GTA V is back and this time on next-gen hardware. I have to say, and I've never done this in my 30+ years as a gamer, when I installed t he game and fired it up and played the opening prologue, I started to smile and grin ear to ear with excitement. Make no mistake, this is not just GTA V with better graphics, this is GTA V at it's full imagined potential. If you were pulled into the game last year on the old consoles, this one pulls you in deeper. It's the most immersive and cinematic experience I've ever had playing a video game.
This next-gen version goes far beyond just eye-candy, the entire single player campaign has so much life to it now that it's almost overwhelming. When I finished the first mission with Franklin and was allowed to do what I wanted for the first time while playing, I simply started walking around Los Santos to take everything in. Buildings and billboards that were blurry and fade off into the background on the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions are now razor sharp and highly detailed... for miles! I was looking around at things I had never noticed before because the hi-resolution graphics command you to pay attention. And speaking of looking around, I switched to the new first person perspective and immediately noticed how as I walked past people on the streets of Los Santos, they would make eye contact with me, making the world even more immersive. There are new pedestrians too, with all new things to say and funny conversations to listen in on, which was a welcome surprise.
The physics of the game have been rebalanced as well. It's difficult for me to express this in writing, but everything feels like it has a more realistic gravity to it. For example, run into a street post in your car and instead of it feeling like it's made out of paper mache, it actually has some weight now (and can severely damage your vehicle). Some people have complained that the cars are slower in GTA V, I disagree, it feels like everything has a more realistic weight to it, that's all. You can still fly down the street in your ride if that's what you choose to do, but now it actually feels like your in a car and not a toy. I'm barely a few missions in with Franklin, but I'm amazed. Add in the new songs (which are better than the original selections for the game), first person mode and not just enhanced graphics but also enhanced particles, character models and gore effects and you have what feels and looks like a whole new game. I feel like the last year I've been playing GTA V Beta and this game is actually the true finished version of the game Rockstar envisioned.
A word about GTA Online:
I was able to smoothly transfer my old character into GTA V for the Xbox One with no problems. The new character creator is amazing and offers and large amount of customization options for your character. I spent over an hour tweaking mine, it's a great feature!
While the servers have had several issues at launch (I was expecting them to, this is the most popular game series of all-time by the way) I have been able to play a lot today and wanted to say some things about it. To the people that say this game is just a port-over with better graphics, read this carefully: my favorite activity in the GTA Online are Survivals, so I joined a game and played with 3 other people. Within the first minute of playing I knew I had spent my money wisely on this game. The enemies came at us quickly and aggressively. One guy died almost immediately from behind a popular hiding spot on the map because he probably wasn't ready for it. The Survival was intense, fast paced and very realistic. Did we have to wait in hiding spots for several minutes for the enemies to come to us like on the 360 and PS3? No.... oh no we did not. The enemies were coming at us heavy and hard to kill us! Plus, when the helicopters appeared, I took out my minigun to take it down and Rockstar has added new lens flare effects to the gun, new particle effects to the helicopter as it was being shot... it was tremendous, visceral, fast paced and intense! Plus, little things like after winning a race your shown posing in your garage are nice touches that weren't possible on the old consoles. I have yet to experience a 30 player lobby, but as server issues get fixed they'll happen and when they do it will add a whole new dimension to freemode.