Grand Theft Auto 5 feels like it's worth the wait. I played the PC version for the first time recently, and although 17 months is hell of a long time, this absolutely plays like the ultimate version of the open-world sequel that Rockstar first released on consoles in 2013.
There's no doubt some skepticism based on some past ports of Rockstar games, like GTA 4, and the ongoing, slightly heartbreaking absence of Red Dead Redemption on PC might make you wonder how much the publisher values the platform next to consoles. Max Payne 3 was a vast improvement, though, and I see no reason to be concerned with GTA 5 either—this port looks incredible and I swore a hell of a lot (in a good way) at the gorgeous skylines during my hands-on. This is a handsome game.
I was shown the game in 4K resolution running at 60fps. The PC Rockstar was demoing it on is outside the price range of most consumers, with an i7 firstname.lastname@example.orgGHz, SLI GTX 980, 32GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, but that’s just to show off how pretty it can look. Rockstar says that even average rigs won’t have a problem getting great 1080p performance out of the game, which is encouraging. Scalability is a priority for them.
If you’d like to know the full range of graphics options available in GTA 5, I’ve collected them in a separate story, but I think they’re as much as players could ask for. The fact Rockstar let me share them with you is rare for a press demo, where a lot of those details are locked down until release, sometimes not for the best reasons—it demonstrates a real degree of confidence in the port.
Having mostly skipped the next-gen console editions while waiting for the PC release, the PC version of GTA 5 looks like an entirely new game to me. First of all, 60fps makes a hell of a difference. You can’t get this in any of the console versions, so on that level alone makes GTA 5 PC the superior version. Seeing this extraordinary environment run so smoothly while you’re driving through it is a treat.
The demo starts with Franklin, one of GTA 5's three protagonists, at the top of the colossal Mount Chiliad. The land mass of Los Santos looks extraordinary from here and there's already a stunning difference from this view—every detail is so sharp from even miles out, with an absurd draw distance stretching far into the horizon. It’s a true "holy shit" moment. This is so far beyond what I remember playing the game for over 50 hours on Xbox 360, and beyond what the next-gen consoles are capable of.
Franklin drives a motorbike off a ramp and soars towards the ground, eventually parachuting to a soft landing before getting in a car. Soon control is handed to me and I drive from the hills into the city. I arrive on the trashy, well-lit Vinewood Boulevard at night—Los Santos’s Hollywood analogue—and just drive up and down absorbing the detail. The layout is the same as I remember it, but it’s like going from being short-sighted (or hungover) to having perfect vision: I’m impressed by how beautiful the lighting is, how the reflections look on cars at night, how convincing the weather effects are. This is exactly how I hoped the PC port would shape up. It makes me want to chuck my 780 in the bin and get 4K-ready immediately.
I explored a decent cross-section of the game during my demo. First, Rockstar gets me to try out a single-player heist. This one involves digging into an underground bank vault and making off with some gold by helicopter. Heists bring Franklin, Michael and Trevor together, and require that you choose crew members and do some preparation before pulling off a big job.