Ever since I got my hands on Grand Theft Auto IV back in late 2008, my respect for Rockstar’s flagship series has only grown. You see, at the time, I had just moved to the United States, and while I won’t claim that the transition from the snowy winters of Toronto to the balmy summers of Orlando served as a major culture shock, you’ll always feel like a fish out of water when you move to a different country.
Maybe that’s why the exploits of protagonist Niko Bellic caught my attention. Sure, I didn’t have a rough upbringing in the Eastern Bloc like he did, but Rockstar North injected some much needed diversity into the open world genre. The concept of the American Dream (and perhaps the facade that it might represent) was a central tenet throughout the story, and it resonated with me, as I’m sure it did to many. Even the criminally underrated Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars managed to keep me hooked, partly because I was intrigued by the inclusion of an Asian protagonist, but mostly because I was surprised at just how compelling a handheld GTA title could be.
It’s kind of fitting then that years after I had settled into my American life that Grand Theft Auto V saw a release, a game that focuses on the pursuit of the almighty dollar, all while criticizing and lampooning our materialistic and over-indulgent society. While it’s been released on multiple platforms over the past two years, the recent PC version has garnered much attention, and for good reason. While the core game has remained largely unchanged from its console counterparts, the PC release of Grand Theft Auto V is undoubtedly the definitive version, a far cry from the unoptimized and buggy mess that was the Grand Theft Auto IV PC port.
Before I dig into the changes and improvements made for the PC, I should note that by and large, much of the content from this most recent release is on par with both the last gen and current gen versions of both games. Aside from the ability to customize the in-game visuals and a built-in video recorder and editor (which I’ll get to shortly), the game is by and large most comparable to the recent PlayStation 4 and Xbox One releases, so be sure to check out our reviews of those versions should you want an in-depth look at the mechanics and story.
Last year’s major releases (most notably Ubisoft’s AAA games) left a sour taste in my mouth when it came to PC gaming, but I’m very fortunate to report that Rockstar Games has gone above and beyond the call of duty, delivering a PC port that is not only well optimized, but is replete with various options and settings to tinker with.
Aside from you standard inclusions such as anti-aliasing, 4K support, and various lighting and environmental effects, advanced options allow you to control the density and variety of the city’s population, and an in-game benchmark and VRAM counter help to test out these options to find your optimal settings. Playing on my somewhat modest rig (with an eight core AMD FX-8350 CPU clocked at 4.0 GHz and an R9 280x GPU), I was able to achieve a fairly solid 50-60 fps with most settings on very high. The game is very scalable however, and the option to play in 4K with settings cranked all the way up is entirely feasible, though you’ll likely need to look at running more than one graphics card at SLI.
Control wise, Grand Theft Auto V feels very natural and smooth to play. Mouse control feels fluid in menus both in and out of the game, and after tweaking a few sensitivity settings to my liking, running and gunning felt more than easy. In the prologue mission alone, I found it much easier to stave off the waves of cops compared to the console versions, and this is coming from someone who tends to play PC games with an Xbox 360 controller. Granted, gamepad support is available, and is actually a benefit to use when driving around, as driving tends to fare much better when using an analog stick and triggers for steering and accelerating. Thankfully, the game allows you to switch between control inputs on the fly, and you can even curate your own custom soundtrack for car rides, a feature that was sorely missed on consoles.
The most notable content addition comes in the form of the Rockstar Editor, an in-game video recording and editing suite which allows you to record and edit gameplay clips fairly seamlessly. Somewhat similar to current gen consoles, the game allows you to manually record or go back and save gameplay sessions right after they have occurred, and robust editing tools allow you to change camera angles, on top of changing various color effects. There’s also the option to add text and audio to recorded clips, and a ‘Director Mode’ essentially allows you to create videos from scratch by choosing from a cast of characters, picking out dialogue, and warping to various locations to film from.
If you’re anything like me, and not too invested in user generated content, GTA Online returns in full form, with various types of competitive and cooperative modes to try your hand at, including the recently released heists. Much like the single-player portion, these heists are complex and require a few setup missions to be completed before the main event. These heists are just as tense as they were when playing solo, and it’s a blast to be able to carry these out with a few friends.
Having already made its mark on consoles old and new, Grand Theft Auto V solidified itself as one of the most impressive and ambitious titles of recent memory, and while its taken some time to make its way to the PC, it was well worth the wait. The PC release is by far the definitive version of the game, and while there might not be much reason to double (or triple) dip if you’ve already experienced the game to its full, there’s no reason to skip out if you’re even remotely interested.
This review is based on the PC version of the game, which we were provided with for review.
Even on its third outing, Grand Theft Auto V continually manages to impress and astound, and the refinements made on the PC version are just the icing on the cake.