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GTA V review (All versions)

[Editor's Note: Below you can read our original review of GTA V. This is intended for those who have never played the game and mostly rings true for all versions. There are some differences on PS4 and Xbox One and to highlight these we have also added an addition to our review which deals with these versions specifically so that you may understand the differences.]

GTA V on PS3/Xbox 360

There are a hundred and ones things to do in Los Santos but before taking in the sights and sounds of this bustling playground I first have to find the right radio station as for all of the shootouts, drive-bys and races, they just do not feel right without the right music tracks. For me it’s not the mindless violence and debauchery that I associated with the GTA series but its outstanding music selection, with the likes of Mr Misters Broken Wings setting the scene for Vice City or San Andreas and its Dr Dre tracks. These short songs really set the scene for the rest of the game; so once the action packed intro is over with and I get my first real taste of the open world, it's straight to the radio dial to flick through the channels. 

Unfortunately instant gratification of the purchase does not come with the first hour being a little jarred in its intro, offering a lot of changes and info to take in through fierce gun fights and high speed car chases along with a small prompt that pops up at the most awkward of times. Add to that the ever slippery handling of the sports cars which offer a real challenge before frustration slips in and cars get wrapped around poles and stuck on barriers; however it’s not so much of a learning curve as slowly remembering how these games handled in the past, but it all comes back, and once it clicks, all of the earlier hassles are a distant memory.

Aside from a brief prelude, the game starts off with Franklin, a gangbanger who realises the futility of his situation and wants bigger and better things, but is struggling to see what that could be. Working for a bent car salesman offering dodgy credit, it’s all high risk with little gratitude so after a chance meeting with a disgruntled car owner, things start to change for Franklin, though it’s not necessarily for the better. It is here that the GTA V makes it first large departure from the series norm with the ability to switch between the main characters, Franklin, Michael and Trevor who comes in a bit later. Initially an idea that I was most concerned about, it turns out to be a masterstroke from Rockstar, allowing the game to have a broader story and having the three leads clash, each with their own distinct personalities that offers all sorts of classic Rockstar banter and crazy situations to shoot and drive your way out of.

For those familiar with the GTA formula, the main mission requirements have changed very little, with an assortment of missions available to you and the story giving you snippets of what to expect from the surrounding world. As you play the game will put you through some pretty exhilarating scenarios from car chases and shootouts to drug deals that go south. The three main characters also allow for a wider variety of their own missions, meeting separate supporting characters who offer their own little stories, missions and jobs, breaking away from the main narrative but building even more personality for each of them. Even though missions are of a familiar style, Rockstar have expanded the game greatly in pretty much every aspect, a major change being the shooting mechanics that have been dramatically improved. It has to be said shooting was a bane of previous games, but it's now a dream to use with fluid cover based mechanics, moving behind cars or peeking around a corner, pulling your chosen weapon with a snap-to-aim for easy body shots or adjusting the sights for more devastating head shots. Each weapon you have purchased is also easily selected from a pop-up radial menu allowing for quick and easy selection in the heat of the battle. Missions are also now sensibly check pointed, so even with failed missions the game does not punish you too harshly, instead sending you back to a sensible break in the action.

The new changes to weapon control and gameplay all nicely come together when it comes to the heist action, something that has been a long time coming to the GTA series and is perfectly executed. From initial planning to the actual heist itself, you have quite a lot of input into how each job will go down, first by deciding the best way to approach the job, be it noisy, guns blazing or quietly, with as little action as possible, though this will come with even more planning in obtaining the required equipment. Once set on a plan you then have to pick a team, with each member offering their skills for a cut of the takings; the better your hired hands are,  the more they will ask for, giving you the option to either go for a flawless heist but with a smaller cut or allow an inexperienced member to join, hoping that they keep it together and pull off a successful heist, earning little cash for the job but in return gaining more experience. Once all set and ready it becomes really heart pounding stuff, with the game prompting you to switch between your characters at the relevant moment, giving you first hand the best action the heist has to offer until you are out of reach from the law and can finally take a breath again.

After successful heists you then have the joy of spending all that lovely loot, you could sink it into the stock market or buy property, or on the other hand you could go ahead and customise your game to suit your mood, tricking out your motors and buying accessories for your armoury or even buy some new duds. You can also try out a new hairdo or get some ink done at the tattoo parlours, the world is littered with many distractions to splash some cash on.

As with many open world games, it’s when you travel away from the beaten path that you will find all sorts of surprising discoveries and GTA V is full of them. Whereas the likes of Skyrim is all about caves and loot, in GTA V it’s all about the people, with you walking into the middle of a hilarious conversation, stopping muggers or even getting mugged yourself, it feels like you are in a living, breathing world with the inhabitants doing their own thing away from the camera. With such a huge open world it’s hard to believe that it is full of content, but it is, be it in the city or the mountainous countryside, there is a huge assortment of side missions and other activities to take part in. Activities can be anything, from target ranges to tennis tournaments, mountain biking and drug smuggling; there is an awful lot to distract you from the main story. Rather than just being amusing time wasters each is also able to help boost your characters stats, with drug runs increasing flight skills or participating in races improving your wheelman skills. Between the three main characters they each have separate skills that set them apart from one another, plus a special ability that further makes them more independent from one another, with Franklin being able to slow time and handle cars more skilfully when weaving through traffic, Michael using bullet time and Trevor able to go into a rage, taking more damage and in turn dishing more out.

As to be expected with the GTA series the presentation is fantastic, with the game easily handling whatever you put it through, with multiple pile ups on the highway or explosions that almost rip through the screen, GTA V always manages to keep to the finest detail, from shop fronts to the dusty roads. This is all held tougher with some convincing character animations, a well scripted vocal track and environmental sound effects that really put you in the game world. To add an even more cinematic feel to the game, even without the radio blaring your favourite tunes, there is also a beautiful incidental track, changing from low electronic beats reminiscent of the movie Drive soundtrack to more familiar Hip Hop beats or unnerving low hums of instruments, indicating that something serious is about to happen or its perfectly timed to ramp up the tension during a heist, every noise adding adds even more heart pounding stress to the already thrilling gameplay.

Even when away from your console, iOS users also have the ability to still dip the world of Los Santos by downloading the iFruit app. Here you are able to look after Franklin’s dog Chop via a virtual pet app by making sure he is fed and watered, buying gifts and even taking him for walks in a fun little touch screen game. With iFruit you are also able to customise your vehicles, buying parts, change the colour and customise your licence plates before submitting it to the main game to be delivered to a custom shop. iFruit is a fun little addition that, whilst not compulsory for the game, is a great little extension and further proof on just how much attention to detail Rockstar have put into this game.

Of course the GTA games also come with their own element of controversy and this iteration is no different with plenty of graphic scenes and adult content that make it not suitable for anyone under the age on the box, however it never comes off as cheap and always has a place in the grander feel of this fantastic world. With a story that will entertain throughout and a list of other activities that puts any other game to shame, Grand Theft Auto V never lets up once it’s under your skin.

GTA on PS4

Although the above review by Ash still rings true for previous versions, there are quite a few differences in terms of both the visuals and feel of GTA V on PS4.

The main improvements of course come in a graphical sense as draw distances have increased, while throughout your travels you'll also come across more wildlife, upgraded weather and new and improved damage effects. There is a new sheen to the city that I probably wouldn't even have bothered about had I not played the new versions. GTA V on the previous consoles looked fantastic to me, but would I play them now that I've experienced the new version? No way.

If you are planning to pick up the game on PS4, then you really are in for a treat thanks to the Dualshock 4 functionality. No matter what game you are playing, it's always amazing when the sound effects or actors voices come through the controller's speaker and that's exactly what happens here. That's not all though as when the police are in pursuit of you the controller's light bar will flash read and blue. Sure it's a gimmick, but it's a great one. Nothing beats sitting in a darkened room playing GTA V on PS4 while the police are in pursuit and the Dualshock 4 is flashing red and blue, it really makes the whole experience a whole lot immersive and if you chuck it in first person view, wow, Amazeballs.

There are other small functions on the Dualshock 4, for instance, pressing on the trackpad brings you into the aforementioned first person view, while a long press brings up the quick function menu and GTA Online's interaction menu. You can also swipe the touch-pad up or down to change weapons and even swipe the touch-pad left or right to change the radio station. These are all great additions and a benefit of playing on PS4. Of course, these features aside, there is no doubt that both the PS4 and Xbox versions will be near enough identical, as generally Rockstar doesn't do things by half.

The first person view is of course worth a paragraph on its own. By pressing down on the touchpad or the appropriate button on the Xbox One, the whole world is suddenly transformed. Be you online or offline suddenly everything feels so different. You can now get a better view of car interiors, you can look people in the face, you can shoot guns and melee in a first person view. I have to admit that this took some getting used to, having played GTA games in third person view for so long. In fact it was a little disorientating at first, so much so that I'm still not that sure it's for me, still, there will be those who play first person shooters that absolutely love it and at least you still have the choice, so it's certainly not a bad inclusion.

If you are a fan of GTA Online, then you will be pleased to know that Rockstar has doubled the amount of props that can be used in created matches. The player count has also been expanded to 30 users with an additional two spectators. You can also play GTA Online using the first person view too. There are nice benefits for those returning too, as included in the disc version is a voucher which gives $500,000 for both the online and offline modes, which should make getting those new vehicles and guns a lot easier. Finally, the character models in the character creator are now much more detailed showing tattoos, stubble, chest hair, skin wrinkles and more besides. Creating your character has never been so much fun.

GTA V was a fantastic game when it first released and now it's even better thanks to Rockstar's commitment to providing an improved version for PS4 and Xbox One. Not only does the game look and run better than ever before on the new consoles, but it has new functionality that helps make the experience even more immersive.

No matter what version you buy of GTA V, you won't be disappointed.

Words by Ash Buchanan / Joe Anderson

(Version Tested: PS4/Xbox 360)


+ A huge bustling world to play in.
+ Great action be it on foot, on road or in the air.
+ Yet another outstanding soundtrack full of licensed and original music.
+ There is even more to come with an online mode.

PS4 Version

+ First person view
+ Excellent Dualshock 4 functionality
+ Increased player count in GTA Online
+ Looks even better than before


- Initial controls take getting used to.

Edited On 17 Nov, 2014

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