A Technical Review of Grand Theft Auto 5 PC

In 2008, Rockstar games released their critically aclaimed title Grand Theft Auto IV. The Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 version of the game was highly praised by critics, and it won several game of the year awards. Six months later, a Games for Windows port was released, and noting the 98/100 Metacritic score, gamers fell into the trap. The PC port of Grand Theft Auto IV was an unoptimized, practically unplayable mess that struggled to run with top-of-the-line hardware.

Fast forward three and a half years to when Rockstar released the PC port of Max Payne 3. While gamers were on-the-fence about allowing their hard earned money to go to the same company that ported Grand Theft Auto IV, it turned out that Rockstar Games had indeed made sure the game ran smoothly. Supporting a large variety of hardware configurations, Max Payne 3 ran on most systems without a hitch.

Yesterday, Rockstar Games released Grand Theft Auto V for the PC. Does it learn from the mistakes of its predecessor, or does it succumb to faulty optimization and insurmountable glitches? Let’s find out.

Rockstar unlocked Grand Theft Auto V at 7PM on April 13th where I live, so as soon as I got home, the first thing I did was begin decrypting the pre-load that had been sitting on my hard drive for the past week. Unbeknownst to me, Steam’s decryption process needs twice the amount of data that the game occupies in order to successfully unlock, and to my surprise, my 120GB Solid State Drive was not enough to house a whopping 130GB of encrypted and decrypted game data. I don’t blame Rockstar or Valve for this, however. This was user error over anything else.

I re-downloaded the game on a larger hard drive and used┬áSteamMover┬áto move the game to my Solid State. Now everything was ready. And I clicked the play button on Steam…

…and I was blown away. Right from the get-go, I was presented with crisp, beautiful graphics, a steady 60FPS, and the same game that we all know and love from Fall of 2013. Whilst playing the prologue for what seems like the hundredth time, I noticed many enhancements to minor details, such as the frost that caked the getaway car, the quality of the characters’ skin textures, and most importantly, the lighting.I am now up to the “Casing the Jewelry Store” mission, and single player has yet to give me any significant problems. While some physics problems still persist, these glitches are often comical, and are extremely easy to overlook when immersed in the city of Los Santos.

There are, however, a few game breaking glitches and crashes that gamers have been reporting. While I have yet to experience any of these issues, Rockstar has released a statement concerning these issues. Most notable on their list is an issue where Windows User Accounts with special characters in them could not connect to Rockstar’s servers. Apparently, Valve was so sure that the launch of Grand Theft Auto 5 PC would go off smoothly that they began accepting refunds.

I had played Grand Theft Auto 5 upon its initial release, so I set aside the Story Mode and hopped on Grand Theft Auto Online. After a few matches, I came to the conclusion that Rockstar’s servers were having issues keeping up with the amount of stress that they were being put under, as the players in the match were all reporting heavy lag spikes. During gameplay, I did not notice these lag spikes on my own character, but the players on my team told me that it was affecting me too.

Also, I have experienced a few connection drops when attempting to join games. Although this has only happened three or four times, it is pretty annoying, and I hope that Rockstar can maintain the level of traffic that is hammering their servers.

BENCHMARK TEST

The game was running smooth as a hot knife through butter on my system, so I decided to run a benchmark test. Since Rockstar has been boasting about GTA 5 PC being scalable on a wide variety of hardware, I knew that it would perform well on my rig.

What I didn’t know is that the recommended VRAM for maximum settings was 3.5GB, and even though I had two GTX 770s in SLI, I still only had a reported 2GB available. Despite this, I ignored the VRAM warnings and cranked most of the settings up to max. Surprisingly, the game scaled well even under insufficient VRAM. The opening sequence stuttered a few times as new areas loaded, but ultimately, the FPS stayed at a solid 60FPS, which is exceptional.

In fact, this game scales so well that an acquaintance of mine told me that he was able to run the game at nearly 30FPS on a laptop with integrated graphics. That’s impressive!

To enhance gameplay and remove any and all stutters, I toned down some of the extreme settings like MSAA and Shadow Quality. This did the trick, and without sacrificing virtually any graphics quality. The game still looks incredible on lower-than-max settings.

My Rig

Processor (CPU): AMD FX-8350 @ 4.5GHz
Graphics Card (GPU): 2x nVidia GTX 770 2GB SLI
Hard Drive (HDD): 120GB Samsung EVO 840
RAM: 24GB DDR3 1800

CONCLUSION

Despite the minor hitches upon launch, it is apparent that Rockstar Games has taken the time to not only remaster the original release of Grand Theft Auto V, but also add support to a wide range of hardware and fix a lot of bugs that are still present in the last-gen and next-gen versions of the game.

While Rockstar Games’s online servers are being hammered, they still perform fairly well and do not hinder the gameplay enough to hurt the game’s overall score.

If you are a PC gamer who has long awaited the release of Grand Theft Auto 5 for PC, fear not. It is nothing like the PC port of Grand Theft Auto IV. Do yourself a favor and pick up this quality title, as it can only get better going forward.