Grand Theft Auto V Video Card Performance Preview

Grand Theft Auto V has finally been released on the PC. In this preview we will look at some video card comparisons in performance, maximize graphics settings at 1440p and 4K. We will briefly test AMD CHS Shadow and NVIDIA PCSS shadow and talk about them. We will even see if SLI and CrossFire work.


Grand Theft Auto V was released on the PC, April 14th, 2015. This game has been highly anticipated on the PC by gamers, developed and published by Rockstar Games and distributed by Take-Two Interactive the PC version is finally here.

This game was originally released first, on consoles, notably the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 first in September of 2013 and then a year later on the Playstation 4 and Xbox One in November of 2014. Five months later GTA V for PC is here. In this case, last is better, as the PC version has undergone upgrades that make it visually superior to all console versions, even the latest generation consoles.

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This game is the latest release in the Grand Theft Auto series since GTA IV was released in 2008. This game has had many delays from Rockstar Games stating that they need more time to polish the PC version. The PC version is an "Enhanced" version of the game, extra visual features were able to be put into the PC version of the game giving it a leg up even on the PS4 and Xbox One version. The PC version of this game is the most visually up-to-date version of this game, able to display the best graphics possible at high resolutions.


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GTA V uses on an overhauled game engine called RAGE, which stands for Rockstar Advanced Game Engine used in the previous version of the game. In the overhaul great care was given to draw distance to allow this game to have next generation level of draw distance. Specialized Euphoria and Bullet software handle additional animation and rendering tasks.

Unique to the PC version you will find new weapons, vehicles, and activities. There is additional wildlife and denser traffic thanks to the power of PCs. The PC version also uses a new foliage system for better grass and trees. There is also enhanced damage and weather effects in the PC version.

The PC version also has updates to texture quality, lighting quality, and shadow quality. In fact, this game supports both an AMD special shadow mode, and an NVIDIA special shadow mode you can select between. There are also more things related to gameplay that are in the PC version. The PC version of GTA V is the best GTA V gaming experience of possible.

AMD and NVIDIA Unite in One Game

This has not been the norm lately, but it really should be, and we give props to Rockstar for playing fair. GTA V utilizes technology from both AMD and NVIDIA, and both features work on both AMD and NVIDIA GPUs, no matter which GPU you have. The options present allow you to try out each one no matter what video card you have and find out which performs or looks the best.

The notable feature that shares both AMD and NVIDIA technology is the Soft Shadow feature. This game supports AMD's Contact Hardening Shadow technology as well as NVIDIA's PCSS technology. Both of these are soft shadow techniques compete with each other.

AMD CHS - The description of AMD Contact Hardening Shadows comes directly from AMD: "Contact Hardening Shadows dynamically hardens or softens a shadow’s edges depending on the distance of the shadow from the light source and object casting that shadow. This means softer shadows that diffuse more realistically."

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NVIDIA PCSS - The complete description for how NVIDIA PCSS shadows work is in the documentation above.

Both shadow methods sound similar, or at least sound like these do the same thing. Note that there are specific differences however, like NVIDIA PCSS being able to reduce aliasing along the edges and potentially handle overlapping better. Thankfully you can try AMD CHS on NVIDIA GPUs and NVIDIA PCSS on AMD GPUs, so every feature works on each GPU to compare and see what you like best.

When it comes to shadows, if the goal of graphics quality is to emulate real-world shadowing, then whichever is more accurate compared to real-world shadowing, is the best method. We will have to look at this in-depth to come to a conclusion. In our preview today we will look at the performance differences, but we will save the visual differences for our full-evaluation. However, we will comment on our preliminary assessment of visual quality we've experienced so far.

Rockstar also offers up its own soft shadowing method, and has several different settings for it, from a hard, to soft, to softer to softest setting. This also has to be taken into consideration.

Graphics Settings and Run-Through

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GTA V does not disappoint in the level of graphics manipulation on the PC. Many factors of graphics can be changed on many levels. This game supports FXAA as well as MSAA. We will go into each setting with more granularity in our full evaluation. For now, in the screenshots above these are showing the highest settings possible in the game, sans MSAA. These are the settings we are going to use in this preview today, in every graph. All settings are at the highest in-game settings you see above, included the advanced options in the fourth screenshot. These are all turned on.

Just to eliminate any soft shadow performance bias, we are running in Rockstar's "Softest" soft shadow setting. This will promote fairness in the apples-to-apples performance. We do have specific AMD CHS vs. AMD PCSS performance to show separately as well.

This is just a preview, and as such we have not yet played through the entire game. Our run-through is at the beginning, but after the prologue. The run-through is the drive you must do to follow Lamar to the dealer, it is easily repeatable and takes place fully in the open world.