GTA V on Xbox Series X is awful

Granted, I got it for free; but that’s no excuse

Welcome to the first issue of Single Player, where I write about single-player games that some people think are going to be obsolete. If you’re new here, feel free to subscribe!

There aren’t that many people in this world who won’t roll their eyes every time Grand Theft Auto 5 shows up on a headline. It’s particularly true for people who don’t enjoy GTA Online. If you are like me and you explore and have fun in the story mode only, and you’ve been waiting for the next installment, you might be just as much angry at Rockstar as I.


Rockstar released GTA 5 in 2013 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Over the next 7 years, it was released on multiple generations of consoles — PS4 and Xbox One, and lately, PS5 and Xbox Series S/X (although the latest consoles run the game via backward compatibility at the moment, Rockstar has said an optimized for PS5/Xbox Series S/X is in the works).

It’s anyone’s guess if the entirety of Rockstar North is working on that optimized version or if there’s a secret group of writers, designers, and developers who are indeed working on GTA 6.

I’m not impatient; I’m angry. And if you look around the online gaming community, you’ll find that I’m far from the minority.

GTA 5 was added to Xbox Game Pass’ growing library of games. I wasn’t excited at the news, but I was curious to try it once again. I’ve played GTA 5 on PS3, PC, and PS4. I know the version that’s on the Xbox store right now is running via backward compatibility. But the game looked great on last-gen consoles. It wasn’t as brilliant as in PC, but it was good enough for casual players like me.

So I thought, even though it’s not optimized for the latest console, it would still be playable, right? After all, thanks to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, I’ve enjoyed some rusty old games (from the Xbox 360 era) on my Series X. So my tolerance is pretty high in that sense.

I was wrong. I’m not sure if I’m the only one, but GTA 5 looks absolutely horrible on Xbox Series X. I haven’t looked up online to see how it’s working for others, but the Game Pass version that I downloaded for free is an absolute disaster. Every time I try to play it, I’m reminded of how it looked on PS3 back in the day.

The vehicle controls are terrible. The graphics are awful. I understand it’s not optimized for Xbox Series X yet, but it’s running the Xbox One version. Was that really that bad?

I don’t know because I haven’t owned an Xbox before. I’ve always been a PlayStation fan, but I liked Xbox Series X better this time for a number of reasons (reasons that I will explain in a separate post). I haven’t had a shred of regret since getting the Series X instead of the PS5. Frankly, I might end up getting the PS5 too, but the thing isn’t available here, and scalpers are still charging an unhealthy amount of money for it. I’d rather wait until there is a sizable amount of PS5-exclusive next-gen games that are optimized for everything the console is capable of.

Right now, there aren’t that many. That, along with the allure of Game Pass’ growing list of games, was enough for me to jump ship.

In any case, I was surprised and disappointed that GTA 5 was running that poorly on my Xbox Series X.

On the one hand, I didn’t pay for it; but on the other, that’s no excuse. I am paying for Game Pass Ultimate, so the games that are made available to me aren’t technically free.

Above all, I’ve had enough of GTA 5. The only thing that can extinguish my anger is if Rockstar one day drops a GTA 6 trailer with an unbelievably close release date. That will make all this waiting worth it.

But we all know that’s not going to happen anytime soon. The next time Rockstar drops a GTA trailer, I bet $100 that it’ll be to announce the “optimized” GTA 5 for PS5 and Xbox Series S/X.


Perhaps we are part of the problem. We keep playing GTA 5. And let’s not even talk about GTA Online. That thing has become bigger than Rockstar. I don’t like online multiplayer (except for co-op games), but the overwhelmingly huge success of GTA Online says the majority of gamers do. And that keeps the money rolling into Rockstar’s pocket. Money that’s very hard to neglect.

I wonder if somewhere there’s doubt in Rockstar’s offices that the success of GTA Online is so grand that they won’t be able to surpass it no matter how much better the next GTA game is. Maybe that’s why they are saying absolutely nothing about GTA 6. Maybe they haven’t cracked the secret to surpassing the success of GTA 6 yet.

To keep the GTA Online momentum going, could Rockstar do something that integrates GTA Online with the GTA 6 world? It could. You never know. I can see the appeal of never giving up on such a cash cow. But they have to find a way to brilliantly integrate the two worlds together.

Then again, I couldn’t care less about what’s next on GTA Online. I want GTA 6, and while the developers are hopefully working on it, I want a version of GTA 5 without paying again; that doesn’t look horrendous on the current-gen consoles.

The sad thing is once an optimized version is here, Rockstar is going to charge for it again. And for players like me who have played it more than a few times, it will be very hard to justify spending that money. But because we did actually love the world of GTA 5, online or offline, we might give in to our impulse and end up buying yet another copy of GTA 5.

See how we’re the ones responsible for the ongoing milking?


Did you like this issue of Single Player? Feel free to subscribe if you haven’t already or share the post with your friends who might enjoy it. 🙂 In the coming posts, I’ll also include links to news, reviews and write reactions to all of them, so there’s more than a single thought for you to read through.

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