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Rating: +36 (from 52 votes)

We have not yet reviewed Grand Theft Auto 5 on AAGH. It originally came out in 2013, and has been re-released twice, first on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and then, most recently, on PC. We have reviewed Grand Theft Auto 4 (twice) as well as Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (also twice), but not Grand Theft Auto 5. Today we plug that gap in our resume by reviewing GTA 5’s latest incarnation on PC. Is it overrated, or did we miss a gem twice over?

Truth be told, we didn’t “miss” it at all. I personally have played it before on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Xbox One, and the PC version is hands down my favorite. It looks great, obviously, because Grand Theft Auto 5 has always looked great, but this is the best it has looked yet, and somewhat surprisingly it’s not that really a hardware hog. Its greatest feat is that it is very scalable (unlike another PC game we will be looking at very soon) and can run – and look great – on a wide range of hardware. The shader effects are top-notch with rain in the city at night being especially spectacular. The character models are starting to show their age but their animations are still great and the overall texturing has been bumped up a notch and looks amazing.

Grand Theft Auto 5 PC

For those that like to listen to the radios in their cars (unlike me), Rockstar added a whole new radio station as well as an MP3 station to play your own tracks, either in order, randomized, or with special DJ and fake commercial inserts. The worst thing I can say about that is that the radio forces you to change the station to your preferred channel every time you get in a car, when it would be nice to have that handled automatically like in GTAs of old. The voice acting is still some of the best in the business, with the actors all nailing their roles perfectly.

The gameplay, for all of its bells and whistles, still shows the beating heart born in GTA 3, and despite their added fluff and pumped up presentation, they often boil down to the same basic actions from that 2001 classic. You usually get in a car, drive somewhere, then once there either shoot the people there or chase someone else in their car, and then sometimes ending in a getaway. A large number of missions ultimately boil down to those basic actions, and while the story, characters and mechanics make them fun, they can’t really make them original or unique. A lot of the time the most fun is in the character exchanges and interaction during the missions as opposed to what you’re actually doing on the mission. The heists are larger, multistep processes with big showpiece events involved, but even they don’t always deviate that much from the norm in their execution.

What makes these relatively repetitive tasks tolerable is the mechanics they’re tied to. From the shooting and cover system, to the driving, to just the way the characters move, this is as polished an action game as I have ever played. Everything feels right, which is something that you can’t say about majority of games. The first person perspective is fun to play in, if a little more difficult, and gives you a really immersive perspective on the world. Standing on a street corner in Los Santos feels more realistic when you’re looking at it through your characters eyes as opposed to over their shoulder. My one critique of the first person perspective ties in to the Rockstar Video Editor, one of the new PC exclusive (for now) features.

Grand Theft Auto 5 PC

The Rockstar Video Editor allows you to capture footage while playing, either continuously by pressing F1, or retroactively by pressing F2 to engage Action Replay mode and then ALT-F1 to save your recent actions to video. The second option is ideal for me since I don’t know when a memorable event is going to happen, so being able to hit that key combo to save the last minute or so whenever something amazing happens is handy. Once you open the video in the Rockstar Video Editor, not only can you cut it, slow it down or add effects, but you can take the camera and place it anywhere you want – so long as you were playing in third person when the events in the video happened. If you took the video in first person – or were in first person at any time during the video – you’re stuck with that camera angle, which is disappointing since it means if I intend to really use the replay and video editor functions, I can’t play from my preferred first person perspective. It’s understandable from a technical standpoint but still a bummer.

Grand Theft Auto Online is the most divisive portion of GTA 5. As a concept it’s great – a huge, beautiful online sandbox based on a great game engine in which you can run wild with both your friends and strangers. Execution is a little rougher, particularly that last point. I haven’t had any major lag issues and the game world is as much fun to play in online as off, but it’s the other players that can ruin the fun. I’m not even talking about griefers or people who spew offense nonsense on voice chat – though those do exist – but rather the hackers and cheaters online. It’s hard to blame a developer for players’ actions online, but in this case Rockstar does have to shoulder some of the blame. Their cheat prevention methods have so far fallen well short of stemming the tide of hackers. This has chased a sizable portion of the online community to private or crew-only lobbies rather than public sessions, hurting the mode’s population. The other issue is that the mode is occasionally buggy, from simple things like races starting with players facing the wrong direction to the loss of money, progress and cars. When everything in GTA Online comes together it’s a beautiful thing, but that doesn’t happen quite as often as one would like.

As a whole, GTA 5 is a spectacular single player experience with a fascinating yet slightly broken multiplayer experience attached. For those who want to buy it specifically for the multiplayer, join a good Crew (which are like guilds in a typical MMO) or bring your own friends so you’re not at risk of players using hacks to ruin your experience. I wholeheartedly recommend Grand Theft Auto 5, and GTA Online, to everyone. Is it the best GTA yet? Absolutely, and it’s also one of the best games in a long time, period. Take it from us and do not miss it this time around – this is, hands down, the definitive version of Grand Theft Auto 5.

Final Score

9.5

Pluses:

Minuses:

+ Looks and sounds amazing

+ Outstanding game play

+ Beautiful game world

+ Fun and versatile physics engine

+ GTA Online can be a blast when it works

+ Great replay/video capture options

+ Scales very well with hardware

– Online issues are too frequent

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