It’s a good job I hadn’t finalised my review until now. Had I drawn a line under my experience last week my opinions would have been very, very different. You see, it has only been in the last 72 hours that the PC port of Grand Theft Auto V has realised it potential. It’s beautiful, beautiful potential. The issue in question was that both the gameplay and presentation had been marred by frame rate drops that killed the enjoyment both in the single player campaign and in GTA Online. To put it bluntly, it was borderline unplayable, and I honestly thought I’d wasted my money.
Thankfully, those issues have been sorted, allowing me to enjoy what really is the definitive version of GTA V.
As someone who last played the game on their Xbox 360, the jump in performance has been significant even without touching the 4K visuals that Rockstar have added. Then again, I didn’t really have to state that – there are videos out there that highlight this is the case, but seeing it in action for myself really hammers home how much work has gone into this version of the game. Of course, the big question is if the PC version is worth getting if you’ve previously played the game, and I aim to answer that by the end of this review.
In terms of content, the game is almost identical to the current-gen console versions, meaning a higher density of traffic, a greater variation of vehicles (including classics from previous games), and a wider array of animals are to be found on your travels. Of course, it’s not just the amount of objects in the world that has changed, but how they react to the player’s actions. Rockstar’s improvements to the AI are absolutely brilliant to watch, especially during firefights. An injured policeman was lying on the ground as I continued a firefight with his comrades, when a fellow officer ran over to him and tried dragging him to safety. I say “tried” because I wasn’t having any of that nonsense, but the fact characters were responding in such a way was not only new for me as a GTA player, but more realistic in context of the situation. In this regard, San Andreas feels more like a living virtual world than ever before.
The in-game radio has also been given an update with new tracks and stations, but PC gamers get the exclusive use of Self Radio, where they can put MP3s and MP4s into a specific folder to play their own music instead. While this was a feature back in GTA IV, what’s impressive is that it now functions like the other stations with adverts and news reports in the single-player mode. So, what I’m trying to say is that Franklin has been cruising around to the Foo Fighters and the Jackson Five, only to be followed up by the sick rhymes of P.O.S as a drive-by commenced, and then all of a sudden the soundtrack to Kill La Kill came on during a police chase. No, really – “Don’t lose your waaaaay” has never been more appropriate.
Yes, my taste in music is what you would call “cosmopolitan.”
As previously mentioned, the in-game visuals are absolutely fantastic given the scale of the play area, especially when the settings are pushed to the max. With the exception of particularly busy scenes, or when I’m causing ridiculous amounts of havoc, the frame rate will hold between 50-60 FPS (for the record, my specs are Intel Dual Core i7-2700K CPU at 3.50GHz, 8GB of RAM, and an nVidea GeForce GTX 680 4GB.) This is considerably better than how it was at launch, with the frame rate dropping to unplayable levels at random intervals. Admittedly, even now there is the odd moment of pop-in during gameplay, but for the most part the streaming of the city as you travel through it is impressively seamless, especially during online sessions.
Again, this didn’t surprise me, but what did catch me off guard was when it started raining and the floor began to be covered in pools of water. That in itself isn’t anything new, but the visual presentation of it all, especially at night, was absolutely breath-taking. All of a sudden I found myself looking around the environment, mesmerised by how the same place could come across so differently in a storm. That said, I did laugh when I the rain continued during a cutscene with Michael where it was clearly meant to be sunny, so he was “sunbathing” with a glass of whiskey in torrential rain, his MP3 player and the table it was upon soaked in water.
At least he was enjoying himself. That’s all that matters.
The First Person camera options were introduced in the current-gen version, but their implementation in the PC version alongside the mouse & keyboard controls is absolutely spot on for PC gamers. What is really impressive is the scope of options available, with different setups activating depending on the scenario. You can set it up to be third person while driving, and first person while on foot, and then snap back to third person when in cover. My only criticism here is that this change in camera doesn’t work when actively going between M&K controls and a gamepad, which would have been a great touch. I say this because the game can detect which one is in use and changes on-screen prompts to match, so to have camera options linked to it as well should have been possible. Other than that, the controls are well optimised and even the PS4’s Dualshock controller works, although the on-screen prompts remain Xbox-orientated.
Grand Theft Auto Online is once again a huge component of the GTA V experience, and the boost in player count to 30 make the open world lobbies feel a little more active overall. I was happy to see that the character transfer feature worked as intended, bringing my Xbox 360 avatar and all his progress on the PC version with no issues. Well, I say that – he was wearing lipstick for some reason, which is fine if you’re a fan of that sort of thing but I didn’t have it set like that. Anyway having not played the game since last February, the amount of new content available has left me spoilt for choice with new deathmatch, capture, survival, and race setups. This is of course on top of the player-made content that is available and the recently added Heists.
As someone who still regularly enjoys a spot of Payday 2, I was initially dubious about the limitations of the Heists being purely gun-ho slaughterfests. However, I made my way through more of them the variation also opened up – perhaps not as much as I was hoping, but options did appear. They also offer a challenge well beyond that found in the standard missions available, encouraging teamwork as well as personal skill to successfully complete. This is especially clear during stealth-orientated missions, which are perhaps the most unforgiving. This isn’t helped by the fact that travel times to objectives can occasionally be a little much, as well as loading times between restarts. On the bright side though, the setup mission where you steal a Harrier-esque jump jet rewards you with the most apt piece of music ever, especially as you have previously been in a whole zone of danger.
And if you’re not a fan of the great Kenny Loggins, well, I guess just pout.
Perhaps the noteworthy exclusive addition for the PC version is the Rockstar Editor, which gives budding machinima creators the tools to make their own GTA-based masterpieces. Although players will be required to play through the single player campaign to unlock characters to use in it, all the options filmmakers will need are there. Camera angles can be moved with characters, fixed to specific points, and various filters added to create the perfect settings. With live gameplay capable of being recorded on the fly as well, it means those with the patience to make extended videos of anything they wish. I on the other hand am all about action and Jetski Jousting, so I’ll leave the filmmaking to the professionals.
While the new additions for the PC version are great, it does bring us to a topic that a group of friends of mine were debating on the run-up to the PC release – is it worth getting GTA V again if you completed it over a year ago? In terms of the new content, it may only really appeal to machinima makers or those who didn’t progress far into the single player campaign during the original release. The thing is, the expanded levels of presentation both visually and in how the game reacts makes it feel like a brand new experience, especially in GTAO. Hell, the modding community has already begun adding in their usual ridiculously-fantastic contributions. And yet, I couldn’t recommend paying the £40 RRP for it. It’s been great revisiting the content with a new lease of life, but it really is a tough sell at that price. However, any listing under £25 is an absolute steal and I would wholeheartedly tell you to get it if any deal like that arrives.
- The detail in the visuals and the AI reactions are outstanding for a game of this scale.
- The options available in the Rockstar Editor are perfect for budding machinima makers.
- Mouse & Keyboard controls + First Person camera = a whole new world, with much violence.
- Occasional pop-in during busy scenes.
- Despite the huge amount included, there’s no significant new game content included for returning players.
- I pity whoever handles the next console-to-PC port to arrive, because the bar has now been set ridiculously high.
The Short Version:
If you’ve waited for the PC version to arrive instead of getting the current-gen version, you are going to be very, very happy with Rockstar’s work on Grand Theft Auto V. Fantastic visuals and enhanced AI behaviour makes the virtual world of San Andreas come to life, and the Rockstar Editor is a powerful tool for machinima creators. It really is the definitive version of a modern classic.