STAFF REVIEW of Grand Theft Auto V (Xbox One)

Monday, November 24, 2014.
by Brent Roberts

Grand Theft Auto V Box art The year is 2014 and as I'm writing this the Xbox One is officially one year old. It's been a trying year for the console. From a rocky beginning to a tumultuous series of problems from both the game and console side of the coin, there has been one truth that is as constant as the North Star. Grand Theft Auto V is back on Xbox One and could easily take the title of best Xbox One game of the year, and ironically this game set benchmarks on the last generation console as well. How could a game that has already been released come onto the next gen consoles and dominate? It's because Rockstar Games has devoted an unholy amount of effort in adding tons of new innovations to show the competition that having broken, bugged, and what some would call incomplete games, shows the gaming world just what kind of product you can produce. You want remastered done right? Look here. You want tons of new innovations while enhancing the already amazing product? Look here. You want a stable and working quality multiplayer experience? Also look here. Welcome to the new Los Santos and the true Grand Theft Auto V experience.

At first, when I heard that Grand Theft Auto V (GTAV) was coming to the Xbox One I was undoubtedly hesitant. I didn't want to see this iconic game suffer the same fate as other "remastered" or "hyped AAA" titles. As the release date drew closer the advertisements picked up and I could start to see innovations that really showed that Rockstar wanted to bring this game back but do it in such a grand way that a last generation title (with properly executed innovations) can destroy the competition and say **** you. One of the things that you rarely want to mess around with is a quality control scheme that even though originally thought a bit complex, still delivered a solid feel. This is where GTAV's biggest innovation and that is the introduction of First Person Mode. This new point of view will put you through the eyes of your characters to witness Los Santos like never before. I couldn't believe the quality work they did incorporating this and it's all thanks to customization. Let me explain.

While yes you can go through the entire game in first person, you can tailor the experience to match how you want to play. For instance let's say you want to select this mode, go into your Settings and then Display. Next go to Allow Independent Camera Modes and choose on. What this will do is automatically put you in first person view while you are moving on foot however, as soon as you decide to go mobile in a vehicle, the camera will switch back out to third person automatically. It goes without saying that Rockstar goes the extra mile with the new customization control options that make such a tremendous difference by perfecting slight touches. Options such as turning off Head Bobbing will deactivate the screen shifting up and down while you run/job in first person view. Another option is called First Person Third Person Cover if you turn that on, whenever your character moves into cover while in first person view, the camera will automatically switch to third person view to give you a greater sense of your surroundings. And as they say in those cheap, late night infomercials, "but wait there's more!" Rockstar thought that if they were going to put First Person mode in GTAV then they were sure going to do it right by adding new first person animations with over 3000 of those being just for the weapons alone. This is how companies moving forward need to take note on how to do quality innovative additions that sets them apart from the competition and puts them on the throne of the gaming public.

Originally I was highly impressed at the city of Los Santos and its surrounding areas and I felt that the qualities of the overall graphics were stunning, but now things are on a whole new level. The city feels alive with more people and traffic. The woods feel denser, the grasslands feel thicker, the entire atmosphere from land to even animals has been given a shot of steroids and jacked up far past ten to give you a truly immersive experience that not only shines in single player, but carries over into online as well but I'll get to that here in a minute.

Another tremendous improvement is the increased drawing distances. What this measures is how far off can you see in the distance and now if you're on top of a mountain, the views are simply breathtaking. This is also thanks to the improved weather and water/liquid dynamics that permeate throughout the entire game. Even driving/flying vehicles bring an option for a first person view where you can see the controls and cockpit that provide detailed insides with actual working gauges and instruments. Its small details like this that Rockstar may have thought "this may not be the major improvement that sets this game apart, but **** it, we're going to do the best job we can on this", and it shows.

Speaking of vehicles, one of the very strengths of GTAV has always been the soundtrack. When this game launched there was no question that a large amount of effort went into creating one of the best musical experiences for a game, ever. Now though, if reproducing that wasn't exciting enough, you have over 150 more tunes to select from. Realizing that in vehicles there needs to be more controls, Rockstar has added little touches such as watching your character bob up and down to the beats or new drive by control mechanics that show just how much Rockstar cares for the gamers of the world. All these new sounds culminate into a sonic masterpiece when you take into account the dynamic environmental soundscapes from a bustling downtown city, to a dense wood, or on a boat out in the water. Every single moment will not only be a beauty to behold but will entice every auditory nerve you have, every minute you play. Not just in single player, but in GTAV's multiplayer as well.

GTAV boasted a not only a tremendous single player but a very entertaining multiplayer mode. It didn't start out this way though. Originally there were problems and errors at every turn, but Rockstar went back to work, hit the ground running, and eventually ironed out a great multiplayer. Not only that but they took care of the gaming community that they thought they enraged by giving away tons of in-game items that benefited every player. Now though Rockstar games have learned (hopefully) from their mistakes and have taken their multiplayer to a whole new level.

Now you can take to the streets of Los Santos with 30 player lobbies and utilize over 150 new props with the creator tools available which means that Los Santos as officially become your new playground for mayhem. When I said that Rockstar takes care of the gamming community that also applies with this latest release. Realizing that gamers have already sunk hundreds of hours into multiplayer, Rockstar wanted to grant gamers the ability to transfer their character over so they can pick up right where they left off. This also comes with a few gifts from Rockstar as well however; it's a onetime option though, so unlike marriage you can't go back once you've made the commitment.

Look at the games that have come out since August and you'll be hard pressed to find a current generation title that isn't plagued by short campaigns, graphic bugs and glitches, broken multiplayer, and lack of original content. Not here though. Rockstar, once again, steps to the plate to show all the other companies where the bar will be placed for gaming dominance. With a devotion to bringing the best experiences in gaming, Grand Theft Auto V is hands down the game to beat this year. Unlike other games that add one or at most two innovations that slightly change how a game is played, Rockstar keeps its pimp hand strong by delivering more of everything while innovating every moment of the game. As an avid gamer I do hope that other companies take note of, not only how Rockstar got to the top, but how they remain there by bringing more wealth of content than the Federal Reserve. Welcome back to Los Santos, welcome back to one of, if not THE, best game on the Xbox One, Grand Theft Auto V.

Overall: 9.6 / 10
Gameplay: 9.7 / 10
Visuals: 9.7 / 10
Sound: 9.8 / 10


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