GTA V on Xbox Series and PS5 is nice but costs too much
We take a look at the latest edition of Grand Theft Auto V. Is it worth the money?
Note that since Grand Theft Auto V is now split into Story Mode and Online, we're writing two articles, one on each. For example, Online now features a new Career Builder tool, which we'll explore in more detail tomorrow.
Grand Theft Auto V is being released again today. Again. The game started with a launch on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, then came to PC, then came to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and now PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series. As such, there's nothing strange about that, and the very fact that the game is being updated to make it easier for consumers to maintain interest doesn't bother me either.
But now I've spent a few hours with this new version, running through the various graphical settings, testing both DualSense features and load times, and in doing so will tell you a little about my experience.
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First of all, it might be worth clarifying what exactly you're getting here. There is no so-called "upgrade path", which means that it doesn't matter whether you own an old version of Grand Theft Auto V or not. This is considered a new launch, even if you can transfer your progress from, say, GTA Online from the old version to this new one.
There are a number of advantages to being on PlayStation, since Rockstar has signed a deal with that platform. Furthermore, it's worth pointing out that Rockstar is now splitting the game into Story Mode and GTA Online, but so far it seems that on Xbox Series X (where I've tested the game most) it requires both to actually launch.
If you have PlayStation Plus, Story Mode is launching for $9.99, and this offer will last for the next few months. Also, GTA Online is free on PlayStation. If you don't have PlayStation Plus, the price is $39.99 for Story Mode.
Over on Xbox Series, it's also $39.99 for Story Mode, but an ongoing offer running through June will see it reduced to $19.99. But GTA Online isn't free on Xbox, so you'll need to splash some cash for an additional purchase of $9.99 on that platform. Again; it's still unclear whether the two games need each other to launch, it wouldn't really make logical sense since they're considered separate on Xbox, but when I downloaded them both via two sent codes yesterday, that was the case.
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So what exactly are you getting? There's no new content here, and instead it's three graphical settings, namely Fidelity Mode, Performance and Performance RT. There's nothing new under the hood as such here, and you'll be able to nod along with gameplay at either 4K/30fps with Ray Tracing, 1080p/60fps and finally upscaled 4K/60fps with Ray Tracing in the latter.
And... that's how it is for Story Mode. Sure, I briefly tested the DualSense functionality, and noticed that the load times are significantly, as in significantly shorter, but we're still talking relatively superficial technical improvements that are hidden behind the purchase of a brand new game, discount or no discount.
So do they do much for the GTA V experience? While the choice is obviously nice to have, the fact remains that Performance RT is almost the only obvious one of the three. Playing Grand Theft Auto V at 30fps again seems almost absurd, even though it's noticeably prettier. It's mostly to do with the fact that even though there's ray tracing, nicer shadows, more anti-aliasing - well, all the things you'd expect, the graphical assets were still developed over 10 years ago and just have a certain built-in age. It's not quite the "you can't polish a turd" thing, it's a testament to the graphics' interplay between cartoonish opulence and grounded realism that can still leave you slightly impressed by the sunset in Los Santos nine years after the original launch. Furthermore, 1080p simply seems too low now that the game is being released for consoles that primarily connect to 4K televisions and commonly 40 inch screens. So Performance RT it is, right?
The good news is that Performance RT on Xbox Series X makes the game shine. Especially the first few hours as Michael, where you play through some of the more bombastic scenes that the first act offers. Lighting, shadows, level of detail, contrast, GTA V just looks good when things are a bit punchier, and it has to be said that it is. If you've already decided to play it, you'll get a much more visually contemporary experience out of Performance RT, no doubt about it, and I only saw momentary drops from 55-60fps.
But the point is, as impressive as Performance RT is with just 10 seconds of loading and seamless switching between characters, all of this feels like an update that should have been handed out for free to consumers who already own the game on PS4 and Xbox One. You know, like CD Projekt RED both did with Cyberpunk 2077 and plans to do with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Like Techland has done with the original Dying Light. And we could basically go on; Doom Eternal, Marvel's Avengers, No Man's Sky, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and soon Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3. While there are a few exceptions, most developers have thankfully agreed that in adding a few graphical modes they probably shouldn't charge more money for such flimsy improvements.
This update should be free. It's not that Rockstar doesn't have the right to charge whatever price they want, but now that Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy - Definitive Edition in particular left hard-boiled fans with a bitter aftertaste, and Red Dead Online, for example, has only limped along for the past year without meaningful support from Rockstar, they could have used a solid PR win here. This isn't it.
What it is is a new coat of paint for the greatest entertainment product ever, and in a way it's a positive that the game can make the leap into the latest generation. But it's being done in a way that can almost only be seen as a leap, taken by accident from where the going is so absolutely tough.
If you've made up your mind, enjoy another playthrough on Performance RT - it's gorgeous. But think twice about whether it's worth it.