I Shot The Sheriff

There would be so much to say about Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto IV, and in fact, much of it has already been said. However, it frustrates me to see how much the GTA IV’s storyline and its “groundbreaking narrative” have been as a topic of the discussion, mostly by the mainstream outlets. People must think that rambling about narrative in every possible situation makes them look sophisticated and intellectual, even if they miss the whole point of the work. Believe me or not, but a project such as GTA IV is not about telling you a story. It’s about letting you do stuff by simulating the stuff.

One thing that GTA IV lets you do is of course the shooting. Even though the shooting mechanism can be a bit sloppy here and there, the effects of exercising the Second Amendment definitely aren’t. GTA IV does a phenomenal job depicting bullet impacts, not just with excellent physics, but also with spot-on texturing. Bullet holes are so good that they could almost be part of the original texturing, in contrast to flat sticker-like holes seen in many other games.

There are many things that make GTA IV’s bullet holes great, first of being the vast number of them at once. Yes, there is a limit for them, but the number is so high that it’s basically a non-issue for a casual gamer.

Secondly, the bullet holes themselves are fine pieces of work. They are highly dynamic so no two blasts from a shotgun are the same. But more importantly, they use some kind of parallax mapping technique on them, so the holes have real depth when observing them from different angles. I’m not saying GTA IV is the first one to use such technique, but I’d say GTA IV pulls it off quite nicely.

Notice how dense of a mesh – at least – it would take to model (without creating new geometry) such holes with polygons, so parallax mapping is a Godsent for the situations like this. In addition to illusion of depth, the holes also shade accordingly and even have specular highlights on them.

Besides making great bullet holes, I genuinely think Rockstar Games is one of the few developers out there who really gets the medium. They are doing exactly the things of what we all fantasized playing in the future, as we were kids. GTA IV in many ways was the pie in the sky decades ago for the gamers like me – the pie which is now full-blown reality. So, are my gaming needs satisfied now for good? Hell no.

So, when does the Grand Theft Auto V come out?

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