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Here’s how to make GTA V look beautiful, and play well, on your PC

As soon as GTA V was announced for PC, builders and enthusiasts immediately knew that getting the game to run well with every single graphical settings turned up would be a challenge. When you take into account the open-world design, dynamic day and night with complex shadows, and quickly changing landscapes, the game can easily put a lot of stress on even the best systems. That’s why Nvidia has put together an incredibly comprehensive guide to tuning the settings to get it running well on your machine, without it looking like garbage.

Dat grass tho’

According to Nvidia’s extensive testing, the most important setting in the game when it comes to performance is grass quality, and not the kind Trevor gets from the Grass Roots guy on that side mission. Cranking grass up to Ultra means you can see all the individual blades and random flowers, and normal makes every grassy surface look like a flat green floor.

GTAVGrassQual-Comparison

There’s a huge performance gap here, and Nvidia points out that raising the quality from normal to ultra, without changing any other settings, dropped their frame rate from just below 60 to just over 30 FPS on its Titan X powered test rig. They suggest going with high for the grass settings, because it’s a lot more visually appealing than normal, especially at distance, and you’ll see a marked increase in performance. Only top of the line systems should even attempt ultra.

GTAVGrassQual-Chart

Anti-Aliasing

One setting that often puts the strain on even the best systems is anti-aliasing. With anti-aliasing turned on, the edges of shapes, both large and small, become a lot smoother, and lose that shimmery, jagged look. You can turn on a number of different AA engines, at a number of strength levels, and which one you use will largely depend on your system’s performance, and your tolerance for PlayStation 2-style polygons.

GTAVAntiAliasing-Comparison

For most newer systems, your best bet is going to be TXAA x2, as it provides a solid level of performance, and while FXAA is great when you’re standing still looking at something stationary, TXAA is much better at working quickly on moving objects.. If your system is having trouble handling that, using FXAA instead will give you a pretty significant performance boost without a huge loss in clarity.

GTAVAntiAliasing-Chart

Distance Scaling

When it comes to distance scaling, it’s less about maximizing performance, and more about removing annoying pop-ins. Distance scaling affects how close buildings and objects have to be before the game loads and renders them. When the setting is turned down too low, the most notable effect is that things will pop into your view that weren’t there previously, which is particularly noticeable when you’re driving fast and turning corners quickly.

It’s a setting that you can leave at the higher end at first, but depending on your system, and even more importantly, where you are in the game, you may have to slide the scale up and down to get optimal frame rates without slamming into a car that didn’t load at the right time.

GTAVDistanceScaling-Chart

There’s also extended distance scaling, which you can turn up to load more objects and details on building at even greater range than just distance scaling. It doesn’t have a huge affect on how things look unless you’re very far away from them, and it’s pretty demanding, so you should only slide it up if you’re already running smoothly with distance scaling at 100%.

What doesn’t matter

Of course, almost as much as knowing which switch to flip to double your fps, is knowing which sliders go all the way up without gumming up the works. Settings like in-game depth of field, tessellation, and even some texture qualities are easily turned up without much of a loss of performance at all.

There are also a few settings they suggest turning up to normal or high, and not bothering with anything higher. Reflection quality is one where the difference between normal and high is immediately noticeable, and the next couple steps up are only relevant if you spend a lot of time staring closely at shiny objects. Water quality also doesn’t seem to benefit much from very high and ultra settings, but normal looks pretty weak. Finally, shader quality really benefits from the bump to high, since normal can affect a lot of scenes negatively, with the way lights moves in the game.