GTA 4 (PC): The ups and downs of the graphics effects
Today the first reviews of GTA 4 (PC) have been published online. Although we can't offer an extensive graphics and performance review yet, we nevertheless have several screenshots and provide an analysis of the visual quality of the GTA 4 PC version.
GTA 4 (PC) won't hit the markets before December 3 and on that day the servers for the online authentication will be running, too. Since PCGH wants to use the final retail version for tests and reviews, we won't be able to deliver an extensive benchmark review before Wednesday. Until then we have to put you off with some screenshots taken by our sister magazine PC Games. Those shots are taken from a review version of GTA 4.
On most of the screenshots in our GTA 4 gallery you will find similar attributes of the graphics. The engine delivers a high draw distance and rather good particle effects. Thereby street canyons or other big objects are always displayed at far distances. The Level of Detail system is responsible for adding additional objects at closer distances . Those don't just appear out of nowhere (pop-ups), but are faded in rather smoothly: Smaller objects are half transparent at first and become more solid the closer you are.
The shadows and the textures are weaknesses of the GTA 4 PC version. All objects and characters cast shadows indeed, but they are quite "grainy” and almost scream for better filtering. Far Cry 2 for example showed similar shadow artifacts on the consoles, but they were fixed on the PC. Furthermore there are always areas with low-res textures that are an almost painfully big contrast to the nice objects. On Wednesday we will check if this visualization has been altered for the final retail version.
Another peculiarity is related to the transparent textures. Those have been used for a long time in games already, but lately there is a trend that makes to make the so called Alpha to Coverage the standard. Vegetation, handrails, fences and other objects are realized with this procedure. In contrast to the Alphatesting it gets "frayed” on the edges and that creates the impression of smoothing out the edges. Most of the time this is accompanied by pixelation. And that's the case in GTA 4, too. Branches and diverse fine details on bridges (see screenshots) seem to be pixeled. Additionally activated Transparency Supersampling can possible improve the effect - but at the expense of performance of course.
On Wednesday we will deliver additional articles dealing with the PC version of Grand Theft Auto 4.