Review: Grand Theft Auto V (PC)
The wait is finally over. A franchise born on PC in 1997 finally makes its way back to the desktop, after a fitting swansong for the last generation and then showing off the extra power of the current generation. PC users have been ridiculed and mocked about this title and a few have waited patiently to play the game. Others crumpled under the pressure and bought it on console. So was the wait worth it? That depends on your rig!
In case you haven’t played the game before and you have been living under a rock and have just learnt how to access the internet to read about games, here is a review of the game on PS4 and a video review of Grand Theft Auto V.
So what has changed? The jump from previous to current generation consoles brought with it realistic foliage, a larger variety of character models, reflections and in general just made the game look a lot prettier so what is it that the PC has to offer? Improved draw distances. Lens flares. Realistic shadows. Improved textures. All this and, if your PC can handle it, buttery smooth frame rates. The small little details that make GTA V stand out for people feel magnified on PC, with even more of those small touches making the experience just that more lifelike and enjoyable. Using a mouse to aim also works a lot better than the snap-aiming the console used to assist players and controllers are supported so you can choose to drive with your controller if you prefer. The Rockstar Editor is a pretty cool touch if you enjoy the idea of being a director or doing machinima videos, allowing you to change camera angles from recorded gameplay and add in text, filters, backtracks and just show off the crazy that happens in your game. Just remember to keep an eye on how much HDD space you are using in your quest to record the coolest stunt or zaniest moment with Trevor.
4K Quality that you’ll see only on PC:
Of course all of the pretty doesn’t matter if your PC isn’t up to the task, right? Luckily GTA V isn’t some slapdash port with bad optimisation. Between some tinkering in the graphics settings, and then the GeForce Experience optimisation options, I managed to get the game to run at a constant 80fps at 1080p with my settings cranked pretty high. For those interested, I have included my settings and current PC setup below. Sadly I didn’t have a higher resolution screen to test on, as I really want to see this game running at 1440p or higher.
Specs and settings
Online and its foibles
The online component of GTA V’s enjoyment depends greatly on what you expect to get out of it, and it has some rather perplexing design choices. I originally skipped the multiplayer on console because of a nasty single-player save deleting bug and connection issues, so I took time to really grind and explore the multiplayer this time around.
If you have friends that are keen to play the heists that finally launched this year, you might have a bit of a hard time getting together to do the pre-requisite grind to level 12 and buying an apartment worth $200,000 or so for a planning room. Despite the handy loading screen tips that the game will attempt to put you in the same server as your friends, expect a lot of loading, jumping to join their server and unexpectedly ending up on your own in an empty server that nobody can join in on.
When starting a mission, if you disable the auto-matchmaking, you can at least invite people, regardless of server, to come and join your game. After the mission, sometimes you join into a lobby of a game that is already being created and the people with the slowest computers load in last and get kicked out if the group is too large, tossing them into a random server to play the online mode. This happened to me several times with different friends and a host of ISPs, making it just another step in this odd world that doesn’t seem to want you playing games with your friends. There is no Steam integration, meaning you need to use the Rockstar social hub to invite all your friends again, which just adds to that feeling like you should just be playing with randoms instead of your friends or your crew. It is counter-intuitive and pretty frustrating, but nowhere near as frustrating than trying to do a heist with randoms.
From Russia with love
The heist missions require a fair level of competence as well as teamwork, communication skills and knowing how to use cover to avoid dying. It doesn’t sound like a very high bar to ask people to climb over, until you add in that any death means a trip back to the last checkpoint. This in itself doesn’t seem too bad yet, mistakes happen and people are willing to try again after learning there is a large gang of shotgun toting villians approaching from the west halfway through the mission. It catches you the first time and you discuss it and work out how to get beyond that point. Except only three of the four people are discussing it, one is oddly silent the whole game. Then, in a voice loud enough for you to wish you owned head headphones with a lower volume limit, a booming string of Russian pours out of party member number four before he: a) grabs his motorbike and drives the wrong way, causing some missions to not start as the whole party is required in specific areas, b) drives his vehicle straight into a fuel container at the hanger, turning into a suicidal fireball or c) disconnects, causing the whole heist to crumble as it quits back to the matchmaking screen. Its infuriating and makes you doubt the possibility of intelligent life on other planets due to the apparent lack of intelligent life on Earth.
The game, like Evolve, should come with a warning that you need a bunch of friends if you want to play the heists without becoming an angry nervous wreck. When I did manage to find some friends to play with, we set up a small heist and stole an armoured car before robbing a bank on the outskirts of town, netting a tidy sum of money and making everyone involved feel pretty chuffed with the way they handled themselves. It took teamwork and communication and we felt like a proper team at the end of it. It was a lot of fun and it is something I want to do again, with friends, as the community seems to be incapable of communication or staying alive. Latency issues can also pull a smooth heist apart, with people complaining that the car is not moving or that they were stranded a few miles away from the action, because the netcode just decided the car wasn’t moving and would never move again on their screen. Once that person catches up things seem to be back in sync, but I think it is only a matter of time until someone gets stranded during a getaway and the heist fails because we all didn’t make it to the exfil point.
But is it worth it?
Have you played the game before on console? While the graphics are pretty amazing, the mods can add a lot of extra life and the Rockstar Editor can unleash your inner movie director, there isn’t enough to really encourage a second purchase of the game. If you haven’t played it yet and you have a PC with an i3 and a 750Ti, you are sitting on the border that shows the limits of the game on PS4. If your PC has more grunt than that, well done on waiting out the last long few months for the game. You got the whole game without waiting for staggered multiplayer content and a lot of the niggles found in console versions have been patched out already.