Grand Theft Auto V

Even though I lamented being silly enough to buy yet another copy of Grand Theft Auto V — with the next-gen update that released on March 15, 2022 — I was kind of excited to see just how shiny this thing could look on my PS5. I’ve played it on the last two console generations, and more recently on a solid gaming laptop, so I’ve seen it in all of its previous permutations of this tired old dog. And from what I had read before the launch of this new update, it seemed like we could expect something comparable to a solid PC experience, but with native ray tracing capabilities for the first time. 

And let me just say that, yes, this update is immediately noticeable, and the power of these new consoles (specifically the PS5, since that is what I was playing on) lends a nice sheen to the whole affair. And boy howdy, the load times have been brought closer to what I would consider ideal (though they are still not as lightning fast as I would have hoped).

And the DualSense rumble features are pretty slick. I first noticed this while sitting idle in my muscle car, the constant low rumble of the engine felt like a cat purring in the palm of my hands.

Grand Theft Auto V

But for all that processing and rendering power, at the end of the day this is still just Grand Theft Auto V. And, in my opinion, GTA V has always been a weak entry in the series overall.

I didn’t even bother with porting over my PS4 story or online progression. I figured that, since I probably won’t play either mode long enough for it to be worth the effort, I would just start fresh. I also wanted to check out the new introduction to the online mode, which was reported to be a much more streamlined and focused intro to Grand Theft Online than previous versions.

Within minutes of the opening bank heist in the story campaign, I could tell that ray tracing was not nearly as impactful as I was hoping. In fact, we have a lot of folks suggesting that there’s no actual ray tracing at all here; it’s just smoke and mirrors.

(I’ll point out here that ray tracing is about more than reflections, so Rockstar isn’t exactly lying about this, but it does seem like they might be smudging the truth a little bit. Then again, I’m no graphics maven, and I’m certainly not a game developer, so what do I know?)

Either way, this a shame, because I thought if any game could employ across-the-board ray tracing, surely it would be GTA V‘s new-gen update. But unfortunately this was not the case. So limp (though updated) visuals aside, the issues I’ve had with GTA V in the past are still very much present, namely the unlikeable characters and hit-or-miss story and mission activities.

I’ve always hated Michael and Franklin in the story, and, yep, I still hate them now. I simply can’t stand moping characters, and Michael and Franklin are two of the mopiest characters ever to grace a GTA game, in my opinion. Their ‘Woe is me” BS gets old fast, even when things practically look new again with these updated versions.

Grand Theft Auto V

I will say, though, Trevor still stands out as the best character of the bunch. He whines far less, and although I don’t prescribe to some of his antics, they are at least unique to his character and not just some washed-up-mob-guy or gang-banger-guy tropes. God, just thinking about most of the dialog that centers around Franklin’s story is enough to send me into a cringe-induced coma.

So when I jumped over to the online mode, I was thankfully free from having to listen to those jabronies whine about their sorry lot in life. And after making a character that pretty much just looked like the character I made way back on the 360 (and carried over to the PS4), I was pleasantly surprised to see that the introduction to this mode was, in fact, quite streamlined. You are immediately awarded four million dollars to get started with. But don’t get too overjoyed, as you will need to spend at least three million of that in order to actually do anything in the game. 

But once things start cooking, you’re introduced to the broader world of GTA Online. I think does a fantastic job giving the player options for how they would like to initially engage with the online mode, but it also gives them a clear avenue for making money to start living their virtual dream life.

That said, I didn’t see an option to skip this and just start the game as a blank slate, unless I completely missed it. So to that end, if you were just hoping to jump in and start a little mayhem, since you seem to be locked into a single-player server while you get your bearings, it might be a little while before you can start griefing the hell out of other players while optionally espousing racial slurs.

Grand Theft Auto V

You know, considering how little I vibe with the overall main story of the single-player campaign and two thirds of its protagonists, I’m still able to appreciate this update on some level. Not only does this version look great, but it really got me in the mood to play some GTA V again.

I’ll probably spend some more time with Grand Theft Auto Online, since at least that character is silent, but I’m sure once I get released back into the main servers, that experience will be short lived. But hey, at least it’s pretty to look at, even if only for a little while.

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