High Score Gaming: “Grand Theft Auto V” (PlayStation 4)

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First Posted: 11/26/2014

When “Grand Theft Auto V” came out, I hailed it as the swan song for the seventh generation of video game consoles.

The massive landscape of San Andreas, the limitless in-game activities and the game’s graphics all combined to create one of the best video games I ever played.

This year, it got even better.

Rockstar completely overhauled “Grand Theft Auto V” for the current-gen consoles. The experience is relatively the same, but there’s a lot different with the updated version.

The game’s story is unchanged. The graphics were overhauled. Rockstar enhanced an already gorgeous game using current-gen technology. Vehicles look better, scenery and firearms more detailed. I played “Grand Theft Auto V” on PlayStation 3 but when I tried it on PlayStation 4, I was floored by how much better it looked.

Using the Dualshock 4 for the game is awesome. The LED of the controller changes colors depending on the player and using L2/R2 for aiming and shooting, respectively, feels incredible.

There are new weapons ranging from the primitive hatchet and hammer to the highly sophisticated Railgun that looks like it’s from a science fiction flick. All the guns were released via free updates for the PS3/Xbox 360 versions.

The new version of the game features a slew of new vehicles, including the epic Dukes O’ Death — imagine a 1967-69 Dodge Charger, only with armor plating. Players can compete in stock car races, which awards muscle cars adorned with unique paint jobs. The Dodo Seaplane makes its return, along with numerous other vehicles that can be easily found in the streets.

Some new content is exclusive to players who have previously played the game on the PS3/Xbox 360. Whether or not that means exclusive content will be released as downloadable content in the future is anybody’s guess.

There are new activities for the protagonists. Michael can work to solve a murder mystery.

“Grand Theft Auto Online” is also better than ever, with lobbies supporting up to 30 players. Players from PS3/Xbox 360 are able to transfer their online characters over to the PS4 and Xbox One, respectively.

A new perspective

The biggest addition in the updated version of “GTA V” is the first-person perspective mode.

I was skeptical it would be a tacked-on feature with little depth or detail — and I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The first-person perspective creates such an immersive experience that makes San Andreas feel even more alive. I took a walk on the boardwalk with Michael on a sunny afternoon and I was in awe with how the ocean’s waves crashed into the beach. Other pedestrians walked around, some talking on cell phones and others saying a friendly greeting. I even stopped to watch a musician strumming on his acoustic guitar to earn some extra cash.

It’s when the action picks up that the first-person perspective really adds layers.

Playing as Franklin, a drug deal has just gone sour and a rival gang is making their way in. I switched to first-person, and I started to fight my way out of a building. Aiming down my sights felt a lot like “Call of Duty” without getting rid of that “Grand Theft Auto” feel. I had to tweak the sensitivity of my aiming joystick, but it was a fluid, satisfying experience. Rockstar even took the time to add an impressive amount of details to firearms.

Driving is also a treat, albeit one that takes some getting used to.

I switched to first-person for the first mission, which involves Franklin and his friend Lamar “repossessing” a couple of sports cars. It was a little difficult to learn just how big my car was and what I could and couldn’t do, but it was a fun learning experience.

Rockstar outdid themselves with the detail inside the vehicles. Speedometers actually work, RPM meters react to acceleration and indicator lights come on when high beams are used. The side and rear-view mirrors don’t show accurate reflections, but that’s easy to overlook.

I’m still working on getting an airplane, but I’m looking forward to taking to the sky and then parachuting in first person.

A fresh take

Graphically, the game looks better than ever. It’s easy to get lost exploring the city or the countryside. The gameplay is still solid, and the Dualshock 4 makes controls feel smoother. There’s enough new content to make even seasoned “GTA V” players come back.

The first-person perspective mode is reason enough. The entire game could be played in first-person, which would undoubtedly create an even more unique experience.

If you haven’t experienced “Grand Theft Auto V”, do yourself a favor and pick it up. If you’ve already played it, get it again. The experience, while largely the same, has enough to make another visit to San Andreas worth the price of admission.