We originally reviewed it shortly after its September 2013 release and walked away hugely impressed, heaping praise on the game as a whole, while also reserving many positive words for the automotive experience, with the car selection, physics and customization options ranking highly in our original review.
Now, here we are in 2014 and with Black Friday bearing down on us. Rockstar has made a very clever play. With a year of next-gen console sales in the books, the studio has released a heavily updated version of its blockbuster title for the Xbox One and Playstation 4, leading folks like your author to shell out another $59.99 for the privilege of terrorizing San Andreas in the glory of next-gen. Considering how well it was received last year, we figured we'd take a second look and see if the original's goodness translated to our trusty Xbox One.
- One of our biggest points of praise on the X360/PS3 version focused on the car selection. It was, to put it simply, huge. Every body type you can imagine was represented, as well as work vehicles like semis, garbage trucks, bulldozers, concrete haulers and more. They were complemented by a slew of motorcycles, helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, boats and jet skis. In other words, there really was something for everyone.
- The next-gen updates add to the already impressive roster of vehicles by including everything from the standard game's downloadable content packs. There are a few next-gen exclusives, including boats, planes, motorcycles and cars. Many of them, though, were rather difficult to come by, although this could be attributed to the sheer number of vehicles on the roads of San Andreas.
- The car collection was remarkable when this game first showed up last year, but it isn't the thing we'll be raving about in this Quick Play. That honor will be reserved for the graphics. GTAV's updated looks dramatically change the atmosphere and character of the game. The cars are crisper and far better defined relative to the Xbox 360. You can really notice body details, particularly in first-person mode, while the more accurate lighting and shadowing give the cars a more life-like appearance. Driving down a street, you'll see reflections of other cars and buildings in your vehicle's paint. Walk past a car parked in the sun, and light plays across it in a very realistic manner, catching bits of chrome here and there. It all looks remarkable, especially if you've been playing GTAV on a last-gen system.
- The more powerful next-gen consoles also have a powerful effect on the vistas of San Andreas and Los Santos. Obviously, you'll get the most breathtaking views by pilfering one of the game's helicopters or aircraft and flying around (we strongly recommend this, if you want to see what your next-gen system can really do), but even from the seat of a car, the game's surroundings are seriously impressive.
- It all runs beautifully, too. Unlike other next-gen titles (cough, cough Assassin's Creed Unity cough, cough), the framerate remained consistently smooth throughout our testing. The sole incident of our Xbox One stumbling came while flying a fighter jet, through the city at extremely low altitude. Aside from that singular instance, though, GTAV runs as smoothly on the next-gen as it does on older systems.
- The biggest addition to GTA for next-gen consoles is the new first-person mode. Not only do you get a criminal's-eye view of your felonies as you commit them, but it opens up an entirely new world while behind the wheel of the game's many vehicles and aircraft. See the video below for a few minutes' worth of mayhem in the new mode.
- Interiors are fully rendered on every vehicle, and just like in third-person mode, you have full control of the camera, which can be panned around about 270 degrees. Honestly, racing games like Forza Motorsports and Gran Turismo could take a lesson from GTA, as the camera is slower to pan, and in turn, more controllable. Driving in first-person in Forza and looking to the left or right, the camera almost snaps to a predetermined point. GTA, though, doesn't hem its players in like that. You can fix on an angle, and the camera will only self-center once you start accelerating. It's pretty much exactly how we'd like every racing game's interior view to be handled.
- The real highlight of first-person view, though, comes on the game's motorcycles. The sensation of flying through traffic, at speed, is exhilarating. Hit a car, which is almost inevitable, and the camera tumbles end over end. It's all hugely entertaining. Moreover, there's a sense of detail in Rockstar's handling of first-person mode. If you're on a bike, your avatar will put on a helmet, with the visor impacting your overall view. Fit your character with a pair of sunglasses, and it filters your view accordingly. Our main quibble focused on driving at night. We wish we could lift the visor or remove the sunglasses, as it gets so dark we were regularly forced to switch back to third-person mode.