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Ok, so after watching, re-watching, and then super re-watching the debut teaser trailer for Grand Theft Auto Five: Vinewood, there’s a few things that stood out that makes the game questionable of next-gen merits, especially when it comes to the game’s pedestrian and vehicle density.
Now, we’ll go over the details of this slight investigation using screenshots and comparisons to the GTA IV iCEnhancer. First up, the lighting in the GTA V trailer obviously wasn’t the same kind of lighting used in GTA IV. Most people might pass this off as non-noteworthy or that Rockstar simply enhanced the lighting and called it day. However, look closer…the lighting is juxtaposed with extremely rich AA (anti-aliasing) and equally rich texture detail. Now, my question is, where exactly did Rockstar get the extra VRAM to add these kind of lighting and visual techniques when the hardware for the current-gen consoles barely pulled off GTA IV at a steady 30fps? I mean, they didn't pull the extra memory out of Gabe Newell's rear-end, and they certainly didn't pull it out of Rob Dyer's rear-end...there's just hot fanboy smoke up both those tubes.
Now this brings me to my next point of speculation. How on earth did Rockstar fit so many concurrent dynamic shadows onscreen at once and still maintain the framerate? Let’s be real for a second. None of this is pre-rendered CG footage, it’s all running in real-time and this isn’t id’s RAGE where the game is pseudo-open world where most of everything takes place within caves, enclosed cities or rubble-ridden corridors, this is all outdoors, in the open and in real-time. Heck, the shadows in the GTA V video look about as good as those from the GTA IV iCEnhancer mod…a mod, might I add, that can easily tax mid-to-high range PCs if the hardware isn’t properly optimized. I mean, check out the shot below of GTA IV with the iCEnhancer on and how dynamic the shadows and soft shadows are…a feature that absolutely guzzles a graphic card’s memory like crazy. In fact, you can't even turn all the features on the PC version of GTA IV up to the max without at least 2GB of dedicated graphics memory.
Now some of you might think that Rockstar simply optimized the game’s shared memory access and the way the consoles handle putting things into memory and taking things out dynamically, because realistically with only 512MB of RAM it basically means that the game cannot maintain having graphics, items or functions on-screen that exceed the memory limit. Yet, visually, we have an open world game being shown off making use of visual techniques that clearly look like they exceed that limit. Check out all the different objects with dynamic shadows in the shot below.
All right, so let’s assume Rockstar found a way to make an open-world game make full use of the current gen console’s memory. They can put things in and take things out per every scene, ensuring that each shot looks its absolute best. For argument’s sake, we’ll say that’s the case for why so many objects each have dynamic shadows on-screen. But, here’s the next kicker…how the heck did they fit so many different peds and vehicles on the screen at once and maintain the framerate? Even Just Cause 2, optimized as it is, doesn’t have that many pedestrians or vehicles on the screen and when it does the game’s framerate takes a massive hit on the consoles. Again, even if we run with the argument that each scene is visually optimized to make the most of the Xbox 360 and PS3’s graphics hardware, where did the additional memory come from to have so many different vehicles and pedestrians on-screen, actively moving and maintaining the frame-rate? Check it out below (notice how the palm trees in the far distance even have reflective shadows on the buildings and ground).
Saints Row 2, ugly as it was, didn’t even have that much going on on-screen without taking a hit to the frame-rate. At most there were maybe 10 NPCs and a handful of different vehicles filling up the screen in order to maintain performance continuity. THQ and Volition purposefully avoided upscaling the graphics too much in order to maintain fast load times and a lot of on-screen action. But even Saints Row 2 doesn’t offer the amount of varying vehicle types on-screen at one time that we’re seeing in GTA V. Again, with shadows, the lighting and all these on-screen memory eating elements on display at once, something has to be up.
All right, checked out that image above? That’s a specially modded version of the ENB series mod for GTA IV running on a high-end machine to get that kind of look. It’s not something just anyone with any kind of rig can cook up and capture with that kind of clarity and quality. Yet, here we are with a very well-endowed draw-distance shot from Rockstar purposefully showing that kind of clarity and that kind of quality in the shot below for GTA V. Also note, that's not a typical looking skybox in the shot below, the clouds almost look volumetric.
You know what really makes that shot crazy? All those car lights far off into the distance actually move in the trailer. Again, I’m puzzled how GTA V, for current-gen consoles, can somehow look as good as a modded version of a PC game which obviously requires hardware at least five times more powerful than what’s in today’s current-gen consoles. A testament to the power of the Xbox 360 and PS3? No, not by a long shot.
I’m thinking we’re either looking at PC exclusive footage or potentially Wii U footage. It’s obviously not running on PS3 or Xbox 360 hardware, because based on the limitations of the RAM and the video cards it’s just not technically possible. Heck, this isn’t even discussing additional details like ragdoll physics, NPC reactions and the Euphoria engine attached to RAGE. I mean, if all those cars and peds were on the street and a single shot was fired off, the game (running on current gen consoles) would come to a near screeching halt trying to calculate all of the possible reactions at the same time. The only way this footage would be possible on either of the current gen consoles is if Rockstar tailor made each shot from in-game, specifically for the video.
But when an open-world game like GTA V can somehow have as much as it has on-screen, running fast and visually looking almost as good as the modded PC version of GTA IV, there’s definitely going to be eyebrows raised, eyes squinted and alarms going off. In this case, I think Rockstar definitely has more to tell about the game than what’s been shown.
And just because we're nice, here is one more comparison between the lighting of GTA V versus that of an iCEnhanced GTA IV.