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Grand Theft Auto V Review



I think it is fair to start by saying that even though the console versions of GTA V released first that the PC version is not a console port, or if it is, we can wish every port was as good [editor's note: Rockstar has said it is not a port]. There are a myriad of graphics options, including some to take it well past consoles, and special graphics technologies from both AMD and NVIDIA. Specifically it includes NVIDIA's TXAA temporal anti-aliasing technique and both companies' methods for softening shadows based on distance: AMD's Contact Hardening Shadows and NVIDIA's Percentage Closer Soft Shadows. I will talk about both of these, but want to cover some other things first.

Textures average out to being very good, with some places being better and others being worse. If you have played many open-world games, you can probably guess where the poorer textures are - the places most people would not look or would not look closely at. Some rocks, the insides of cars, and other incidentals. What is a bit more obvious is the repetition of some textures, such as those for the sides of mountains, the desert, and also the roads. The roads are not always as obvious, especially if you are traveling fast enough, but they do repeat. Still, they have nice detail to them, so while this is definitely noticeable, I do not think there is much to complain about.











Models are also very good, but without any averaging. I cannot recall a single object that had a low quality model. There are some examples of shadows being used to add depth, instead of a more complicated model, but it still looks good, and I see little reason to get that particular. Similarly, the undersides of cars can look very flat, but as you are not supposed to see those that often, this is forgivable.

Hair is kind of mixed. While it does look good, from what I have seen (I have not tested out every hairdo), it is a static addition to character models. Of course it is probably too much to expect flowing locks in GTA V, but sometimes things can look patchy and it does catch at least my eye.

Animations are also mixed, but in a very different way. The in-game cinematics are all quite nice to watch, as are many of the regular gameplay animations. Facial animations, however, when outside of these cinematics, can be dull to watch when in first-person or in a clip with the Rockstar Editor. Basically the characters may be written to be quite emotional, but their faces will not show it when you look at them. Fortunately the third-person camera really does not expose this to the player.



Vegetation does have some problems to it. Yes, it does look good, but interactions with it can be troublesome. Sometimes plants and grass will bend down when you drive over them, sometimes when you just drive near them, and sometimes they will just clip right through you. That clipping is definitely annoying if only for the inconsistency with other plants. Also some hedges are solid walls that you cannot drive through, but I recently found one place with destructible hedges.


The lighting was beautiful, although there were some issues with it. One was during a single in-game cinematic when the characters were well lit, even though it was night and no light sources were present. The other is persistent throughout the game, but not always noticeable. A box apparently exists around the character and it sometimes was outlined by light cutting through shadow. If you catch something out of the corner of your eye, this may be it.


Shadows are a bit more complicated in a few ways. For one thing we have two options for distance-based softening, AMD Contact Hardening Shadows (CHS) and NVIDIA Percentage Closer Soft Shadows (PCSS), and there are differences between them. Both technologies are supposed to soften shadows the farther they are from the object casting them, like in real life, and in my experience, they both were. I have seen screenshots where one option almost completely failed to do so, but I could not reproduce this in the game. However, PCSS did produce better looking shadows. For some reason CHS had a boxy look to it, like it was sampling at a low resolution, and coincidentally turning on High Resolution Shadows under Advanced Graphics significantly reduced this, but did not remove it. Also when the shadows were within that box I just mentioned, the shadows became completely sharp. I am not sure why or how it was buggy like this, but PCSS was not, from what I could see, and so is the better option, based on my experience.


AMD CHS on the left and NVIDIA PCSS on the right.

AMD CHS hardening within the box.


Water looked very good almost everywhere. Waves and foam in the ocean looked realistic and substantial. The interactions with water could have been better, especially as some looked to be completely pre-rendered. Ripples from rain drops were like this, as they lacked the chaos I can see through the window. Also the spray from a jet ski looks like it is just something thrown onto the screen, instead of water being thrown. Reflections in the water definitely looked good, but were so distorted it almost seemed unnatural. What I mean is that the puddles did not look to be as disturbed as the reflections suggested. Reflections on solid surfaces, like cars, looked much better, but were not like a mirror.

Explosions look good, but fire does not, plain and simple. It is obviously a pre-rendered animation just being played in the world, instead of something living and with depth. Considering the amount of fire there can be in the game, from exploding vehicles, it would have been nice to see something better, but it is what it is.



As usual, here are my specs before talking about performance:

  • Processor: AMD A10-5800K @ 4.40 GHz (44.0x100)
  • Cooling: Corsair H110
  • Motherboard: ASUS F2A85-M PRO
  • GPU: NVIDIA GTX 980 4 GB
  • PhysX: EVGA GTX 770 2 GB
  • Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 4x8 GB (32 GB total) at 1866 MHz 10-10-10-27
  • PSU: OCZ Fata1ty 750 W
  • OS: Windows 7- Professional 64-bit

I played with most of the Graphics settings on max, but only some of the Advanced Graphics settings on max. This is because certain options appear to be especially hard on some systems. Specifically MSAA was off (so TXAA is also off), Reflection Quality was on Very High, Reflection MSAA was off, Grass Quality was on Very High, High Resolution Shadows was off, and Extended Distance Scaling was turned all the way down. These options appeared to be especially taxing on my system, which was already struggling, so I needed them off for a playable experience. Also depth of field and motion blur were off, but that was by personal choice, as always with me.


At these settings, the game probably averaged in the 40s, but it fluctuated a fair bit. There were times it would be at 60 FPS, and times it would be down at 30. There were also times when the game dropped below 30 and stuttered. This happened a lot when I crashed a car and particles were generated, but this did not always seem to be the case. One thing that always, and I do mean always, plunged the framerate was to have the lights on when in the mini-submarine, near underwater plant life. Without the lights on, the framerate could be up to 60, easily, but turn the lights on and it would plummet to 30 or lower, bringing with it the most severe stutter I can remember ever experiencing. Either keep those lights off or use them sparingly.

Based on what I experienced and what I have seen reported elsewhere, I am inclined to say that GTA V is very CPU dependent, and my processor just could not handle it at times. It was still playable for the great majority of the time, but it still makes me wish I were in a position to upgrade. While I could probably have turned down some of the scaling to help with this, my preference is to play at as high of settings as is playable when reviewing a game.



One bug I experienced I have to mention if only because it took me a long time to find the solution and it actually delayed me by two days in the process. One of the missions, Blitz Play, has an issue in it that when the game swaps you from Franklin to Michael, it will crash. For a while I thought I may have to stop playing and just review the game up to that point, but then I found an unobvious solution. Because you can play either the GTA V Story Mode or GTA Online, there is a landing page you can launch to, and then choose from there where to go. If you know where you want to go, you can turn off the landing page and set what to go to at launch. I did this because my focus was mostly on the Story Mode. It turns out that disabling the landing page somehow causes the crash I was experiencing, but re-enabling it fixed the issue. How this would be the solution, I do not know. Hopefully the issue will be fixed before long. I suffered no other serious issues.


  1. Grand Theft Auto V Review - Introduction
  2. Grand Theft Auto V Review - Graphics
  3. Grand Theft Auto V Review - Story
  4. Grand Theft Auto V Review - Gameplay
  5. Grand Theft Auto V Review - Additional Gameplay Media
  6. Grand Theft Auto V Review - Conclusion
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