Grand Theft Auto V for PC reviewed – The definitive crime simulator

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To date, the console versions of Grand Theft Auto V have racked up over 43 million sales in total according to VGChartz, and much anticipation greeted the PC version of the game in late March.

PC gamers had been waiting for a long time, too, as Rockstar had continually delayed the game from its initial 2014 release, then to January 2015, then again to March as it worked to incorporate a new Heists mode into the game’s multiplayer that let gamers take on robberies with other live players that would launch across all platforms alongside the PC version of the game.

But it was more than just the prospect of Heists that had PC gamers in a frenzy over GTA V: it was the idea that they could finally play the game as its creators had intended. That meant high-resolution textures instead of the muddy console ones and crisp, sharp graphics thanks to the PC version’s ability to run the game on multiple monitors and crazy-high resolutions, all running at a higher frame rate than the measly 30fps of the console versions.

GTA V - Pretty
Bask in the glory of full-resolution, max settings graphics running at 60fps.

The question on everyone’s mind is likely “Did Rockstar deliver?” The answer, I am happy to say, is yes.

Runs like a dream

The game runs like a dream, it plays brilliantly with a keyboard and mouse and it looks even better than we PC gamers could have hoped thanks to our platform’s superior graphical hardware and all the options they afford us.

The single-player, criminals-in-search-of-their-big-score story is intact: ex-bank-robber Michael, gangsta-from-the-ghetto Franklin and psychopath Trevor’s saga is as intense and engaging as ever, and even a bit more satisfying to play through again as returning players know what to expect.

Especially now that we know to NOT PLAY LESTER’S ASSASSINATION MISSIONS UNTIL AFTER THE BIG FINALE so we can mess with the in-game stock market afterwards with a good bit of capital.

GTA V PC - 1st Person
Rockstar has done a lot of work to make sure car interiors look amazing.

Also, the new first-person perspective makes it almost feel like a brand-new game entirely.

Stunning soundtrack

Adding even more awesome to the PC version of the game is an expanded soundtrack. GTA V on console already had a long, diverse track listing that made listening to the various radio stations a real pleasure, but the PC version has even more good music to be a criminal douche to.

How many? Try 162 new songs across all 13 radio stations, made up of a mix of well-known and obscure songs from a variety of genres, artists and time periods.

I was very happy to hear CCR’s Fortunate Son come on unexpectedly, stoked to hear Alannah Miles’ Black Velvet, overjoyed to listen to ZZ Top’s Gimme all your Lovin’ and ecstatic to hear that seminal favourite of 80s kids everywhere, Starship’s We Built This City. Good going, Rockstar.

Can you tell I stuck mostly to Los Santos Rock Radio, and I loved every minute of it?

Ironically self-aware

On the game itself, while the action-packed story was fun to play through again, this time around I took the time to thoroughly appreciate its ironic self-parody.

At the end of the game, the player finds themselves in the same position as Michael did at the start: loaded, but bored, with only superficial activities to occupy their time and a long list of “things” to acquire that don’t actually satisfy any particular emotional need.

GTA V - Pointless Things
Sure its nice, but so what?

I found it to be a brilliant way to highlight just how hollow the American Dream really is, but also the hedonistic fun that’s to be had reaching that point of realisation.

A smattering of satire

As with all Grand Theft Autos since Number Three, Number Five pokes fun at American culture.

It does this by way of satirical adverts on the radio for cynical products and services, the tongue-in-cheek comments each of the characters make and the ridiculous-but-plausible missions Trevor, Michael and Franklin are sent on. Many of these openly mock what the creators clearly believe are commonly-held prejudices and stereotypes among some portions of the American populace.

GTA V - Satire
TV shows get the satirical treatment, too.

The all-pervasiveness of smartphones and social media also gets a good ribbing, with Facebook parody “Lifeinvader” the constant butt of GTA’s jokes (and one particularly amusing, startup-mocking mission), and Twitter’s in-game equivalent “Bleeter” saying exactly what the studio thinks of how the service is used by a lot of people.

Cutting Commentary

In the end the open-world, crime-comedy single-player game is a brilliant and cutting commentary on American culture, particularly on its greed and the vapid and ultimately pointless quest for “more” that does nothing but churn out damaged, severely unhappy people who attempt to fill the emotional void in their lives with excess.

It’s social commentary of the highest order, and sheer brilliance on the part of Rockstar’s writers.

What about Heists?

But you likely don’t care about any of that, and just want to know how cool the multiplayer is. In a word: Very.

GTA Online lets you enter the crime world of Los Santos as a newcomer keen on making their fortune as a criminal, starting with small jobs and working their way up the criminal ladder to the point where they’re experienced enough to be recruited as a Crew member on a big heist.

GTA V PC - GTA Online Welcome
Welcome to Los Santos. Now get rich or die trying.

I incarnated as the son of Nico Bellic and some random woman he hooked up with (you’re able to choose your genealogy in the character-creation process), and quite enjoyed the feeling of connection to Grand Theft Auto IV as I raised hell in Los Santos as the offspring of that game’s anti-hero.

Along the way I earned money by doing missions that got more dastardly the more I levelled up, bought clothes, weapons, armour and cars and upgraded my living conditions until I was a level 12 high-end apartment-dweller who was badass enough to be invited along on Lester’s “heist” missions.

Co-operation is key

When they go right, heists are very, very cool. Remember how fantastic pulling off The Big One was in the single-player game? Multiplayer heists are the same, but better as you’re pulling off the jobs with friends and strangers rather than scripted accomplices.

But, as with any game that requires co-operation from unknowns on the internet, Heists with strangers is a hit-and-miss affair. If even one person doesn’t pull their weight, you’re not going to succeed, so you’re much better off playing with like-minded friends and co-ordinating your movements with headsets.

When you get everything right, pulling a heist off is a brilliant experience that will leave you and your mates with a definite feeling of accomplishment.

I noticed very little lag during my sessions as well, except when I was racing – opponents seemed to shudder around the track – but I never felt cheated by lag during heists or missions.

Dirty, rotten cheaters

I did, however, feel cheated by actual cheaters, gamers who cared little for my enjoyment of the game and ruined my shit time and again with immortality/invisibility/infinite ammo cheats. Rockstar needs to do something about them, as several times I quit out of sheer frustration, and I wasn’t alone.

GTA Online on PC, when it works and you have a magical session devoid of cheaters, is pretty good. Heists are as gripping as I’d hoped they’d be thanks to close co-operation between myself and some internet buddies, and I really enjoyed how it felt like a secondary GTA game, with a Los Santos populated by actual players rather than just scripted pedestrians and NPCs adding a different and very welcome flavour.

Definitively Definitive

This, combined with the PC’s incredible graphical power and the resulting gorgeousness of GTA V’s visuals, made for a superb game that PC gamers absolutely have to play, even if they’ve played it before on the other consoles.

GTA V PC is the definitive version of Grand Theft Auto V, and thanks to Rockstar’s PC-specific tweaks, is the pinnacle of perfection when it comes to videogame masterpieces, and a lesson on how to port games from console to PC for every other game studio out there.

Deon du Plessis

Deon du Plessis

Deon got his first taste of PC gaming at the tender age of 11 when his father bought an 8088 XT, ostensibly to "help him with his homework". Instead, it introduced him to Leisure Suit Larry, King Graham, Sonny Bonds and many more, and Deon has been a PC gamer and hardware enthusiast ever since. He landed his first professional writing gig in 2006 at a prestigious local PC magazine, a very happy happenstance as he got to write for a living about things he loves - tech, PCs, gaming, and everything in between. He's been writing about it all ever since, and loves every minute of it.

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