I may have misjudged GTA 5 on PS5 and Xbox Series X, as it turns out Rockstar’s second console remaster of its 2013 open-world epic might be the best way to experience Michael, Franklin, and Trevor’s disturbingly violent and intertwining stories to date.
I wasn’t expecting to be impressed by GTA 5’s graphics – especially when I’ve also played the game on PC and enjoyed running over pedestrians and causing all sorts of chaos at frame rates that sit far above 60fps.
However, GTA 5’s new lighting engine is what struck me first. It has a transformative effect on almost every element of the game, and it’s hard to imagine what the bustling streets of Los Santos were like without it. From the neon-lit signs at night to the searing hot sun that hangs in the sky over Vespucci Beach, I've found myself awestruck at times at just how aesthetically pleasing it all looks.
Whether the impressive lighting model is a consequence of GTA 5’s ray tracing is unclear, though. Despite flicking between Fidelity, Performance, and Performance RT modes, which thankfully can be done on the fly, I didn’t notice a massive difference with ray tracing turned on or off. Other than the stark contrast between 30 and 60fps, which really helps combat the high input lag present in Rockstar’s games, each graphic mode looked great to my eye. Frame rate has also been rock solid in Performance RT mode so far, something which I feared would suffer.
The resolution in all three graphic modes is also razor-sharp. GTA 5 on PS5 and Xbox Series X benefits from the new high-resolution textures which help breathe new life into the scenery and materials of Los Santos often grimy setting. It also appears as though the game’s color palette is more vibrant than before, though that might just be a consequence of how the PS5 uses a slightly lower gamma level than the PS4. It holds up well on a technical level, even if you use a ton of GTA 5 cheats.
It’s not just the graphical enhancements that help GTA 5 feel fresh again, though. The shorter load times are extremely welcome on console, as it now takes less than 30 seconds to load up GTA 5’s story mode – a massive improvement over the minute and a half wait we were subjected to on PS4. That’s still not quite as snappy as we’ve come to expect from other games this generation, but the speedy SSD in the PS5 does help ease the frustration of failing and waiting to restart a mission.
Sense of danger
GTA 5 also benefits from PS5-specific features on Sony's platform, such as haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, a feature that’s sorely missing on the Xbox Series X version of GTA 5. While not everyone’s a fan of Sony’s clever controller, I absolutely love the difference the pad’s haptics and triggers can make, especially to games I’ve already played before. The controller lets you feel the rumble of your car engine, the screech of your tires, and the rough terrain of Los Santos’ off-road, desert areas. It just makes Rockstar’s frighteningly detailed world a little more convincing.
Even the DualSense’s lightbar – a feature which I never thought I’d praise – furiously flashes red and blue when you’ve obtained a wanted level, and switches to green, blue, and orange, depending on which of the three protagonists you’re controlling. It’s something that was present on PS4, but due to the DualSense’s forward-facing and more prominent lightbar, it’s far more impactful this time around.
All of these changes might not sound like much individually, but they add up to reinvigorate a game that was, undoubtedly, ahead of its time. You only need to play something like Cyberpunk 2077 to get a poignant reminder of just how incredible and alive Rockstar’s open-worlds feel compared to the competition. It’s not even close.
It’s a steal
It would have been nice for a game as old as GTA 5 to get a free update, but it’s currently available for the surprisingly low introductory price of $9.99 / £8.75 / AU$ 14.99 on PS5, though it’s slightly more expensive on Xbox Series X at $19.99 / £17.49 / $29.97. That’s a shame for Xbox Series X/S owners, particularly as the game is arguably more feature-rich on PlayStation 5 due to the extra bells and whistles the DualSense controller provides.
It’s worth noting that this offer is only available until June 14, so if you’re even remotely curious about playing GTA 5 again, I’d recommend snapping it up now. After June 14, the game will cost $39.99 / £34.99 / AU$ 59.95, which isn’t nearly as tempting.
Is GTA 5 Enhanced Edition really the best version?
As fantastic as GTA 5 Enhanced Edition is, you still can’t mod the game like you can on PC. If you have the know-how and capable hardware, GTA 5 can be modded to look nearly photorealistic. However, GTA 5 on PS5 and Xbox Series X is the most approachable version of the game, and I think it’s enough of a step up over the vanilla PC version to justify its fourth release. Although please don’t re-release it again, Rockstar. Four times is more than enough. Just keep working on GTA 6, please.
Despite being adamant that nothing could tempt me back into the seedy world of Los Santos, particularly as I’d already picked up Rockstar’s open-world epic on PS3, Xbox One, and PC, I have nothing but good things to say about this remaster from the short time I’ve played.
I’ve never denied that GTA 5 is a fantastic game, but I can’t comprehend how it’s still so good after all this time. It wouldn’t have sold a bajillion copies if it wasn’t, of course, so don't be shocked if it tops the best-seller list on PS5 and Xbox Series X for many months to come.
GTA 5 also has a huge online community, an area of the game which I never truly explored. That might be enough reason for some players to return to GTA 5, but I’m honestly just glad the game didn’t turn out like the disastrous release of the GTA Trilogy: Definitive Edition. The less said about that, the better.