NaturalVision Remastered is drop dead gorgeous.
Jamal Rashid's ambitious GTA 5 visual overhaul mod NaturalVision Remastered first caught my eye last year. At the time, it was the result of 1,200 hours of work (now a whopping 3,600)—including over 40 hours of video, photograph, and Google Street Map research—and provided a gorgeous reworking of Los Santos and beyond.
Now, several months on, its latest update not only looks even prettier—it expands its scope beyond superficial aesthetics.
"With the newest update, I've transformed NaturalVision Remastered from a simple graphics overhaul to something much bigger," Rashid tells me via email. "Now it includes a few gameplay changes, weapon changes, vehicle tweaks and much more. I have a relaxed schedule for the time being, which allows me to sit here and mod this game. As I add more content, the amount of time between each update goes up. As a result, there is increased pressure from the audience. I've learned that it's okay to take as much time as needed if you plan on delivering quality content."
Rashid explains that making roads look wet in 'Extrasunny' weather became this update's biggest challenge, and that making environments look cooler during morning and afternoon times—"where the sun is closer to the horizon and shines on the roads"—was tricky.
"I enabled rain and disabled all the rain particles for this specific weather, but I was left with noise from the invisible rain and puddles that continued to form on the ground," says Rashid. "I gave up on this task months ago, but recently I ended up finding a hidden timecycle variable within the Halloween weather which completely disables any noise from the rain and prevents puddles from forming. It's exactly what I wanted. Now I had slightly shiny roads in Extrasunny weather with invisible rain falling at all times and no puddles."
Rashid continues: "But wait—this change caused the pedestrians to start walking away because the AI thinks it's raining. Next I spent hours trying to find a workaround. Part of this included driving up and down a virtual street dozens of times and restarting my game after each tweak in order to observe how the pedestrians behave in different weather conditions. I ended up swapping the 'Rain' parameters with 'Snow' in some of the AI files and enabled invisible snow particles in Rain, Thunder and Clearing weathers. This finally fixed everything that I wanted."
Rashid says his favourite part of the update process is getting feedback from his close circle of beta testers, and that down the line he may rework 'Cloudy' and 'Smog' weather from scratch to match his increasingly high standards.
Here's a gallery of screens from NVR's latest update, with some interesting coinciding commentary from its creator (click the top right for expanded images).
Here is the Clear weather during sunset. Cloud and sun colors were reworked to provide a warm look for the sky. This is one of my favorite in-game hours.
Taking a helicopter tour near the Vespucci canal on a sunny afternoon. Most of the vegetation you see in the background was modified to look more realistic. I mostly altered the color of the textures, but other times I swapped the model with something that looked better. Additionally, some of the vanilla GTA 5 trees had a bright specular texture that would cause leaves to look white under direct sunlight, so I've reduced the intensity of that. In the future I'd like to make 2K vegetation textures for every major tree throughout the city and countryside.
Here we have a modded Porsche 911 parked in the industrial zone of Los Santos on an Overcast day. While I've improved the cloud colors and ambient tones, the real magic in this picture is the stylish tonemapping applied over the image. This was only possible thanks to a custom script another modder created specially for me. This script allows me to uniquely alter the contrast, brightness, gamma and more for every single weather by editing the timecycle_mods files. There's no need for ReShade and no FPS loss.
Here is the new Rainy weather. Everything in this picture was heavily inspired by the first Watch_Dogs game. I modified the rain drops to look thinner and tried to give the overall weather a cold feeling.
The sky colors in this picture were inspired by Forza Horizon 3 during late evening/night transition. The purple streaks in the sky are actually tiny soft clouds that I added to blend in with the dark blue sky. That way there's more variety to the sky and horizon colors.
I reworked godrays and made them feel smoother when transitioning between objects. The only downside is the newer NVIDIA drivers broke godrays in GTA 5. They only seem to work in driver version 388.71 or older. I've reported this issue to NVIDIA and so have other people, but they haven't implemented a fix as of yet.
Here we have the new Foggy weather, which was inspired by some old Half-Life 2 mods and Silent Hill. One of my favorite features in this weather are fograys, which work similarly to godrays but rely on fog density for their appearance.
This picture was taken after sunset in Extrasunny weather. The ambient tones, fog colors and sky colors were somewhat inspired by Watch_Dogs 2.
Taken around 6am—shadows are slowly unmasking all the brightly lit structures in the background. This was one of the most difficult hours to create in the GTA 5 timecycle. I wanted to make shadows cover most of the city and ran into a few bugs while attempting this. Luckily, I managed to balance things out in the end.
At first glance it may seem like this picture is edited, but it's actually just the new lens flare effect during sunrise. Truly a sight worth seeing. As for the deer, I made sure to include a gameplay tweak where animals cannot witness a crime and call the cops on the player. This was a real thing that Rockstar enabled in the vanilla game and I personally hated it. It's more realistic if you commit a crime in the middle-of-nowhere and get away with it.
This picture shows off some of the muzzle tweaks that I added to every single weapon. I didn't like how the muzzle flash texture was really big. I also didn't like how most of the weapons failed to exhibit gunsmoke when firing. I modified both of those things for each weapon in order to offer a more realistic experience. This part of the mod is still very much a work-in-progress. In the future I'd like to modify weapon recoil, rate of fire, magazine size and other things.
Sunset in the countryside. I like how the sky colors mix together. Although you can't see it in this picture, the way Mt. Chiliad looks during this hour is absolutely breathtaking. I definitely need to snap a picture of that soon.
"I increased the procedural grass density beyond the normal limit. My game settings are fully maxed out in the "Before" image. Increasing the grass density only causes an FPS loss of 1 or 2 frames. I think it's totally worth it for the result you're seeing here."
"I increased the amount of litter/trash spawned around certain parts of the city. I felt as if this gave the city a little more life to it. Think of it as background noise."