Grand Theft Auto IV mod looks better than real life
July 6, 2011

Life has its ways of proving us wrong  and altering our perceptions, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Today, it’s for the better. Recently, I was joining in on a discussion on VideoGamer.com – of whose homepage my ugly mug is currently featured – about photorealism in videogames and whether or not they’ll ever be able to convincingly recreate reality. I said no. Well, to elaborate, I argued that, unless we see some major advancements in the way that certain assets are modelled and rendered in the next few years, that developers simply can’t, and won’t, devote the man hours required to meticulously render the inside of a character’s nose, or the individual veins in leaves.

It seems that the community does what the developers can’t. In a move that has made me sorry for opening my big, stupid mouth, I have been stunned by one fan’s work. A community mod for Grand Theft Auto IV  has been released and it’s positively jaw-dropping. The mod uses something referred to as iCEnhancer 1.2, and whilst I’m not entirely sure what kind of technical witchcraft and wizardry is going on behind the scenes in this mod, I do know is that it looks absolutely gorgeous.

Sure, the foliage still looks a bit questionable and it’s still discernibly different from ‘real life’, but it’s mightily impressive; for that level of graphical fidelity to be achievable by technology that’s commercially available today fills me with excitement for the future of videogame verisimilitude.

– Rory

Project Café to compete with PS4/Xbox 720 graphically?
May 15, 2011

For some unjustified reason, Nintendo have an image problem when it comes to their machines’ graphical capabilities. Granted, its handheld consoles have often been trumped in the horsepower department by competing products (think DS vs. PSP) and the Wii was a generational gap behind the 360 and PS3, but before Nintendo employed this new strategy, its consoles were always very competitive in terms of graphical fidelity.

The GameCube boasted arguably one of the most efficient architectures ever found in a console – its power surpassed that of the PS2 and was pretty much on par with the Xbox, even outperforming it in some areas. Further to this, Nintendo were able to produce the Cube at a fraction of the cost of its competitors’ offerings while still fitting the whole thing into a much smaller shell and having a much lower operating temperature. The Nintendo 64 was an absolute powerhouse compared to the relatively modest PS1 hardware, but its success was ultimately dented by a lack of 3rd party support.

Despite this misnomer, it’s kind of understandable, based on the Wii, why many were expecting Nintendo to skimp out on the hardware again and simply compete with current gen offerings, and leaked specs, whilst a bit vague, seemed to suggest that the next console would again be a beefed up version of what’s already on the market.

However, IGN built their own custom rig using equivalent parts to those supposedly being used on the Project Café, and the implications are pretty exciting. The results themselves were fairly impressive; the rig could run Crysis 2 on ‘Very high’ at full 1080p at 60fps. This in itself is practically what a lot of people were expecting from the console, but the test was a little unfair. Whilst the test utilised 2GB of RAM as opposed to the rumoured 1GB in order to compensate for the taxing Windows 7 OS, it’s likely that a console with similar specs would perform better still than this test would suggest.

Here are the components:

  • CPU: 3.2 GHz AMD Athlon II X3 with a custom Intel Triple-Core processor
  • Graphics card: XFX Radeon HD 4850
  • RAM: 2GB

IGN make a special and important note – “Nintendo’s system will be drastically different than ours, using custom-built processors, a streamlined OS and running optimised games.” While the rig did offer some improved textures, it’s likely that the console itself will be a pretty big leap above what the video shows due to this very fact.

Undoubtedly, the 720 will boast a few higher specs than the Café, but in the end it won’t account for much. The PS3’s Cell processor puts it quite a bit ahead of the 360 in terms of pure grunt, but it was never really utilised, except for in titles like Killzone 3 and Uncharted 2. To cut a long story short, the Café will be competitive. It will be able to run PS4/720 games without too much of a graphical hit, and, if it supports 1080p via HDMI, the differences will be negligible, unless everyone decides to go out and buy UHDTV sets in the next 3 years.

The difference between the Wii and the 360 was an ocean, the difference between the Café and the 720 will be more like a puddle. For Nintendo gamers especially, it’s looking set to be one of the biggest ever graphical leaps between consoles; the jump from Wii (a beefed up GameCube) to a console that’s reportedly 5 times more powerful than the 360 is going to feel more like a double generational leap.

This means that the Café will get very competitive versions of multiplatform games, such as Call of Duty, and, given Nintendo’s ability to squeeze the best out of their consoles, coupled with some of the best artists in the business, it means that we’ll be playing some of the most beautiful looking games ever burned to disc come 2012.

– Rory