One of my all-time favorite games launched without a version available for the new generation of games consoles. We're talking Grand Theft Auto V, of course. Despite being restricted to the relatively aged Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 systems, it was still one of the absolute greatest games ever made.
Around a year on from that, GTA V is back. Back for a grand re-launch, and this time around we can play it on the Xbox One. It has been given a spruce up to take advantage of the new hardware, but at its heart it's the same game we've seen before. All the crimes, capers, shooting, and driving you could want, both in single-player and online.
So should you buy it? Is it worth playing for a second time? Let's find out.
Same old, same old? Not exactly
So this is the same exact game that launched on the Xbox 360, right? Yes and no. The basic game is indeed the same. Same characters, same story line, same basic online game. But while the bones remain the same, around them the flesh has grown for the Xbox One.
So what's new then? As you'd expect, GTA V for the Xbox One has been given a graphical overhaul complete with an upgrade to 1080p resolution. There are also new vehicles, new weapons, new side missions, 30-player capable online games and even a brand-new (and pretty awesome) first person mode. Time to get all "Call of Duty" up in here.
It's a big bright beautiful world
GTA V isn't quite the full-blooded, next-gen Grand Theft Auto experience, but it's pretty damn close. Graphically it's been given a heavy lick of paint for the new consoles, and it does make a difference.
Faces are more detailed, grass is thicker, trees have more foliage, and of course, GTA V now runs at 1080p. Slightly disappointing is that its restricted to 30 fps, but honestly, I'm not so sure it matters. Generally it's as smooth and slick as anything else on the platform. The lighting and weather effects are also closer to true life than ever before in a Grand Theft Auto game, with cars glistening in the sunlight or under the night lights of Los Santos.
This version does suffer from some dropped frames from time to time. But apart from that it's a big, beautiful open-world to experience. Take a look at the previous gen and current gen versions side-by-side, and you'll be amazed. As for current-gen platform comparisons, Digital Foundry finds that the Playstation 4 version has more foliage than the Xbox One game. Either way you go, the game will still look great.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it
The gameplay remains pretty much unchanged from the first release, and that's great. GTA has never professed to have any kind of realistic driving experience, so it's still possible to easily drive it like you stole it – usually because you stole it. Big slides, insane jumps, barrel rolls - if you can think it, you can probably do it.
The shooting mechanics are pretty much flawless for a third-person game. Speed and simplicity are at the center of locking on to and taking out enemies. GTA V is as fast paced and free flowing as it ever was.
In the first person
Never before seen in a Grand Theft Auto game, GTA V now has a first-person mode that encompasses each and every thing you can do in the game. Shooting, driving, walking, riding a bike, and the, ahem, experiences with the ladies of the night. All of these can be experienced through the eyes of Franklin, Trevor, or Michael.
The new perspective adds an entirely new dimension to the game. Big shootouts feel more natural in first-person mode, while driving becomes more difficult than ever. It seems to be easier to dodge traffic and pull off wicked drifts, but visibility is beyond poor.
The first-person effects even extend to covering your 'eyes' with a tint should your character be wearing sunglasses or a motorcycle helmet. You lose the all encompassing view of the world around you, but you gain so much in immersion. Stick with it and you'll be picking off fools in no time. First-person is a fantastic way to play GTA V.
Grand Theft Auto V for Xbox One comes packed with 50 Achievements worth a full 1000 Gamerscore for the dedicated. Around half of these are achievable in the main game, and half are reserved for GTA Online.
As ever some are unlocked for completing simple tasks that you're led to within the game, others will take a little (or a lot) more effort. One nice thing is that any Achievements you accomplished in GTA Online on Xbox 360 should unlock automatically after recovering your character in the Xbox One version.
Bigger, badder online world
Grand Theft Auto Online, the separate multiplayer mode akin to Red Dead Redemption's multiplayer mode, is very much alive and well with the relaunch of the game on Xbox One and Playstation 4. Players of previous versions can transfer their characters to the new version with relative ease. And now you're able to participate in 30-player games which is very, very impressive.
Otherwise it's business as usual. The same map as the main game and some of the same non-player characters make an appearance in the online mode, giving missions and such. But largely it's all about you and how you deal with your fellow criminals.
Isn't that nice...
The bottom line
The best just got better. Grand Theft Auto V on the previous gen consoles was one of the finest examples of a game that's ever been produced. The huge open world, slick gameplay and challenging (not to mention relatively lengthy) main campaign produced something genuinely special. Plus that expansive online mode!
With the launch of the Xbox One version, GTA V leaps even further ahead in quality. It's not a full-on next gen Grand Theft Auto game, but this is exactly what we wanted from GTA V all along. Aside from a few graphical glitches with dropped frames, this game is virtually faultless. Even if you've played it through before, do it again. You'll love it.
Now Rockstar, please get to work on Grand Theft Auto 6. Pretty please?