GTA 5 PS5 Graphics Analysis – A Serviceable But An Inessential Upgrade

Is Grand Theft Auto 5 on PS5 the quintessential version of Rockstar's magnum opus?

Posted By | On 22nd, Mar. 2022

GTA 5 PS5 Graphics Analysis – A Serviceable But An Inessential Upgrade

With over 160 million copies sold and a solid rating of 97 on Metacritic, Grand Theft Auto 5 is easily the biggest game that Rockstar Games has developed up until this point. Released during the tail-end of the seventh console generation way back in 2013, Grand Theft Auto 5 still stands tall as one of the most relevant and frequently discussed games even to this day, largely thanks to its ever-evolving online offerings.

As such, it’s no surprise that Rockstar has once again brought its magnum opus of carnage back into the limelight once again with Grand Theft Auto 5‘s expanded re-releases on PS5 and Xbox Series X/S – which brings the console versions more in line with a maxed out PC version of the game. Of course, the story doesn’t end there – and Rockstar has added a few graphical touches here and there to make the upgrade worthwhile for interested fans.

On that note, we present our complete graphical analysis of Grand Theft Auto 5 on PS5. Please note that most conclusions of feature additions are drawn using PS5’s Fidelity graphics mode, unless stated otherwise.

What’s New And Improvements Over The PC Version

Grand Theft Auto 5 - Xbox Series X-S, PS5_06

Grand Theft Auto 5‘s PC version is a testament to the flexibility of Rockstar’s RAGE engine, featuring swaths of graphical options for tinkerers to find that perfect balance between visual quality and frame-rate. Everything from texture quality to draw distance to crowd density can be controlled via sliders, and the frame-rate is also unlocked to support high-refresh rate monitors.

Given the fact that the game is almost 9 years old at this point, even entry-level gaming hardware of today will have no problems in running the game at maxed-out settings with a target frame-rate of 60 fps. So it’s no surprise that the PS5 version of the game looks very identical to a maxed-out PC version of the game, but there are a few improvements on top of that with the most important being ray-tracing, which we will be looking in detail in later parts of this feature.

Players jumping in on PS5 will also be able to experience better haptics thanks to the hardware capabilities of the DualSense controller alongside a much more immersive 3D Audio pipeline. Unlike prior renditions of the game on consoles, Grand Theft Auto 5 on PS5 also features three distinct graphical modes – Fidelity Mode, Performance, and Performance RT mode. Fidelity Mode features all the graphical bells and whistles including ray-tracing at a native 4K resolution with a target frame-rate of 30 fps. The Performance RT mode knocks the resolution down to 1440p with a frame-rate target of 60 fps. Lastly, the Performance Mode also targets 60 fps at dynamic 1440p resolution but gets rid of ray-tracing.

Character Models

Grand Theft Auto 5 - Xbox Series X-S, PS5

Taking cues from Rockstar Vancouver’s at-the-time latest release Max Payne 3, Grand Theft Auto 5 featured best-in-class character models with high-poly count facial meshes and robust and reactive animation cycles. It’s honestly a surprise that Rockstar managed to achieve so much variety and density in the NPC crowd given the painfully low memory of the PS3 and Xbox 360. Of course, the game does rely on LoD swapping and half-rating animations at faraway distances to save up on compute power.

The PC version has markedly more detail in its character models. The facial meshes are denser than before, and facial hair looks to be much more detailed than its console counterparts. Furthermore, the crowd density can also be adjusted to an even higher degree using the options menu, but other than that there seems to be no substantial improvement in this department.

Now coming to the PS5 version of the game. Level of detail in the facial meshes look to be roughly the same as a maxed out PC version of the game, which in turn isn’t too different from what you get on a PS4 and Xbox One – although those with a keen eye for detail might be able to spot some differences here and there.

Environment and World Improvements

Rockstar really knocked it out of the park with its at-the-time state of the art asset streaming technology. The studio’s in-house RAGE engine has always remained at the very cutting edge of technology when it comes to rendering huge open-worlds brimming with micro and macro-level detail. This is certainly the case with the engine’s rendition in Grand Theft Auto 5, which renders the gargantuan map of Los Santos without any loading screens.

However, given the painfully low memory of the original target hardware (PS3 and Xbox 360) and the three-protagonist structure of the game, Rockstar needed to create an asset streaming system that was as efficient as possible to load in a significant chunk of the map almost instantly. So to compensate for performance – texture assets, shadow quality, draw distance all take hits to varying degrees. Despite that, the game heavily suffers from frame-rate dips every now and then which mars down the playing experience on the original version.

Grand Theft Auto 5 on the PS4 and Xbox One would ultimately breathe new life into the bustling streets and alleyways of Los Santos – with markedly higher quality texture assets for both environments and shadows alongside higher draw distances. Players with capable PC hardware can also enjoy even higher-quality assets and crisper shadows at a distance.

Much like the case with previous points, Grand Theft Auto 5 on PS5 doesn’t seem to feature anything particularly new when compared to a fully decked-out PC version. However, players jumping from PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game will be able to point out extended draw distances, better foliage quality, water reflections, and shadows reacting appropriately to the projected surface.

Loading Times And Performance

One of the more weaker aspects of Grand Theft Auto 5 has always been its long loading times. While players on high-end PCs can load into the game rather quickly by using SSDs, console players have had to wait minutes on end to load into the sunny metropolis of Los Santos. Now that both the PS5 and the Xbox Series consoles feature PCI-e 4.0 SSDs that are tightly integrated with other system components, Grand Theft Auto 5 loads in rather quickly on these new machines in comparison.

On a standard-issue PS4, Grand Theft Auto 5 roughly takes upwards of 2 minutes to load into the story mode. On a PlayStation 5 however, the game takes just about 30 seconds to load a save file. A point worth noting here is that load times wouldn’t be consistent across every run, and loading a fresh new save will obviously be faster than one with tons of progress data.

Grand Theft Auto 5‘s Story Mode features a total of three protagonists – Michael, Franklin, and Trevor. Players are free to switch between the three at any point in the open-world, which triggers a pan-out and subsequent panning-in animation to mask the actual loading of the world. Suffice to say, this can take a fair bit of time on the PS4 and Xbox One. On the PS5 however, the animation plays out at seemingly full speed without any additional pauses for a smooth playing experience.

On the topic of performance, Grand Theft Auto 5 on PS3 and Xbox 360 suffered from frame-rate dips and hitches which mars down the playing experience on the original hardware. The PS4 and Xbox One re-releases on the other hand feature a much more stable playing experience albeit still locked at 30 fps. That said, the game would still drop a few frames here and there if the action on the screen gets a little too hot for these old Jaguar APUs.

Grand Theft Auto 5 on PS5 features three distinct performance profiles, and each of them succeed in what they aspire to do. Fidelity Mode holds very closely to 30 fps at a crisp resolution of 4K, and Performance Mode holds steady at 60 fps on upscaled 4K. Performance RT offers the best of both worlds – a 60 fps experience with ray-tracing at a dynamic 4K. Regardless of the graphics mode you choose, the game sticks to its target frame-rate which makes Performance RT the best choice for most players. 

Other Improvements

grand theft auto 5

The biggest improvement that Grand Theft Auto 5 on PS5 features is undoubtedly ray-tracing. However, this doesn’t mean that the game uses ray-traced reflections or lighting. Grand Theft Auto 5 on PS5 still utilizes the same cube map implementation of prior releases for reflections, albeit at significantly higher resolution. Ray-tracing on the other hand seems to be limited to sound reflections, ambient occlusion.

That said, keen-eyed players will be able to notice a marked improvement in the particles department. Smoke is denser, fire looks more realistic, and rain particles appropriately react to light. Water reflections look to be roughly the same quality as last-gen, although Rockstar has insisted that they have been upgraded in this version. Players with supported displays can also enable HDR, allowing for even crisper visuals.

Lastly, the game’s PS5 version also support DualSense Haptic Feedback, which emits different vibrations depending on surfaces and combat scenarios. In a similar vein, 3D Audio also allows for a richer sounding experience – deeping the immersion in the process.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Grand Theft Auto 5 on PS5 is a serviceable upgrade but inessential regardless. But really this expanded re-release is meant for the players who missed out on this magnum opus of carnage all these years.

Rockstar has clearly used terms like ray-tracing as marketing buzzwords, and the end-result can be considered mediocre if adequately functional. Of course, given Rockstar’s reputation with its re-releases – this is by no means a surprise.

With a vast array of graphical options and extensive modding support, PC still remains the best platform to play Grand Theft Auto 5. Even if you don’t own the latest in graphics technology, you shouldn’t have a hard time running the game at decent graphics settings at a comfortable 60fps. 


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