I can't help but wonder how many people gave up waiting for the oft-delayed release of Grand Theft Auto V on PC and have already played the game on a last or current gen console. Surely, its been hard to avoid any news or stories about GTA V on any gaming sites. You more than likely already know if it has your interest. What you most likely want to know is if it runs well on PC. Were the delays worth it, or is it another bad port?
A quick recap, just to be thorough before delving into the more PC centric areas of the review. The main factor that makes this different than other entries in the series is the fact that there are 3 playable characters, with you having to swap between them on the fly for some missions, other times just playing as who you choose and taking on missions to progress the story. I found it interesting that even on missions that give you the choice to play as two or three characters gave you a different point of view when starting as a different one.. Holding down alt pauses the action and you select who you want to switch to. If you make an online character, they show up on the bottom of the selection wheel and serve as a shortcut to jumping online.
After the Prologue, giving background on the other two characters, the story starts off with Franklin Clinton, working repossessing cars and getting into shenanigans with his friend Lamar. Without spoiling too much, one job goes somewhat awry, and thus we are introduced to Micheal. Micheal was trying to retire from hustling and running big scores, but through a series of events gets to sort of be a tutor to Franklin. After one mission, Trevor gets wind that Micheal is back and you are forced to play as him for a bit before getting free control to jump between the three. Each one has a different special ability. While in a car, Franklin can activate his to slow down time and make precision turns at full speed. Micheal can enter slow motion on foot to increase his accuracy. Trevor's is used to make him take minuscule damage while increasing the amount he does.
The story actually had me pretty hooked this time around. This was actually the first GTA I was ever hooked enough to finish the story. The three playable characters very different in backgrounds, personality and even mental stability. Franklin seems pretty normal, if a bit stereotypical. His subplots tend to focus on his living situation with his aunt and antics with Lamar. Micheal seems to have a bit of a bipolar problem going on. We see him with his dysfunctional family and most of his story deals with them. Trevor, on the other hand, is just outright insane. He is often seen doing the most random of things and being violent just for the sake of violence. Sometimes he is likable, other times he is definitely not.
The voice acting and animation is what you would expect from Rock star, and all the little details they tend to be great at doing. The world is huge and feels immersive. As you walk around you'll see and hear random people talking, construction sounds, there were even a few times I saw the police chasing someone other than myself. People will comment at you as you walk around, some get aggressive if you stand too close. I once somehow managed to get my forklift stuck on its back end and a few people came around murmuring about it. One person even took out a phone and took a picture.
Random events can happen, with a blip appearing to indicate someone needing help. It can be just giving them a ride somewhere, or stopping a thief. Some of these have different ways of playing out. One example is you see two robbers, frantically arguing about not having a wheel man. You can help them get away, OR you can take them down. If you help recover a lost wallet, you can just walk away after taking down the thief. Once, I had planned to attempt to rob a store. To my surprise, someone else was already robbing it. I chased them down and recovered the money. They basically did the hard work for me and I got away with no wanted level. The little unexpected things really make this game great. Speaking of the wanted level, I love how it works in this one. The police will constantly pursue you. If you get spotted the time it takes for it to go away resets, you have to actively hide down alleys and such. Go under things if the police choppers are after you. They will get out and actively search for you. I had one moment where I hid off road a bit and by the time they were almost to me, the search was called off. I ran past them as they were slowly climbing back up the hill, and stole a cop car without being seen. They had politely left the door open so it was a clean getaway.
There are a few mini games you can play, like golf, tennis, or darts. The golf actually surprised me by being pretty fun. I even tried it out online and played with a few other people. Promptly after the golf game I got into a brawl. Last time I play golf with those guys! The online can be fun with the right group of people. Unfortunately, as I don't have any friends who play, I didn't play online very much. Though its nice having the option without having to pay for something extra like Xbox live. The map feels huge, even just the city area. The map actually extends past Los Santos a little to the surrounding country side, including a mountain and desert area, complete with a little country town.
The characters can also buy property to store cars or planes, or just to generate new income. Some buildings are only purchasable by specific characters. You can try playing the stock market that fluctuates as you play the game. Customizing cars can be pretty fun too with all the different options and colors available. Most car options are locked at first, and get unlocked as you play through the story. For online they have different prerequisites, such as winning a number of races.
In addition to spending money customizing cars, you can buy new ones along with planes and helicopters if you have a garage for them. There is a nice variety of weapons, from pistols to a couple of different sniper rifles, thrown weapons like sticky bombs and grenades, and such. Weapons can be upgraded with scopes, silencers, and extended mags as well as various paint finishes and other things. You can visit a clothing store to purchase a variety of outfits for each character or give them a hair cut at a barber.
The first person view added in the Xbox One/PS4/PC versions of the game and make it feel like almost a totally different experience. I love the first person view while on foot, though while driving I tend to switch to the third person. While in first person in a car you can look all around and the details of the interiors are pretty incredible. The dashboard of a high end car shows the radio and whats playing. a lot instruments you would expect to see on a helicopter or jet are there. Not to mention the first person view does wonders to my aiming!
Honestly, I expected I'd be switching to a controller shortly after installing. The keyboard and mouse controls,suited me just fine, though. The controls are customizable so you can set your keybinds to your liking. For the most part the default controls were fine. Walking and doing anything driving related was a breeze, and combat was also no problem. I love the driving in this one. I may be alone on this, but in some of the other games, especially the last one, it felt like a chore to drive anywhere and detracted from the games for me. In this one I have no problem driving at high speeds, narrowly driving between cars and things. Its much more satisfying in my opinion.
Where the controls, or physics rather, where a major problem for me was the flying. I could just not get the hang of it for some reason, failing several flying parts over and over. I did eventually adjust, but it still takes me longer than I'd like to do anything precise with a helicopter or plane. I can get from A to B just fine, but please don't ask me to land somewhere specific, or pick something up with the cargo-bob over the ocean. There was one mission where I had to pick up a submarine with a helicopter wench, and I'd fly everywhere but where I was supposed to be, setting it down in the water failing the mission on accident several times, all the while Trevor telling me I needed more flying lessons. As if I wasn't aware! I honestly think I'd have better luck trying to do it in real life. I play Kerbal Space Program with better success. It's almost like they were afraid the game would be too perfect, so they had to put something unnecessarily challenging in to balance it out. It feels almost like I am trying to drive a car in the sky using GTA 4's physics.
Actually flying requires using W to accelerate the plane, while A and D turn left or right. 8 and 5 on the number pad control angle, with 4 and 6 letting you roll side to side. You can also click the right mouse button and move it around like a joystick, but I found it to be WAY to sensitive to try using this control method. Helicopters raise and descend using w and s, turning with a and d, while the banking is controlled with the number pad similar to flying a plane. You have to adjust the helicopters ahead of time for inertia. Its a pretty neat system but it does take some getting used to.
Another odd choice was the swimming controls. I died the first time I was underwater. I hit what you would think would be the logical buttons: w goes forward on land, space bar to go up like in nearly every other game ever. Turns out W and S angle you, with S for up. Shift makes you swim. When you surface though, you have to then press W to go forward. It's odd, but not impossible to adjust to. You just have to know what to do.
Exclusive to PC is Director Mode. This lets you play as various characters you unlock during the story to record clips. You can also record clips during normal gameplay by hitting F1. Director mode also functions as a sort of fun mode where you can enable invincibility, wanted level, change the time of day or weather, etc. You can't make any progress in this mode, and activities like golf are disabled, but it can be fun to play around in. The editor is pretty impressive for what it is, allowing you to add clips together, taken in director mode or during regular gameplay, to make a project and add a soundtrack and change camera angles, filters and and such.
Finally the game is just gorgeous on PC if you can run it with the settings turned up. There are plenty of settings to tweak to get it running smooth but good looking, and overall it feels way more optimized than GTA 4 did, which this very same computer had a bit of trouble running maxed. I do get an occasional frame rate drop in certain locations but for the most part they are few and far between and the game stays consistent.
Despite all the improvements, if you already played the game on a current gen console you may be hard pressed to replay it on PC. If you played it on a last gen console (I already played through once on 360) then it may be worth it to you, depending on how big a fan you are. If you hadn't had a chance to play it yet at all though, and your computer can handle it, the PC version does definitely feel like the definitive version.