GTA 6 graphics analysis: what can we expect on PS5, PC and Xbox Series X?

GTA 6 looks set to be the most visually stunning open-world game ever – but how is that going to be achieved?

GTA 6
(Image credit: Rockstar)

We might be getting our first glimpse of GTA 6 today if the game's latest leak swings one way.

But regardless of if we do get a sneak peak at the incoming new open-world game for PC, PS5 and Xbox Series X, one question above all others is nagging away at my mind right now – just how good will the graphics be on GTA 6 and how well will it run in terms of frame rate.

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I, like many gamers I'm sure, want to be blown away by GTA 6 and have already earmarked it as a major reason why I've upgraded to the next-gen consoles and refreshed my desktop PC's hardware.

But have I set my hopes too high? That's what I want to briefly explore here by asking the simple question: what will the graphics and performance be like on GTA 6?

GTA 6 and next-gen graphical effects

I personally think that there are two next-gen graphical effects we will definitely see built into GTA 6: real time ray tracing (opens in new tab) and deep learning super sampling (DLSS).

I think both of these are nailed on for adoption into Rockstar's RAGE graphics engine (opens in new tab) (used on past GTA games and most recently on Red Dead Redemption 2) as, well, both are already in use on Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC.

YouTube channel Digital Dreams created this video (opens in new tab) showing RDR2 running on PC with real time ray tracing at an 8K resolution. Needless to say the results are stunning.

DLSS has also been added to Red Dead Redemption 2 by Nvidia, meaning that both these graphics technologies are already running on the engine that GTA 6 is almost certainly going to run on.

We also know that both the PS5 and Xbox Series X are capable of real time ray tracing technology and, while the GPUs that power them aren't made by Nvidia but AMD, some form of DLSS is going to be possible, as well as very specific hardware optimisation thanks to the next-gen console's closed architecture.

Both these technologies would be a major boon to GTA 6 as real time ray traced lighting would lead to a far more natural, realistic in-game world with more accurate shadows and better global illumination. Combine real time ray tracing with a HDR TV or games monitor, and GTA 6 would look astounding.

And, well, any form of DLSS would help improve framerates in GTA 6 massively, which is something the next section deals with.

As such, based on the available information I have, I think it's safe to say that GTA 6 is going to benefit from these technologies in some form on PC, PS5 and Xbox Series X.

GTA 6 resolution and frame rate

Here's the big one – will GTA 6 run at a 4K resolution on Xbox Series X and PS5? And, if so, what frame rate will be delivered with it? It's obviously fair to say that GTA 6 will run at 4K 60 FPS on PC (indeed, enthusiasts will likely have the game running at 8K 120 FPS within weeks on some suped-up mega rigs), but on the next-gen consoles it is far from certain.

Again, our best idea of what will be delivered has to come by looking at Red Dead Redemption 2, which right now only runs at (opens in new tab) 4K on Xbox Series X, and even then its framerate is capped at 30 FPS. The PS5 doesn't even run the game at 4K, plumping for a 1920x2160p resolution at 30 FPS.

Now, to be fair, RDR2 hasn't has a next-gen patch since it made the jump from PS4 Pro and Xbox One X yet, so it should be able to run better than that in terms of frame rate on the next-gen hardware. However, if we look at some flagship games coming next year to the next-gen consoles, such as the PS5 exclusive Horizon Forbidden West, right now it doesn't look like (opens in new tab) we're getting 4K 60 FPS.

Personally, I'd much prefer 60 FPS to be offered up with a lower resolution than 4K for the sake of it. High frame rates make a far bigger positive impact on gameplay than a native 4K resolution, so I would be hoping Rockstar deliver a "Performance Mode" in GTA 6 on next-gen consoles that lets me run it at, say, QHD resolution and 60 FPS. Many gamers will own upscaling TVs, too, which could help offset a lower than 4K resolution.

If you ask me, though, I think we can safely rule out frame rates above 60 FPS in GTA 6 and a 4K resolution only in very specific circumstances, if at all, on next-gen consoles. A bit of downer I know and I hope this changes, but with the info available this is the conclusion I've come to.

GTA 6 loading, draw distance, particles and interactivity

We've already got a hint at how the GTA 6 world is going to be bigger and more visually dynamic than ever before, with "large scale destruction events like skyscrapers crashing to the ground" and "advanced particle effects" hinted at in an official Rockstar Games job listing.

And I think this makes perfect sense when looking at the graphical power on offer by both the Xbox Series X (12 teraflops of computing power) and PS5 (10.3 teraflops). That's three times more powerful than the Xbox One and PS4 consoles, which were what GTA V was programmed for.

We're going to see a larger, more detailed open world with larger draw distances. That world is going to be populated with more NPCs (with smarter AI, too), more complex models and, when the action heats up, we're going to see the next-gen hardware throw around a lot more particle effects in terms of explosions, smoke, rain, muzzle flashes, debris and environmental deformation.

On PC I'm sure GTA 6 will come with the usual bucket of sliders to tweak almost every aspect of the game's engine, assets and effects, while on PS5 and Xbox Series X I'm expecting just fidelity or performance modes, with a standardised level of draw distance and effects quality on offer.

In terms of loading times that is one area where I'm expecting great things from GTA 6, which will have access to NVME 4.0 M.2 SSD drive speeds on all platforms. You only have to look at the read and write speeds on offer in the best PS5 SSDs to see that loading times are going to be improved on GTA V. The big question, though, will be how many of them we actually get?

One of my wish list hopes for GTA 6 is that we get far less loading screens, with the player hardly ever shown one once the game has initially loaded. GTA V was not great at this and the old hard drives the game was forced to run off on console meant painfully long load times. GTA 6 can rectify this and, with the information I have available to me now, I don't think a load once then play future is unrealistic.

Finally, let's talk world interactivity. This is where, being candid, I'm really unsure if Rockstar are going to deliver. GTA games have always pushed the boundaries in terms of in-game interactivity, letting players buy houses, cars, clothes and weapons, get haircuts, play sports, enjoy pastimes, and customise their things in a variety of ways.

However, the wider world has been very dead and inactive, with 99 per cent of buildings not even having interiors and large swathes of the in-game map basically designed to drive through and nothing more. A more living, breathing, interactive world would be immense, but being candid I don't know if GTA 6 will deliver it.

GTA 6 graphics analysis: conclusion so far

Overall, then, it looks like we're going to see GTA 6 launch on the next-gen consoles running at up to 60 FPS and 4K resolution but with caveats and limitations attached. As ever, the PC gaming master race will, providing they've dropped enough money for the silicon, be able to run the game in advance of that.

GTA 6 is almost certainly going to benefit from real time ray traced lighting effects, and some form of DLSS tech, too.

The world of GTA 6 is also likely to be larger than previous GTA games and feature enhanced draw distances, models, particle effects and load times.

In game AI is also almost certainly going to have been improved and in-game interactivity might also increase as well.

I think, then, albeit with little information to go on right now other than leaks, rumors and what we know the PS5 and Xbox Series X are capable of, there's plenty to be enthused about in terms of GTA 6 graphics. I don't think we're going to get photo realism or anything crazy in terms of resolution or frame rates, but I do think it's going to be the best looking open-world game ever made.

In the meantime, gamers like me can but dream, creating their ideal GTA 6 10 out of 10 game feature wish lists.

Robert Jones
Robert Jones

Deputy Editor for T3.com, Rob has been writing about computing, gaming, mobile, home entertainment technology, toys (specifically Lego and board games), smart home and more for over 15 years. You can find Rob's work in magazines, bookazines and online, as well as on podcasts and videos, too. Outside of his work Rob is passionate about motorbikes, skiing/snowboarding and team sports, with football and cricket two favourites. Feel free to contact him with any related products, events, and announcements.