Grand Theft Auto 5 Visual Analysis: PS4 vs. Xbox One

Rockstar’s open world opus is a brand new experience on current gen platforms.

Posted By | On 19th, Jan. 2015 Under Article, Graphics Analysis


It’s almost hard to believe that Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto 5 released in September 2013. With so literally hundreds of thousands of hours of content created, multiple updates from developer Rockstar North, and tens of millions of copies sold, one wouldn’t be hard-pressed to believe that GTA 5 has been around for a while. What’s more significant are the changes Rockstar managed to make to the current gen version of Grand Theft Auto 5, recently released on the Xbox One and PS4, such an enormous leap over the Xbox 360 and PS3. Granted, there are several areas where it could have done better but for the most polished Los Santos experience, GTA 5 on current gen can’t be missed.

Before getting into specifics, it’s important to note how Rockstar went about beautifying Grand Theft Auto 5. Rather than just up scaling everything into 1080p, Rockstar meticulously improved the vegetation, texture quality, skyline and geography to a degree not seen in most open world games (or at least, not on this kind of scale). The quality of the gravel and asphalt when walking down the road is excellent, reflecting not only the moisture from rain but headlights from oncoming cars. The vehicles are largely unchanged in terms of structure but detailing on the chrome and finish looks far better than on the Xbox 360 and PS3.

The quality and detail of faces along the improvement in lighting and shadow details is amazing. Dynamic weather is ridiculously good, as we’ll get into in a bit.

Both the PS4 and Xbox One versions run at 1080p and a 30 FPS frame rate. The frame rate tends to take a dive at certain points – usually when there are tons of explosions and cops zipping around – but only up to 27 or 28 frames per second. All throughout, it remains fairly solid at 30 frames per second which is already a significant improvement over the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions.

Anti-aliasing and ambient occlusion are also significantly improved on the current gen consoles, leading to better and most realistically lit scenarios with no jaggies. It really helps the detail come alive in so many ways, whether you’re watching Michael sit on a couch and discuss his family problems, observing the details on your assault rifle in first person mode or just admiring the sunset on top of Mount Chiliad.

The addition of dynamic lighting and volumetric effects for the same has also helped transform many of the game’s typical scenarios. It results in a different experience at night, especially when you’re walking through the well-lit carnival on the pier. Interestingly and rather surprisingly, the texture filtering appears largely unchanged from the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions.  This isn’t the worst thing to ever happen but it does prevent Grand Theft Auto 5 on the PS4 and Xbox One from truly breaking out of the previous gen mould.

That being said, the added horsepower of the current gen platforms does result in a better game overall. Though the number of pedestrians feels more or less the same, Rockstar did up the traffic density of the game, resulting in a more metropolitan-looking Los Santos compared to the previous generation. Oddly enough, there’s no motion blur when one is driving at top speeds throughout the streets. Perhaps Rockstar is saving it for the PC version?

There’s also the case for the dynamic weather and water effects. By itself, Grand Theft Auto 5 on the PS3 and Xbox 360 had some amazing water effects which was realistically rendered and reacted as such throughout the game, whether you were in a swimming pool, swimming through the ocean or deep-sea diving. The PS4 and Xbox One versions take this to a whole new level at times thanks to the improved texture quality and fluid mechanics. Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs still has arguably the best water physics in an open world but it’s a testament to Rockstar’s hard work that GTA 5 is a close second.

Dynamic weather effects, on the other hand, have to be seen to be believed. The rain effects are incomparable to the previous gen version. While not overstated to a large degree, you’ll find the droplets affecting the environment around you. Roads become damp, wet metal refracts and reflects light shining on it and tell-tale haze becomes apparent through the headlights of vehicles. Flying in rainy weather is also a harrowing experience as wind velocity can affect your handling. The odd lightning bolt will also ring through the skies. Even for those who haven’t played Grand Theft Auto 5 on the PS3 and Xbox 360, the current gen versions present a sumptuous feast for the eyes.

Of course, the question arises as to whether the PS4 or Xbox One version is superior. The PS4 has had better performance in the past with its GPU and the Xbox One has been reporting better performance with games thanks to a software update which unlocked additional CPU power. When observing both current gen versions side-by-side, you’ll notice virtually similar texture quality, pixel density, object geometry and physics. Neither version has the advantage in frame rate, occlusion or detail either.

In tasks which involve heavy GPU computing though, the PS4 manages to edge ahead. Foliage is rendered much better on Sony’s console and there’s a better pronounced depth of field effect at play. You’ll notice much less pop-in on both versions though, which eliminates one of the bigger complaints of the previous generation. Another odd facet is how the lens effects tend to look better in some places than the PS4. It’s weird but obviously, when it comes to overall features, the PS4 is ever so slightly superior to the Xbox One.

Another rather curious note is the subtle black crush effect seen in places on the Xbox One. Similar to Titanfall on the Xbox One (compared to the PC version), this effect tends to make certain details darker. It’s not overwhelming to the degree of obscuring major details but it’s definitely noticeable compared to the PS4 version.

Conclusion

Grand Theft Auto 5 re-defined our expectations of what an open world game could be capable of on the Xbox 360 and PS3. With limited and aging hardware, Rockstar managed to squeeze every last drop of performance and somehow maintain parity across both platforms. On the Xbox One and PS4, Rockstar presents a more refined and nuanced portrait of its crime saga. It deftly walks the line between port and HD remaster in many ways, offering new content and a first person perspective but exponentially bumping up the visuals rather than redoing everything from scratch.

Regardless, whichever platform you choose to play on, Grand Theft Auto 5 on current gen platforms is an experience unto itself. It begs to be explored and documented as much as destroyed and desecrated. Even if you’ve had your fill of open world mayhem on the previous gen, its well worth experiencing it again at full price.

One also can’t help but think: If Rockstar managed to pull off this much by building off of its previous gen template, what could it deliver when creating an open world game from scratch for the PS4 and Xbox One? If GTA 5 is any indication, we can’t wait to find out.


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  • Xbox One ♥

    • John Doe

      Are you trying to make people vomit?

    • efnet

      Whats it like being able to only afford one console?

    • Pops

      You must not work.how do you get all that time to play both

    • efnet

      Seriously ? What are you new to gaming or something ? I can assure that i am employed putting in a little over 45 hrs a week + a wife and 2 kids
      I game on which ever console im in the mood for when i feel like gaming. But the majority of the time its the xbox one cause it fits into my media routine … Im hardly ever om the ps4 now and days but once blood borne and the order drops ill power it on again

    • Mordarkeen

      Most gamers who bought a PS4 first see no need to buy a weaker console in the X1 with only 1% of the games being exclusive and even those available on PC. A better 2nd system would be a Wii U for the great Nintendo exclusives.

    • efnet

      To each his own i say lol i mean you’re really going out of your way to try and make yourself feel supirior but for what though? Lol i enjoy having both cause that way i wont miss out on anything

    • Mordarkeen

      What have I said to make you so defensive and give the impression of superiority? I just feel that besides exclusives there is no real reason to own both a PS4 and an X1. The majority of games are multi plat and choosing the system with the best version is a no brainer. Does that make someone superior? No it makes them smart with their cash. Not only that but I have yet to see an X1 only exclusive that makes the system a must buy.

    • efnet

      Defensive? It was just a simple observation nothing more lol i have no reason to be defensive about a gaming console my dude … But ill say this much this generation of gamers are extremely trendy …
      As i said before i have both and the only game i was able to see any diffrence with my own eyes on my tv was call of duty ghost.
      Today people rush to the net for clarity on what games preform better on what system and to be honest i dont think its that serious especially when you cant even see that diffrence with your own eyes on your own tv screen but ofcourse like the masses you will say you can see it or whatever lol if eurogamer didnt compare the games with their tools no one here would know what was what and that my friend is the sad part about our gamers today

    • Thretosix

      Most people who bought into the PS4 bought into the hype. Greatness is still in hibernation or something. Your opinion is stupid.

      Sarcasm off.

      Get a life.

    • De’Von WolfGang Davis

      Get a life?

    • Mordarkeen

      What hype? The PS4 is still very new and the system hasn’t even been pushed to its limits yet. The exclusives coming this year is just the start of how great this system can be.

      If anything the hype surrounding the X1 was just that…..hype. From the Kinect down to it being the all in one multimedia console just to have it struggle to reach parity with multi plats with lower resolution and frame rates. X1 has done so many 180s it doesn’t even resemble what it was at launch.

    • De’Von WolfGang Davis

      Thanks for the story old man.

    • efnet

      Thanks for listening young buck

    • Andy Stephenson

      Only need two ps4 and wii u,,

    • dapaintrain

      The verdict is ps4 if you bother to read the article

  • d0x360

    Slightly off topic but not totally.. So I have gta5 on ps4 I wanted the best version and I assumed it would be on ps4 even if just barely and I was right. So I’m awful with the ps4 controller, I dont like the sticks I find them incredibly twitchy and inaccurate so I bought a XIM4 which allows you to use a keyboard and mouse on console games and also any controller from any console on any other console with a USB port. EXCELLENT!

    So yesterday I boot up gta5, hook up the xim and immediately select Trevor and begin attracting the police to I can test out mouse aiming accuracy in a tense situation.

    I gotta say…wow. I’ve never nailed so many headshots in any game let alone GTA. I highly recommend anyone looking to gain a little accuracy or just wants more control options to check it out. The xim4 is on the pricier side of devices that allow you to do this but it is by far the best. The only game I had any issues in was evil within because on ps4 the look speed even when maxed is still very very slow so quick movements with a mouse produce odd effects in game. I also had great luck with it in halo MCC and destiny.

  • someguy-_-

    Why does this PS4 version look foggy? I seen both first hand they and that isnt there.

    As for which is better when I am playing with friends on either console they look the same till you get out side the city and see much more grass and brush in the PS4 version. However who cares about more bush (he said bush) when its about game play.

    • Matthew Bryant

      Because detail in the environment improves the immersion factor which definitely adds considerably to the overall experience. If its all about gameplay then we might as well have huge grey areas devoid of anything other than enemies and objects you can interact with. Obviously the environment matters as well. Let’s stop pretending otherwise. It gets annoying after a while.

    • someguy-_-

      It isn’t a matter of areas being devoid because this isn’t the case but if you feel you can prove this please link some photos or site some pages for me to look at and I will personal inspect them… I assume your comment are based off of having both systems and this game on both of them to play with friends that own different systems.

      Does the environment matter of course it does but as mainly a PS4 player but an xbone user too. I can tell you there isnt much of a difference especially any that will break one’s immersion into the game. Thanks for the comment.

  • Tokes Alotta

    Games look the same to me. Xb1 has more features, more updates, and better online play including more gamers, and better gamers. Even little things like charging it powering the controllers are better. I can’t justify keeping my ps4

    • Xbox Fans Have No Integrity Or

      But you can justify supporting a company that doesn’t stand by their guns and has tainted their brand with every 180 and major change they do?

      God…. some people..

    • Mordarkeen

      Then you’ll be missing out on alot of great PS4 only exclusives coming soon.

    • MPTheGreek

      Psn has many more gamers. Than xbone.

    • USPS_Life13

      Wait, how can they have more gamers when they’ve sold less units? Mouth diarrhea much?

  • De’Von WolfGang Davis

    I like my ps4, I’m sure the xbone is great media as well.

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