The old saying claims that it's unwise to fix what ain't broke; but that thinking has no place in the world of AAA video games. In an industry where hardware and software improves in leaps and bounds, the arrival of next-gen home consoles hasn't led to just bigger and better looking releases. Publishers have already discovered that re-releasing past games with some upgrades and improvement is a viable option - and expectations are being raised.
For Halo: The Master Chief Collection the deal was sweetened by including all main entries in one package. But for Grand Theft Auto V, the developers at Rockstar Games have turned to a truly surprising conclusion. The game has never looked better (or more realistic), and online Heists are long-anticipated - but it's the new perspective players will get on the world of Los Santos that's turning heads.
There are plenty of games that turn to modding for third or first-person modes, but the official reveal of GTAV's First-Person Mode left even hopeful fans stunned. It's no surprise, then, that the mode is receiving specific praise in the first reviews, but the critics seem to agree that with a base game already acclaimed, the improvements granted by the arrival on Xbox One and PS4 make the newest version a no-brainer.
GameSpot (Mark Walton):
"Aside from a few mild frame rate issues that sometimes take the edge off its more dramatic moments, this is the definitive version of GTA V, and the bar by which all other open-world games, or indeed any game that aims for a cinematic feel, should be judged. It is beautiful, and thought-provoking, and thrilling throughout. Even if you've played through GTA V once already, it's worth going back just to be reminded of what an outstanding achievement it is."
Kotaku (Kirk Hamilton):
"I'm not unaware of who I am as I play—Trevor's hands are covered in scrapes and tattoos, etc.—but I feel disconnected from the characters in a way that I actually like. That disconnection makes me play the game differently—I used to take the time to customize my character's clothes and look, but now, I don't even care.
"I'm sure part of that is that I've already played a lot of GTA V, but it's also because I just don't think about the main characters as much, since I can't see them. I'm a big fan of removing clutter and making games as immersive as possible, and first-person GTA achieves an entirely new level of immersion for the series."
Post Arcade (Chad Sapieha):
"While the first-person mode is definitely the big selling pitch for this edition, Rockstar has made loads of other little improvements – many of which were probably necessary once they decided to add the first-person perspective. Every single texture has been replaced. Get up close to a road or sidewalk and you’ll see plenty of gritty detail not seen in the original version. I booted up my old Xbox 360 edition to make some comparisons and the difference is immediately evident.
"If this is what Rockstar can do graphically with a GTA made for the last generation, I’m licking my lips for what’s to come in a GTA designed explicitly for current generation hardware."
Gameblog.fr (Romain Mahut):
"If you have completed the solo part of the game and the multiplayer does not interest you, then you can do without this version. In contrast, those addicted to Grand Theft Auto Online, hardcore fans of the series and gamers who expect a potential solo DLC have interest in obtaining titles for [Xbox One or PS4]. And if you've abstained from playing/finishing the original version until the arrival of the fifth episode on PS4 and Xbox One, then the question does not even arise. You will not regret it."
The Jimquisition (Jim Sterling):
"Writing reviews for games that have been rereleased a year or two after their debut is often a difficult prospect, as one struggles to find new things to say. It’s telling, then, that I was able to find talking about Grand Theft Auto V‘s improvements so easy, eating up almost a thousand words on detailing all the advancements. More than perhaps any other game out there, GTA V could easily have gotten away with churning out a slightly better looking game and calling it a day. That a game could be guaranteed money no matter how slapdash the production, and still go above and beyond what other publishers have done this year, is incredibly laudable, and at least worth a golf clap. Even if you don’t care for the series, one cannot deny the pride Rockstar appears to have in its games. While I’d love 60fps, and could do with the overall controls feeling a little bit tighter, I can’t deny that Rockstar’s put the effort into this one, and it’s one of the few double downs I’d feel relatively confident recommending to those who’ve already played it. That, in itself, is profound."
Gaming Trend (David Roberts):
"What really highlights this is the newly implemented first-person mode. It sounds really basic on paper: How could a simple shift of perspective change a game so much? What that shift does, though, is put you that much closer to the world Rockstar wants you to inhabit, and it works. You’ll stop to glance at billboards, watch a banner flap in the wind, punch a random busker in the face, notice a cat leaping off a fence, or whatever else happens to catch your fancy. The viewpoint really does give you that Skyrim effect, where you want to point your camera in a direction and just walk until you find something cool. Driving takes some getting used to, and certain actions (like shooting while driving) will take some serious skill to get halfway decent at, but there’s so much detail, and it generally controls so well, that you’ll likely find any excuse to tuck that screen in as close as you can."
God is a Geek (Mick Fraser):
"Stepping out of that alleyway... I drank in San Andreas afresh, and found it just that little bit sweeter. I saw birds in the sky, more stray cats in the alleys; a group of cyclists trundled by at a sedate pace and I caught myself idly wondering if they were friends, before I reminded myself that what I was looking at wasn’t real. Don’t get me wrong, next gen GTA V is not photoreal, or even any more truly alive than the next game, but the illusion is a powerful and enduring one."
Hardcore Gamer (Steve Hannley):
"Rockstar has improved upon one of the greatest games of all time. The original version of Grand Theft Auto V was a major accomplishment upon its initial release and remains that way even after a year of the new console generation. The current-gen version, however, allows it to continue its legacy for many more years... While there’s nothing wrong with the last-gen version of Grand Theft Auto V, Rockstar has created a museum piece with its remastered version. Everybody, from those who have spent the better part of the past year exploring everything its world has to offer to the three people who have yet to play it, should experience what has been put together here."
Vandal Online (Jorge Cano):
"If the water was well made, it is now simply hypnotic; if we stayed suckers for sunsets and sunrises, they are now even more beautiful, and the new vegetation - dense, detailed and swaying with the wind - creates strikingly realistic landscapes. The most decadent places in the city are now even more so, with particles of dust and trash both on the road and in the air, and the rain is very accomplished, thanks to the realism of the puddles on the ground."
JeuxActu (Maxime Chao):
"It's not so much in the character models that the metamorphosis is incredible, but more in the environments, richer, more detailed, more dense, and more natural, which has the effect of making the ecosystem and universe of Los Santos more credible. It suffices to get lost in the hills of Vinewood or the side of Sandy Shores to see how the game has grown in stature... This is unheard of. Really."
It's easy to become jaded when publishers look to cash in on a single game not once, but twice. So it's good news for all that Rockstar seems to have truly invested in making their next-gen remaster a worthy experience. It will be interesting to see how the addition of First-Person goes over with audiences - and judging by the reception, how central it may be to the next Grand Theft Auto game.
Do you find the overwhelmingly positive reviews surprising, or did you expect to see any re-release of such a critically-acclaimed game go over this well? Will you be picking up a copy to see Los Santos in a brand new way, or did you get your fill on previous consoles?
Grand Theft Auto V is available now for the PS4 and Xbox One.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.