Grand Theft Auto IV Review for PC

On: PCXbox 360PS3
Niko arrives on the PC with a few extras
Niko arrives on the PC with a few extras

Niko arrives on the PC with a few extras

When we reviewed GTA 4 on Xbox 360 and PS3 earlier this year we made some pretty bold statements. Here's probably the boldest: GTA 4 "has moved video games on to a point that most developers just won't be able to compete with". Looking at it again, a fair few months since we'd driven the streets of Liberty City, that was perhaps overstating things slightly (everyone can get caught up in the moment), but it's still abundantly clear that GTA 4 is a high point in video game history, and just as good on the PC now as it was back in April on console.

We won't explain just why we love the game so much (you can get a full, lengthy run down from our console review), but for those completely in the dark, know that you're going to get open world action that makes you care about the main characters in a way we doubted would be possible - at least in this generation. As an action game it's top class, it's larger and more expansive than practically every other non-RPG released this year, and it's got visuals to die for. Having sunk hours into the PC version it's still a sight to behold.

Instead of re-treading old ground, we'll rundown how the PC version of GTA 4 has been handled, including the performance on modest gaming rigs, and the extras that Rockstar has included. Performance first then, and this is probably our biggest concern with the port. To put it bluntly, you're going to need a very beefy machine to get the game running well. Even the game's suggested settings caused our quad core, 8800 GTX equipped machine to struggle, and this was after we'd lowered the resolution to well below our monitor's native resolution.

To be fair, when we finally managed to get the game running well, it still looked superb, but it seems it's going to be some time before you're going to be able to set all the graphical options to max and enjoy the show. A nice touch is the way the game shows you what the visuals are going to look like as you make changes, removing detail in the distance as you slide the view distance slider down from the hopeful 100 per cent to a more realistic mid twenties number. Texture quality appears to be the real killer, with anything above medium causing big issues with our non-SLI setup. It's hard to say for sure without comparing side by side, but a modest gaming rig should be able to pump out visuals at least on par with the console versions.

Keyboard and mouse support makes free-aiming a lot easier

Keyboard and mouse support makes free-aiming a lot easier

Controls next, and here Rockstar has done an excellent job. Mouse and keyboard controls work great for the most part, obviously excelling when it comes to gun-play, but even driving isn't so bad with the WASD keys. It's not completely ideal though, so we'd recommend you have a gamepad plugged in at the same time - preferably the 360 controller that the game recognises automatically. You're able to switch between the two control setups on the fly, so it's perfectly possible to dump the pad when you're done driving, returning to the keyboard and mouse to tackle some goons with your AK-47.

Perhaps more exciting than visual and control tweaks is the brand new video editor. In the PC game you're able to record 30-second clips and then edit them together using the in-built editing suite. We're not experts (at all) when it comes to video editing (apart from Seb), but in 30 minutes or so (including play time) we were able to put together a fairly amusing short video, manually positioning the camera, zooming, panning, and other things that are over our heads. We ended up with a rather dramatic scene showing Niko being shot by a cop's shotgun, before falling to the floor in slow motion. Not Oscar worthy material, clearly, but we can see YouTube being dominated by this stuff in the near future. Once you're done editing the video, inserting music and adding any text you think will improve the film along the way, you can save to a 720p WMV or upload to the Rockstar Social Club - both took a fair amount of time, but the results are worth it.

The visuals look great if you've got a good PC

The visuals look great if you've got a good PC

The final tweak of any real significance is the increase in multiplayer numbers from 16 to 32, at least in the Deathmatch, GTA Race and Free modes. It's one of those things that you assume is going to be great, but it's hard to know how much difference it's going to make until you play it for yourself. We're glad to report that it helps and awful lot. While we really like GTA 4 multiplayer on Xbox 360 and PS3, at times the games felt a little empty. On PC, with up to 32 players running around and driving cars, the game feels more alive. If you're after the best multiplayer version of GTA 4, the PC game wins hands down.

Aside from the aforementioned performance issues (we expect people will be using GTA 4 as a benchmark tool for years to come) there's the issue of all the apps that need to be running in order to play the game. If you want to play online you'll need a Rockstar Social Club account (free) and a Games for Windows LIVE account (also free), and both of these must be running. Add in Steam if you've got the digitally distributed version, and that's three apps all running while you're blasting away gang members. Our experience was quite painless, with our Games for Windows account linking to our Rockstar Social Club account seamlessly, with the only odd thing being how our friends were split between Steam and the GFW service. Still, it's nice to be able to earn Achievements (tied to your gamertag) - something few PC games support.

If you've been waiting for the ultimate version of GTA 4, then this is it, providing you can put up with a fair amount of hassle to get the game running well and all the services you need to sign up to in order to play the game in the first place. The mouse and keyboard controls are great, the video editing suite is a brilliant bonus and the enhanced multiplayer is what the game really needed. There's no doubt about it. GTA 4 is one of the best games of the year and as such one of the best we've ever played.

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User Comments

The_Abbott's Avatar

The_Abbott

Are you kidding me. The majority (that don't have quad processors) can't run the game at all and if they can it's so slow it's pathetic. Go read the GTA forums whomever wrote this because. Never in 12 years in IT and even a tester for Microsoft Games back in 2001 have I seen such an incomplete and dissapointing release. Honestly this article couldn't be more wrong.
Posted 21:05 on 10 December 2008
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yo

i like the game is sex in the game
Posted 18:15 on 10 December 2008
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Sir. Michael

i don't know why rockstar did this mistake, come on gta4 must be the game on the pc they must use pc tech. to make graphics look perfect like COD4 they give good graphics on all pcs so why didn;t they do such a think here, well i guess EA are better than rockstar.
then ea did crysis and it's a sh*ty crap so i guess EA are not better from rockstar after all.
And no there won't be a patch for the game to work on pc that are created in the 21st century and bigest example is crysis they didn't do any patch for it
Posted 17:17 on 10 December 2008
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DD

people keep saying Crysis is fantastic and clever.... but it can only be clever if they can get the high visuals onto Joe Averages PC..... only the new cards now can run it v.high...

anyone can make top games on top equipment....

....the skill is doing it for everyone....
Posted 15:26 on 10 December 2008
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1654

fun game
Posted 14:06 on 10 December 2008
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Mo

dude i cant even run this thing and i got a Intel 2.8 GHz with ATI HD 4850 and 8 GBs of ram!! what more do i need?!??! and i think my rig is better than a PS3 since i have a blue ray player in my PC
Posted 04:53 on 10 December 2008
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Gez

It will run fine when they release the patch for it. Rockstar know that people are having problems and the patch will be released in a few days
Posted 21:29 on 09 December 2008
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Spark

Basically you have to run a super computer to make up for the fact it's a dam lazy port.
Posted 13:58 on 09 December 2008
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Sir. Michael

so let me see...
so i buy this game or not and let's get one this for clear no one owns a mega pc because i don't think anyone who builds a pc with a trilion cores and a milion video cards have time to play a game, or if he has the money to build such a pc he won't play a pc game because he has alot of money and he won't spend his time on a pc he will spend his time spending his money..
SO do i buy it!!!!
Posted 10:19 on 09 December 2008
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wtf

I've been waiting for this game on pc for ages, and in the mean time i occasinally played it around my cousins. All i can hear is people praising saying its the best game in the world. It may be revolutionary but it is not perfect. The city is immersive, but nothing to spend money on. Hardly any mini games and the bare minimum of buildings can be explored. Theres still much to do to get 10/10. This deserves 9/10. -1 becuase of the obvious bugs glitches and serious system issues. I hope my rig can run it tho >.<

qx6700 3.2 ghz
2x 8800 GTX
2 gig ram
Posted 02:16 on 09 December 2008
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Gez

I got a a decent PC and it runs it ok, I run it at 1680x1050 texture on medium and render on high. I usualy sit in the 30's and dip into 20's sometimes.

e7300 @3.5GHz
Powercolor 4850 @700/1000
4Gb Kingston HyperX twin
Posted 23:44 on 07 December 2008
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Bill

I can make make the worst 2D game that will be so buggy that it will humiliate any quad core sli system that exists. I thought that this called bad programming and not benchmark for future computers. This game's graphics can't justify its demands on hardware and can't be an excuse for the bugs.
And now i have earned the secret i must hurry to make the benchmark of future computers before someone else.
Posted 17:02 on 07 December 2008
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Abedeus

Sucky system when graphics are worse than Crysis, require two times stronger PC and has tons of bugs?

Besides, if a game requires computer from the future (literally - rock$tar itself said so) to run fine at High, there's something wrong.
Posted 09:43 on 07 December 2008
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Netmind

Review the game as it is on it's best, not the reviewers problem if people with sucky system tries the game.
I mean why review half the game?
Posted 18:42 on 06 December 2008
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Avinash

yes, agreed this is one of the finest game ever made, with a storyline so engrossing at so many levels that it just sucks you in, besides the better graphics when compared to console version.
The only problem seems to be, apart from the ultra high end rig required(reminds me of crysis), is that unlike crysis, this one has a lot of bugs, everything from the small things like sudden shutting down of game and nonsupport for any gamepad except the xbox controller to complete lack of textures in many cases.
Also, the installation is really really annoying with the online securom activation and signing in into 2-3 accounts..
hope rockstar do something about the many bugs, then it will truly be worth the 10 points it got..
Posted 18:30 on 06 December 2008

Game Stats

System Requirements
Grand Theft Auto IV
10
Out of 10
Grand Theft Auto IV
  • Improved online play
  • Video editor is great
  • An amazing single-player experience
  • Needs a mega PC to run well
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 21/11/2008
Platforms: PC , Xbox 360 , PS3
Developer: Rockstar
Publisher: Rockstar
Genre: Action
No. Players: 1-32
Rating: BBFC 18
Site Rank: 55 4
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