Review: Grand Theft Auto V (PS4)

REVIEW_INFO_GRAND_THEFT_AUTO_VBANNER_STORY_GRAND_THEFT_AUTO_VAs always Grand Theft Auto’s narrative is an expansive satirical look at American culture, and involve it’s characters chasing the American dream, in the most ridiculous way possible. The story focusses on the characters Franklin, Michael and Trevor, each of which have their own dreams and goals in their criminal rampage through the city of Los Santos.

Whilst the main base of Grand Theft Auto is the freedom on a gameplay-basis for the player, it’s still an important factor to provide them with a good narrative should they choose to follow the campaign, and in these cases it’s very hard not to repeat yourself. With Grand Theft Auto V, Rockstar has changed its dynamic drastically, and they’ve made the franchise travel through new territory.

Screen_0004_Layer 8Rather than telling the story of a singular character, GTA V switches up between multiple characters, which have both their own missions and intertwining stories/missions that flow well into a single well-made narrative. Even though the characters interact and work towards the same endgame, each story has it’s own unique style, and when the characters are on their own they show their own perspective on what the American dream really is, and how ridiculous the road to that dream can be in retrospect. There are a lot of ways you can describe the dynamic of the characters, and each of them has their own special role in both the narrative and gameplay. Franklin is the main man of action, Michael is the brains and Trevor is the violent wild-card.

The story takes elements from many popular films and such, with the most noteworthy being Heat, which was one of the inspirations for the heist sequences of the game. The story spends it’s time covering many different elements and concepts, from random street crimes to the planning and executions of huge heists that are as intense as the characters make them out to be.

The game also features many side-missions that feature their own little side-narratives. These aren’t always relative to the plot, but they do provide a fun look into the world of Los Santos and it’s satire-American setting. If there is one complaint about the plot it’s that it may lose focus at certain points in the game. This is mostly when the game switches between characters for a longer period of time, but this is a small nitpick in what is otherwise a well-written and intriguing storyline. There isn’t much to say for returning players, but newcomers should be delighted with the story this game has to tell.

BANNER_PRESENTATION_GRAND_THEFT_AUTO_VWhilst players should be accustomed to the world of Grand Theft Auto V by now, the current-generation version of the game showcases the world of Los Santos in a way that Rockstar probably originally meant it to be portrayed. The game for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One doesn’t necessarily turn into a whole different game, but it does maximise the potential of the present material. The game has been improved on many fronts, and it may not be the best looking game on current generation platforms, but it more than makes up for that in scale and detail.

Screen_0002_Layer 10At the initial sight when starting the game you probably won’t notice much difference in the visuals of this version of the game, but as you go along the improvements and added details become a lot clearer. At first glance the game seems a lot more sharper than its last-gen counterpart thanks to the 1080p resolution boost, and in motion it benefits from similar upgrades. In regular instances on the pS3 and 360 the frame rate fluctuated between 20 and 26 frames per second, with serious drops when a large amount of explosions hit the screen for example. On PS4 and Xbox One the game mostly holds itself at a steady 30 frames per second, and it shows in its animations, but when things get hectic the game does occasionally dip when there is a lot of action on the screen, much like its last-gen counterparts.

The city of Los Santos seems much more vivid in this version of the game, as textures, lighting and draw distances have been improved drastically. Flying or driving through the city at night is a delight, and the improved traffic density also adds a lot of believability to the streets, which was understandably lacking in previous versions. The city also seems a lot more dense in its form, and the little details really make Los Santos one of the most well-designed cities in gaming to date. Beyond the borders of its main city the game shines a lot more than it did previously. The outskirts of Los Santos are simply stunning to look at, and the addition of extra detailed greenery, additional wildlife and better textures make it seem like the game was designed like this in the first place, rather than being a straight port. Here and there you will encounter some rough textures, which will be more noticeable in the Northern area of the map.

Screen_0003_Layer 9Character models and animations aren’t the best this generation has had to offer, but in their current form they do seem very polished and clean when it comes to visuals and movement. NPC’s don’t always reach the same standard, but overall I was very impressed with the visual fidelity of pedestrians and other various characters considering the size of the game world, and never was I startled by bad models or animations. Character models for GTA Online have also been considerably improved, and are actually nice to look at visually compared to the rough interpretations in the previous version. Animations are very expansive, and the movements of both the main characters and NPC’s are very believable. There are some rough points here and there, but most of these are the product of my actual search for them, and in a regular day in the field you probably won’t notice.

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Grand Theft Auto V isn’t the best looking game on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One at the moment, but it’s certainaly up there when you look at other games of this size and scope, which isn’t a large criteria at the moment.

BANNER_GAMEPLAY_GRAND_THEFT_AUTO_VFor the current-generation consoles Rockstar has left most of the gameplay of Grand Theft Auto V, and this is everything but a bad thing. The game offers a wide array of activities, variety in missions and a strong and content-filled endgame that will keep players occupied for a long time. It’s main campaign consists of approximately 69 missions, varying from small sequences of robbery, theft and such to large heists filled with spectacle and excitement. This section of the game could theoretically be beaten in 10 to 15 hours, but in practice you’ll be spending at least 30 hours completing it as it’s hard not to be occupied with side-activities and general exploration in between missions. On top of that there are countless side quests, collectables and events to be completed in order to attain a 100% completion rate, which will keep you occupied for at least 50 hours.

Screen_0000_Layer 12The game consists of many mechanics, varying from driving,  shooting and flying. General gunplay is quite easy to get a hand of, but it gets a lot trickier when you decide to turn off the game’s auto-aim assist, which initially does half of the work for you since you only need to aim in the general direction. For a more challenging playthrough it may be an idea to switch it off all together, as it does make the game a bit more challenging as you’ll be taking your time to aim at certain targets. For both gunplay and alternative combat the game offers a large array of weapons to be purchased/acquired, and for every play style there’s a weapon that will fit your needs. With Grand Theft Auto you’ll be adapting your play style to different situations from time to time though, and it’s doubtful that players will be choosing for long range or close range combat all the time, even though it’s possible.

The driving mechanic is also well-designed, though the margin of error is problematic when it comes to mastering it completely. Cornering for example is one of the trickier feats to master, and it’s very easy to spin out or hit something you weren’t supposed to, which will impact your pace. The handling isn’t exactly realistic, but it’s incredibly fun and mastering it is very rewarding. Flying has the same concept, and whilst the base is very simple you’ll be taking time to master it completely.

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Grand Theft Auto Online has also remained largely unchanged, though it does seem a lot less problematic on a technical level. The player cap has been lifted to 32 players in a single session, and loading into the game does seem a lot more snappier than it used to, even though it still takes a while at the initial start and such. The game’s online mechanic seems incredibly ambitious, but at the same time it’s not everything that it wants to be. The game has the option to quick join a current session or certain mode, though often you’ll be left in a barren lobby after a single match and hosting your own match with matchmaking often seems too long of a process to actually be worth it. The in-game economy is functional, though it lacks certain aspects of the story mode such as the stock market, owning business properties and such, which will often lead to money grinding through matches. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s slightly disappointing considering the wide array of options you have access to in its offline counterpart. These aren’t necessarily faults of the game, but more disappointments of a concept that seems to be a lot more ambitious than it actually is. That being said, for what it is Grand Theft Auto Online is a blast to play when it works properly.

Arguably the biggest addition in this version is the addition of a first-person mode, which marks the first time any such mode has been implemented in a Grand Theft Auto title. Rather than being a tacked-on feature, Rockstar’s first-person support actually outdoes a lot of games, which is surprising considering it originally shipped without any such features. First-person works surprisingly well with this game, though it may be a matter of preference wether you’ll actually want to play through the game in this state. The game offers a lot of customisable options to tweak your experience, ranging from field of view, controls to changing to third-person view/controls when performing certain actions. The player for instance will have the ability to automatically switch to third-person when in cover or when entering a vehicle, which makes the mode very accessible for players who might prefer a more traditional experience for certain sections of the game. General traversal and gunplay seem to work just fine, though driving may be a jarring experience for some, which is partially thanks to its slightly narrow field of view whilst in vehicles.