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The eight-year-old(!) popular open-world urban mayhem simulator ‘Grand Theft Auto V’ got its latest update on July 20th: Los Santos Tuners. It basically adds a Fast/Furious-style gameplay mechanic to GTA with an array of new extensively modifiable cars. I wouldn’t say it’s really breathed a lot of new life into the game, but it has its moments. Especially if you liked ‘Midnight Club’ but always wished it was more… violent.

Assuming you’ve got a baseline understanding of what GTA is, this 30-second trailer will pretty much get you the vibe of the Tuners update we’re talking about:

I mentioned that the game is about eight years old. That isn’t totally accurate, because the game was comprehensively refreshed and re-released in 2014 for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, so it’s actually only seven years old. Oh, wait, that’s still ancient in gaming years. 

I’m always astounded that this game has managed to span three generations of consoles, with its initial release on Xbox 360 in 2013, the 2014 update I mentioned, and the 2020 repackaging of the game onto Xbox Series X and PS5. I’ve been feeling the age of the game for a while, but for some reason, this update really made me feel like GTA V has started to overstay its welcome.

Image: Chris Rosales

I’m not sure how many more updates and patches Rockstar can keep slapping on top of the game; it’s only getting laggier, slower, and more bloated as time goes on. I swear the initial loading screen gets longer and longer all the time. The online play is still clunky, it’s hard to meet up with friends, and comes with frequent disconnects and errors on important heist prep jobs. Just recently, our crew did a long heist prep mission, and the game glitched out and didn’t allow us to finish it. I simply can’t enjoy the core mechanics of the game anymore. 

Because of that, I usually end up just cruising my various cars around Los Santos, listening to shockingly well-curated radio stations, appreciating what made the game so strong in 2014: those gorgeous graphics and attention to detail that’s deep as the Marianas Trench. Living as a part of the chaos of GTA Online is the best way to enjoy the game. Drive fast, avoid griefers, and NAT type glitch the game to get important tasks done. Also, I have a sick garage full of sicker cars.

The Rockstar strategy of killing Midnight Club, its classic street racing franchise, never really bothered me. I recognized early on that GTA would become Midnight Club with no real-life licenses and the added bonus of laissez-faire murder. It’s been a huge improvement, and one thing the Los Santos Tuner update does well is make the game just a bit more like Midnight Club. In other words: Car-focused. Though, the no licensed vehicles thing is getting pushed to its absolute limit. The GTA series famously does recognizable parodies of just about everything, with silly names. Some of these cars are nearly copied from their real-life counterpart, particularly the knockoff 991-gen Porsche 911 called the “Pfister Comet S2.”

After downloading the Tuners update I bought the aforementioned Comet and something called the Annis ZR350, another damn near replica that is extremely faithful to the FD Mazda RX-7. The update came with a rack of other replica cars: the Annis Euros/Nissan 370Z, Annis Remus/Nissan Silvia S13 coupe, Dinka Jester RR/Toyota GR Supra, Dinka RT3000/Honda S2000, Karin Calico GTF/Toyota Celica GT-FOUR, Karin Futo GTX/Toyota AE86 Trueno hatchback, Obey Tailgater S/Audi RS3, Vapid Dominator GTT/1969 Ford Mustang, and Vulcar Warrener HKR/Nissan Hakosuka mini truck. There is also a few upcoming cars announced by name but no associated photos. 

Image: Chris Rosales

Suffice to say, it’s a hefty crop of new cars with more customization options than any other cars in the game, including the Benny’s Custom Works custom cars. I took some time to modify my ZR350 and Comet S2, and came away pretty happy. The overfender function is a little strange (it doesn’t increase the wheel offset so it looks a little weak) but the colors, wheels, aero, and interior mods are cool. There are a few mods that make me scratch my head — like a massive wing for the Comet S2 and ZR350, strangely un-refined for a normally aesthetically conscious game.

Driving the ZR350 was kind of disappointing. It was slow and didn’t sound cool. However, I am a fan of the Comet S2, it’s quick and looks awesome once modified.

Touching on the new business mechanics for a second, the update introduces some new characters and an entire fixed car meet function in an industrial building, a la the first ‘Fast and Furious’ movie. It’s actually pretty cool, and includes a new flat underground test track and drift tires, a real highlight of the update. A lowlight is a “takeover” function, which I get that this is a game that we gratuitously murder and steal on, but it’s not a great representation of the car community. The need for an auto garage and even more new missions to play is kind of unwelcome in my book, and I don’t want more grind-grind-grind gameplay from the game.

Speaking of grinding, the new cars cost a ton of money. Each will run just about two million in-game cash before mods, which means that I bought a shark card for this. It’s literally not worth my time to play this game for the meager amounts of money it returns for hours of effort. But honestly, GTA only exists for the occasional vibes and this update hasn’t changed my view of the old, sluggish game.

Image: Chris Rosales

Seriously, if there was time spent on reducing load times, lag, and improving network stability, I’d be all over this game. My friends stopped playing it from being annoyed, and I only play it to listen to Blonded radio and drive some fake Porsches around. The next GTA game is probably another four years away, and I can’t wait for a fresh start.

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