PC Port Report: Grand Theft Auto V

Wonky tennis at 60 frames per second

After many delays and what feels like forever, Grand Theft Auto V is finally on PC. It’s incredibly exciting to just think of all the hilarious and unique mods that people will inevitably come up with to change the game. I mean, it’s already happening! What a time to be alive.

None of that would matter though, if the PC port of the game was useless. Thankfully, that is not the case here. It’s clear that the team at Rockstar working on this version used all of their time wisely and really wanted to put out a solid port for people to enjoy. 

Grand Theft Auto V (PC, [tested], PS3, Xbox 360)
Developer: Rockstar Games
Publisher: Take Two
Released: September 17, 2013 / April 14, 2015
MSRP: $59.99
Rig: Intel i7-4770k 3.50 GHz, 8GB of RAM, GeForce GTX 560 Ti GPU 

First of all, know this: Grand Theft Auto V on PC is a whopping 60 gigabytes. Let me spell it out for you — sixty! Be careful if your Internet plan has a data cap, because this is guaranteed to push it to the limit. You also may need to clear some space on your harddrive, so be aware of that before you begin the download!

The next step is setting up your Rockstar Social Club account. The account name system bans certain  words, so if your last name happens to contain a “bad word,” you can’t include it in your account name (sigh). The system has been more or less unobtrusive, though it is annoying that the game can’t simply use everyone’s Steam ID since they get linked anyway. However, this does allow players to transfer their characters from the consoles to the PC.

Grand Theft Auto V has a metric butt-ton of options for the users to play with and optimize. Because of this, many players will be able to find a group of settings that allows GTA V to run very smoothly on their rig. Perhaps the best thing the game does is show the amount of video memory for the installed graphics card. As the user changes the settings, the amount of video memory the game is using will fluctuate. This helps players, especially those not in tune to optimization, fine-tune the numbers to get a smooth experience.

After some tinkering, I was able to run the game at my native 1920×1080 resolution and consistently get 60 frames per second. I wasn’t able to turn the textures to High, but the game still looks great. In order to run it at this resolution, however, I had to turn off the option that limits players to their graphics card memory usage. The number it was showing was barely higher than the total for my graphics card, and it doesn’t seem to have any real trouble running the game smoothly.

The framerate does occasionally dip to around 30 when traveling around mountainous or heavily wooded areas. After running at a constant 60 for the rest of the time, this dip in framerate is very noticeable and is very consistent in the aforementioned areas. YouTube user “wiliextreme” did a great job showing different graphics settings in this video.

The biggest issue with the PC version of GTA V is the long and frequent loading times when playing online. When cruising around and enjoying the city of Los Santos, the game is great. However, when players want to do missions, the main way to advance online, they get thrown into frequent long load times.

Getting into a mission forces the game to load, and this loading time feels like forever. In reality it’s around two minutes, usually. Then there’s the potential of waiting for players to join in, which can also take some time, but at least this wait is understandable. I’ve even loaded into a game that was full, forcing me to load back into Los Santos, back at square one. Once the mission is completed, players vote to either retry (if failed) or for what the next mission should be (if succeeded). Then, when loading whatever is next in store, another long load time rears its ugly head.

I have the game installed on a traditional HDD, since the game is HUGE, but I’ve seen other players who have installed it on an SSD having the same issue with load times. The initial load into the online portion of the game is much longer than loading into missions, but to be fair it is quite a large city to be loaded.

Just like any online game, GTAV Online‘s lag comes from being paired up with players who are far away or with poor connections. Most of my time was rather lag-free, however being in a car with someone who is lagging is not an entertaining experience. “Woah we’re just about to crash into that– oh, nevermind we’re on the highway now.” Doing missions like this makes certain players virtually useless as they teleport all over the place and neither player knows what’s really happening.

Playing with friends can be an absolute blast, but also frustrating to get going. Loading into the same instance of Los Santos is easy enough, but joining the same mission, especially on the same team, is not. Since there’s no “party” system in GTA V Online, one player needs to join a mission and then invite others to that mission. Then, if there are teams, chances are they will not be on the same team. Heck, the mission might even be started by the host before a friend can join the mission. Part of this can be alleviated by someone becoming the host and having the “Remain Host after Next Job Vote Screen” option enabled, though this is disabled by default.

There’s also the first-person perspective mode, which is certainly interesting. There is a field-of-view (FOV) slider, but the highest it goes is incredibly low for most people. However, there is a mod to increase the FOV in first-person. In fact, the whole idea of mods being implemented at all is what skyrockets the PC version of the game into the realm of infinite possibilities! 

I’ve seen some users mention that, depending on graphics cards, the framerate can inexplicably go down at times. Some 970 users have seen their framerate drop to the 30s when inside vehicles, for example. The game has gotten a few patches already in order to fix some bugs and performance, so the team seems to be paying attention and can hopefully iron things out in a timely manner.

Using a controller (tested with a wireless Xbox 360 controller) is a seamless experience. Players can easily swap between the keyboard and mouse control style to a controller by simply pressing a button on a controller. When playing missions online, the game will even let others know who is using a controller and who is on a mouse and keyboard setup. That way, when one person dominates an online deathmatch mission, everyone understand why.

The game also works well using Steam’s Big Picture mode. I was initially worried because of the Rockstar Social Club integration, but the game automatically maps the mouse to the left analog stick when using a controller. So when the Social Club overlay is used, players using a controller can still respond to friend requests or look at game invites.

Another big draw in the PC version of the game is the video capturing and editing program that’s built in to the game, the Rockstar Editor. Capturing footage is as easy as hitting a button, so long as you have the amount of space needed to actually capture the footage. Editing is rather simple, but convoluted in many ways. First of all, it is only possible to access the editor while playing offline, which took me forever to figure out. Adding things like camera angles and filters is incredibly easy, but adding text is a bit annoying. Adding text to a specific location to the video is easy, but the game doesn’t give a preview of the video at that time, so players need to go in and out of the actual video to see what it looks like. It’s an extra step that’s totally unnecessary, but the editor is still crazy good for being in-game.

The GTA V port has one of the most important aspects to any PC game: malleability. The amount of options help ensure that players with at least semi-decent rigs should be able to run it well. The online portion of the game isn’t as cohesive as it should be, but GTA V can easily be one of the PC ports that players point to in the future and say “why isn’t it more like that?”

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

Patrick Hancock
During the day, he teaches high school kids about history. At night he kicks their butts in competitive games like Rocket League, Dota 2, Overwatch, and Counter-Strike. Disclosure: I've personally backed Double Fine Adventure, Wasteland 2, Dead State, SPORTSFRIENDS, Torment: Tides of Numera, STRAFE, and The Binding of Isaac: Four Souls. I have previously written for AbleGamers.com and continue to support them whenever possible (like HumbleBundle).