I have been a huge fan of every single GTA since 3 came out over 12 years ago (when I myself was only 14 years old) and GTA 4 was no exception to me. I thoroughly enjoyed the story far more than any game previous to it. It definitely was lacking in content compared to say, San Andreas, but it was worth it given the massive leap in pure technological advancement moving into the HD era. For the past 5 years I have been drooling at GTA 4 through my PC and how gorgeous the game looks and plays. Then came GTA V...
Even with me transitioning back to the console, I am simply blown away by GTA V. The sheer amount of engine upgrades this game possesses is astonishing. There are so many little details that go unnoticed, which is quite frankly a damn shame.
When's the last time you stopped and watched a flag flapping in the breeze, only to notice that the little ribbon on the end of the coastguard's hut also moves in a similar direction as the USA flag due to real time wind calculation?
Or how about the ability to shoot out virtually EVERY light bulb in the world? Sure it doesn't have much affect on the stealth mechanics quite yet, but the work is there. And man someone put in a lot of time to do it.
And then there's the insane amount of physicalized objects lying around the map. You can walk into a guard booth in the underpass of the La Puerta Fwy and find television and radio sets lying about that when shot, actually make interesting effects.
These are just the simple world details that I've noticed, I haven't even begun to talk about the actual gameplay differences, and my goodness this is where the real improvements shine. First let's talk about vehicles, the numero uno hot topic prior to the release of GTA V when comparing to the previous title.
Vehicles handle amazingly in GTA V. Yes, they lean towards the arcadey aspect, but at the same time it makes more sense here. In GTA V, a stock sports car handles pretty damn nicely and turns like a dream. Yet on the flip side, a pickup truck or crappy sedan handles pretty poorly and takes corners at high speeds insufficiently. Now compare this to back in GTA IV's world where the top tier sports vehicles cannot take a 90 degree turn at anything more than 25mph without going into a fishtail. It's unplayable now.
Then there's the gunplay. First off, the weapon wheel concept from Red Dead Redemption was a miracle to the GTA universe. Yes, it's also definitely arcadey to carry around dozens of weapons such as RPGs, Miniguns and massive sniper rifles, but let's be real here. GTA IV allowed you to do more or less the same, just limited to one weapon per category. That's not fun, and it's not realistic, so why bother? Being able to carry all weapons at all times and not lose them after they run out of ammo is a win/win for the player.
And of course there's the Max Payne 3 style shooting that is just oh so sweet. I love slightly pulling the shoot trigger and entering a readied stance with my weapon shouldered, flashlight engaged, and moving at a quick pace ready to fire by just a short further squeeze of the trigger. Beautiful. And the actual impact of bullets hitting you and the enemies are both a massive step up to the rather flat physics we had in GTA IV. You just "feel" the devastation these weapons cause onto opponents.
Last but not least there is the graphics. Even though I spent at solid 4+ years playing GTA IV on a beast gaming PC, only to drop back to the pathetic hardware of a console from 2005, GTA V STILL blows my mind visually. Damn the frame-rate, damn the resolution, this games f*cking gorgeous. Period. A lot of people have this bitterness towards the graphics, but that's really not fair given the recent demonstrations of next gen consoles we have all seen. You have to remember the life GTA V's world possesses, from the physics, to the AI, to the unbelievable car modifying and driving mechanics, to the smooth as butter gunplay, and THEN couple it with these simply beautiful graphics and get it all to run on 256MB of RAM and a GPU that's worth exactly 6% of modern day GPUs, and it's just jaw dropping.
I wish more people examined GTA V as deeply as myself and few others, because Rockstar have really outdone themselves here with this game and deserve recognition. The pure talent these programmers, artists and modelers have shown is just unparalleled in the business. The shame of it is people are only interested in playing through the game as quickly as possible and burning themselves out on it. They don't take the time to notice all these fine details in the game and really appreciate it. I sincerely hope Rockstar keeps pushing on and doing things that other game developers won't, because I will be truly sad if the day ever comes that they give up caring about these micro level details and start focusing on cranking out game after game with no love poured into it.
Either way, if you're finding yourself burnt out on GTA V and don't think much of the improvements this game possesses, I strongly recommend you load up GTA IV and take a look back at what this game and engine started off as. It's truly a marvel at what these wizards over at Rockstar North are able to accomplish.