Grand Theft Auto V PS5/XSX Review – Aging Like Fine Wine
Title: Grand Theft Auto V
Developer: Rockstar North
Release Date: March 15, 2022
Reviewed On: PS5
Publisher: Take-Two Interactive / Rockstar Games
Genre: Action, Open World, Shooter
Grand Theft Auto V is, and has long been, stuck in a weird place. It is the single most profitable piece of media ever created, having generated about $6 billion in revenue for Take-Two Interactive and Rockstar Games, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 160 million copies sold as of December 2021.
As a result, there are possibly more people who own Grand Theft Auto V than people who own the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One combined. But it will also be, as of next September, an entire decade old, with its inevitable sequel nowhere to be seen, and a question of whether it’s even in Rockstar’s best interest to make one at all.
The game was met with rapturous praise during its initial launch, becoming a defining title for both the seventh and eighth console generations. Additionally, its online multiplayer sandbox mode is basically where Rockstar Games has gotten most of its cash flow since 2013.
It was pretty easy to predict that the studio would want to create a much-needed upgrade for the title now that consoles supporting 4K and ray tracing have become standard. Still, it was surprising how long this process ended up taking. Finally, a year and a half after the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X and S launches (and after a delay from the original release window), the much-hyped “enhanced” version has arrived, and what we’ve got is a fairly solid paint job on a title that doesn’t feel too much of its age. This review will primarily cover the Story Mode.
What bugs and issues were present in the original versions of the game have largely been ironed out to create a mostly bump-free experience. Flying sucks; thankfully, it doesn’t come up that often, and every other aspect of the game feels precisely what Rockstar wanted. Driving feels fantastic, combat is simple but can quickly become hectic, and it all feels the way I expect (if you’re okay with rather aggressive snap-to aiming). There are few things more fun than zipping through the city’s streets on a bike and trying to thread the needle through traffic.
It should come as no surprise that any functional version of Grand Theft Auto V will be an exceptional gaming experience, provided that you can handle what its narrative throws at you. The three playable protagonists are all varying shades of terrible people. Still, the game itself leans so heavily into satire that it ends up more in the realm of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, where you don’t necessarily root for them to succeed but instead find fun in watching bad people make poor decisions as the stakes grow higher and higher, at least until the point where everything blows up in their faces, and they’re forced to reckon with their actions.
GTA V has probably one of the most underrated stories I’ve ever seen in a game, simply because the much-hyped Online mode has largely stolen the spotlight from the single-player experience to the point where the planned expansions were canceled and rolled into online content. While some of the content is absolutely a product of their time (and the culture they were intended to deeply satirize), as a whole package, it’s hard to compare the scale and ambition of Los Santos to much else in the open-world space, even almost ten years later.
There’s a lot to be said about the three protagonists. Regardless, each of them (with the help of their actors’ phenomenal performances) becomes fully three-dimensional by the end, and the world they live in feels more real than any other attempt I’ve ever seen at a modern city in a video game. It really is incredible just how far ahead of its time this game was, and it launched on hardware that was already at the end of its life cycle.
Regarding the quality of the upgrade itself, playing at 60fps on a large screen feels like a dream. However, it should be noted that the framerate boost, bug fixes, lighting upgrades, and resolution upgrades are the full extent of the differences to be found. The environment of Los Santos still looks great, but the character models are showing their obvious age, unable to be quite as expressive as what we’ve gotten used to today and looking more unsightly than they’re meant to. The biggest issue I have with the narrative dates all the way back to the original, and it’s that it really has no falling action – you finish the big score, and the very next thing to happen is the abrupt choice of which ending you want.
But, the absurd breadth of everything that comes before that ending, the grand magnificence of Los Santos and Blaine County, and just how packed this world is with detail and activity still makes Grand Theft Auto V just as good if not better than it already was. So, if you have somehow never played it or are simply curious to see the new and improved version, I would say the currently-discounted price is fair for what you’re getting here, mainly if your previous experience is just with the original seventh-generation version.
We still don’t know what GTA VI will be like, or even when it’s going to arrive on our consoles. My biggest hope for it is that Rockstar North sees the reception for this game and Red Dead Redemption II and pours the same level of love and effort and detail into whatever comes next.
GTA V is the high-water mark for the developer as a whole. Playing it feels almost as new and refreshing on the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 as it did when playing it on the console’s grandparents. The upgrades are gorgeous, the city is alive, and this game is still fantastic.
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