Our initial look at Grand Theft Auto 5 on PC surprised with its scalability across budget PCs, but the top-end experience is another beast entirely. Rockstar's much-delayed release makes the wait worth it by adding options to play to most GPUs' strengths - whether you're tweaking for straight 1080p60 or a more ambitious band of settings at a locked 30fps. But supposing you have the hardware to go absolutely bananas, what does a maxed-out experience really add over PS4 and Xbox One? And indeed, where do the new console versions fall on the PC's wide graphics spectrum?
Updating to build 331, we spare no expense in pushing the PC release to its best results. Our top-end Core i7 4790K PC (at stock clocks) is paired with 16GB of RAM and a GTX Titan X - a combination that's certainly overkill for maxing out the game while hitting 1080p60. That being the case, we add an extra twist to this comparison by way of a full 3840x2160 native resolution (or 4K), as downscaled via Nvidia's DSR mode. That should do it.
It's an extravagance, no doubt, and it brute-forces the PC to a far higher plane of image quality than the console's 1920x1080 output with FXAA. However, this high level of image quality also plays to the PC's other main advantage: its extended draw distances. Unlike the console editions, an advanced graphics menu offers up a separate distance scale that, at 100 per cent, renders objects across Los Santos at a bewildering range. With resolutions of 1080p and above, it's a crucial addition in a release where details further afield are subject to closer scrutiny.
Putting foliage differences aside for a moment, it's clear Rockstar Games' tentpole release emerges on PS4 and Xbox One with visual enhancements aplenty. Both versions push for an ambitious 1920x1080 framebuffer this time, even adding in a first person mode to invite closer scrutiny of Los Santos' finer details. The confidence is well founded too, with updated textures and new effects in place - but do both consoles qualify for the equal treatment, or does the PS4 advantage go beyond its extra woodland flourishes?
As tested on the latest patch 1.02, this updated Grand Theft Auto 5 is obviously more than a simple resolution bump, though that's a fine start. The 1080p resolve is backed by higher-grade post-processing AA, flattering the game's more generous allowance for draw distance. Horizon details are easier than ever to pick out here, and trekking through Rockstar's pastiche of Los Angeles no longer produces the obvious pop-in artifacts of the last-gen releases. The switchover is still there, but for both PS4 and Xbox One, objects now draw in at the same impressive, far-flung range.
For any massive sandbox world, the surplus of RAM on these new machines is a vital resource. Here we see the Rage engine is no longer beholden to streaming all assets from the optical media and HDD caches - and the GPUs on each unleash the potential for more effects. On PS4 and Xbox One alike, we now get focal effects such as depth of field (DOF), god rays, and also screen-space reflections across glossy floors. It's still a last-gen game at its core, but the extra finesse here makes it hard to go back a generation - and neither Sony or Microsoft's new hardware misses out.