Simply put, having both discs installed to the 360's HDD appears to create a bottleneck for the engine as it attempts to draw these assets from the same source, but playing straight from disc gives us comparable results to PS3. This hampers the experience much more than the launch issues Skyrim had, where that game suffered from similar texture-streaming when installed. In this case, the engine is apparently optimised to utilise bandwidth from both the disc drive and HDD at once.
Running straight from disc, then, there's little to distinguish the PS3 and 360 releases when it comes to environmental detail, but there are some curious catches. Flying the Cuban 800 plane around shows up variations in grass placement, but more striking is the presentation of palm trees regularly sighted around the city. Their more flourishing look on 360 is unusual given the parity elsewhere, though we notice the upshot of this is a nasty pixel-crawl across their tops during slow pans, suggesting a lack of alpha-to-coverage to mitigate the extra-thin details. Also falling within nitpick territory is a slight difference to reflection map resolution while in front of Franklin's bedroom mirror - the PS3 delivering a lower-quality, pixellated alternative to the 360's reflections.
The target this time is 30fps for both platforms, and it holds at that point for most areas. Overall the PS3 puts out the lower frame-rate for synchronised in-engine cut-scenes, typically by a matter of two frames-per-second and rarely much more. Curiously, the 360 version is the only one of the two to drive upwards from the 30fps target on occasion - far from being ideal, this produces a judder effect due to the frame-rate no longer operating as a multiple of the 60Hz output signal. Regardless, the readings for both consoles stick together like glue during dips below the line, with each going as low as 20fps.
For unsynchronised play involving cop chases through busier segments of the city, it's common to see drops to 20fps on both platforms as well, though a clear performance leader is hard to parse out here. Trevor's more explosive battles with rival drug dealers in the outback areas also suffer, during which the PS3 seemingly takes an advantage despite the chaotic excess of fire and smokes effects. Ultimately, the variability of this lead shows attention has been duly paid to the strengths of the PS3 architecture, where the difference is practically imperceptible to the naked eye.
Grand Theft Auto 5: the Digital Foundry verdict
At last, Rockstar North's monstrous open-world caper is here in all its glory - but after five years and an estimated £170 million being sunk into development and marketing, which version is the one to buy? After playing both versions extensively and amassing over 2TB of lossless video to analyse, we must stress that you're bound to have a fantastic time with either take. Lighting and physics engines are fully intact on both versions, and the minor differences in reflection mapping go down as nitpicks. At its core, both PS3 and 360 present the same massive Los Angeles-inspired sprawl via the same 720p native resolution lens, with almost entirely identical effects and object detail.
However, it's apparent that the PS3 version has an undeniable advantage in one area: even to the naked eye, ground textures on 360 are blurred as a result of what appears to be unoptimised asset streaming. Glitch or not, this basically amounts to concrete and grass textures appearing fuzzier beneath the feet of Trevor, Michael or Franklin, while the PS3 version's remain crystal clear. The 360 does command a minor advantage in frame-rate during synchronised play, but for shoot-outs and high-speed hurtles down the city streets, the PS3 can sometimes pull ahead in these metrics - though the difference is rarely perceptible either way. Since all else is identical across the board, the PS3 version is recommended on the grounds of image quality if you have the option.
Grand Theft Auto 5 easily counts as the most feature-rich and eye-catching sandbox title of the current generation to our minds, though the silence on the as-yet unannounced PC and next-gen releases is deafening. Adaptations must surely be in the running - and doubtless these would be bolstered by smoother performance and higher-grade effects afforded by more muscular hardware. But that's perhaps missing the point; with so much heist-plotting content crammed into one package, and with an intriguing 16-player online mode yet to be patched in, there's no time like the present to enjoy Los Santos' delights on the platforms you already own.
"It's fair to say that the 360's performance advantage has less impact in-game compared to its texture filtering issues. It's close, but PlayStation 3 is our preferred platform for this game."