Article by Nathan Brown.
With the current-gen console versions of Grand Theft Auto 5 now on shelves, and the launch of GTA Online just days away, the time is surely nearing for Rockstar to drop the pretence and confirm what everyone suspects: that the game is heading to next-gen consoles and, more importantly, PC. We're confident a Rockstar team is beavering away on a Windows version right now, and we’re sure the famously, um, self-effacing studio is open to our ideas. Here, then, are the five things we most want to see from Grand Theft Auto 5 on PC.
An expanded GTA Online
Rockstar's vision of a persistent, ever-growing multiplayer world is intriguing, but an upper limit of 16 players? Come on. Console players used to 6v6 Call Of Duty multiplayer might be satisfied with that, but QuakeWorld was offering PC gamers a higher player count than that more than 15 years ago. The thought of 64 players wreaking havoc in Los Santos and its surrounds is mouth-watering, and our rigs are more than up to the task.
In fact it’s GTA Online that gives the strongest indication that GTA 5 is coming to PC: this has been in the works for a decade and built to last for years, not tacked on to the fag-end of a console generation. Rockstar admit that their long-term vision for GTA Online is fleshing out the world to include locations from previous games in the series. In a recent interview with Game Informer, Rockstar North president Leslie Benzies said: “We’ve set [GTA Online] up so there are no limitations. The only limitation is the size of the disc and how much memory we’ve got.” Well, Leslie, we don’t use discs, and we’ve got spare memory by the gigabyte. Go nuts.
All of the graphics
Grand Theft Auto 5 is a beautiful game, but it’s all relative: it’s a remarkable technical achievement because of what Rockstar have wringed out of consoles of such age and modest power. Look a little closer and you can see where the developers have cut little corners to get the game running on consoles at a steady 30fps. Low texture detail and a lack of antialiasing are the most obvious, but seasoned PC players will spot even more. These aren’t the HD shadows we’re used to. The blocky low-res logo on that sports-team-branded hoodie is an affront to the eyes. And is all that motion blur on the vehicles really necessary?
We’ll need an exhaustive suite of graphics options, then. Support for custom resolutions, too, and this time we’d like to be able to change everything in-game without requiring a restart like GTA 4 did. And while I'm daydreaming, how about a free camera mode to let us unleash our inner Dead End Thrills, or sanctioned mod support for a next-gen version of the almost frighteningly pretty GTA 4 mod, ICEnhancer? Don't even get me started on the dodgy optimisation and sluggish Rockstar Social Club/Games for Windows Live wrapping that strangled Nico's outing. The good news is that Rockstar have done a much better job cleaning up PC versions of both LA Noir and Max Payne 3 in recent times.
A more detailed open world
That extra processing power shouldn’t just be spent on texture resolution, of course. While GTAV’s sprawling world is packed full of things to see and do, there are areas in which it would clearly benefit from a bigger memory pool. The incidential dialogue from pedestrian NPCs, for instance, can grow repetitive, particularly if you stay in one area for too long. And many of them don’t say anything at all. Unless you punch them in the back of the head, of course.
And in some ways this is a less interactive world than that of Grand Theft Auto IV. Storefronts and doors are flat, unreactive textures. There are relatively few places to buy food, which can frustrate in a game where only half of your health bar automatically refills, with a snack or medkit required to fully replenish it. It’s a beautiful world that’s teeming with things to do, but greater processing power means more can be done with the little touches that turn this vast space into a more believable open world.
A launch next summer
A release date would be good. An obvious point, perhaps, but how else are we to ensure we book the right week off work? Our money's on May, which until GTAV's delay had become Rockstar's traditional release slot. Last year's Max Payne 3, 2011's LA Noire and, before that, Red Dead Redemption all saw release in May; Grand Theft Auto 4 missed it by a matter of days, launching in the final days of April 2008. Rockstar’s parent company Take-Two clearly likes a big Rockstar release in May, too, and will be keen for that hole on its annual balance sheet to be filled.
The one potential spanner in the works is DLC. GTA 4's two expansions, The Lost And Damned and The Ballad Of Gay Tony, launched many months later - with the latter release hitting Xbox 360 some 18 months after the main game (and not reaching PC for another six months after that). If the PC release is going to be a Game Of The Year-type affair with story DLC included, we may be in for quite a wait. Judging by what Rockstar have said about their post-launch plans online, though, it seems their efforts won't be concentrated on the single-player mode.
A faithful conversion
Yes, the thing we most want from Grand Theft Auto 5 on PC is Grand Theft Auto 5 itself, because Grand Theft Auto 5 is brilliant. Even on ageing, underpowered console hardware it’s a fantastic experience, and a massive improvement on what has come before. Just about every mechanical flaw with the series has been fixed, from better on-foot controls to friendlier vehicle handling, tighter gunplay and an excellent suite of missions, including the intricate heists that anchor the finely told narrative.
And in Michael, Trevor and Franklin it has a trio of protagonists, switchable on the fly, who between them accommodate just about every GTA theme and playstyle. Franklin, the frustrated gangbanger with an eye on a better life; Michael, the jaded retiree whose family hates him, struggling to adjust to life on the straight and narrow; and Trevor, a brilliantly realised psycho who’s the perfect vehicle for emergent rampages, protracted police chases and punching innocent bystanders in the back of the head because you feel like it. It’s a remarkable game, even at 720p and 30fps, but there’s room for improvement - and PC is the platform that will provide it. All we need now is that release date. Over to you, Rockstar.
Will GTA 5 come to PC? Ealier this week Phil rounded up all the GTA 5 PC evidence so far.