2013, it was the cool month of September, summer had been and gone, the dude from Green Day was fast asleep (don’t wake him up before October) and GTA V saw its initial release on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. As I sat there with the fading sun at my back I tore through the virtual world of Los Santos enjoying almost every aspect the open world game had to offer. The varied missions, the enticing story, the amazing voice work which tickled my ear. Rockstar had squeezed every ounce out of the then current gen hardware to once again produce a masterpiece of open world gaming and whilst this was beyond all expectation for most, for me there was something missing. The viewing distances were a little short, the background lacked detail and the jaggies, jaggies everywhere. I yearned for the power of PC but my call was not answered, for nineteen months me and my PC brethren have wandered the wilderness and finally our prayers have been answered. Do the PC master race finally have the ability to smooth out the crooked edges?
Game: Grand Theft Auto V
Developer: Rockstar North
Publisher: Rockstar Games
(Review code provided by publisher. Also, warning, this review may contain humour. MAY.)
After a long 60 gigabyte install I loaded into the games prequel/tutorial section swiftly gunning down enemies before making it to a getaway vehicle, that’s when I saw it, the thick yellow line placed within the minimap, it was there with distorted, jagged edges. Nooooo why is this happening? Why would you do this to me GTA V PC, you were the chosen one! A quick visit to the graphics menu revealed that while FXAA was turned on, MSAA had been set to the off position. I turned the expensive anti aliasing option up to 8 and while my frame rate paid a heavy price, dropping from around 115 frames to something hovering around 60, the jagged line had been banished. This is the power of PC gaming, the ability to tweak settings for the best performance on the hardware that an individual currently has available to them. For me that was everything turned up to max at a variable 60 frames and a 1080p resolution. All this running on a single Nvidia 970 as well as an i7 processor and 8 gigabytes of RAM.
So the jaggies are gone and the game looks rather good, need I say more? Okay fine, whilst the game looks great and it does look great, it should be needless to say that it is by no means perfect or flawless. The next-gen versions of the game introduced the first person camera which is great, it offers a completely different perspective to Los Santos, the world suddenly seems grander and suddenly you’re playing an open world first person shooter cum racer but Call of Duty or Project CARS this is not. The gun models/textures are simple while car interiors lack detail and that touch of quality to truly immerse a player in the driving experience. For me GTA V is a third person game, it was designed for this perspective and most definitely looks best with the camera set behind the player but it’s always nice to have the option, especially when it changes the way we experience Rockstar’s virtual world.
It may seem like I’m nitpicking but trust me the game is a vision of beauty, let me tell you about it. Rockstar have shrunk the city of Los Angeles into Los Santos cramming in all the iconic parts of the city and trimming the fat. The downtown skyscrapers are something to behold and can be seen from almost anywhere on the map, they sit there as a focal point giving you a good idea of where you are on the map without having to pause the game to actually consult the damn thing. Other iconic landmarks are here too, Vespucci beach (complete with protein munching bodybuilders), glistens in the sun. Vinewood hills add a luscious shade of green while the baron lands of Sandy Shore offer something completely different to make the whole game world feel large and imposing.
The single player portion is enthralling, we already know that from Ben Ward’s review, I imagine a large chunk of PC gamers have by hook or by crook already experienced the this mode and will be wondering if it’s worth a second visit. The answer is an ambiguous yes and no. It feels really good to play the game at a solid sixty frames re-treading the adventures of Michael, Trevor, and Franklin but the content lacks the punch it had when it was fresh out of the box. My focus was on the online portion of the game which ultimately left me with mixed feelings.
GTA Online is a great concept, drop a bunch of crooks into the connected world of Los Santos and let the mayhem ensue and boy does it ensue… on occasion. A wide range of missions are available from competitive racing to fully co-operative multi-staged heists. There’s a lot on offer here, perhaps too much, many activities seem uninteresting or not well thought out, Rockstar could have trimmed the fat for a tighter experience. Almost all the juicy missions and objectives are instanced with prolonged mulit-staged matchmaking, the time it takes to actually spawn into a mission can often be longer than the objective itself which is disappointing and makes GTA Online feel like a time wasting experience. Servers are world wide which means you’ll hear a wide range of profanity if you dare to plug in a headset. Lag is also an issue with players teleporting all over the shop.
Online heists are awesome when you actually find a crew competent enough to complete the objectives. Groups seem to disband after the first failure leaving you back in the open world, often after a protracted setup phase which includes unskippable cut scenes. To be fair Rockstar do recommend that such feats should be embarked upon with a group of friends complete with voice communication but you can’t help but feel a more robust system would allow for a random group to successfully complete some if not all the heists on offer.
Grand Theft Auto V is up there with some of the best games ever made, it is the king of open world games with quality that matches its vast quantity. The online mode is good, but misses out on the opportunity to be great. And while the director mode offers something unique to the PC, it is perhaps not the core of the Los Santos experience. Already played GTA V and think you can skip the PC version? Think again, if you have a beastly machine that can run the game at the higher settings then you owe it to yourself to experience the beauty of Los Santos once more. This time without the jagged lines. YES!
(Just like our other reviews… It’s great, buy it)