Rockstar’s anarchic masterpiece has been freshened up for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X nine years after it was originally released
And so the boys are back in town. Michael, Trevor and Franklin, the sociopathic trio that lit up the gaming scene nine years ago, have been made over for the 2020s with this crisp new reworking of Grand Theft Auto V for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. The game’s violent narrative of shifting loyalties and doomed machismo felt wild and edgy back in 2013, so how does it fare in the modern era?
The good news is, the overhauled visuals definitely give the game new zest and freshness. You can play in either 4K at 30 frames-per-second or in a performance mode that lowers the resolution but bumps up the frame rate to 60, giving wonderful fluidity to car chases, swooping helicopter rides and mass shootouts. The DualSense controller features on PlayStation 5 are very good too: improved driving feedback via the analogue triggers makes the game’s cumbersome handling a little easier to, well, handle. It’s been quite a joy to rediscover this alternate-reality California; to see the sun drop behind the downtown skyscrapers, or to hit Senora as dawn splashes orange-yellow light across the burning desert.
What the vast upshift in resolution can’t hide is the fact that GTA V is a game originally designed for consoles that are now two generations out of date. The character models and facial details look positively archaic compared with, say, Horizon Forbidden West, and the building architecture too seems almost quaint in its stylised blockiness. Compare it with 2018’s Red Dead Redemption 2 and you can see just how far Rockstar has come in its building of intricate next-gen worlds.
In many ways, however, the design of the world itself has not been been bettered in the decade since it arrived. The size of San Andreas, the sheer variety of landscapes and the diversity of actions and activities is still incredible – Cyberpunk 2077 may look better, but it doesn’t let you play golf or tennis, or go on day trips on a bike, or set up incredibly complex car or helicopter stunts. Los Santos is a vast playground, a gangster Fortnite – a factor underlined by the massive community that still gathers in GTA Online (which is where we find this new version’s only totally new content – Hao’s Special Works, which lets you unlock faster cars and new tasks).
Less showy, but no less important is the fact that everything runs faster. The interminable load times of the original game have been considerably reduced and GTA Online is now accessible from the start, with a much better opening few hours that teach you as you go.
So is it worth buying? If you’ve never owned GTA V before (perhaps unlikely, given its insane sales figures) then yes, definitely – the game is a crazy, irresponsible, messed-up experience with awesome set-piece moments alongside its bloodstained sacks of problematic content. Weirdly, the subtle-as-a-Trident-missile satire on contemporary culture, featuring conspiracy-laden rightwing news channels and dudebro billionaires, still feels relevant, even if it was made in the pre-Trump, pre-TikTok, pre-crypto era.
If you played it back in the day, but want to test your new console’s technical capabilities or try all the stuff that’s been added to GTA Online, then it’s certainly worth a look. Sadly, you can’t play cross-platform or cross-generation (although you can import your saves from previous editions), so you’re going to have to rely on friends also forking out for the new version if you want to get together for a few heists (which are, as ever, a blast).
In 2022, GTA V is something of an ageing prize fighter: sleek and brutal, but with aches and wrinkles that just can’t be ignored. Whatever the case, it remains a landmark game – at once flawed, repulsive, incredible and hilarious. To be cruising these streets again, the radio blasting, the neon shimmering, is to be reminded of how this series shook up the whole idea of what it means to exist inside a game. It is still king, even if the crown is now weighing heavy.
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