Rockstar’s new Grand Theft Auto 5 has been out for a few days now and both PS4 and Xbox One players have been locking themselves into their bedrooms to spend as much play time as possible with the newly released open-world title of the acclaimed series. In typical Digital Foundry fashion, GTA 5 was submitted to a thorough performance analysis on both current-gen consoles PS4 and Xbox One. As you may remember, Rockstar initially announced that the game will be running at full 1080p resolution and locked 30FPS on both consoles. Right off the bat, this is confirmed. The Rockstar development team held up their end of the deal end delivered the originally intended native 1080p resolution and 30FPS across both Sony’s and Microsoft’s gaming consoles. To start off, Digital Foundry reviewers have compiled a plethora of GTA 5 clips chosen from a total of 20 game-specific missions, focusing on the segments where the 30FPS cap would be facing the highest stress levels. Based on this performance comparison, the PS4 and Xbox One are outperforming one another in certain scenes of the game. As usual, the enhanced GPU capabilities of the PS4 were expected to secure Sony’s console the lead in most game scenarios, but the reality is more ambiguous than we would have anticipated.
Moving fast across city junctions such as Strawberry Avenue has been identified as one of the weaknesses in the PS4’s armor, as frame rates dropped to 24-26FPS at their lowest levels. The Xbox One was also struggling to maintain the 30FPS target under the same conditions, but to a lower extent compared to its counterpart. Putting head to head the two identical junction scenes where the player transitions very fast from one position to another, the PS4 falls short, as it suffers from more frequent frame rate drops than the Xbox One, which shows a more stable frame rate output. This of course might be pointing to a CPU bottleneck for the PS4, considering that the Xbox One provides a smoother experience under the same circumstances, most likely thanks to its higher CPU clock speeds. Another possibility worth taking into account was the hard drive access, certainly plausible due to the highly intensive streaming of GTA 5’s huge environment. To eliminate the assumption of a streaming bottleneck, an SSD drive was fitted on the PS4, but the results showed no improvements whatsoever.
With that out the way, it is clear that the Xbox One has an edge over the PS4 while cruising at high speeds across crowded junctions. However, the One seems to have a problem coping with downtown scenes outside the junction areas, as the test reveals a number of frame rate dips when driving across these areas, while the PS4 maintains a constant 30FPS the entire time. Rockstar have been purposely dropping some visual features off the complex open-world rendering process of Grand Theft Auto 5 in order to allow the less powerful GPU of the Xbox One to perform at its best, but this does not apply in all game areas and performance wise, this is quite visible on Microsoft’s console. Also, complex effects which for instance are translated into transparency effects (explosions, shootouts) can cause noticeable performance dips. For example, explosive missions with Trevor in the suburbs of Los Santos, show that the Xbox One has a hard time dealing with these high-end effects all at once, as the frame rate drops to 24FPS during one shootout, while the PS4 shows a very shy drop of 1 to 2FPS when alpha effects kick-in. So clearly the PS4 has an advantage when it comes to explosions and shootouts, benefiting from a more capable graphics hardware. Overall, both console versions of GTA 5 are pretty similar in terms of visual presentation, apart from a lens flare effect which has been either left out or dialed back on the Xbox One.
The latest remastered addition to the Grand Theft Auto series shows a massive improvement over the last-gen version thanks to its high-end graphics features efficiently implemented by developers. The new GTA 5 has managed to right the wrongs seen in the previous PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, offering a solid gameplay and nearly impeccable graphics performance. The considerably higher pixel count compared to the last-gen edition is the enabling factor of a much cleaner presentation. The beautiful lighting model, quality enhancements applied to all main characters and a complex texture overhaul, translate into an impressive visual experience. Certainly, a more accurate depth of field and increased view distances will further contribute to the inspired revamp of the next-gen GTA5.
The brand new First Person mode plays both as a plus and serious challenge for players, as they will have to be more attentive to what is happening around them at any given time, something that was accomplished a lot easier from a third person viewpoint. Technology wise, GTA 5 puts to good use the high-end computing power brought by the new wave of gaming consoles, showcasing a crisp and attractive visual experience. Choosing one console version over another is quite difficult given the similarities in graphics performance, but if forced to pick out a winner, the PS4 would come slightly on top, mainly due to the lack of visual hick-ups in the most demanding scenes of the game and the array of complex visual effects better employed by Sony’s console. The one scenario where the Xbox One comes on top is not conclusive enough to crown it as winner. Nevertheless, both console versions are very solid overall, and Rockstar seems to have found the ideal recipe for their new GTA 5 title, which successfully combines exciting gameplay and state of the art graphics.