In September 2013, Grand Theft Auto V finally hit our screens, albeit via the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, consoles that I loved playing on, but which were kept as a lead platform for far longer than they should have been. They weren’t incredibly powerful systems to begin with and time wasn’t kind to them. The buffed up release on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 sure looked pretty, but they still weren’t the way I wanted to play Grand Theft Auto V, not even close.
The PC release of the game was a mystery for so long, but I kept my faith. I was sure that it will be happening and it comes as little shock that I was right on the money. The only downside to the PC release was that it took so much longer than the console editions to be released. I’ve stuck to my guns and since the original console release, I haven’t played a single minute of GTA V, I don’t know the story and the only things I have seen of the gameplay are funny videos that get posted to YouTube and Reddit.
So why did I wait so long? The promise of 4K gaming, frame rates that are at least above 30, increased texture detail, longer draw distances, mods and the multitude of other graphics enhancements that PC gaming provides us. On top of that, I love my Nvidia Shield and use it to stream games around my house, the prospect of playing GTA V on a tablet while laid in bed is just too tempting. The prospect of playing it streamed to my big screen TV in 1080p at 60FPS with the graphics dialed up to ultra, even more so.
Today I’ll be rocking this high-end gaming rig, equipped with a GALAX GTX 980 4GB, an Intel Core i7 and a few other bells and whistles to help me better enjoy GTA V. Yes I know, there’s even faster hardware out there, but this is still a very powerful gaming rig and one that should make a mockery of the current generation of consoles in terms of graphics performance. Not that I dislike consoles, I own quite a few of them, but PC can and will perform better today; that’s the cold hard truth.
- Intel Core i7 4960K Devils Canyon
- Crucial Balistix 8GB DDR3
- Crucial BX00 120GB SSD
- Gigabyte Gaming 5 Micro-ATX Motherboard
- GALAX Gamer Nvidia GTX 980 4GB SOC Graphics Card
- BitFenix FURY 650W PSU
- BitFenix Aegis ICON Micro-ATX Chassis
- Nvidia Shield
- Nvidia Shield Wireless Controller
- Xbox One Controller (for PC)
The rig I built for GTA V looks fantastic and for the eagle eyed amongst you, you’ll recognise this system build from our recent review of the BitFenix Aegis chassis. It seemed the perfect chassis for the job and I think it represents the hardware of your average high-end gaming system. Sure you can throw in a few extra GPUs or any other higher end hardware, but this system is in the realm of obtainable for most budgets, without spending lavish amounts on a Titan X.
Then we’ve got the glorious Nvidia Sheild, which like many PC gaming devices these days, supports a form of game streaming technology. Much in the same way you can stream your PC games from one Steam enabled system to another, you can do the same with an Nvidia powered PC and the Shield Tablet or Shield Handheld. The desktop system does the rendering, just like it would when you were playing at your desktop, but the video is streamed to the Shield display over your network and the control commands from any connected peripherals, in this case the Shield Wireless Controller, are sent over the network to your PC; if you want to know more about this, check out our Nvidia Shield Tablet review here.
This is a tricky one to nail down right now, while the game is very well optimized for PC, at least when you consider the blundering mess that was GTA IV when it launched years ago. However, there’s still quite a few bugs causing benchmarking issues and the current wave of drivers appear to need some revising until things are running smoothly. Still, I’ve managed to find a range of settings I am happy with for this setup.
With everything dialled up to high or very high (where applicable), using Maxwell exclusive MFAA, given that we’re running at 4K, anti-aliasing techniques are virtually irrelevant anyway, but MFAA doesn’t put as much strain on the system as MSAA, which would only mince our performance figures to a stuttering mess, at least with a single GPU configuration and only 4GB of VRAM. Even at 4K I managed to maintain 45FPS in real world gameplay. While there were some dips down to the low 20’s, they didn’t appear often enough to be of concern in real-world gameplay. However, the benchmark tool is more demanding on the hardware and still a little buggy, producing results around 80FPS in mosts test, but typically further testing revealed similar results to our real world gameplay. A few tweaks on things such as shadows, DoF, grass detail helped get this figure close to 60FPS, still almost double of the console release of GTA V at the cost of some advanced graphics settings.
Nvidia Shield Performance
This one is a little different, as I only need the game to run at 1080p resolution for the game stream, I decided we can max everything out and I mean literally everything. All settings were at max, including MSAA, AF, DoF, all of them. This resulted in the game looking drop dead gorgeous, although not as eye-candy like as the very high settings did at 4K, as the drop in pixel count does bring down the fidelity considerably, or at least it does to my eyes, which have been spoilt with 4K for a while now.
However, when streaming to the screen of the tablet, seeing the gameplay on a mobile device with ultra graphics and rendering-side frame rates were sometimes north of 100FPS, which is really something to behold. Frame rates were maxing out at 134FPS in the benchmark, although that is still a little glitchy and not the best indication of real-world performance at this time. I was averaging 62FPS with actual gameplay recorded using Fraps, which is more than enough to give us the steady 60FPS streaming output to the Nvidia Shield.
Playing GTA V on the tablet while laid in bed, or slouching on the couch is great, but it’s not the Shields biggest party trick. Hook up an HDMI cable from the tablet to the Shield, put it in Console Mode and boom! You’ve got 1080p 60FPS GTA V on the big screen. Much better than consoles, although admittedly with a fair bit more cost to consider; worth every penny though.
I don’t feel the need to dive too much into the performance of GTA V. This is something we’ve already covered in detail in our GPU Performance Review for GTA V. I was simply looking for settings to give me good 4K performance and excellent 1080p performance, with an average target of around 60FPS at the highest possible settings, which is something I’m happy to have achieved with relative ease.
Grand Theft Auto V has been out for a long time on consoles, so there’s little point of me reviewing the gameplay, it’s been discussed at great length by a vast majority of the internet and there’s really little else to dive into in that respect. However, the thing I wanted to do today is play Grand Theft Auto V, the way I think it was meant to be played and that’s something I am enjoying at great length.
Playing the game in 4K is a far cry from the blurry, texture pop-in riddled, clunky console release. Even the current-gen release on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One pales in comparison to what I have seen today. We’ve got double the average framerate of the console editions, we’ve got higher resolution textures (much higher), we’ve got advanced graphics features and effects that go far beyond what was available in the other version and we’ve got far more options in terms of how we play – such as the Nvidia Shield, PC and Streaming.
Using Nvidia GeForce experience really helps streamline the experience, allowing you to quickly adjust graphics settings for your hardware, which is a handy tool for those streaming to their Nvidia Shield, especially so if you want to switch between resolutions and advanced settings like I have today, for 4K desktop gaming and 1080P streaming to the Shield Tablet. Of course, you can also benefit from extra features such as ShadowPlay, Twitch streaming and more, both on the desktop and on the tablet, making the whole PC + Shield setup a much friendlier ecosystem to use.
So, was it worth waiting all this time to play GTA V in all its glory, at higher resolutions and frame rates, with the option of playing at my desktop, on my tablet or on my big screen? Absolutely!
How have you been playing GTA V? Let us know in the comments section below.