In The Burning Heart

Survivor's song: Burning Heart blasts from the in-car radio as I nose the muscle car around the corner, I'm playing in first person view and I'm soaking in the sights/sounds and feel of Los Santos as it's been given a new-gen makeover by Rockstar. There are very few things that can take my breath away, but the sight of a full-blown thunderstorm raging in 1080p across my HDTV (and the skyline of Los Santos) is just one of them.

I'm gob-smacked, really. I loved GTA V on the Xbox 360 and I thought it was a pretty nice looking game if you remember the review, and the score. I figured the level of detail was just stunning, well, how wrong I was because now with this remaster things are even better. There's a huge laundry-list of changes on Rockstar's newswire and I'm going to put them in here for you if you like to read that kind of thing. It also saves me time in the review, since I don't have to go over every detail again and again.

The remaster is gorgeous and it's new first person gamemode is a real game-changer. It breathes fresh life into Los Santos alongside the myriad other changes and provides a new point of view for taking on the game's many missions, side missions, strangers and freaks - as well as just exploring. It's quite impressive to just stroll from your home in any direction and see the levels of detail that Rockstar have wrought on this world this time around.

If we're talking new weapons and weapon animations, there's over 3000 of those weapon animations that now include brass ejecting from guns and first person related animations.

There are new damage reactions and NPC/Player movements, reactions across the board - the level of this is just staggering.

The new ambient life makes Los Santos and Blaine County come alive, with new animals and even cats on the streets of Los Santos itself. As a cat person, this made me smile (several photobombed selfies later). It is so much more vibrant now as well, with increased draw-distances, vehicle counts, pedestrian counts and remastered areas the game has a whole new shiny lick of paint to draw the eye and immerse the player.

There's a huge swath of options to change/tweak as well, especially for first person (FOV included) where you can tweak when you go into first/third and set the style of controls, from standard GTA to CoD-like FPS modes. This goes above and beyond the regular remaster and into the avenue of obsession and it doesn't stop there at all, there are dozens of other tweaks to the gameplay itself, everything feeling smoother and even the combat feels improved from the first game.

More Personality, More Everything

Less is often more, but in this case, more is more. Rockstar have boosted the polygon counts on the characters, boosted the textures, boosted the lighting and revised the weather system so that you get the most impressive storms to rage across a video game since Red Dead Redemption years ago, and all of this in a game that's just over a year old. I found myself watching cut-scenes I'd seen before just to check out all of the character and ambient detail in the backgrounds, it's a huge technical achievement as well as a stunning change to a game I'm falling in love with all over again.

The in-car views leave Watch_Dogs standing in the gutter helplessly poking at its hacker's phone, wishing that its instrumentation worked, and you could see the song and station displayed on the individually modelled stereos. Every car has a different interior, right down to all the usual suspects (trim, dashboard, seats, doors - the works) with different interior lighting for the various makes and model of vehicle.

Jets, helicopters and more all have fully realised interiors and the level of detail is simply astounding.

I'll repeat again, this is how you do a remaster.

Playing the Warehouse mission as Franklin for example, it's a huge game-changer to play this in first person the whole way through. Whilst you lose that external view connection to the character model, you get so much more in first person. You're vitally connected to this scene now, every bullet is zipping over your head and impacting into cover right by you. The people you shoot react, you see their faces and you see them fly backwards as the shotgun sends them to a new and bloody death (with an enhanced damage model and physics system) - pinwheeling before they slam against the far wall.

It's helped a lot too by the superb audio, with remastered sound effects and new levels of fidelity.

Running from the cops is hectic since you lose your third person frame of reference, vaulting a fence, the whole screen follows you and you see the character's hands grab on. He lands hard, rolling as he does so and there's a heck of a lot of tension as the cops chopper opens fire shredding the pavement before your character's feet.

Then you're sprinting to a car you're about to jack, pulling the driver out and slamming into the seat. The doors open, Lamarr and Stretch are with you and now there's cops everywhere, you're driving headlong into traffic and it's so intense when they slam into the back of the car. Franklin is the driver though, and you're able to use his special ability to slow down time as you slam past the old and new cars of Los Santos (many of the vehicles from GTA Online packs now form part of the ambient car population of the game).

It's cinematic beyond words and you're in the middle of the Fast and Furious, all you need now is Vin Diesel.

As if the gods of gaming are with you, you make it out of the situation and it starts to rain. It's that film-moment where the bad guys just escape by the skin of their teeth and the director rewards the audience with dialogue, winds the scene down and everyone banters. Only the rain, that's dynamic weather in action, Los Santos has decided to bucket down and you can see the puddles form, the rain running off gutters and into sewers as you cruise past.

Your homies are with you, you can look at them and see them talking to you inside the car.

That's something I never expected to be able to do in GTA V.

New Tunes

There are a lot of new tunes, new dialogues and things on the in-game radio stations this time around and there are some all time favourites of mine. I'd joked back in GTA Online when playing with jets that all we needed to make life complete was: Danger Zone, well, it's in. Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins, Survivor: Burning Heart and many more make GTA V remaster a soundtrack dream playlist.

Xbox Achievements listed the whole shebang here: GTA V new-gen song list


GTA V remaster has a lot to offer to new players, even more to anyone who's back from the PS3 or 360 versions of the game. Rockstar has slapped a whole wealth of new content into the game for anyone who made the jump from old to new, from wildlife photography to a new killer muscle car that will fulfil the dreams of anyone who loved Mad Max.

There are new weapons for new/old players and a ton of other content I want you to find for yourselves, try looking for Peyote ;)

Party With Friends

GTA Online is packed full of new things too, with all the packs released so far and expanded content. A new character generator makes your guy or gal look a lot better with more props and costumes so you can enter the world looking as unique as you like. GTA Online supports character transfers too, and for me, this worked without a problem and GTA Online was up flawlessly as I entered a treacherous free-roam lobby packed to the gills with players (28) nearly maxing the player count (30 now) for some insane fun.

GTA Online worked perfectly for me on the Xbox One and it was interesting to see the new jobs, new modes and first person fully integrated into the experience. Superb stuff.

Again, you get a deeper connection to the people you're playing with in first person - there's something about turning around and seeing a guy sneaking up on you, then firing off an SMG whilst he's armed with a knife, or tossing (via d-pad left) a grenade (without needing the weapon wheel) to blow up the cars behind him and scare him half to death as you fill him full of holes.


The Masters of Remasters

With numerous hidden easter-eggs, new content, shiny new-gen technology and a host of gameplay tweaks rolling around the game, it would be remiss of me not to award it the highest marks possible - this game sets the bar for remasters and old-gen to new-gen gaming. Seriously.

It would have been easy for R* to take the easy way out and just pop a texture pack onto the thing, calling it a job done. Nope, not them, they went the extra 1000 miles it takes to produce GTA V for the new-generation and: job done!