Grand Theft Auto 5 (PS5) Review – One Last Score

Grand Theft Auto 5 (PS5) Review – One Last Score

The Grand Theft Auto series is in a weird place right now. GTA 5 is the biggest game of all time, having followed up on its immense critical praise upon launch nearly a decade ago with years of sustained financial success. Driven largely by GTA Online, GTA 5 has become a massive money-maker for Rockstar on its way to selling well over 150 million copies. With that, however, the fact that new single player content for the game has been non-existent and that GTA 6’s launch has been pushed back to make room for its evergreen predecessor, many have started getting tired of GTA 5, and maybe even resenting its sustained success.

Grand Theft Auto 6 is still clearly years away though, and Rockstar seems intent on ensuring that GTA 5 really does turn into a game spanning three whole console generations. The open world behemoth has launched natively for the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, sporting many visual and technical improvements and some changes to GTA Online targeted at making the experience more approachable for newcomers, or those who haven’t dipped their toes in its waters for a while. Thankfully, unlike the recent disastrous launch of GTA: The Trilogy – The Definitive EditionGTA 5’s current-gen upgrade is solid and effective. This is still a 2013 game receiving its nth re-release though, and that’s something that it obviously can’t get away from.

Grand Theft Auto 5 - Xbox Series X-S, PS5

“Unlike the recent disastrous launch of GTA: The Trilogy – The Definitive EditionGTA 5’s current-gen upgrade is solid and effective. This is still a 2013 game receiving its nth re-release though, and that’s something that it obviously can’t get away from.”

The key changes here are the visual upgrades. On PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, Grand Theft Auto 5 offers three visual modes- Fidelity prioritizes resolution and enables frame rate while running at 30 FPS, Performance bumps up the frame rate to 60 FPS while disabling ray tracing and lowering the resolution, while Performance RT is a jack-of-all-trades mode. They’re all equally effective at what they attempt. Picture quality is sharp and crisp in Fidelity mode, and lighting and shadows are given much more depth with ray tracing enabled. Personally, I’ve always cared more about higher frame rates than higher resolutions, so I’ve mostly stuck with Performance RT mode, which makes solid (if unspectacular) use of ray tracing while also maintaining a steady and smooth frame rate for the most part.

Again, though, Grand Theft Auto 5 is a nine year-old game by this point, and visually, it shows. Character models and faces tend to look quite dated, while the scope of the world, while still appropriately massive, seems par for the course for an open world game in today’s day and age. GTA 5 might have been a jaw-dropping achievement in 2013, but open world games have made immense strides in the years since then, and we’ve played no shortage of games that have done a lot of what GTA 5 did, and done it a lot better. Something like Rockstar’s own Red Dead Redemption 2, for instance, blows GTA 5 out of the water in terms of world design.

Of course, the beast that is GTA Online is really what’s kept this GTA 5 train chugging along so smoothly all these years, and it’s no surprise that that’s where Rockstar has made the most significant changes with this remaster. Of course, even those significant changes aren’t earth-shattering by any means, but they do still stand out. Treading into the GTA Online experience, for instance, has become much more streamlined and welcoming to newer players, with the map and menus more effectively conveying key details and being easer to navigate.

Grand Theft Auto 5 - Xbox Series X-S, PS5_02

“Personally, I’ve always cared more about higher frame rates than higher resolutions, so I’ve mostly stuck with Performance RT mode, which makes solid (if unspectacular) use of ray tracing while also maintaining a steady and smooth frame rate for the most part.”

The key addition is the Career Builder, which is essentially a way for newcomers to take a couple of minutes after creating their character to lay down a foundation for their criminal career in GTA Online. You select which criminal stream you want to enter, you use a healthy pool of starting money to buy a headquarters, a warehouse, a car, and weapons, and then you go through a couple of tutorial missions. Given the fact that GTA Online is something that Rockstar has been building upon constantly for ten years, so even with these tweaks and additions, it’s still going to be intimidating for many- but something like a Career Builder, for instance, should be a good way to ease new players in. At the very least, it’s a decent start.

Thanks to the more powerful hardware GTA 5 is now on, the game benefits from other improvements as well. Its notoriously long load times, for instance – which could last several minutes on older hardware – last about 20-30 seconds now at most, while switching between characters is also faster. Meanwhile, on the PS5, GTA 5 also makes decent use of the PS5’s adaptive triggers and haptic feedback. None of it’s spectacular by any means, but it’s been used smartly and in the right places- though the constant chatter coming through the controller’s speaker in GTA Online can get a little annoying.

Beyond that, there isn’t much else that’s new in this version of GTA 5. That shouldn’t be surprising, of course- you wouldn’t really expect a remaster for a nine year-old game to be brimming with new content. At the same time though, given how light GTA 5 is on meaningful upgrades on new consoles, one could easily make the argument that it’s overpriced. Heck, something like this would make far more sense as a free upgrade, but anything above $10 just feels undeservedly steep.

Grand Theft Auto 5 - Xbox Series X-S, PS5_04

“Given how light GTA 5 is on meaningful upgrades on new consoles, one could easily make the argument that it’s overpriced.”

Of course, what we circle back to is the fact that the next mainline GTA game is still probably at least a couple of years ago, and GTA 5 still clearly has more than enough life left in it to keep Rockstar flush with cash until its sequel is ready to release. Until then, if you’ve somehow never played GTA 5 before or are willing to spend money to play it again, its new-gen version is certainly the best way to do that. If, however, you already have the game on previous-gen consoles, or especially on a PC, my advice would be to save your money.

This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 5.

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