GTA V’s Los Santos Sans Textures Is Beautiful, Melancholy

Los Santos in grayscale - 01

Ever wondered what Los Santos, the setting of Grand Theft Auto V, would look like if you stripped out the game’s textures, replacing them with shades of black and grey?

Wonder no longer, because artist Kim Laughton has done just that. More images below the fold.

Laughton’s work is part of’s Flanetrie exhibition, hosted at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, China. The exhibition is based around a modern post-internet spin on the concept of ‘Flânerie’, as explored by French poet Baudelaire: “to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world”. The act of walking and experiencing metropolitan environments, their architecture and their citizens, is probably the most basic way of explaining it. If anyone wants to have a stab at a better Cliff Notes summary, be my guest: it’s a long while since I read any Baudelaire et al.

These manipulated images give a completely different impression of Los Santos. With colour and inhabitants stripped away the city looks drab and desolate, evoking loneliness and melancholy. I can’t imagine Rockstar making a GTA game that centred around urban themes that reflected this re-interpretation, but it’s interesting to imagine what they would do with a city like, say, Detroit, with its empty and abandoned factories and buildings – the sad result of industrial closure, economic downturn and widespread foreclosure.

Let’s hope for a mod that can replicate this once the PC version of GTA V finally launches in 2117.

Anyway, enough of my words. We’ve reproduced all the images below, but larger versions can be found alongside the work of other artists on the exhibition’s site.

Los Santos in grayscale - 02

Los Santos in grayscale - 03

Los Santos in grayscale - 04

Los Santos in grayscale - 06

Los Santos in grayscale - 07

Los Santos in grayscale - 08

Los Santos in grayscale - 09


  1. lowprices says:

    Nice to see someone got a lot of pictures of what London looks like on a sunny day.

  2. Eight Rooks says:

    Dear God if Eidolon had this much detail I think it’d possibly be my favourite game of all time.

  3. Premium User Badge

    phuzz says:

    Ignoring everything else about the game, Los Santos in GTAV can produce some spectacular views.

  4. Napalm Sushi says:

    Los Santos Route Zero?

    • Deepo says:

      My thoughts exactly!

    • GameCat says:

      Answering the existential questions, one bullet at time.

      Damn, it sounds like suicide simulator. :x

      • Monggerel says:

        Unless I’m mistaken, in multiplayer GTA V you do have the option of just straight up popping a bullet in your own avatar’s head at any time.

        Also you’re implying KRZ isn’t about accepting death to begin with (oopsee, spoilers).

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          What? A creative way to delete your character, an “unstuck” button or just you imagining things?

          I hope it’s not the third.

          • Monggerel says:

            No, I know I’ve seen it since I watched some people play the game online and make stupid jokes on youtube. But it is pretty cool, I gotta say.

            Can’t remember a lot of games where suicide is an option so it’s pretty unprecedented. I know Mark of the Ninja ends with you making a choice about who to kill; yourself, or your old master responsible for all your troubles. It even ties it into the game; the only button-mashing “quicktime” sequence is you making that final choice. You have to tap the attack button like nutters to actually force your character’s hand, something that’s otherwise absent in gameplay. Which is surprisingly honest, but rather quite distressing.
            *absentmindedly pulls at shirt sleeve*

          • Monggerel says:

            Whoops, that comment went unfinished. I meant to make a note that technically “/ suicide” is a common console command in multiplayer shooters with an accessible console (eg. Team Fortress 2), used to get your character unstuck. But it carries no connotations beside and has no accompanying animation of your character putting a gun to their temple. Can’t think of singleplayer games where it’s present.

            I should mention at this point that obviously I do not condone or endorse suicide – but since it is basically the greatest taboo in whatever social context one happens to exist in, any depiction of it that is as deliberate as the one in GTA V stands out as extremely transgressive.

            Then again GTA V is generally mean-spirited, spiteful and self-obsessed so I’m sure the thing is meant as some meek attempt at “satire” and flipping the bird, or whatever.
            I should stop writing now.

          • SigmaCAT says:

            In BattleBlock Theater, you can hold down a button to blow yourself up. It’s probably on the top-3 funny-do’s of BBT.

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            Yeah but GTA is… well, it’s just a goldfarm for media outlets of any kind, to the point that even random 90 year old people know something about it, even if i’m not sure i want to know what’s their recollection of it.

            I’d say what shocked me the most about this sort of graphic and explicit suicide thing is the apparent lack of any proper media storm, or at least not under my radar ( which is still quite hard if you have any access to the interwebz, facebook and stuff ).

            Maybe there’s a big lobby ( or the Illuminati ) deciding which kind of taboo is trendy enough, maybe when that suicide thing was discovered the media was focusing on something else.

        • FrumiousBandersnatch says:

          If this actually is a spoiler, your flippant way of posting it (“oopsee”) while letting everyone know that you know exactly what you are doing makes you look like an ass.
          If it isn’t, i apologise for the above comment.

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            Or maybe not having played KRZ is a criminal act and complaining about spoilers is therefore considered an admission of guilt!

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            I mean, it’s pretty similar to me having never played Peggle.

          • Monggerel says:

            Yeah, sorry. Can’t change that now.
            Though KRZ isn’t really about dropping plot twists on you. I think with how mellow the game is in general (except when it’s not), and how all important your own perspective and interpretation of it is, it pretty much cannot be spoiled. Saying “this theme is present in the story” doesn’t amount to much, I don’t think.
            Like saying Mass Effect uses cultural (and racial) conflict as one of the underpinnings of its universe.

          • April March says:

            I think saying “KR0 is a game about accepting death” is about as spoilerish as saying “Fight Club is a book about how capitalism and extreme masculinity cannot coexist but that’s OK because they are both poisonous.”

  5. FCA says:

    Hmm.. I think I’ve seen LA a few times like that on a smoggy day.

  6. inf says:

    Pretty much how the game will look in the distance due to textures streaming in :’).

    Will run great on those 2GB VRAM cards though.

  7. Blackcompany says:

    I find this a far more compelling setting that any GTA game with textures. This is a city I want to explore, whose secrets I want to uncover. Damn it, this is far more interesting than some boring anagram of a modern city we’ve seen a thousand times.

  8. TekknoTroll says:

    For some reason reminds me of Another World

  9. celticdr says:

    Damn that looks amazing – KRZ and Fallout spring to mind.

    I want to play this version of GTA V, even without the NPCs in it… well maybe with a few NPCs in it.

    Rockstar please make a game set in post-apocalyptic Los Santos :)

  10. gbrading says:

    It’s like Eidolon meets Kentucky Route Zero crossed with Limbo. Very cool.

  11. Jernau Gurgeh says:

    Texturing, bump-mapping and attempts at ‘photorealism’ instantly date a game. Notice how the older games that age the best and hold the longest visual appeal are those that don’t indulge in such fripperies, or embrace a more flat-shaded cartoon-like style with limited use of texture-mapping. Twilight Princess instantly aged, yet Windwaker still looks as fresh and cool as the day it was released.

    Hell, in my ageing mindset, wireframe graphics will always look futuristic. Anyone fancy a game of Starglider?

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    Qazinsky says:

    Well, I am picturing a person that worked with textures on GTAV, painstakingly covering the whole world in textures, browsing RPS, seeing a post about the game they put so much work into, opening it and having a heart attack.

  13. OscarWilde1854 says:

    50 Shades of Grey? I expected more whips….

  14. best_jeppe says:

    I dont want to be that guy but thoose images are just the Z-depth pass (link to pulled from the rendering engine. Nothing special about it. Except that the “artist” has added a sun to a few of the pictures.

    Z-depth images are used for applying fog, depth of field and rotoscoping/masking to a game for instance. A Z-depth image is basically a representation for the game engine to know how close different elements are to the camera. Black is the closest and White is the furthest away with everything represented on a grayscale depending on the objects distance from the camera.