A year ago, Rockstar Games released “Grand Theft Auto V,” the latest in the insanely popular series of ultra-violent, ultra-satiric open-world games where you can be all you can be in the criminal underworld, for both Xbox 360 and PS3. The game smashed seven Guinness world records including the highest grossing video game in 24 hours and the fastest entertainment property to gross a billion bucks. Now, over a year later, Rockstar has rebuilt the game for the evolved Xbox One and PS4 and it looks and plays better than ever.
GTAV for Xbox One and Playstation 4 is a simple nuts and bolts upgrade that we’ve seen before with remasterings of games like “Tomb Raider” and “The Last of Us.” The graphics are better, but still feel like an update rather than something that was built specifically for the new hardware. Even with the next-gen system’s upgraded hardware, GTAV offers mostly minor improvements. That’s not an indictment, it’s a result of the game looking so damn good in the first place. Still, a higher polygon count and uptick in frame rate definitely doesn’t hurt the realism of, say, smoking a bong in your living room or visiting the strip club when Bubbles, your favorite girl, is dancing.
GTAV boasts an incredibly high level of customizability to its control schemes but the Xbox and PS4 versions bring with them an unprecedented addition to the series: First person perspective. You now have the choice to opt for the traditional, over-the-shoulder third-person view or to go through the game entirely in first-person, shooting up enemies like you’re in a “Call of Duty” battle. It’s a wholly new experience and Rockstar wisely gives you alternate control schemes to accommodate players who have made the switch. Best of all, you can switch these perspectives on the fly so you can cause all the mayhem you want in third-person but then switch to first for any particular mission. Same goes for driving. It may not be the easiest to control your car from behind the wheel, darting from peripheral to peripheral while a police helicopter is tracking you, but the level of detail Rockstar has added, even to the interiors of vehicles, is staggering. Keep an eye out inside of Trevor’s truck.
GTAV’s multi-pronged story follows Michael the bank robber, Franklin the hungry up-and-comer and Trevor the meth-addled psychopath. That’s a lot of material and it’s expertly woven together with movie references, parodies, mystery and action. As the past gets dredged up and the Scorsese-esque story winds down, you just can’t help but marvel at the craftsmanship behind it all. And that’s not taking into consideration all the side-missions and other hidden goodies that Rockstar has kept secret. Just to start with, there is the Mt. Chiliad Mystery, the biggest scavenger hunt in all of video game history. (The puzzle remains unsolved over a year after the game’s launch.)
Unlike GTAV’s original launch last year, GTA: Online works right out of the box for Xbox One and PS4. It will also carry over your character so you don’t have to lose the progress, perks or bank account of the character you’ve been building this whole time. That means you can hit the ground running when you jump into the shared world of Los Santos with 29 other people for deathmatches, races or even niche activities like group parachuting. Noticeably absent from GTA: Online still are the multi-leg heists that gamers have been expecting since 2013. Rumor has it that we’re right on the precipice of their release and we’ll be glad when it they arrive. Until then, we’ll be just fine running amok on the streets of Los Santos, paying bounties so other players will kill gamers we don’t like and pulling jobs to make that paper because, like any good criminal, we gots to get paid.
Other games of this magnitude often suffer from an identity crisis. Does it want to be funny or serious? Sprawling or focused? First or third person? Solo or co-op? GTAV does it all, does it well and never falters in maintaining its identity because that identity is, “Fuck everyone, we do what we want.” We’re inclined to support that approach because it works for us and also because, as publishers like EA and Activision force their studios into freemium models or making them include cash grab, downloadable knick knacks, GTAV is pushing the limits of what a game can be. Gamers are showing their love by forking over fistfulls of cash. This is what the future looks like. We’re all for it.