Like The Last of Us, Grand Theft Auto V was one of the last console generation’s biggest games, and also won numerous 2013 Game of the Year awards. And, like TLoU, it’s now available on the new generation of consoles with a few adjustments here and there to entice people that bought the game last year to double dip.
As to be expected from a big AAA studio, when Rockstar decides to do an “HD+ remaster,” they do a bit more than simply increasing the resolution. GTA V’s closest competitor in the remaster department is United Front’s Sleeping Dogs. As a basis for comparison, GTA V wins easily in the effort department. Sleeping Dogs included all the DLC from the game’s past release, with some sharper graphics and the addition of a few next-gen features like better lighting and more stable frame rate. While GTA V has no new DLC—at least for the single player mode—it adds new music, missions, weapons, some dramatic graphical enhancements as well as a first person mode that literally lets players see the game from a new perspective.
And here’s where the big question comes up. Unlike Sleeping Dogs which was an underrated open world experience largely ignored in the last generation, it’s a safe bet that nearly everyone except for the inhumanly patient bought GTA V when it first came out last year. So while there were a lot of people who hadn’t played the original Sleeping Dogs and benefited from a second chance to experience a relatively obscure title, many gamers might still have GTA V sitting on their shelves for the PS3 and Xbox 360.
If you’re the sort of gamer that plays games once and then puts them away when finished, never to think of them or revisit them again, then the whole HD remastering trend is pointless, and so is GTA V. If, however, you enjoyed the game so much that the prospect of new content and added technical polish leave you drooling in anticipation, then it’s actually pretty easy to recommend GTA V compared to other HD remasters. This is the best looking, best performing GTA game to grace consoles, bar none. Usually when a GTA game comes out, it pushes consoles to their limit, resulting in aliasing, low populations, short draw distances, and frame rate problems.
GTA V on the PS4 is the first time a GTA game feels like it has the room it needs to breathe and run comfortably. The game is free from the usual technical problems that plague a game demanding too much of its hardware. The bits of next-gen icing that have been added are things like impressive lighting and water details, new wildlife, vegetation, a denser population of both people and traffic, and, of course, the expected long draw distances, reduction of pop-in, and better aliasing and textures. In other words, it looks like the PC version of GTA V would if, we didn’t already know that that upcoming version will probably run at 60 frames per second and be in 4K resolution. The new first person view is also notable for not feeling like a hasty, cash-in feature, with new animations and little details like working speedometers when driving in cars. It also makes shooting feel different and makes car crashes look far more spectacular and painful.
For those that somehow missed GTA V the last time around, or were patiently waiting an entire year convinced that the PS4/X1 versions would be better, this is a must own game. One of the best games of 2013 is now free of last gen performance limitations, has a bit of added content, and a new viewpoint that makes the game feel different, even if it’s not substantially so. People new to GTA V now have THE version to buy, while those who love the game might find just enough in the way new additions that it’s worth revisiting. If not now at $70, certainly in a few months when the price drops.