Are GTA V's "Photo-Realism" mods really that realistic?

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Published by FileTrekker 2 years ago , last updated 6 months ago

Grand Theft Auto is no stranger to photo-realism mods, GTA IV had a veritable smorgasbord of them, and predictably V is following suit, with the latest, and undoubtedly very beautiful, mod called Natural Vision getting a lot of press. But is it really photo realistic?

Here's the thing, there's absolutely no doubt that NaturalVision, from modder 'Razed', is a spectacular looking mod. It takes advantage of ReShade and ENB effects, as well as utilising the VisualV mod, to create an effect that is both beautiful and stunning. There's no question that the effort, skill and overall quality of this mod makes it something worth downloading.

Infact, you should grab the mod right here, play it for a little while, then come back. Don't worry, I'll still be here.

If you're not able to download the mod and try it for yourself, check out this 4K trailer which will give you a good idea of the graphical enhancements this mod makes to the game;

Okay, now you've done that, let me ask you one simple question; as wonderful as this mod is, did you truly feel like you were transported to a world of super photo-realism? Or did you just feel like you were playing GTA V with some new textures and effects?

Often these types of mods trigger articles, sometimes in major news outlets, talking about how we're on the cusp of truly photo-realistic graphics and that in the next five years we'll be able to roam around in perfectly realistic 3D worlds.

I'm genuinely sorry but that just isn't what I am personally seeing here.

Let me throw a comparison photo up, between a real life photograph, and the equivalent screenshot with this mod enabled.

It's still pretty obvious which of the two photos is real-life and which is GTA V, right? There's a certain level of fidelity and detail in a photograph or film that computer graphics are still a long way away from re-producing. Only now are we seeing CGI in movies that can go without any notice at all, and often these are augmented with real-life elements and practical effects.

I've never seen a truly 100% accurate re-production of a real life environment in CGI that would have come anywhere near close to fooling me. You can tell something is CGI, or a video game, quite easily.

It's very hard to understand why computer games and CGI can't quite fool you into believing something is a truly real, but ultimately I believe it comes down to raw computing power - to re-produce something with immense realism, you have to have every single small detail, every single change in reflection and light, and that's something that computers currently could never practically do, and I'd be shocked if we see video games that are truly indistinguishable from real life any time soon.

Perhaps this is a little unfair on these types of mods; what else are they going to call themselves? Sure, they make the game look more realistic than the stock game, to varying degrees of success. Take the night time shots in the above trailer; they look absolutely spectacular and definitely go a long way to aid the suspension of disbelief.

But why does it look even more realistic at night then it does during the daytime? Again, it all comes down to detail. If there's less detail to be seen, as there is less light, then the easier it becomes to more accurately re-produce a realistic scene in CGI.

So do I believe that we're on the cusp of some kind of super photo-realistic gaming generation? No, absolutely not: but until we are, mods like these are a fantastic way to at least enjoy some level of photo-realistic fantasy.

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