I have a special relationship to the Race Driver: GRID. I own a PlayStation 3 copy of the game with Codemasters’ signatures all over it (thanks to this animation), although I don’t own that particular console. Furthermore, I still find GRID exceptionally pleasing aesthetically in various ways, regardless of the extreme post-processing that felt a bit iffy at the beginning, and which I have criticized before.
But above all, what caught my eye right off the bat were the tail lights, and especially the supposed LED –ones. They just looked gorgeous under the darkening sky of the Yokohama docks, as if the old El Diablo himself was staring at you, spitting flames out of his exhaust-mouth.
So, the reason why the tail lights looked to me so impressive in GRID is two fold, I believe.
First, the modern LED –lights simply look cool even when encountered in real-life. LEDs usually make a car look more contemporary and in some cases, even provide this subtle touch of sci-fi (see Lamborghini Reventón).
Secondly, and more importantly, the tail lights indicate very delicately how far the texturing has come from the early days of texture mapping, in terms of resolution. If there had been LEDs in cars in the early 90s, it would have been impossible to make textures to represent them in a game; the resolution would had not just been there yet to capture all the necessary details.
So perhaps there’s a little destiny involved that LEDs appeared in cars in the time when we have enough resolution at our disposal to make textures of them.