Games Review: Grand Theft Auto V (PC, 2015)

It’s been an exceedingly long wait for PC gamers who were looking forward to getting their hands on Grand Theft Auto V. It finally released, after a nearly two-year wait that was punctuated by delays, with a few new features that allow the PC master race to really make the most of their time in Los Santos, San Andreas.

At this point, you’d have to go pretty far to find someone who hasn’t played Grand Theft Auto V so recapping the story almost seems redundant but lets do it anyway. The story follows three career criminals of various backgrounds and mental stability. Hothead Michael De Santa, small-time thug Franklin Clinton and dedicated lunatic Trevor Philips. Michael is a retired con, bored with his indulgent, comfortable life and firmly in the grip of a brand new mid-life crisis. He’s just begun to build a mutually beneficial relationship with Franklin when Trevor, an old colleague with an axe to grind, gets wind of his movements and comes to “reconnect.”

The city of Los Santos continues to earn its reputation as one of the true wonders of of the video game world. The PC version unlocks any number of graphical tweaks and new resolutions above 1080p that those with beefy enough rigs can take advantage of. Once you’ve cranked everything up to max on rig with a 4K monitor and seen it running at 60fps … it’s really hard to accept anything less. It makes Los Santos come alive even more vibrantly and convincingly than it did in any of the console versions. Lighting, reflections and textures all blend together to create a city that feels entirely real. There aren’t many games that are worth substantially upgrading your rig for anymore, but for Grand Theft Auto V you should consider making an exception.

Grand Theft Auto V comes loaded for bear with everything you loved about the console versions – the vast array of activities on offer, stunts, side-quests, vehicles to try, licenses to obtain, skills to train in, property to manage, stocks to trade. This of course means many of the problems you had with the game in those versions persist here as well. You still have to unlock different activities through the course of play rather than having the whole sprawling world available from the jump for instance.

There’s a new feature here that is exclusive to the PC version – that’s the Rockstar Editor, a piece of movie making software built into the game that will make it easier than ever to create machinima films from in-game footage. It’s a great way to capture the kind of insane moments that can never be recreated which are GTA’s stock-in-trade. It’s surpsingly robust, extremely user friendly and I lost quite a bit of time to playing around with it.

The PC version also comes with a few problems of its own – many players ran into a bug on day one that prevented them from installing or playing the game if their Windows username contained characters outside of a certain alphanumeric continuum. That particular issue was speedily fixed by Rockstar after it was revealed to be quite widespread. I experienced a few crashes on the high-end and mid-range systems I ran the game on and there were some pretty substantial texture errors when I dropped into GTA Online as well.

One feature that isn’t present in the PC version is the omission of any kind of toolset for modding. I feel like there’s a pretty significant opportunity that’s been missed here, especially when you look at the kind of shelf life other open world titles like Skyrim have had – and continue to have – thanks to an active and dedicated community of modders. Grand Theft Auto IV had no toolset for modding either and modders had to figure out how to manipulate the code to insert their alterations. I mean, the game is already on Steam! Open it up to Steam Workshop! I live in hope that Rockstar will get onboard with mod support in the future because, to me at least, it just seems like such a slam dunk.

Moving onto GTA Online, that experience has been ported to the PC version too and you can even import your character from other versions of the game if you so desire. While my relationship with GTA Online could be described as patchy at best, trying to play it on PC proved to be a bit of a challenge. I was plagued with disconnects and bizarre matchmaking bugs that I hope Rockstar will quickly patch out but really derailed the experience for me.

Grand Theft Auto V’s problems drop away, as they always do, when you find yourself hurtling down the coastal freeway with a gorgeous sunset in your view, the light gleaming from your vehicle and one of the game’s many wonderfully curated radio stations blaring in your ears. It remains a towering achievement in open world game design and, despite my having spent a not-insignificant amount of time in two previous versions, I found myself getting pulled in all over again.

Review Score: 8.5 out of 10
Highlights: Prettier than ever; Rockstar Editor is a welcome surprise
Lowlights: No mod support; Online still a bit on the buggy side
Developer: Rockstar North
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Released: April 14, 2015
Platform: PC

Reviewed on PC

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David Smith

David Smith is the games and technology editor at The AU Review. He has previously written for PC World Australia. You can find him on Twitter at @RhunWords.

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