Mods And Ends: Grand Theft Auto IV

By Adam Smith on October 7th, 2011 at 5:57 pm.

SHINY
What to say about Rockstar? They’ve made me gnash my teeth in anguish this week by stating, to nobody’s surprise, that Red Dead Redemption is unlikely to grace my PC, your PC or anyone else’s PC. But they are giving us LA Noire. They finally got round to releasing Grand Theft Auto IV but there were technical issues and beyond them it needed a monstrously powerful computer to fully capture its criminal charms. And then they went and annoyed parts of the substantial modding community by releasing a patch which, some claimed, was designed to cripple non-vanilla versions of the game. What to say about Rockstar?

The first thing to say is that there wouldn’t have been a Grand Theft Auto IV modding community to anger if the game wasn’t receiving such wonderful post-release support through the dread art of .cfg file tinkering and absolutely massive overhauls alike. Whatever problems the game had at launch, the version, or rather versions, that are available on the PC now represent the definitive way to explore Liberty City.

I enjoyed the characterisation and emphasis on story in the game. I know not everybody did and there’s definitely an argument to be made that some of the sheer maniac joy of the previous games was missing, but that’s why we’ve got Saints Row now. GTA IV is something different and I, for one, am glad I have both options. However, beyond Mr Bellic and his dubious acquaintances, GTA IV offered a much larger character to explore: Liberty City itself.

It remains an astonishing creation. I can happily explore, listening to snippets of conversation, watching pedestrians scurry out of the rain, witnessing minor accidents that I had no part in. Although there are lots of corners being cut, with activity clearly spawning around the player rather than being stumbled upon, it doesn’t matter how many times I break the illusion, it’s still capable of casting its spell on me again.

But the real beauty of Liberty City is that it’s a canvas. Rockstar left plenty of room for additions and alterations, so it can be the City you want rather than the City they gave you. If you’re one of the people who didn’t like the weight of the vehicles in GTA IV, particularly in relation to its predecessors, then you can make everything handle in a lighter fashion so that high speed chases are a greater possibility. There are ready-made handling mods, which I’ll cover in a moment, but it’s also possible to tweak things yourself, using this tool, or others like it.

With that in your arsenal, you can make cars flip over at the slightest provocation or stick to the road under even the most extreme circumstances. You can make them soar like eagles or spin in tiny circles, like dogs chasing their own tails. It’s tools like that that allow for madness like this.

Want to transform Liberty City into a surrealist dreamscape, a hilarious and beautiful nightmare in which cars are no longer cars but drunken car-sized bullets? This handling file is the way to go about it. Just replace the original handling.dat file with that, after backing up of course, and you’re on your way to a short-lived but unique experience.

But what if you’d rather make things more realistic, as I do, in the mad belief that every dent should affect handling and at a car’s top speed it should be little more than a coffin in waiting? The mods have you covered, and in some style too, with a complete overhaul of every vehicle on the streets. Grab that one here.

I find that realistic handling makes chases more tense affairs; a collision with a lamppost doesn’t just throw out some pretty sparks, but can buckle the bonnet of your car so severely a wheel rolls off. And seeing police cars crunch into oncoming traffic is all the more satisfying when, instead of bouncing off like a pinball, they crumple and billow smoke.

It’s not all about how things move though, it’s about how many things are moving. Would you like bigger crowds and more civilian traffic? Of course you would! As well as making the City a more interesting place to explore, chases and general reckless driving become much more of an emotional experience when pedestrians are clogging intersections and a race across eight blocks involves several accidental murders.

For something a little less polished but deserving of mention for sheer wish-fulfillment, there’s Liberty Infection. It’s Liberty City with zombies essentially and is exactly as imaginative and complex as that sounds. It’s not a new game, it’s a new way of approaching the city as playground, and it’s fun, in its limited way. Who among us hasn’t wondered what would happen if the pedestrians started fighting back?

On top of it all, GTA IV on the PC simply looks better than it does anywhere else, especially when paired with this beauty. Deriving much of its fancy-dan looks from other mods, the iCEnhancer is the one-stop shop for extracting the very best of what Liberty City’s visually capable of. Combine that with mods to bump up the number of people and cars on the streets, even adjusting traffic to suit the time of day, and you’ll be free to roam one of the most complete and beautiful environments in gaming.

And that’s the thing. It’s not just about making the game prettier, it’s about fulfilling the potential that was always there. I said Liberty City was a character and all of these mods add depth to that character. They create a better sense of place and, whatever accusations can be thrown at it, that’s the one thing that GTA IV always got right. Add more people and more vehicles and there’s more possibility for emergent situations, breathing more life into the city and creating more stories than a hundred expansion packs ever could.

We’ve covered some GTA IV mods in the past and there are hundreds more here, with everything from an FPS mode to heaps of individually modelled vehicles. But with Red Dead Redemption’s absence receiving some official word, I thought it was a sadly appropriate time to think about what we, the PC crowd, could do if they gave us more than a city. The West is a frontier, an idea, the kind of place that an ambitious few could weave magic from. But it looks like it’s not to be.

They are, of course, giving us another city, a real one this time, and it’ll be interesting to see what we can do with that. I’ve played and enjoyed LA Noire on a consolebox but I’ll still be picking it up again. In a way, with LA Noire it’s even more exciting to think of the possibilities than it ever was with GTA IV because there is a period recreation there but the game itself doesn’t encourage exploration or emergence.

Give the modders some time with it and it will though. If Rockstar really don’t want to disrupt the modding community, as they stated after their latest patch, I’m sure Los Angeles will have a lot more in store than any analysis of the console versions could lead us to expect.

For help with installing any mods that don’t come with a suitable readme, check here.

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60 Comments »

  1. Teddy Leach says:

    It STILL needs a monstrously powerful PC.

    • skinlo says:

      My 4 year old computer can run it on medium.

    • Theon says:

      My 3 year old computer can run it on the highest possible settings.
      Sucks to be you, I guess.

    • Pointless Puppies says:

      Running it on medium isn’t the problem. It’s anything above medium that presents issues even for new computers.

      That configuration you see as the featured image up top? Good luck getting that to run at an acceptable framerate. After being used to getting a steady 60 FPS out of practically every game you own on your rig, getting an incredibly inconsistent 20-30 FPS on a modded (or even all-high-settings vanilla) GTA IV is just bothersome and not enjoyable.

    • stupid_mcgee says:

      Intel E4400 oc’d to 2.4GHz
      8GB DDR2
      HD4850
      Win7 64-bit

      Vanilla runs @ med-high with consistently around 45 fps. Not great, but certainly playable.

      To run it using the iCEnhancer, q9550 and an hd6770 or gtx 280 are a few lower-tier specs that can run it just fine. Granted, I can’t run it, but it’s not entirely out of this realm for a newer mid-range pc to run all the enhancements smoothly.

    • Big Daddy Dugger says:

      Gta4 varies greatly from card to card. With my old 1G ATI HD5770 I got a perfect 60 fps in this game throughout the entire storyline but when I upgraded to Dual 1G Nvidia GTX 460s my fps went down by half in this game and also in dragon age 2 but it increased substantially in everything else.

    • malkav11 says:

      As of about the second or third patch GTA IV has performed beautifully for me ever since. That went for my old system, it goes for my new system even more so. I haven’t tried ICEnhancer, but it requires you to roll back three patches that include further performance fixes, and makes the game do things it was not designed to do via external hackery, so it should be no surprise if it significantly degrades performance.

    • alundra says:

      My thoughts exactly, when I moved from an radeon 4650 to a 6850 I thought I was going to get some amount of decent speed @ medium settings, to my dismay the improvement was not that vast, this pc has an athlon II X3 and it turned out to be that this game is heavily cpu dependent so 3 cores wasn’t enough, and memory bandwidth does not hurt either, so I guess I’ll have to wait even longer to play it on all it’s modded glory :-\

      I’m glad it was a super bargain @ steam.

    • skinlo says:

      The reason it worked quite well on my four year old PC is because I thought ahead and got a quadcore. GTA 4 is very core dependent, if you want an upgrade, get a quadcore if you don’t have one. as this games chews up duel core computers.

    • bill says:

      What?! Run on medium?!
      Don’t you know the whole reason we have graphics settings is so we can run everything on max and then complain that it isn’t optimised!

    • greenbananas says:

      Bah, much more fun to be had getting it to run (pre-patch) in an Athlon 64 3000 (single core), 1GB 400 Ram and a 6600GT. Granted, it took a GT240 to make it playable, but still… I’m proud of me old clunker.

    • Mctittles says:

      I recently got into playing it again and it’s nice to see my pc can run it now. It’s still pretty “old” hardware with a GTX 280 and 300mhz Duo, but runs it pretty nice.

      I’m addicted to the video editor. Anyone who hasn’t messed around with it I highly recommend. Showcases a lot of subtle animations I never saw while playing.
      http://www.youtube.com/user/Mctittles?feature=mhee#p/u/5/DtFXwxaPdmE

      At first I hated the 40 second or so limit on recordings, but now it’s become a fun challenge to see how much I can fit into those 40 :).

    • Davie says:

      I don’t understand. I just put a brand-new HD 6850 into my machine, my RAM and CPU are such that they were well above average for 2007, and it STILL chugs horribly.

      It was a game I really wanted to like, but couldn’t, because it either looked like shit and ran like shit, or looked sort of okay and didn’t run at all. A shame.

    • baseendje says:

      And even if you have a monstrously powerful PC it still doesn’t look great because the game doesn’t support anti-aliasing (not even with application override). laziest poorters ever….

      quote davie: “STILL chugs horribly…”
      this is probably due to your CPU, GTA 4 is such a bad poort that it requires lots of CPU power to play (I use an I7 quadcore to run it).

    • Dhatz says:

      who says medium defines the quality fo the game? I seen things you people wouldn’t believe >D, that were disabled on medium setings in many games.

  2. Compo says:

    This was a great read but could someone kindly fix the carmageddon link, I can’t find it elsewhere and the file can’t be found using this one.

  3. Balobam says:

    I always held out on getting RDR as I was waiting for a PC release.

    Now I don’t even feel like playing it, the initial hype has passed and I don’t know what I’ve missed, so no big loss. Is a damn shame though.

    • DzX says:

      You missed an amazing game to be honest; the narrative and general set-pieces go far beyond the quality of any of their previous titles.

    • Koozer says:

      Looks like I’m in the minority here but I thought the plot was pretty dull, at least up until Mexico where I got bored. The most fun I had was in the first hour, playing with my younger cousin and brother watching. I rode my horse off a cliff, got it deaded, then discovered the lovely skinning animation. Mmm.

    • coldvvvave says:

      RDR was fine, but too repetitive for me. Plot wasn’t interesting at all, and I got completely bored in Mexico. It lacked the best feature of GTA games – driving while listening to your own favourite music ingame.

    • baby snot says:

      I was playing it too sensibly and getting bored until the young son of a colleague decided to show me how to really play any of these open world gun games and proceeded to massacre everyone and thing on site. Following the plot did feel like a bit of a grind after a while so I left it by the wayside.

    • mjig says:

      Yeah I don’t really understand the hype. RDR was the last console game I bought, and that was when it first came out. Before then I think I bought Halo 3 just for coop or something.

      It was okay, but got repetitive fast. The writing didn’t seem that great and the story uninteresting. I quit not long after getting to Mexico, honestly the only part of the game where I felt that it was anything but mediocre was the ride into Mexico with that awesome song playing, the atmosphere was great.

      I prefer SR2/SA/VC, or even GTA4. RDR is just not dense enough to provide that much fun or exploration, and gunplay feels sort of…loose? Weak? There’s no kick or power to the guns, they all feel the same, so no incentive to start random gun fights. Maybe I don’t like Westerns enough to enjoy it. I was always an Army Man kind of guy rather than cowboys and indians.

    • thecat17 says:

      I wonder what making a RDR total conversion mod for GTAIV would be like…

  4. Adekan says:

    I wouldn’t say it still requires an amazing pc, my 5 year old beast with an HD4670 that can barely run bad company 2 on min graphics is still capable of running this game on moderate settings. Granted, the FPS is probably like 8-15. It hasn’t hampered my enjoyment of the game, however.

  5. Sensai says:

    I have a question, but it’ll take me a moment to get there.

    I never really got into the GTA games past GTA2. Something about the focus in the games changed and it stopped being about ‘let’s blow shit up and steal cars,’ and rather about ‘do X for Y.’ That’s fine, but in a sandbox game, I’d rather not deal with all of that.

    When GTA4 came out, it got a LOT of praise. I thought about buying it, but the price tag made me wary (especially since I wasn’t a huge fan of Vice City and the like), so I’ve waited, biding my time. Now that it’s almost inevitably going to be on some kind of crazy sale on Steam, is it worth picking up at a hugely discounted price? What would you pay for it? If I’m not interesting in doing missions and instead am more interested in blowing shit up/modding, is it worth 15 dollars? And, on that subject, should I get the ‘complete’ package, with Episodes from Liberty City? Or just the base game.

    Thanks in advance.

    • Ginger Yellow says:

      If you’re only interested in blowing shit up, then you might as well get San Andreas for even cheaper. If you thought Vice City was too story driven, then you’re not going to like GTA 4. And certainly don’t get the DLC, which is very story heavy. Unless you really like motorbikes, in which case get the first DLC.

    • Compo says:

      As one of my favourite games I’d have to say buy it as soon as it goes on sale, and if you enjoy blowing shit up the missions contain a lot of that so you’ll enjoy them regardless. I will say there aren’t very many well-made mods for the game but as a game itself it’s still great as I’m sure you’ve heard. There’s a very popular trainer which allows you to essentially access a debug mode and lots of people have fun with that, and without any modifications at all, exploring the city at your own pace listening to the great radios is always fun. Finally if you’re interested less in the story and more in the engine or other gameplay I would recommend buying just the EFLC pack of the game. (You can still play these without the original game) This would be a better choice as it has everything the normal game has to offer and more at the same price. The engine is superior and there are many more weapons and cars. You get two campaigns with it but not the original iconic GTA IV one with Niko Bellic. With one of the highest metascores of all time you’re likely to have fun if you buy this game.

    • cowthief skank says:

      If you are mainly interested in stealing cars and blowing shit up, I would recommend Saints Row 2 over GTA4. And if you have a co-op partner to play with, get them to buy it too.

    • The Tupper says:

      I enjoyed GTA 4 immensely, getting 30-50fps at medium settings (still looking glorious) on my 4-year old PC. I’d go for the full package myself – both of the additional DLCs have a range of new vehicles and each has its own distinct ‘feel’: the city stays the same, but various environmental changes makes each feel very distinct.

    • Sensai says:

      Thanks guys. Really appreciate the differing perspectives. How does it compare to Just Cause 2? I bought that game on a whim assuming it’d be more or less GTA4-but-in-some-Asian-country, but was wholly surprised by how awesome it was.

      @Ginger Yellow: I never really put much time into all the different iterations of GTA3, so I don’t really know what I’m talking about in terms of them being more or less story driven than any other GTA3-era game. I’m just saying they all seem much more structured than GTA2.

      @cowthief: Alright, I may do that. It’s a co-op sandbox game? That seems really, really weird.

    • dontnormally says:

      San Andreas had the biggest sandbox, GTA IV packed more detail into a smaller area. Go for San Andreas, as the good man says.

    • siegarettes says:

      Well, I’m going to agree with the commenters above me. Go San Andreas if you just want some sandbox fun, or pick up a copy of Saints Row 2, which is essentially San Andreas with the crazy dialed up a bit. Not to the levels the sequel is going to be, but still.

    • mjig says:

      GTA4 is more about bowling shit up than blowing shit up.

  6. woodsey says:

    “I enjoyed the characterisation and emphasis on story in the game.”

    Really? To me its just atrocious. Crap pacing, lots of bland or clichéd dialogue, terrible use of characters, very little in the way of actual plot, and a huge disconnect between the story-side of things and the actual game-side of things; Niko, if you don’t want to kill anyone else, then stop agreeing to crap, because we’ve got $500k in the freaking bank.

    As for the rest of the game, I’ll never understand the (stupendously good) reception it got.

    I did find Brucie quite funny though.

    • siegarettes says:

      I found a lot of the characters pretty fleshed out and interesting. I did hate the overall pacing, which was very happy to distract you with really minor stupid stuff.

      One of the details I really loved was when you meet up with Brucie’s brother in Ballad of Gay Tony and Brucie is there. He just kind of nonchalantly puts down Brucie and you can tell Brucie is uncomfortable with it. Makes you wonder if he’s acting super macho to cover something up.

    • Jazz42 says:

      That was exactly my problem with the game as well, along with Niko’s god awful cousin.
      If there is anyone in gaming, apart from Rico in Killzone 3, I would like to nuke from orbit, it’s that guy.

      edit: To be fair RDR suffers from the same problem of ‘I’ll help you if you do this one thing for me’-itis. Seriously, just shoot the bastard if he won’t tell you where the dude is…in the leg…then stick you thumb in the wound.
      THEN he’ll talk.

  7. Petethegoat says:

    I love that video. Anyway, you’ve tempted me into putting up with all the bullshit and reinstalling it.
    Can someone point me to something that’ll help me get rid of GFWL?

    • Petethegoat says:

      oooooohhh noooooooo it’s happening again!
      I’m going to spend more time modding this than I am playing it. :(
      Just like with Morrowind, I may never learn.

    • AngryAmoeba says:

      There’s an ASI loader (loads .asi scripts) called Xliveless that, as the name implies, disables GFWL.

  8. Moonracer says:

    Good to know about the GTAIV patches. I’ve been meaning to pick it up for PC when it’s on sale just to mess with the mods (already played it on PS3). I’ll have to make sure all the mods I want to try are still working.

    The Lack of RDR for PC is mind boggling. It’s the best Rockstar game I’ve played since San Andreas. And it has zombie DLC! :P

  9. Jason Moyer says:

    Instead of a realism mod for GTA4, I’d love an “action movie” realism mod. Is there such thing? I prefer my handling on the sim side, but I’d love something that recreated the fireballs with showers of parts that cars turn into in chase flicks.

  10. notjasonlee says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWYWy00Tyak
    for any of you who also want to up the sound realism (link in video description). /self-promote

  11. DickSocrates says:

    I’m not sure there will be all that many mods for PC Noire. Will enough people bother to buy it? You need monster hits to generate enough modders. Saints Row 2 didn’t get much support. We’ll be able to run over pedestrains, yay…? There’s no scope for mods beyond making it look a bit nicer, but who cares with a game like Noire? It sold well because people were caught up in the hype, but the general consensus is now that it isn’t that great a game and there bascially no one clamouring for this PC port we’ve been saddled with. Saddle pun intended.

    • malkav11 says:

      Saints Row 2 has one brilliant, ridiculously extensive megamod, Gentlemen of the Row. It’s hard to see what else you’d need, especially since Gentlemen of the Row features a modular installer that allows you to tweak it to your liking, and since it’s already reaching the limits of what’s technically possible given a game that wasn’t designed to be modded and a terrible hack job of a port.

  12. AngryAmoeba says:

    I’m a fledgling GTA IV scripter, and I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Smith’s sentiment. GTA IV was great, and GTA IV with mods is a more fully realized version of that greatness, which you can tailor to your own tastes.

    I like making realism scripts. Lately I’ve been working on a notoriety system called Arrest Warrant. I’ve also made a Bank Account mod for ATMs, and a Weapon Weight mod that tweaks how you move around on foot.

    Hope you’ll enjoy them. :)

    • Iskariot says:

      Your mods are wonderful. I hope Rockstar takes notice of them, because they add so much to feel of the game. Stuff like this and more should be in GTA V.

      For example I would love to be able to personalize and customize my car. I would like to buy upgrades and addons and make it bulletproof, faster etc.
      Furthermore the game needs to register where you left your car and make it more difficult to steal cars so that having a personal car really means something.
      And I also would like to store weapons in my trunk instead of carrying everything unrealistically in my pocket.
      Also I missed the possibility of modding weapons, adding silencers, improving stability etc etc.

    • AngryAmoeba says:

      For vehicles, may I suggest these mods?

      Vehicle Selector lets you buy up to 50 cars, which will all stay wherever you leave them (until they’re destroyed). You can also customize the color and, depending on the car, add little things like a spoiler or tinted windows.

      Cautious Drivers makes most NPCs keep their car doors locked while driving.

  13. mechtroid says:

    Once again, I must post this amazing edit of the carmageddon video: http://tubedubber.com/#Drp9o4E7G7U:lOJqicM6x84:0:100:0:3:1

  14. ziusudra says:

    SO when are we getting a Blade Runner inspired sand box Rockstar?

  15. Nic Clapper says:

    Had a blast with the vid editor in that game! : http://www.youtube.com/user/clapperdude

    Also thought I heard a rumor that the 5th one wouldnt just be based on a real city but actually named after one. Even tho it’d prolly still be cool I kinda hope not as I’d prefer if it retained that spoof/mock feel of things.

  16. StingingVelvet says:

    I’m not really down with mods that change art design so I don’t use most of these, but the screenshots they create really are wonderful.

    The best GTA4 “mod” for me so far has been using FXAA on it, which eliminates so many of the jaggies at virtually no performance cost.

  17. MikeBiggs says:

    I’m sure it’s a good game. But having owned it on direct2drive for over a year, downloaded the 14gb file over a dozen times and each time been told the file was corrupt and could not extract; well, as you can imagine I’m somewhat tired of it!

    Worst of it is, I only got it on direct2drive because I like to encourage steams competitors every now and again. I now see my mistake aid will certainly never be buying a game with a large download from anything other than steam from now on!

  18. Heliocentric says:

    To get it a dozen times you must be doing something fundamentally wrong. Did you try using their downloader app?

  19. tomovo says:

    I bought it on a DVD and it barely worked. The setup and registration process are awful.
    Then I bought it on Steam, hoping it would get easier and that patches would exist at that point to fix the rendering glitches. Nope. Still sucks. Clearly the PC port was an afterthought. I really think that if this was what would’ve happened with Red Dead Redemption, it is better not to do it at all. I’m still not buying a console though. I’ll rather play L4D for example and enjoy the countless mods made with official support from Valve.

  20. Iskariot says:

    I came late to the GTA scene. I’m somewhat of an oldtimer in gaming and to me somehow GTA didn’t sound like something I would like.
    But then I tried GTA 4 and got hooked. It is one of my favorite games now. I loved the way Liberty City came alive. I loved the way the light and the weather changed. I loved the beautiful atmospheric and detailed streets of New York/Liberty City. The mature story of GTA4 was excellent and the characters in it were great. And the satire that drenched the game was very well done. And let’s not forget the customizable radio. It is so cool to drive around town with my favorite tunes on the radio. Beautiful, absolutely beautiful. I love everything about this game, except for one PC bug I encountered that made it impossible to climb into a helicopter.
    I bought the two superb expansions and played everything 3 times and that will not be the end of it. On a regular bases I return to Liberty City because I enjoy the surroundings and I start to feel homesick when I have not played it for a while. GTA4 features the best Urban open world ever created for a game. It is unique.

  21. Dozer says:

    Bought the complete GTA pack on Steam today in the hope of playing San Andreas. (Not even going to attempt GTAIV.) The sound is bugged – sound effects and speech tend to disappear. Not so bad because mostly I want to drive aimlessly very fast and listen to the radio, but still frustrating. That and it not being optimised for WASD+mouse at all.