First-person freedom.

User Rating: 9 | Grand Theft Auto V XONE

Reviewer's Note: This review will mainly discuss the key features of GTA V that were not present in the last generation of consoles, notably the first-person perspective, a revamped online experience, and higher graphical fidelity. GTA Online will be discussed as well, and its respective score will be embedded in this review.

Sometimes, the bustling city of Los Santos can be overwhelming. With a near endless number of things to do and sights to see, it is no wonder that most pedestrians walk around with a sort of chip on their shoulder. The vast expanse of Blaine County and Mount Chiliad are a welcoming refresher from the congested city life, and it is just as gorgeous and relaxing. On one particular day, I decide to hike up to the precipice of the majestic mountains to take in the corrupt cityscape beneath me, feeling like I am on top of the world. As I slowly inch my way about the tumultuous turns and precarious cliffsides, I hear a distant roar from what sounds like a wild beast. One of those ominous red blips begins to flash loudly on my radar, and I try to run for cover. But seeing that I am equipped with only a simple pistol, I last no longer than a few short seconds. And in those few short seconds that I become the panther's prey, I cannot help but feel disappointed. Seeing the word "wasted" only made me more determined to try to reach the peak one more time. And if I fail, I would not hesitate to do it all over again.

It is experiences like these that really make GTA V an absolute gory masterpiece, and do not even think for one second that they are in short supply, because as you make your way through the massive open-world, random events and strangers and freaks will beg you for your attention, and you will only regret it if you pass over them. In one instance, I was taking a leisurely drive through Downtown Vinewood when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a helpless woman in an alley cornered by two thugs, and in another, I was trying to fend off aliens after consuming a hallucinogenic drug given to me by a snarky marijuana supporter. These side missions are a nice diversion from the even more spectacular single-player storyline, which looks, plays, and sounds even better than you remember, thanks to the greater amount of RAM of the PS4 and Xbox One.

The star of the show here, though, is the addition of the first-person mode, which brings an entire new perspective to the Grand Theft Auto series. Even the most basic activities like walking around or whipping out your cell phone are more intuitive and provide a more enjoyable experience. I found it especially hilarious when attempting to carjack one of the NPCs, in which case they immediately got up from the pavement and threw me out of their vehicle, and a fistfight ensued. In the end, I came out the victor after I landed a haymaker and their glasses flew off of their face. Although, first-person works well for shooting and general movement, it is not the ideal perspective to use when in a car. Yes, you get a more simulation driving experience, but at a cost. Your view is obstructed on nearly all sides since the camera doesn't pan out as it normally would in third-person, making it harder to take sharp turns at high speeds. On the plus side, gunfire is superb while in first-person. The feeling you are practically in the game consistently brought a smile to my face. All the weapons generally feel more powerful and satisfying here, but it is when you get that headshot from a mile away and you hear that gruesome blood splatter effect that makes it the optimum way to get those kills. Bullets explode out of the barrel with significant force and when they land on an unsuspecting foe, or any enemy for that matter, you will definitely know about it. The rumble triggers of the Xbox One controller add a nice touch to gunfights, too.

Grand Theft Auto V was already the best looking game video game on console when it first released for the PS3 and Xbox 360. Well, it looks even better now. Textures are sharper, draw distances are much further, weather effects have been enhanced, wildlife is more prevalent, foliage is more dense on the roadside, even the protagonists themselves look a touch more detailed. Wrinkles are easily distinguishable in the face, for instance, and even more amazing, hair and stubble come in slowly over time, meaning if you take Michael, Franklin, or Trevor to a barber shop on a regular basis, you will be able to see their hair and beards regrow. This is such an incredibly small touch, but Grand Theft Auto is known for the minute details that enhance the overall presentation, and Rockstar succeeds here with flying colors. As far as weather effects are concerned, they are stunning. Where the new graphical power really shines is during a thunderstorm. Lightning and cracks of thunder reverberate across the sky, putting on a tremendous show of rich color tones and deep bass. Rain puddles now realistically form in the environment over time, and they look impressive. And if you feel like going for a swim, check out the new abundance of aquatic life, ranging from whales and hammerheads, to smaller fish, and beautiful coral reefs.

One hitch that I did notice during busier situations in game was that the frame rate tends to dip. Granted, it is not a game-breaking bug, but it is noticeable, particularly when in a traffic jam or when traveling at high speeds across the world. Minor bugs aside, this is still the best video game made to date. It is unquestionably the best GTA game in the series, and will likely hold this title until the next entry inevitably releases.

Bottom Line: Grand Theft Auto V is a masterpiece from beginning to end. The addition of the new first-person perspective brings a whole new dynamic to Los Santos, particularly when taking part in a heated gun battle. The storyline is one of the best ever written and is delivered so effortlessly. Graphically stunning across all fronts, this experience should not be missed. Reunited and it feels so good.

The Good:

+Visually stunning

+Convincing storyline with dramatic twists and turns

+Tight all-around controls

+First-person brings new dynamic to Los Santos

+Heists are adrenaline-filled and nerve racking from start to finish

The Bad:

-Occasional frame rate dips during high speed sequences or congested traffic jams

Score: 9/10 "Superb"

GTA Online makes a triumphant return to this version of GTA V, and it plays far better than when it first released. However, it really doesn't have any sense of structure or purpose. Sure, the heists are terrific when you and a group of friends get together, but there are times when you may end up getting kicked off of the server, which happens more often than it should. It is extremely enjoyable to take part in the different jobs and other missions, but they generally have a low cash and rep payout, even when you have a respectably high rank. Buying a luxurious apartment is also tedious since the economy is stingy and they all look nearly identical once inside, with the views only being slightly different from one another. Trollers run rampant in this world, as well, and there is really no way to avoid them. Sure you can turn on passive mode, but you are still susceptible to vehicular manslaughter. I found the best option was to leave the lobby I was currently in, and try my luck again in a different one. Your results may vary.

Bottom Line: Even though it has vastly improved from a year ago, GTA Online is still hard to like. The huge array of activities to enjoy is sadly overshadowed by the lack of overall structure, and money, while easy to come by, is almost impossible to save up since you are always pressured to have a full stock of ammunition or a high-end apartment in order to progress through the online world. To make matters worse, your server will always include at least one person who would rather enjoy gunning you down than minding their own business. Finally, passive mode is just a fraud since vehicles can still mow you down repeatedly.

The Good:

+Elements of the world sometimes come together to create memorable sequences

+Online heists are well-executed and provide huge pay-offs along with nail-biting excitement

The Bad:

-Lack of structure means online play tires fairly quickly

-Issues with servers

-Stingy economy

-Trollers lead to a never ending death cycle

-Vehicular manslaughter is always a possibility

Score: 6/10 "Fair"