Grand Theft Auto V Review (PC)

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At long last, Grand Theft Auto V is now available on the platform it really belongs on, the PC. A massive, sprawling crime adventure in what is essentially a recreation of Los Angeles, California, GTA V’s reputation is long and storied, having been released about a year and a half ago on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 to sales and critical acclaim of biblical proportions. Now released on the PC with numerous enhancements and new bells and whistles, we take a look at how this modern classic fares on the most powerful gaming platform of them all.

From the get go, it’s immediately apparent that GTA V on the PC is absolutely stunning to look at. Rockstar have done a fine, fine job at upgrading the game’s visuals to hold up to 2015 expectations, and the result is a game that not only looks great, but runs great as well. The world of San Andreas and its denizens pop to life with expressive facial animations, superb lighting and sharp textures that stand up to scrutiny. Having played the Xbox 360 version, it was immediately apparent to me that the PC version looked significantly better.

My PC rig consists of the following specifications: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit, Intel Core i7-4790k @ 4.00GHZ, Geforce GTX 780 Ti 3GB, and 16 GB RAM. With this rig, I am able to run GTA V on maximum settings and 1920×1080 resolution at well over 60 frames per second most of the time. The frame rate takes a noticeable dive into the mid-30s in areas with dense foliage, particularly in Blaine County, but at no point did it become bad enough to be unplayable. Within the city of Los Santos, on the other hand, the frame rate remains unflinching, with no hitching or sudden drops.

I also ran the game using SweetFX, which added more sharpness and color to the already beautiful visuals, and I highly recommend that all PC users do so as well. On my setup, using SweetFX had the side effect of making the opening menu become extremely jerky, but once my save loaded, all was well.

If your rig isn’t quite up to par, the game has very extensive options for scaling down its graphical fidelity. Texture resolution, shadow quality, population density, draw distance, reflection quality, anisotrophic filtering, ambient occlusion, grass quality, water quality, motion blur and depth of field can all be adjusted to varying degrees from low, to normal, to high, to very high, and in a few cases, to ultra. In addition to these, the game also has a number of advanced graphical options that can be turned on, namely long shadows, high resolution shadows, high detail streaming while flying, and more scaling for draw distance and shadows. These settings can be safely ignored by all but those with the most beastly rigs, as the level of visual improvement is barely noticeable.

The game controls exquisitely on a mouse and keyboard setup. Previous Grand Theft Auto ports to the PC suffered in this area, with the series’s console-centric controls proving problematic for PC users, but GTA V handles like a dream, and like its visuals, provides extensive options for players to adjust to their liking. The newly introduced first person perspective plays particularly well to the PC’s strengths, although its a bit of a shame that firearms (aside from sniper rifles) cannot be aimed down their iron sights or attached scopes.

The game’s driving feels extremely smooth and responsive, and I was able to speed around with great finesse in dense traffic using the WASD keys. I especially appreciate the ability to use the mouse to steer; at any point while driving, you can shift driving controls to your mouse by simply holding down the left click. Let go of the left click, and the mouse switches back to being used to look around. Mouse driving is a useful option for driving at moderate to slow speeds or negotiating curves; basically anything that requires a more subtle touch, while using the keyboard to drive is imperative for taking fast corners and weaving in traffic.

A new feature that is exclusive to the PC is the editor, which brings a feature that has remained conspicuously absent in many open world games: the ability to record and save precious moments players encounter during their adventures. GTA V’s editor isn’t just a standard replay mode, however, as it allows players to essentially construct short movies out of their gameplay. Players hit the F1 key to begin recording their gameplay, and once they’re finished recording, they can use the editor to adjust camera angles, lighting, and background music. Given that GTA V is filled with many superb action set pieces, the editor is an absolutely welcome tool that allows players to cut together a stylized short film of their finest moments. There are certain limitations to this feature, however, such as the inability feature characters or locations that are too far away from the player character. This meant that I was unable to create a satisfying movie out of one mission in which Trevor has to snipe several enemies from afar.

In addition to the editor mode, GTA V also as a Director mode, a sandbox mode which allows players to choose any character from the game (so long as you’ve encountered them in the story mode) and, well, do whatever you want under a variety of customizable conditions. These include the time of day, weather, wanted status, pedestrian and traffic density, as well as a number of cheats such as explosive bullets and punches, low gravity and invulnerability. Combined with the editor, players with a lot of creativity and time can truly craft the most insane action sequences to their exacting standards.

As is now inevitable with games of GTA V’s scale, there are some stability problems with the game, with freezing and crashing being an occasional thorn in the PC adaptation’s side. Within ten minutes of playing the game for the first time, the game froze, and within next twenty or so hours that I played, I experienced three crashes. It’s a good thing that the game autosaves frequently, and its likely that Rockstar will patch the game over time, but players thinking of sinking their money into GTA V should be aware of these issues.

Rockstar delayed the release of the enhanced GTA V on the PC by several months, and now that it is released, it’s easy to see why. In bringing what is essentially a flawless game to the PC, they have understood the most important aspect of porting over any console game to the PC: control. The ability for players to control even the most seemingly benign setting of their game is crucial to any decent PC port. Combined with its superior visuals, movie making tools and flawless controls, Grand Theft Auto V on the PC is with little argument the best way to experience this acclaimed title.

9/10

+Smooth, beautiful visuals

+Excellent controls

+Editor and Director modes are superb

-Some issues with freezing and crashing

Kerwin Tsang