being a fan of the Alien films will enhance it. Part of why I adore it so much is that it gets the world just *so* right.


          • Saul Till
            November 19, 2014 at 2:59 pm

            It’s also surprisingly uncerrated in the visuals department it looks utterly fabulous on P.S.4, with a gorgeous combination of lighting and smoke/steam effects transforming what should be mundane treks through dark ship corridors into moments of stop-and-stare wonder. It’s the best looking P.S.4 game I’ve played.


          • Master Rahool
            November 19, 2014 at 3:12 pm

            I agree. It looks amazing. Some of the areas look plain gorgeous. I really think that they have nailed the artdesign too. There are lots of details and the lighting effects are very impressive. Everything has this clean, smooth look to it but it still is all dark and gritty. I love that style. The game is extremely polished in it´s presentation, almost on Nintendo levels. I only encountered one weird Alien bug, where the Xeno was stuck in one of the vents which was kind of immersion breaking :D. Other than that I haven´t encountered any bugs or problems at all. I wish that all games would be made as well. Definitely one of the games where I did not regret buying it for the full price.


        • Master Rahool
          November 18, 2014 at 10:12 pm

          Just wanted to add that I have been playing GTA for a few hours now. The controls are as bad as ever imo and the mission structure is like it has always been as well. Pretty repetitive stuff indeed. The first person mode is clunky as well. It just isn´t a smooth experience at all. I just hate games where I fight against the gamemechanics. The voice acting is absolutely fantastic though. Sure, I just started it but this far I am not impressed. If I would have known what I know now, I probably would´ve picked up Dragon Age instead today 😀

          Reply

    • November 18, 2014 at 5:35 pm

      Well, I can say that I loved FC3 as well, and have played 3-5 hours of FC4 recently. And it’s better. It’s… yeah, that’s a seriously good game.

      Reply

    • Mick Fraser
      November 23, 2014 at 11:30 am

      For pure value for money, if you liked the other Dragon Age games, I’d say Inquisition. It’s massive and brilliant. Far Cry 4 is good, but it’s not, to me, all that exceptional. 🙂

      Reply

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