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Wednesday, June 08, 2005
More First Impressions
Posted by illspirit at 11:21. Site: GTA San Andreas. Category: General

So, you've grabbed a copy of the game from the local shop, but the dvdrom you ordered online two days ago hasn't been delivered yet, what do you do? Sure, you could go over to a friend's house to play, but then who wants to gather around a keyboard and an LCD moniter to play? The answer's simple really, you just round up some mates and head down to the cinema you just happen to have keys to, and have one of them bring their PC along. Okay, that's probably not the simple answer, but it that's what I did...

The video: Sharp XGP25X projector + custom PC The audio: Dolby CP650 + a few thousand watts of power
San Andreas: life-sized Editing handling.cfg in a giant Notepad!

The basic setup went something like this: A custom built PC with a P4, a gig or two of RAM, and an NVidia GeForce FX5900, running at 1024x768, with the draw distance, AA, and visual FX cranked all the way up. This was ran via DVI into the industrial strength Sharp XGP25X digital projector, and the audio off to the cinema sound system (think subwoofers the size of a small car!). The results? Well, "wow" just doesn't cover it. Naturally, I've seen all the screenshots (and played a bit at a friends house before we headed to the cinema), but seeing it on a "monitor" bigger than the side of my whole freakin' house was simply mind blowing. Even though each pixel was probably about two inches across, the texture detail is simply amazing. Compared to Vice City, the jump up in resolution is like the difference between the N64 and the PS2; especially on the roads and store fronts. And, yes, we've played VC on this setup too, so it wasn't just the big screen that made it look nice.

The next bit that jumped out and slapped me in the face was the shadows. Judging by the pre-release screens, there was some concern floating about the intraweb (myself included) that the shadows were too light and wouldn't be all that noticeable. After playing for a while though, I'd have to say we were just plain wrong. Between the subtle rays of, erm, dark casting across cars and peds from power lines, to the volume shadows when you go under a bridge or something, they really do look quite nice. And it's not just eye candy either. Not only does it add to the general immersion, but just wait until you think you've made a clean getaway from the cops, only to see the shadow of that damn heli creep over you. Fun stuff.

On top of the aforementioned graphical updrades, the other big thing to be excited about is the draw distance. However, in that deparment, the screenshots really do speak for themselves. Now, I know there were some fears about pop-in and such after that big 20 mintute preview video the other day, but rest assured, the draw distance is simply vast (assuming you have the hardware to run it maxed out). As in the video, the only time pop-in is really an issue is when you turn around really fast, or on occasion when trees appear rather abruptly out of the fog. Or, of course, you might have some problems if you mod your Shamal to go like 10 times faster than the missles being fired at you from angry Hydra pilots, but something like that is to be expected.

Anyhoo, I could go on for hours about other stuff such as the MIP mapping, LOD streaming, and, say, actually being able to *read* street signs and license plates for a change, but this is probably already getting too long. Alas, the only real bad part about tonight's preview was that I couldn't get any more good action shots off the screen. The rest came out blurry from the movement and/or from trying to auto focus a digital camera in low light on a shiny mylar screen. Hopefully FedEx brings me that dvdrom soon...

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