Grand Theft Auto PC have we been robbed?
I admit I’m biased, I love Grand Theft Auto, I loved the top down version many years ago, GTA 3 was revolutionary in every possible way, Vice City remains without a doubt the best GTA ever produced, San Andreas was the probably the one with the largest scope.
Needless to say that I was quite excited about the release of GTA IV, although I have a 360 it doesn’t get all that much use to be honest and the main reason for this is it’s rather abysmal graphical qualities in comparison to a PC, so apart from exclusive titles I will always wait for the PC version. Only exception for me was GTA IV, for this one I simply could not wait.
And as with pretty much every other game I play on 360 I continuously have this “This would look so great on PC” feeling and GTA was at least one where I would be very hopeful that my wish would be granted. Given that the game requires you to make some choices throughout provides great replayability so giving the game another run for it’s money on the PC would definitely be a worthwhile thing to do.
I sold my copy of GTA 4 for xbox and awaited the PC version release date. I had arranged to get my copy sent from the US via RogueSlayer but about a day earlier the news was released that the PC version in Aus would be fully uncensored, great news! Not so much for the children off course as this game is rated 18 in other countries but here it got through on M15+ after all again proving the utter dysfunctinonality that results from not having an R18 rating but that’s a different discussion. When my Games Warehouse copy landed in my mailbox my excitement for the game had already been severely damaged. The US had it’s release 24 hours prior and it didn’t take long for the discontent and disappointment to hit many game sites and forums including our own.
But my purchasing decision was already made and having played the game before I knew I would have at least a winner there but is it enough?
The reality is that it sorta is not for me at the moment. As a PC gamer you are always faced with the reality that your system is never good enough for that next gen game and in principle I never really have too much of an issue with this. I remember having these issue with games released by Origin in the 90’s, people complained too but they did push the envelope all the the time and hell their games were so great that I would go out and actually buy a new PC just to be able to play them, was it worth it, damn right it was!
GTA IV doesn’t quite give you that feeling, my rig is not super the latest and greatest but at 3.2 Ghz Core Duo, 4 gigs of ram and a 9800GX2 card it can hardly be called a slouch either. I can play most games pretty maxed out at 1920x1200 and yes that includes recent titles like Fallout 3, Assasins Creed.
Crysis I couldn’t quite max out but still managed to get a pretty sweet visual experience out of it. But I could not go out and buy a PC today that could play GTA at max settings.
GTA has a bunch of sliders you can set which would allow you to set things to an absolutely insane level of detail, the problem is that by default it will decide for you what that detail should be, now doesn’t every game do that? Sure they do but they recommend it and allow you to change it. GTA 4 does NOT allow you to change things and it forced me to a resolution of 1050 something. On a 1920 res panel that doesn’t look the best.
You can bypass this by adding a “-norestrictions” parameter to the exe syntax, this then allows you to change your resolution to the one you desire. And here the problem starts, as you slide your resolution higher it has an indicator as to how much ram it’s going to require to make this happen. I only have 512 ram which simply does not allow me to use 1920 at all without compromise.
Now I actually have 2x512 in SLI but at this stage there is no SLI support either.
And this compromise is pretty bad, it simply is unable to load the world in full, so as you look around the textures pop in, buildings pop in, it’s an absolute shocker. You take the recommend settings and sure this problem is resolved but if you look at other titles out there and their ability to draw a large map full of detail it makes you wonder if the problem really lies with your lack of resources or the game’s inability to use them efficiently?
And the utter worst problem the game faces is a lack of Anti Aliasing. Consoles do a pretty poor job of anti aliasing in general, if you have them hooked up to a TV it still looks sorta ok as you are further away and TV’s aren’t quite as sharp as high res LCD panels anyway. But on a PC the lack of Anti Aliasing can be a real dealbreaker and this is probably my biggest gripe with GTA.
In games like Crysis I turned of AA in favour of performance, with so much vegetation and not that many straight lines in the game it was noticeable but acceptable at high resolutions.
In GTA given that you are forced to a lower resolution due to the problems explained prior the lack of AA makes things simply look really really bad at times, the jaggies are simply terrible.
Rockstar’s response to this is due to the deferred lighting technique used in the game AA is not possible unless DX10 support is added. The question is well why isn’t there any DX10 support?
And forget about forcing it via the card control panel, just does not work.
Lack of AA amazingly enough is nothing new, I never got AA working in Graw, Bioshock, Dead Space but some games just have the aliasing stand out like a sore toe and GTA IV is regretfully one of those games given it’s set in a city and there a lots and lots of straight edges, buildings, light poles. But even curve things like vehicles are flicker crazy with jaggies in this game.
ATI has released new drivers that do improve performance, but the 180.x nvidia drivers I have a fair bit of issues with in other games like Fallout 3 where I get flickering skies, and it doesn’t seem to be my system only as it’s been reported on multiple forums. GTA does probably have a few days of gameplay in it so it may be worth running a different driver if you are a one man start to finish kinda gamer.
The other features that PC players are given like the video editor etc are just there as the icing on the cake, but who cares about the icing if the cake itself is missing sugar?
Rockstar has since said that they are looking into AA given that there is a high community demand for it but when or if we ever will see this is unknown. I don’t know what the track record for patches is from Rockstar as previous installments of GTA on PC have really been flawless from the start, we can only hope.
There are many other technical issues that are being mentioned, I have to admit that I have been saved from all of those, I have no crashes or anything like that. But I am disappointed nevertheless, I really wanted to see Liberty City in high res, full AA and look as real and lifelike as I know it can look on a PC. As stated before the future proofing I can live with and hopefully we’ll see a DX10 support patch come to it which will add that much needed AA at least, many other games have added post release DX10 support for nicer water effects etc so it’s certainly something that is technically possible.
So the question some may ask should I buy GTA for the PC?
Well even at low quality settings the PC version looks much better then it does on a 360, it exceeds anything that a 360 can do in terms of visuals.
But graphically it doesn’t live up to not only what modern PC graphics cards are capable of doing but also what many gamers out there expect as a minimum on a PC.
If you played it on 360 you might want to think twice about picking up the PC version. If you haven’t played the game at all then the PC version is still easy to recommend as the game remains fantastic, given that I put up with 360 graphics just in order to play this game is proof enough, and on the PC there is some hope that future patching will give us AA, but the ability to play this game in all it’s visual glory is not going to happen with a patch, I maxed all settings out once and it required 2 gigs of video ram to be able to do so!
Personally I am waiting for an AA/DX10 patch, it may never come but I’m sure we will eventually get a confirmation one way or another. If it does turn out that AA will never happen then GTA IV PC will probably for me drop somewhere down the list, most likely a PC upgrade away so I can at least crank up that resolution a bit more.