Grand Theft Auto 5 Impressions: Unforgettable Joyride

Grand Theft Auto 5 will soon be released on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and if you've been anticipating its released, you're in for one hell of a ride.

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Grand Theft Auto 5 was a hit when it released on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 last October, and in just a few short hours, the game will be making its new-gen debut on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Rockstar knows many of us have probably completed the game, which is why the publisher is including a number of exclusives for those who previously played GTA 5, as well as an all-new first-person mode that is said to completely change how the game is played. Rockstar is also allowing those who put some serious time in GTA Online the ability to transfer their characters over to the new-gen version.

So is Los Santos worth visiting all over again this holiday season?

Beautiful Los Santos

Rockstar Games overhauled the visuals of Grand Theft Auto 5 to take advantage of the improved performance of both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and soon, the PC. We’ve all seen the screenshots of the game’s updated visuals as well as videos comparing last-gen with new-gen versions, but witnessing these visuals first-hand is completely different. The re-release offers an increased draw distance, denser traffic, upgraded weather effects and finer texture details. The increased draw distance offers quite a view of Los Santos as the city seems to go on forever, especially when you’re flying. The weather effects look really good as well as when it’s raining, ripples from water droplets can be seen hitting the ground in great detail.

On the other side of the spectrum, I could spend a great amount of time just staring at the skyline as dawn approaches on a clear day, as well as catching a glimpse of the sun setting while I’m up to no good. Vehicles also look great, both inside and out, as damages to your vehicle from accidentally plowing into a group of senior citizens are made more apparent and very accurate in the re-release.

The people and places of Los Santos also have an impressive amount of detail. I tend to people watch in Grand Theft Auto at times when someone catches my eye, and in the re-release, I found each random person in the game had a surprisingly high level of detail to them. For example, I just so happen to be following a lady of the night, also known as a prostitute, to ask her for directions to the nearest church gathering. When I walked up to her, I noticed some bruising on her face and blemishes on her arms. I also noticed she was really a he with a wig, so I just continued on my way to find my church gathering myself.

First-Person Mayhem

When I fired up my copy of Grand Theft Auto 5, I immediately changed the camera mode from the default third-person perspective to the new first-person mode. If you’ve played Ubisoft’s Far Cry series or EA’s Mirror’s Edge, first-person mode felt like a hybrid of those two games in my opinion. You’ll be able to witness your carnage from a much more personal perspective, which makes aiming your weapons a much easier experience. Taking cover, on the other hand, doesn’t translate into first-person as well as you’ll be staring at your cover to then be able to lean out and shoot your adversaries when you believe it might be the most opportune time, which is often wrong since you often have no idea what’s going on beyond your cover. I personally feel switching to third-person perspective when cover is absolutely necessary, which is often if you’re going up against a gang or a large group of enemies. Fortunately, there’s an option to swing the camera to third-person view when taking cover.

Much of your movements will also be seen in first person, which means when you land from a high jump, you’ll first see the ground as you land before you continue on your way. On the other hand, getting sideswiped by random vehicles while crossing busy streets can be more jarring than ever as you’ll suddenly see a flash of red on the screen, indicating you’re injured, and then you’ll be tossed into the air, which results in viewing the sky and then the ground. You’ll then slowly get up from the hit, and if you’re like me, completely destroy the vehicle that hit you and kick its driver more times than you’d like to admit for their complete lack of yielding to pedestrians.

Driving in first-person is probably one of the most rewarding experiences as I personally prefer to play driving games in this perspective. If you're hijacking a vehicle, you’ll be able to see your character either reach into the car to throw its driver out or break the window in order to hotwire the vehicle. Once you’re in your ride, you’ll be able to see its dashboard and wheel, which all look pretty nice for a game that was originally meant to be played in third-person. The speedometers, fuel gauges and dashboard lights are all functioning. One thing I wish Rockstar could have done is make the side and rear-view mirrors usable as they’re currently extremely blurry and don’t offer much to look at if you attempt to see what’s going on around your vehicle. Riding a bicycle and motorcycle is also a thrill in first-person, but can also be pretty dangerous if you’re not careful of your surroundings.

Not all driving moments should be considered for first-person as there are some missions that involve using a tow truck to collect various vehicles, which I found to be absolutely impossible to complete within this view. There are also moments in the single-player campaign where the game will go back to its default third-person view in order to offer a better narrative, such as one mission where Franklin is held at gunpoint by someone riding in the back seat of a vehicle he just lifted.

Unexpected Surprises

I was aware of many of the improvements I found in Grand Theft Auto 5, but there were still a few surprises Rockstar was hiding up their sleeves for the re-release. The new-gen and PC versions of Grand Theft Auto 5 will include all 11 of the previously released Grand Theft Auto Online updates within Story Mode from day one, which includes a total of 29 vehicles and 12 weapons, new land, air, and sea vehicles, the ability to duck while driving, improved vehicle management at garages, and even special time and weather-based world particles, like fireflies in forest areas and experiencing mist in swamp areas. Both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One also have support for console-specific features, such as support for the Xbox One’s haptic triggers, while the PlayStation 4 uses the DualShock 4’s touchpad to switch weapons and radio stations, using its light bar to indicate what character is being played as well as their wanted level, and my favorite addition by far, using the speaker for phone calls and police radio broadcasts. The latter can be hilarious at times as I’ve heard police dispatchers describe my vehicle as “it’s a...uh….uuuummmm… red car.” It’s a downright miracle for the cops to ever catch up to me considering what a terrible job dispatchers do at describing me. Oh, and of course, there’s also Remote Play support for the PS Vita.

I also spent a lot of time playing Grand Theft Auto Online considering I didn’t want to spend so much time playing through the campaign since I already beat it when I played Grand Theft Auto 5 on last gen. During my time with GTA Online, I didn’t experience any connection issues or any bugs that many came across in the early days of the service when it launched last year. Granted, I was playing prior to the game’s official launch so that could certainly change once GTA 5 is out in the wild, but I was pleasantly surprised by how fluid the experience is now.

GTA Online also received some improvements in the new-gen version of GTA 5 as players will be able to play as their character across console generations as well as platforms as I was able to transfer my Xbox 360 save data to the PlayStation 4 version of the game. The new character creator was also easier to use, although the really strange heritage feature is still included, but you could still tweak your character’s looks afterwards. As I mentioned before, all previous updates will also be included in GTA Online, which includes new vehicles, weapons, tattoos, hairstyles, clothes, toasts, vehicle mods, and apartments.

One Way Ticket

I had an idea I would enjoy Grand Theft Auto 5 on new gen, but I wasn’t aware just how much I would enjoy it. All of the improvements Rockstar has made to the game makes this seem like it’s a title that was originally planned to be a next-gen release. If you’ve been waiting for GTA 5 to come to PS4 and Xbox One, you are going to have one hell of a ride. For the rest of us who think it could be skipped to play one of the other AAA games releasing this year, I highly recommend you reconsider as this is the way Grand Theft Auto 5 is meant to be played.

Senior Editor
From The Chatty
  • reply
    November 17, 2014 1:35 PM

    Daniel Perez posted a new article, Grand Theft Auto 5 Impressions: Unforgettable Joyride

    • reply
      November 17, 2014 1:38 PM

      Are you able to redo the looks of a transferred online character? That's something I hope is in there.

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        November 17, 2014 1:56 PM

        That.... is a really good question.

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        November 17, 2014 2:00 PM

        I didn't have many online characters, but the look and style of my level 5 character was transferred over without any issues.

        Since all of the previous downloadable content is available, I don't see why anyone's exact style wouldn't be available after transferring their data.

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          November 17, 2014 2:07 PM

          I believe what NFXFSX was asking is whether or not you could EDIT the style and look of the character.

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      November 17, 2014 2:00 PM

      Really looking forward to playing GTA5 again. I had a blast with it, and can't wait to play through it again with everything looking even better. Such a fun/cool game.

    • reply
      November 17, 2014 11:59 PM

      January 27 can't come soon enough.

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      November 18, 2014 12:28 AM

      PC is after the holidays or what

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        November 18, 2014 1:54 AM

        January 27 dude I posted it right there!

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          November 18, 2014 5:33 AM

          yeah but when is it coming out for PC?

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            November 18, 2014 6:35 AM

            It better not be after the holidays. Please, oh please, not after the holidays!