Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

A widescreen view of the entire map from GTA San Andreas without fog.

Screenshot: Rockstar Games / Kotaku

When I was younger, I remember thinking of the card in Rockstar’s classic GTA San Andreas was massive. It definitely felt that way, thanks in large part to the blurry fog. Well, all that fog is gone in the newly released remastered trilogy collection, and it makes the whole world feel tiny and sad.

When Grand Theft Auto San Andreas was released back in 2004 on PS2, it felt like the greatest game ever made. I remember immersing years of my life into that game, reproducing it, exploring the world, looking for mysteries, and pretends to be a truck driver or a camper. What helped make it possible to “live” in this digital world was the size of the map. At the time, it seemed impossibly large. Los Santos, the city you started in, felt like it was hundreds of miles away from the game’s other major cities, Las Venturas and San Fierro. Driving to these cities was a road trip towards distant places.

But in reality, the map is not that big and it is instead dependent on some tricks to make it look much bigger. How Rockstar managed this involved a few things, including curvy and winding roads that made it take longer to get anywhere, and the use of empty space between the cities that you were forced to wander through. But the most important key to pulling the illusion off San Andreas big cards are within the game’s sensible use of fog. In part, a technical limitation blocks the fog most of the world from your immediate view, allowing the PS2 to render fewer things on the screen. But Rockstar has also designed the map and its cities around this fog. Then turn it off –which people have done before on the PC when they want to share a screenshot of the entire card– It’s not a good idea. It deprives the world of its size, and does San Andreas feels like a little amusement park.

CJ standing outside his house in Los Santos, able to see Mount Chiliad.

Screenshot: Rockstar Games / Kotaku

Still, the remastered trilogy coming out this week does just that. So now you can literally see the supposedly remote Mount Chiliad from CJ’s house. When you stand on a tall building in Los Santos, you can now see both Las Venturas and San Fierro, and it looks awful! Seeing the sharp lines between desert and grass without gentle fog that helps hide the transition it feels like one Fortnite Map.

According to Rockstar, it was all on schedule. In an interview with TheGamer, Rockstar producer Rich Rosado explained that “being able to push the distance back and see more of the city” was something that was not possible on PS2, but only in these new remasters.

“Simply being able to look to the end of a street,” Rosado said, “and seeing people driving around and cars moving up and down, adds a sense of scale and majesty to the world.”

The skyscrapers of Liberty City in GTA 3.

Screenshot: Rockstar Games / Kotaku

The thing is, it’s not completely inaccurate. IN GTA III and Viceby, turning off the fog and increasing the drag distance helps a lot in making these cities feel bigger and more authentic. To be able to see all the big skyscrapers just across the river GTA III makes it feel more like a real re-creation of NYC. And yes, seeing pedestrians and cars far away increases the sense of life and movement in cities that on PS2 felt empty and dead.

But i San Andreas, a game with multiple cities supposed to be far apart, the fog should have been on. Or at least an option to turn it on or off. Because in this game, it just makes the whole world feel small and fake.

During the same interview with TheGamer, Rosado added that it was actually a good thing to remove the fog because “It’s like that [Rockstar] hoped the game would have looked back then on that hardware. “I have a very hard time believing that.


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