Enhanced, but not so expanded
GTA V, for the third time, has been released on console. It’s actually the fourth release if you count the PC release, which I do, so we’re just waiting for the Stadia port to make it GTA V five times.
I know that it’s popular right now to hate on Rockstar and take the piss out of the fact we still don’t have GTA 6, yet we’re getting GTA V again. But you know what? I don’t mind. And yes, I know I previously wrote that it was a bit of a disappointment – which is still true – but honestly, I’m happy to have a good reason to revisit Michael, Franklin, and Trevor and their misadventures through the great state of San Andreas.
Release Date: March 15th, 2022 (PS5, Xbox Series X|S)
Developer: Rockstar North
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Availability: PSN, Microsoft Store, Retail (April 2022)
GTA V follows the threesome through a lengthy campaign that is worth playing through again and again. I like to think of it as being like a favourite TV series. It’s long, it’s fun to binge over the course of a week before dropping it completely, only to return to it a year later and start it all again. That’s GTA V for me. It’s my video-game equivalent of Breaking Bad. Which I recently re-watched, and now I’m going to start on Lost.
So, a third time around? Is it any better? Of course it is, and in some ways, it’s more relevant now than it was back when it first launched. For one, a lot of the jokes still hit the mark almost a decade later – Facebook was fun to rip the piss out of in 2013, and it’s still fun to do in 2022. I’m glad to see that in the age of “woke”, Rockstar hasn’t stripped out any of the “problematic” jokes. I’m a fan of dark humour and GTA is known for having its finger on the pulse and gauging the temperature of the current social climate. Yes, it does it via the rectum, and that’s what makes it so endearing, at least to bad eggs like me.
I’ll tell you what’s funny. The first time I played GTA V was back on the PS3. Back then, I perhaps related most to Franklin – a young chap trying to hustle a quick buck and make something of himself. The second time I played GTA V was on PS4, and by then I found the sad middle-aged day drinking loser Michael spoke more to me, what with his love of old movies and wanting to recapture his youth. Now, on my third go around, I find myself looking at the insanely unstable Trevor Phillips and wondering if that’s where I’ll be with a couple more bad years behind me. I told you, Rockstar knows its audience…
I still love these characters and GTA V is probably one of the few games where I’ll sit through every cutscene. They’re well written – the cutscenes and the characters – and even after what must be seven or eight playthroughs, I still laugh at the same moments. I often find myself asking “hey, is this bit new? I don’t remember it?” That could be my ageing brain giving me early signs of dementia which will go unchecked until my sixties, at which point it will be too late to do anything, or there’s just so much crammed in that you really do need to play it a dozen times to get it all. Maybe that’s the logic behind Rockstar re-releasing it again and again, and maybe again in the future. It couldn’t just be for the money, right?
While I’m happy to be back with the boys, and with the next-gen improvements that this re-release offers – and for me, that means 60FPS gameplay without listening to my PC cry its own death tune – I can’t say I’m 100% satisfied. In some ways, I actually feel kind of cheated and lied to.
A big part of the slender marketing for GTA V’s third console release was the wording “expanded and enhanced.” That doesn’t feel quite true.
Now, I’ll shoot straight with you – I haven’t finished the campaign yet on either new console, but I’m a fair way in on both, and I’m yet to see anything that could be seen as “expanded.” I’ve seen the enhancements, sure, and the three performance modes are a nice touch, even if they leave a little to be desired – each one suffers from some really bad pop-in that belongs back in 2013. But expanded? What has been expanded? GTA Online, perhaps? I wouldn’t know and I likely never will – I’m not interested in the online side of the game. I do not care for the carrot-and-stick wallet-baiting progression, thank you very much. I love me a gamble and a go on the slots when I’m in Vegas, but the fact Rockstar threw in an actual casino in a video game where you can gamble away your actual money is just a touch too far for me.
I would have liked to have seen some kind of expansion in the Story Mode. I’m not even talking about the map – I’d have been happy with just a few more features to give the game some purpose once you’ve finished Franklin, Michael, and Trevor’s story. Maybe an expanded in-game economy? Some kind of turf war, as is found in GTA San Andreas, or even that big bloody casino, minus the invitation to throw my child’s inheritance into Rockstar’s coffers. But there’s nothing, so far as I can tell. Again, I haven’t reached the end, but surely if there was something – anything – worthwhile, Rockstar would have made it part of the marketing spiel. Instead, it feels like I’ve been duped by a company I once held in high regard. Bastards.
Of course, these kinds of additions are possible, but what’s the motivation for putting them in the single-player mode? None. That’s why GTA Online gets all the cool new stuff while us old Story Mode-loving farts get bugger all. We can keep our dignity by not getting fleeced with the Shark Cards. That’s something.
So there’s no real expansion – maybe all those cool features are waiting for GTA 6? – but what about the enhancements? The enhancements are there and they are nice, though unremarkable, depending on what matters to you.
There are three modes: Fidelity, which gives you 4K/30FPS, ray tracing, and extra graphical features. Performance Mode gives you a solid 60FPS with a 1080p resolution, and Performance RT gives you a mix of the two, but at 60FPS.
If you’ve come into this generation after spending 20 years of 30FPS gameplay, the now-standard 60FPS is a real treat and it’s hard to go back to the old ways. It’s like going back to using rubbers. Eww. The thought alone sends shivers through my aching, herniated spine. That’s a very Trevor Phillips thing to say, right?
For me, then, I favour the responsiveness that higher refresh rates give, so I played mostly with Performance RT. Though, honestly, I struggled to see any kind of difference between Performance and Performance RT, especially when I was gunning it down the freeway chasing after Michael’s stolen yacht and his turd of a son.
Outside of the higher frame rates and the extra responsiveness in combat and driving, there’s not really much else to appreciate. I think there are some new weather effects, but again, that might be my early dementia waving its red flag. To be fair, GTA V does look a lot cleaner on PS5 and Series X with far less blur and aliasing, but it’s nothing to make a noise about.
Fidelity Mode offers the greatest visual upgrade with its impressive ray tracing adding another layer of depth to the rain-soaked streets of Los Santos. However, you’re stuck at 30FPS, and that’s a trade-off I’m not willing to make.
Is it worth paying for the new-gen GTA V? At the time of writing, yes, but there is a catch, and that yes is only really valid while the introductory price is valid. If you’re on PS5, you can get the Story mode for less than a tenner, which, given the scope of the game and the ability to play in 60FPS, is just about teetering on the edge of acceptable, for me anyway. If you’re on Xbox, it’s double the price, but you do have the option to buy the Story Mode separately from GTA V Online, which is something if you don’t care for it.
But once that offer is up, you’re looking at a 40 quid/40 dollar release, and that is way and beyond what I think this is worth. That right there is meaty expansion pricing, and I’m not seeing any meaty expansion.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using copies of the game purchased by the reviewer. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary versions tested: Xbox Series X/PS5
Summary - Very GoodGTA V - PS5, Xbox Series X|S
- The visual upgrades are nice but the framerate bump is the main attraction
- Still a great game despite being a decade old
- Introductory price is good for brand new players
- Feels like a missed opportunity by not actually providing an "expanded" version of the game with new single-player content
- Pop-in of close by objects is on-par - or worse - than the PS4/Xbox One versions