A year and half after its debut, Grand Theft Auto V has finally made it on to PC. The past 18 months have not been the easiest on PC gamers awaiting the arrival of the commercial and critical darling. After the sorry state that GTA IV was released in there have been more than a few concerns about just what GTA V would look be as time dragged on and release dates were missed and missed again.
We can put those doubts aside. The released product is as spectacular now as it was on initial release: a near perfect blend of biting satire, wry observation, bombastic action, cringe-inducing violence, and laugh out loud absurdity. The central plot is interesting even if it occasionally falls flat, and misses the odd punch, but by the story’s final beats it’s a clear knockout. It’s a consistently hilarious, frequently shocking, and occasionally poignant tale of retribution, friendship, consequence, and occasional Juggalo abuse.
The open world feels lived in, and despite its absurd exuberance the satirical take on celebrity culture and individual excess never feels all that removed from reality. Which may actually be the single most shocking aspect of this controversy courting game. GTA V is instantly enthralling, and seldom lets up for the entire 20-plus hours it will take to complete main storyline. Taking all the best parts from the previous entries from Rockstar North, and I loved every second of its bullet-laden, expletive-spewing, carnage-ridden insanity.
Not to be outshone by the exceptional singleplayer game, GTA V also comes complete with a fully featured multi-layered competitive and co-op online mode. There are enough game modes and playstyles here to appeal to almost any multiplayer fan. From deathmatch style gun fights, freeform sandbox mayhem, to car races, and the newly added heists, the amount of content here is staggering. What could have been nothing more than a tacked on game mode could be sold as a standalone title and be worth every cent of its asking price. Server stability is seldom an issue, pings are low, and even though it all runs through the Rockstar Social club, the PC release is free of the issues that plagued the initial release of GTA Online.
While the quality of the core game has never been in doubt, there quality of the port was a subject of some pre-release speculation. GTA IV was far from ideal after all, and to this day suffers from questionable performance on even sturdy gaming machines. GTA V does not suffer from the lack of polish its predecessor shipped with.
The PC edition is nothing short of a delight to play, and over the past week I have tested various setting and component configurations to see just how scalable, stable and playable the game is.
On a mid-range i5 with an NVidia 760GTX and 8GB of RAM the game hums along on high setting in 1080p with no issues. Hitting 60 frames per second may take a little tinkering, but once the sweet spot is found performance is not only reliable, it's rock solid. Despite not being able to turn up many of the settings the game is still stunning, and superior visually to the Xbox One version in a side by side comparison.
On a beefier i7 system with 32GB of RAM and a 780Ti, settings can be cranked up to "Very High" with many of the extra bells and whistles turned on for a truly visually stunning game. The very highest setting in the Advanced Graphics menu that add additional line of sight settings will seriously eat into performance with negligible improvements in visual fidelity. These settings should only be attempted with SLi or Crossfire enabled rigs packing some real heft under the hood. Any rig sporting an nVidia 980 or AMD 290 and above should be able to flick some additional switches to further improve the visuals, or clock in frame rates in excess of 60fps.
Any mid- to high range PC will easily run GTA V, and run it well. The massive visual upgrades over both console releases can be enjoyed on a very wide range of machines. Couple this with reliably high frame rates providing smooth and responsive gameplay, and you’ve got the defining entry in the Grand Theft Auto franchise. The advantages of the higher frame rates really come in to play in fire fights and high-speed car chases. The precision and responsiveness these allow for make a world of difference - especially when competing online.
The team at Rockstar has obviously taken its time to polish the PC version to a high gloss and it shows. Apart from the abundance of visual and performance settings, PC gamers will find all the features expected of a fully tricked out PC title. Multiple audio and control options should allow for players to tailor the game to their needs. The ability to choose windows, raw, or direct mouse input is a surprising but very welcome addition, and something gamers with high DPI mouses should find very useful.
Also baked in is the ability to swap between mouse and keyboard controls and a controller. This is a godsend, as it provides the best of both worlds when transitioning between driving and on foot sections. The precision of the mouse eliminates frustration of using a controller to aim firearms, but the ability to pick up and use the controller when in a vehicle without the need to pause the game is a feature every game should endeavour to include.
The only real disappointment here is that the field of view slider for the new first person mode is limited to less than 90 degrees. Even so, this really is a minor irk, and something that could be resolved in a future patch.
The only unique addition to the PC version is the PC-exclusive Rockstar Editor. A robust in game video editor that allows gamers and content creators alike to record and edit in-game footage. Whether it’s a highlight reel, or a more complex full machinima production; the editor provides all the tools you will need to complete your project and share it with your audience. That Rockstar has so completely embraced this social sharing aspect of their game just goes to show just how well they understand gaming this generation. Rockstar may just be the first major AAA studio to understand social media and the YouTube generation.
As a complete package GTA V on PC is without peer. Outside of its stunning presentation, and greatly improved performance every aspect of the game has been given care and a fine attention to detail. Unlike any game before it, it embraces multiple audiences with a wealth of content and a very clear understanding of the gaming landscape in 2015.