There is a familiar pattern to media coverage whenever Rockstar publishes a game. There is talk about how the developer has used its newest game to iterate upon and redefine the open world genre. There are almost always articles on how various Hollywood films influenced Rockstar's development process. And there are at least one or two polemics that attack the developer for transgressing established norms about what can and cannot be done in video games. This last type of essay inevitably concludes that video games are bad, and lead to an increase in interpersonal violence as well as the downfall of civilisation.
"Come on. Lighten up. Have a whiff."
There is a special kind of halo around the things games do that they don't really have to. The radio stations in GTA, or the fact that the GPS disappears when you go through a tunnel. The tinkle of shell-casings hitting the floor in a shooter that you would assume is too brisk and frowny for such distractions. The plaque you sometimes find by monuments on the battle royale island of Fortnite. These things don't define a game, but they quietly help to make things feel richer. They are signs that someone cares, and maybe, even, that somebody was having fun thinking of the fun that you would one day have in the worlds they were making.
Well, that was Amazon Prime Day 2018. The summer sales festivities are now over - if you managed to grab some bargains, good on you - but if not, fear not - Black Friday 2018 is just around the corner, like it or not. We've already got our guide to the best Black Friday gaming deals up and running, ready to update with all the latest deals and discounts as and when they arrive, so be sure to bookmark that one.
The Sheriff is patrolling the streets of Los Angeles. He stops at each red light, stays in lane and keeys his eyes open for trouble. A priority call comes in, the siren goes on and the Sheriff speeds towards his target. He arrives at the scene on Strawberry Avenue, cuffs a green-haired suit who was fist-fighting with another person who did a runner, chucks him in the back seat and starts asking questions about what happened. Satisfied the green-haired suit was not at fault, the Sheriff writes a "not at fault" accident report so green-hair can claim on the insurance for vehicle damage. He declares: "you are free to go." Then the Sheriff calls it in to HQ. "Kenny dispatch 309. Show me back in service."
Video games are guilty of reflecting humanity's more violent nature at times - and it's easy to see why when our screens are filled with nameless marines and musclebound maniacs eager to destroy every living thing in their path. As in reality, the virtual worlds we inhabit contain a wide array of human expression, ranging from violent combat to peaceful cooperation. Some players are taking things a step further though, opting to lay down their computerised weapons and adopt a nonviolent, pacifist approach to their virtual endeavours.
Few video game protagonists keep to strict working hours, and how could they? When there's a war to win, a world to save, a lover's heart to ensnare and all the other grand and arduous problems that a game designer asks us to solve, it would be practically irresponsible to clock off a five for a pint of lager, a packet of crisps and a prestige TV box set. Even if they did have time to unwind then, just as we rarely see Tony Soprano bobbing away at the urinal, or Donald Draper questingly exploring a nostril, surely these parts of the game would be first for the editor's chop. What Lara Croft does to relax (eating caviar off her butler's extended arm while listening to Brahms, I like to imagine) is rarely relevant to the story at hand. Aside from the indulgently barmy Final Fantasy XV, what your character eats for dinner rarely has a place in the core gameplay loop.
My wife has just finished GTA 5 again. The third playthrough, I think, and it seems an awfully long time since, crouched in front of the old PS3, she turned to me while fumbling through the wintry farming country of the prologue and said, "Oh, God. Is there going to be a lot of shooting?'
It's finally here. 18 months on from Grand Theft Auto 5's last-gen release, the chance to tour Los Santos at 60fps is now a reality on PC. The PS4 and Xbox One versions may already have the 1920x1080 checkbox ticked, but this PC effort adds a bevy of options to take things further, bringing support for resolutions up to 4K, better effects and broader draw distances. But does it actually run well?
As is so often the case with the super-rich, my wife has started to exhibit some strange behaviour. A savvy blend of bank robbery and scattershot investing has left her with more money than she can ever hope to spend, and so she's increasingly only interested in the things that money cannot buy. Aliens, ghosts, zombies: this is the bizarre end-game to GTA 5. Once the missions are finished, once the last Achievements have been mopped up, unless you're willing to venture online you're going to be left right here: in a vast, beautiful map that you must shock back to life in any way you can think of. A map that tells you there is nothing left to find and nothing left to do. But that can't be true, can it?
UPDATE 2/4/15 5:41pm: Rockstar has just rolled out patch 1.10 for Grand Theft Auto 5, which it says fixes "graphical issues across GTA Online and Story Mode". After downloading the 4.7GB update on PS4, we can confirm that parallax occlusion mapping is back in the game, and based on initial observations, the performance improvements seen in patch 1.09 remain in effect on the Sony platform.
Heists have been a long time coming - the promised land of GTA Online, no less, the missions that would bring the Heat vibe to Los Santos with style. They are two-to-four player scores consisting of multiple missions and a finale, where players assume different roles on the team - one committing to be a rooftop lookout, for example, while another goes inside a building. Such scenarios have always been common in GTA single-player missions, where Rockstar can control all of the other participants, but got a little lost in the transformation to multiplayer.
Starting today, four regular columnists will be taking turns to fill the Saturday morning opinion slot here on Eurogamer: game developer David Goldfarb, roving games writer Cara Ellison, actual pub landlord Jon "Log" Blyth and, kicking us off below, a writer who surely needs little introduction to Eurogamer readers, Rich Stanton. Find out more about the columnists in this editor's blog.
Promising improved visuals, new gameplay options and faster, smoother performance, Grand Theft Auto 5 returns as a next-generation remaster in a move rather atypical of Rockstar Games. Not unlike The Last of Us Remastered, much of the excitement stems from the possibilities more powerful hardware affords by addressing some of the original release's technical shortcomings. The E3 reveal trailer was certainly impressive but, without any real gameplay footage, we were left waiting until release to see if these improvements were indicative of the final product's quality. For those returning to the game, are the enhancements significant enough to warrant another trip to Los Santos - and does the final product offer more than a resolution and performance boost?
The basics are certainly in place, with an expected jump from 720p to 1080p alongside improved anti-aliasing that delivers a much sharper looking game. Performance too is much improved with the highly unstable update of the original release replaced with a smoother, though not quite perfect 30fps update. Performance has always been an issue with Grand Theft Auto on consoles, but this latest release delivers the best console experience in the series' history.
However, on first loading the new game it's perhaps not immediately apparent where the bulk of the remastering work has taken place. The look and feel of the initial heist very much feels like a current-gen conversion, with the addition of a smattering of effects boosts producing a result little better than most of the remasters we've seen this year. Moving into the initial stages of the game again produces a feeling of déjà vu. Now, simply improving the frame-rate and resolution might have been enough (generally speaking, it works for The Last of Us, after all) but GTA 5 on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 is different, with those first impressions changing radically as you dig deeper into the game. The more you play, the more you notice the phenomenal level of additional work added to the core assets - the closer you look, the more the embellishments become clear.
We don't often hear from the people who work at Rockstar. Co-founders Sam and Dan Houser aside, the cryptic company behind the gargantuan Grand Theft Auto series presents a united front. When Rockstar speaks it is from one voice.
Wait long enough down by the tracks west of the Palomino Highlands at a spot somewhere on Los Santos' left thigh, and eventually a freight train will clacket along. Some of its carriages are insurmountably tall, but others sit empty and ride low enough that, with a spirited jump, you can haul yourself up for a free trip. You won't have the leathery comfort of a stolen sedan's cabin, or the sky-rollicking freedom of a light aircraft, but there's no better way to see the city.
In our initial tests of Grand Theft Auto 5 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, it seemed clear that both Sony and Microsoft platforms had been treated as equal citizens, with each edition appearing to receive the same level of remastering. However, screenshot comparisons appearing on the internet yesterday suggested that the game's biggest enhancement - a radical revamp of the great outdoors - was missing significant amounts of detail on Xbox One.
You know, I never cared about the heists. Mostly because I didn't really care for the heist structures in story mode, but also because GTA Online's canvas offered a lot more than robbing shops and banks. In fact, GTA Online was my reason to buy GTA5, though the grimly inevitable (and weirdly prescient) events surrounding the online side's early days put a dampener on my attempt to dive in as soon as it was enabled and not leave the couch for a week. Once the network issues were sorted, however, it blossomed into a whirlwind romance that delivered GTA's evergreen magic by the bucketload.
UPDATE 20/11/14 4:03pm: The final analysis is in. We've put together a wealth of GTA 5 clips culled from capture sessions spanning over 20 different missions, concentrating on areas where the title's 30fps target frame-rate faces its toughest challenges. In comparing PS4 and Xbox One, the end result is fascinating; it shows that while there are some scenarios that prove equally challenging for both consoles, specific areas can see one platform out-performing the other. On a native 1080p title like this, we might reasonably expect PlayStation 4's more powerful GPU to demonstrate an unassailable advantage across the game, but the reality is a little more complicated.
Travelling at speed through city junctions - such as Strawberry Avenue - turns out to be a particular Achilles Heel on PS4, with sustained drops to around the 24-26fps range at their worst. It's a situation that also applies to Xbox One, but to a consistently lesser degree when testing under the precise same conditions (and borne out in repeated tests). Put simply, in areas where junctions are stacked up one after the other, the Sony platform suffers more prolonged frame-rate drops when burning through traffic with your foot jammed to the floor. It's an interesting, recurring scenario that points to a CPU bottleneck, where Xbox One's increased clock-speed has an advantage when racing around these busy sections.
Another potential cause could be hard drive access, of course. GTA 5 is very intensive in terms of background streaming, a state of affairs that made the digital download versions of the last-gen version less desirable than the physical releases (where streaming bandwidth was shared between disc and drive). To lessen the impact of any streaming bottleneck, we installed the PS4 version onto an SSD for a re-test - the results showed no improvement.
If there was one key message to take from last month's E3, it was that 2015 is going to be a proper treat. The roll call of games coming out next year is just dizzying - Halo 5: Guardians! Bloodborne! Xenoblade Chronicles X! - and it's all so exciting that even some of what were set to be this year's biggest games didn't want to be left out, with the likes of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Batman: Arkham Knight slipping back to get involved in the throng.
Rockstar Games typically steers well clear of E3, but it did choose to make a big announcement to coincide with the event this year - the reveal of the much-anticipated next-gen version of Grand Theft Auto 5, coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC in the autumn. Clocking in at just over a minute, the trailer takes us through a large number of environments across Los Santos and beyond, illustrating the changes and improvements made to the visuals.
We've had our say on 2013's best video games. And so have you. Now, it's the turn of the developers, the makers of the virtual experiences we so love. Read on for the games of 2013 according to the creators of the likes of Super Meat Boy, Assassin's Creed 4, XCOM, Oculus Rift and more, complete with Twitter bios.
I live half a world away from the Santa Monica pier, but over the years I have been a frequent visitor to its planks, so ghosted by the insistent sun, so buffed and smoothed by the sandy wind. It's a handsome pier, narrow enough that you don't mistake it for a road (even though the occasional police car creeps along its back), but long enough to carry you a good distance out to sea. At its far end the fishermen bob in a row, their taut lines stretching off forever into the easygoing Pacific.
When it comes to world-building, few can compete with Rockstar and the results of its phenomenal RAGE engine. For their time, both Grand Theft Auto 4 and Red Dead Redemption offered best-in-class world simulation and the arrival of GTA5 allows us to see the technology at its peak on the current-gen consoles. Time-lapse video accelerates the pace of the game world, offering up a unique view on the both the level of detail in the simulation - and the compromises made.
GTA Online is a shambles. And that's not always a criticism. The disorder is part of what makes it so entertaining; you've played better driving games and better shooters, but everything in Los Santos is so gloriously chaotic and unpredictable that it's no surprise many people are persevering with it - despite myriad issues that would bulldoze just about any other online game. When it works, it's often a joy.
In July 2012, Rockstar released this screenshot:
Following Rockstar's warning to Xbox 360 users of sub-optimal GTA5 performance should both discs be installed to its hard drive, our attention has turned to the PSN digital release of the game. This edition is played in its entirety from the hard drive as opposed to utilising both disc and HDD, opening up the game to a variation of the 360's streaming issues when both discs are installed.
SPOILER WARNING: If you haven't played GTA 5 yet, then reading this feature will reveal details of a mission about a dozen hours into the game, along with some of the surrounding context. This won't ruin your enjoyment of the game, but it will reduce the impact of one of its most extreme moments. Read on with that in mind or return when you've gotten there yourself and feel like talking about it. You have been warned.
Comedy, according to Martin Amis, is the only genre left standing. Faced with the kind of world we live in, history and tragedy just won't cut it any more.
Grand Theft Auto 4 has aged rather well, you know. Load it up today, five years later, and the streets of Liberty City still look and feel incredible. There's so much life in that city. A lot of games possess character, but GTA 4 is one of the few where each neighbourhood and borough can lay claim to its own; it's a world with an attention to detail that has become completely alien to gamers brought up in the shadow of the 18-month development cycle.
2013, so we're told, is going to be the year of mass disruption in videogames. It's when the old ways are finally eroded by the new, and when new hardware's going to show up to a party that may already be long over. It's when PC gaming should cement itself at the top of the tree, when Microsoft and Sony are to unveil their own takes on the future and when the concept of a traditional console cycle is to be scattered to the winds, replaced with disparate hardware iterations and a million new ways to play games. In fact, given the current rate of hardware announcements Microsoft will have announced the new Xbox by the end of the week, and its successor will be unveiled some time next Tuesday.
With 2012 already a smudged headline on yesterday's newspaper, it's time to get excited, all over again, for the next twelve months and the incredible games they are sure to bring. There are some amazing-looking games due out this year, including Grand Theft Auto 5, BioShock Infinite, Beyond, The Last of Us and more. And with the next-generation of consoles set to explode onto the scene, proper brand new games are surely not far behind. Hopefully.
Last week a report released by Scottish Enterprise and Creative Scotland claimed that the Scottish games industry had a value of zero. This zero is apparently a result of the sector having a monetary value of less than £10m, which the report rounded down to f*** all. The report also claimed that less than 200 people are actually employed within the sector, which is less than the amount employed by Greggs, and less than you'll find queuing outside any Greggs in Dundee. It's one pretty crazy report.
Tom's already offered you a rundown of this year's Actual New Games - the ones that are offering, in their own ways, something unique - and now here's the slightly less glamorous look at the other side of the coin.
They're big business, these blockbuster sequels, and for all that we lament the lack of innovation it's these big-budget series that inevitably garner the most attention and inspire the most devotion from the majority. That's nothing to be scorned - iteration's an important thing in games development and indeed the development of games - and a composite of evolved features designed to fulfil a particular desire, be that the needs of a sports fan or those wanting a fresh shooter fix, can be just as important to the progression of the medium as the advent of a new game mechanic or control concept.
Sequels take many forms and capture our attention for many reasons. Some build their features up year by year, like FIFA and Call of Duty, and will continue to be brilliant when we encounter them later in 2012. Others build on the storytelling or world-building of games a few years past, like Gearbox's brilliant-looking Borderlands 2 or the sure-to-be-spectacular finale to the Shepard's tale in Mass Effect 3. And some are interesting because of their circumstances - Halo 4, for example, is another big-budget sequel on the near horizon, and with a new and as-yet unproven developer filling Bungie's big boots, we're just interested in that out of morbid curiosity as devotion to the series.
Every Sunday we bring you a feature selected from our archive. This week, to celebrate the imminent release of Grand Theft Auto 5 on PS4 and Xbox One, we bring you Dan Whitehead's paean to an unloved GTA4 character. This article was originally published in November 2011.