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GTA V graphical downgrade - Planned or developer oversight?

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The long awaited Heists update for Grand Theft Auto V (GTAV) has left a sour taste in the mouths of PlayStation 4  and Xbox One owners due to an apparent graphical downgrade. The issue sparked a debate on Reddit and multiple other gaming forums, as some believe the downgrade is intentional, while others chalk it up to developer oversight.  

Planned downgrade or a developer oversight?

Rockstar is, in my opinion, one of the most forthright developers in the industry. GTA V is a brilliant game with a mammoth user base, selling over 40 million across last and current-gen consoles, with PC gamers anxiously awaiting the game’s release. Therefore, it is unlikely that Rockstar could think that the community would not notice a graphical downgrade to their beloved game.

Although a planned graphical downgrade is unlikely, as it would tarnish Rockstar’s impeccable reputation, there is some merit to the theory. How could Rockstar’s Quality Assurance (QA) team overlook such apparent graphical issues in one of the biggest updates to the game, version 1.08.

Some theories on the graphical downgrade include:

  1. Rockstar showed top quality graphics for marketing purposes, yet GTA V ran slowly on next-gen consoles, so they tuned the quality down hoping that no one would notice.
  2. The patch has a bug that forces low quality settings.
  3. During patch development, some settings where mistakenly changed in the Config file and the QA team did not notice.  

The most likely scenario is number two, as it is highly unlikely that Rockstar would risk a PR nightmare that would commence if scenario number one is the reason for the graphical downgrade.

Rockstar support answers a user question pertaining to the deterioration of graphical quality:

"We are aware of some graphical issues on the Xbox One and PS4 versions of GTAV after the most recent Title Update, and we are investigating a fix now." - Source

So Rockstar is aware of some “graphical issues”, yet the support refrain from calling it deterioration of graphical quality. Furthermore, the specific issues noted by Rockstar remain unannounced. Hopefully we will soon know if all graphical downgrades get fixed or if only some will revert back to normal. Alternatively, Rockstar could offer a detailed explanation of what transpired in order to silence wild conspiracy theories of sneaky developer practices.

Graphical downgrade details

Gamers might not even notice the graphical downgrades as they enjoy the Heists mode in GTA Online. However serious or miniscule GTA V players believe the graphical downgrade to be, the issue is still worth pointing out.

In the video above, Youtube user ElAnalistaDeBits details the graphical downgrade, comparing version 1.00 to version 1.08.

To summarize, the graphical downgrade includes:

  • A decrease in Parallax Occlusion effects – This is a type of Shader mapping technique that in layman’s terms makes bricks (for example) appear raised, even though the whole brick surface is rendered as a flat polygon.
  • Decreased draw distance – From the video above and multiple user reports, the draw distance of GTA V 1.08 is lower than in previous versions. The decrease in draw distance is noticeable in the video, as objects further away are blurry in 1.08 compared to 1.00.
  • Anisotropic Filtering effects reduced - Filtering increases the quality of textures in video games particularly at extreme distances or angles.

It is hard to believe that Rockstar did not notice this issue before releasing the update. However, one good thing that the graphical downgrade delivers improved frame rate. Multiple users from Reddit and other gaming forums report “less drops in frame rate, especially in online play sessions”.

According to Twitter user Funmw4, the Parallax Occlusion issue is fixed:

"PS4/XB1: Minor fixes for Parallax Occlusion, multiple bug and stability fixes. PS3/XB360: Multiple security, stability and glitch fixes." – Source

However, the game’s latest update 1.09’s full patch notes do not include any mention of Parallax Occlusion or other graphical downgrades.  

Is GTA V’s graphical downgrade on PS4 and Xbox One is intentional or a mistake by Rockstar? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.

Sources: Rockstar Support, Reddit, Twitter

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