Revisit Los Santos for like the fourth time.
Grand Theft Auto V was first released in 2013 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, nearly a decade ago at this point. The game was a gigantic success when it first launched, but I don’t think anybody could have ever foreseen that the game would not only still be relevant in 2022, but also still be one of the most popular games on the market across all platforms. The success of Grand Theft Auto V and its online companion (which has largely become the main focus for Rockstar) cannot be overstated, but going on its fourth rerelease, the game currently exists in a much different space than it did all those years ago.
The last time players were forced to pay for GTA V and GTA Online again was in 2014 when the game hit PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, which were the cutting-edge next-gen consoles at the time. PC players would be able to hit the streets of Los Santos just a few months later in early 2015, but the game has solely existed in that form to this day. There was never an upgrade for the PS4 Pro or Xbox One X, the game never got any new content outside of online updates, and countless games have come and gone in the meantime.
With this rerelease, dubbed “expanded and enhanced,” GTA V and GTA Online are finally playable at modern resolutions and framerates on consoles. All those quality of life features that other games received during the tail end of the last generation like faster framerates, sharper resolutions, frustration-free multiplayer, and more are finally available on the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S version of the game, but are all these improvements worth a paid upgrade that could very well have just been free?
Grand Theft Auto V
While the single-player portion of Grand Theft Auto V has been entirely neglected since its original release, there are still a fair number of people who have still not experienced the game’s story believe it or not. Despite GTA V being nearly a decade old, some people will be jumping into the shoes of Franklin, Michael, and Trevor for the very first time with this PS5 and Xbox Series X|S rerelease, and thankfully, the game looks and runs better than ever.
There are several graphics modes to choose from this time around. The Fidelity mode offers a native 4K resolution at 30 FPS with ray-tracing (just for shadows), the Performance mode offers 60 FPS at an upscaled 4K resolution, and the Performance RT mode offers a mixture of the two. All three modes are great, but Performance mode is easily the best of the bunch since the ray-traced shadows in the Fidelity mode are fairly disappointing. There aren’t any major graphical overhauls of any kind though, and it still just looks like a touched-up version of the PS4/Xbox One version for the most part.
There are some other next-gen enhancements like DualSense controller support on PS5, increased loading times, and a few other bells and whistles, and it’s nice to finally play GTA V at something better than 1080p/30 FPS on a console. The problem is, the game is not quite as “expanded and enhanced” as it could have been, especially as a paid product.
This would’ve been the perfect opportunity to add some new single-player content to the game, maybe reworking some existing online heists as story mode missions or something like that, but sadly, GTA V’s single-player story has not been changed at all.
However, the campaign is still as good as it was in 2013, so it’s an incredibly enjoyable experience. Its writing doesn’t come anywhere near the highs of Red Dead Redemption 2 though, and it’s very easy to see how far Rockstar has come in the narrative department since this game’s initial release. What was cutting-edge satire in 2013 now feels a bit tired, but most of the major themes still hold true and the three protagonists are great characters to follow. These are beloved characters for a reason, and the story is still a blast of back-to-back Hollywood references from start to finish.
Also, Los Santos is an incredible open-world to explore, arguably one of the best and most detailed ever created. There’s plenty of side content to tackle from triathlons to tennis matches, and the environments are gorgeous and varied. Weaving in and out of traffic while blasting the radio station of your choice is still an unmatched feeling, and hitting the highway to visit the wide-open Blaine County is a lovely change of pace from the city streets. It’s GTA V. It’s good. We all know it’s good.
Grand Theft Auto Online
While this release still says “Grand Theft Auto V” on the box, we all know the story mode isn’t the main draw here. Grand Theft Auto Online has cannibalized its single-player counterpart to the point where it now has a standalone version, and that is the reason why 90% of people will pick this next-gen port up. While GTA Online was slated to be a huge deal from the beginning, even before the original launch of GTA V, nobody in the world could have predicted how successful it would end up being.
A free tacked-on multiplayer mode from 2013 has now grown into one of the most profitable and influential games of all time, and it’s still going strong in 2022 with no signs of slowing down. With that said, GTA Online’s systems and infrastructure were not created with this level of success in mind, and the game can feel these limitations still today. A terrible lobby system, insane load times, huge griefing problems, connection issues, grinding worries, and much more plague GTA Online, and this update aims to remedy at least a few of them.
The resolution and framerate enhancements are still present in GTA Online, so players can finally experience 60 FPS on PS5 and Xbox Series X|S. The system’s SSDs also help with loading times, although you’ll still be staring at the sky for quite some time when attempting to find a lobby. GTA Online’s onboarding has been overhauled though, so new players will be able to choose a starting business and receive a lump sum of cash to reduce early game grinding. The game’s menus have also received some work, making it much easier to find jobs and heists.
All in all, these minor steps go a long way in making GTA Online feel more like a modern release, but the game feels archaic compared to multiplayer releases from the current decade. The game needs a bigger overhaul, one that will make more forms of content enjoyable, worthwhile, and accessible. Heists and businesses are still the primary attractions here. Playing jobs and missions still feels like wasting time unless they’re the featured weekly ones with bonus payouts, but even then, you could just be grinding Cayo Perico to earn some easy cash. When you pair that with the connection issues and lobby system problems, it’s not worth bothering with most of the game’s available content.
Still, there’s a reason why GTA Online is still going strong a decade later even with all of these issues. It’s such a strong online game in nearly every regard. Driving around and just screwing around with friends is fun, and heists remain some of the most engaging co-op content on the market right now. With the latest heists offering different methods of approachability and scaling to smaller groups, it’s clear that the best is yet to come. The same goes with the latest updates, which offer much more story content for solo players and provide exciting collaborations with people like Dr. Dre.
There’s just so much content available, even if it’s not all as good as the premier things. You can play games at the casino, you can immerse yourself in an underground racing scene, you can play player-created jobs and do custom races floating above the city, you can rob the casino listed earlier, and so much more. It’s an open-world playground in every sense of the word, and its strengths are the only reasons why it was able to survive with as many backend issues as it has.
This rerelease doesn’t remedy every issue with GTA Online. The game will likely still have these issues well into the current generation. It does bring console players up to par with the PC experience, however, and it makes the game at least a bit more accessible and stops it from wasting so much of your time. This could have and should have been a free upgrade, but thankfully, it’s not full price. Whether you’re a veteran player or just jumping in for the first time, this version of GTA Online is great. Oh yeah, and Grand Theft Auto V is included, too I guess.