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Grand Theft Auto 5 mod gives Liberty City next-gen life

A new Grand Theft Auto 5 mod has given us a look at what a next-generation remake of Grand Theft Auto 4 might look like. This mod takes advantage of ray tracing to create some truly magnificent graphics and effects that simply wouldn't have been possible when GTA 4 premiered in the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 days. Heck, even the most recent iteration of the franchise, GTA 5, doesn't look nearly this impressive from a visual standpoint. At least, not without this mod.

As explained by GameRant, YouTuber Digital Dreams has actually combined a few different mods to achieve the impressive environment seen in a video posted to their account. In addition to the ray tracing mod, Digital Dreams is also running a mod that inserts the entirety of GTA 4's Liberty City map into the world of Grand Theft Auto 5

In other words, this is the closest we've gotten to the feel of a next-gen remake of Grand Theft Auto 4. Imagine cruising through these gorgeous streets as GTA 4 protagonist Niko Bellic. It feels completely right, especially when you consider that Niko is supposedly still alive and kicking during the events of Grand Theft Auto 5.

So how does ray tracing work, exactly? Well, as explained by Digital Trends, "ray tracing is rather simple. It attempts to emulate the way light works in the real world. Instead of creating pre-designed, or "baked-in" lighting for scenes in games, ray tracing traces the path of simulated light." This allows games that utilize ray tracing to produce visuals with realistic color palettes and reflections, along with a depth of field that feels accurate to real life.

The results in this mod are certainly pleasing to the eyes. The rain-slicked streets now feel appropriately misty. The cars driven by the player appear to have more of a sheen to them. Reflective surfaces feel especially more real in this mod. You can actually see trees and power lines reflected in the windshield and glossy paint job of the vehicles. A night drive through the city shows off the city lights bouncing off the surface of the car. The daytime sky is a brilliant, vivid blue. 

Some of the character models look pretty much the same as the original version of the game, particularly some of the NPCs we see on the sides of the road. Likewise, it doesn't appear as though the damage taken when a car bumps into another car has been augmented all that much from the original. Still, the work that has been put in here is certainly impressive. Make no mistake, this is one pretty-looking mod, and perhaps the best that Grand Theft Auto 4 (or GTA 5, for that matter) has ever looked.

The GTA series isn't the only video game franchise to get the ray tracing mod treatment. In fact, a mod was unveiled last year called ReShade that could essentially give any older games a facelift that mimicked the effects of ray tracing. This was illustrated at the time by showing off a playthrough of 2007's Crysis. Through this mod, however, all of the jagged edges in the game's animation had been smoothed out. In addition, the mod gave Crysis more realistic shadows and a cleaner color palette, making the game look altogether less "flat."

Fans in the comments of Digital Dreams' video seem rather split on whether or not they're impressed by the demonstration of these mods. Some seem to feel like the effects amount to little more than adding some reflective surfaces. While it's true that the daytime scenes don't have exactly the same "wow" factor as the evening drive footage, there's still something to be said for the work that was put into this. The animations still appear very smooth in this mod. 

It's a shame that Rockstar's anti-cheating programs would probably flag this mod the second you tried to take it into GTA Online, but that's just as well. Niko never went online and he seemed to be happy as a clam in the mean streets of Liberty City.

If nothing else, this mod gives us hope for what the GTA series might become in later entries. It's easy to wonder if some of the series' more cartoonishly violent elements will fully translate to a more realistic graphic style. Still, with Grand Theft Auto 6 finally confirmed, we should hopefully see some footage from that soon. It's safe to say that the real game may have its work cut out for it when trying to compete with the graphics seen in this mod.