The Essential Grand Theft Auto IV Tuning Guide: Get the Latest Look and Resolve Choppy Performance Issues
- How To Build An Awesome Gaming PC For $666
- 10 Essential Tweaks: Pushing Your Gaming PC to Its Absolute Limit (Part 1)
- 10 Essential Tweaks: Pushing Your Gaming PC to Its Absolute Limit (Part 2)
- The Essential Crysis 1 Tuning Guide: Make the Original Faster and More Beautiful Than Ever!
- The Essential Crysis 2 Tuning Guide: Better Graphics, More FPS
- The Essential Skyrim Tuning Guide: 5 Best Steps to Increase Speed and Graphics
- The Essential Max Payne 3 Tuning Guide: Optimizing and Troubleshooting in 5 Steps!
- The Essential Diablo 3 Tuning Guide: Diabolical Tweaking for Best FPS!
- The Essential Grand Theft Auto IV Tuning Guide: Get the Latest Look and Resolve Choppy Performance Issues
I am a Grand Theft Auto (GTA) addict. Back when it first came out, I only had a 486DX4 with a mere 100 MHz. The game took its toll on my PC to say the least, so I employed all of the techniques I knew (from tweaking system files to defragging to running the original TuneUp 97 – no kidding) to optimize the game.
Jump forward to 2012. GTA IV, due to being a console port, is a very CPU-heavy game and still has its performance problems. In this installment of our “Perfect Gamer” series, I’ll show you how to optimize the latest version of the game to its fullest. We’re not just going to upgrade its graphics to (almost) GTA V levels but also noticeably increase its FPS.
“Perfect Gamer” Series – Overview
• Part 1: How To Build An Awesome Gaming PC For $666
• Part 2: 10 Essential Tweaks: Pushing Your Gaming PC to Its Absolute Limit, Part 1
• Part 3: 10 Essential Tweaks: Pushing Your Gaming PC to Its Absolute Limit, Part 2
• Part 4: The Essential Crysis 1 Tuning Guide: Make the Original Faster and Beautiful Than Ever!
• Part 5: The Essential Crysis 2 Tuning Guide: Better Graphics, More FPS
• Part 6: The Essential Skyrim Tuning Guide: 5 Best Steps to Increase Speed and Graphics
• Part 7: The Essential Max Payne 3 Tuning Guide: Optimizing and Troubleshooting in 5 Steps!
• Part 8: The Essential Diablo 3 Tuning Guide: Diabolical Tweaking for Best FPS!
• Part 9: The Essential Grand Theft Auto IV Tuning Guide: Get the Latest Look and Resolve Choppy Performance Issues
Like in all of our game-specific tweaking guides (as listed above), it’s important to ensure that you have the perfect gaming environment . TuneUp has already outlined some great steps for pushing your gaming PC to its limit ; these include grabbing the latest AMD/NVIDIA drivers, turning off non-critical Windows background services with our Turbo Mode and overclocking the CPU and GPU. After cleaning up your system, install FRAPS, a useful tool for benchmarking FPS and PC gaming performance, before getting started with these tweaking tips to evaluate their impact on your system. Ready? Then, let’s take a closer look at GTA IV.
1. Use iCEnhancer 2.0
GTA V is slated to debut later this year or early in 2013. Its first trailer made fans all over the word drool over its graphics, which seem to have gotten a massive polish when compared to GTA IV’s sometimes “muddy” look. Using the iCEnhancer 2.0 mod, we’ll achieve graphics that should come pretty close to those previewed in GTA V.
1. First, back up your entire GTA IV folder to a different location. If anything goes wrong, you can always start over again with the original folder.
3. Make sure you have a fresh GTA IV install. If you’ve previously applied mods, you may run into problems such as a jiggly camera or random crashes after 5-10 minutes into game play. Since iCEnhancer works best with GTA IV version 22.214.171.124, download this patch.
Do not update to version 126.96.36.199! If you bought GTA IV via Steam (such as I did), make sure that it doesn’t update itself. Right-click on the GTA IV entry, select “Properties” and go to “Updates”. Select the “Do not automatically update this game”—otherwise, Steam will install 188.8.131.52 and might mess up your iCEnhancer mod in the process.
4. Afterwards, decide if you want to install additional mods. If so, head over to GTA4-Mods and download the ASI Loader+Script Hook 0.5.0. Copy the dsound.dll and scripthook.dll into the root folder of GTA, for example.
5. Finally, let’s move to the installation of the iCEnhancer mod. In the downloaded “iCEnhancer2.0N.rar” file, you will find a subfolder called “Patch 184.108.40.206 to 220.127.116.11”. Inside this folder, you’ll find six folders.
Only if fresh installation: Copy the files “xlive.dll” and “xlive_d.dll” into the “C:\Program files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\Grand Theft Auto IV\GTAIV” (Steam) or “C:\Program files (x86)\ Grand Theft Auto IV\GTAIV” folder. Overwrite any existing files.
Main files: Copy all of the files you see here to the root folder of GTA IV and, again, overwrite all existing files.
Anti-Aliasing: You now have to choose between a variety of edge smoothing techniques. The first is FXAA, which is explained here in detail and is usually the faster aliasing method. It costs about 5-15% of performance on even a mid-grade graphics card. However, FXAA doesn’t just apply to edges—it may also affect textures, texts and other on-screen elements which you might not want to see anti-aliased. Since this is not very noticeable in GTA IV, it’s my preferred technique.
You could also go with Subpixel Morphological Anti-Aliasing (SMAA), a new form of Anti-Aliasing, which includes more reliable edge detection. However, it costs more in terms of performance than FXAA. Whichever you choose, copy the “iceconfig.cfg” into the root folder of GTA IV.
Only if it’s lagging too much: Ignore this folder unless you’re running into major performance problems.
Options: Things get a bit complicated here.
• Bloom: You have to choose one of the two bloom methods (“Light shafts” or “Anamorphic lens flare”) to the root folder. You can always go back and try a different method if you don’t like the first.
• Color palettes: Extract one of the folders inside the “Color palettes – extract me there” to the root folder of your GTA IV installation. For example, if you want to give GTA IV a bluish “Avatar” look, copy the “icepalette.bmp” into the root folder of GTA IV. Next, open up the “iceconfig” file and scroll to the bottom. Change “Use Palette Texture” from “False” to “True”. Again, you can change the color palette by copying over the other .bmp files from the “Color palettes” directory.
• Film Grain and Sharpening: Want a bit of artificial film grain and a sharper look? Just copy the “option.txt” file to the “GTAIV\PC\Textures”.
• HD Blood Beta: This will make the blood in the game look more realistic. Use it at your own risk though, as this is a beta release. Just copy the “fxprojitex.wtd” to the “GTAIV\PC\Textures” folder, but make a copy of the original file first.
• HD Trees: Extract the “Extract me there” folder. Inside, you’ll find a file called “ext_veg”. Copy this file to the folder “GTAIV\PC\data\maps\props\vegetation”. This will update all of the trees in the game to higher-resolution versions.
• Sprites: This gives a variety of different sun flares and ray reflections. See which one you like, copy them over to the root of the GTA IV folder and overwrite any existing files.
I’m afraid of overheating: The new mod could put a lot of stress on your GPU, so the modder advises you to keep an eye on the temperature of your graphics cards. In my tests, it never reached critical levels. If you, however, run into issues, you should copy the “d3d9.dll” sitting inside that folder to the root of the GTA IV directory. The game will look less appealing, but it doesn’t stress your GPU as much.
Personal version: This is entirely optional. It’s the creator’s personal settings. Just launch the game and see if you like it the way you configured it above. If you want to try iCE’s personal settings, make a copy of your entire folder and overwrite the files with the files you find here.
6. That’s it! PHEW! But it’s absolutely worth the trouble. Just launch the game and enjoy. Note: In many cases, having applied the mod, all of the menu fonts may be gone. If that’s the case, download the Fonts Mod. Copy the files “fonts.dat” and “fonts_r.dat” into the directory “GTAIV/common/data” in your Grand Theft Auto Folder.
After all of those steps, which take quite a bit of time, the game will look more beautiful than ever before. Here are some shots from a fully optimized GTA IV with iCEnhancer 2.0.
(Click on each of the pictures to view them in full screen.)
Unfortunately, with all of the tweaks applied, my frame rate dropped from the original 50-60 FPS to a mere 20-26 FPS. And I’m using a pretty decent gaming machine (Core i7 3.4 GHz + GeForce GTX 555). It’s time for a bit of performance tuning.
2. Play with the Graphics Settings
The graphics settings in GTA IV can be tweaked quite a bit.
Play with each and run the benchmark to determine the average FPS. Hint: The view distance is probably one of the most resource-consuming settings, so try to reduce this before tinkering with the actual picture quality.
3. Tune GTA IV’s Reflections
No matter if you’re running the beautiful iCEnhancer 2.0 mod or if you’d like to boost your vanilla GTA IV’s performance, this tweak should be at the top of your list. When you increase the resolution of GTA IV, the engine automatically increases the resolution of all reflections as well. “MonkeyMhz” over at the GTAForums.com analyzed this problem in detail, and he explains that reducing the resolution of reflections has little to no impact on graphics’ quality. The idea is to trick the game into thinking it’s running at 800×600 or 1024×786 resolutions and then scale up all other resolutions. These are the steps to lower GTA IV’s reflection quality.
1. Launch GTA IV and make sure that no command line parameters are set. You’ll find all of the parameters in a file called “commandline.txt”. Alternatively, you’ll find parameters when you right-click on your GTA IV shortcut and select “Properties”. Steam users need to go to “Properties” and “Set Launch Options”.
2. Set the resolution to 800×600. You’ll find this resolution under the “Graphics” menu. Set the other options to values you like until all of the graphics cards’ video RAM is almost filled up. A good way to do that is to increase the view distance. Now, write down the value of the remaining video RAM. In my example, that’s 963 out of 969. Divide this value with the total video RAM of your graphics card. For example, my GTX 555 has 1 GB of memory, so I divide 963 by 1024. The result is: 0.94.
3. Next, create a new shortcut to GTA IV and add the parameters “-availablevidmem 0.94″. Replace the 0.94 in this example with the result of your division.
4. Add the resolution to the shortcut. For example “-height 1080″ and “-width 1920″ for full HD resolution.
5. Done? Start the game! GTA IV should now start at your desired resolution, but the reflections should still be at 800×600. You can check that by going to the graphics settings—note that you can’t exit that menu (it will tell you exceeded your memory), so you have to quit the game by using ALT+F4.
In our tests, this increased the frame rate from a mere 27 FPS to 34 FPS.
4. Fix GTA IV Stuttering
GTA IV still has some issues in which it uses too much memory and actually exceeds your physical RAM. To fix this, add the “-memrestrict X” parameter to your GTA IV shortcut or type it into a “commandline.txt”, which you’ll save in your GTA’s root folder. “X” should be replaced by the amount of your video card’s RAM multiplied by 1024 squared. For example, on a 2 GB (2024 MB) video card, it would be 2048x1024x1024. The resulting parameter would read as -memrestrict 230686720. Save the file and run the game!
GTA IV should now perform and look better than ever. Have any hints, comments or suggestions when it comes to tweaking this game? Let us know, and don’t forget to keep an eye out for the next part in our “Perfect Gamer” series….it’s all about tuning the original Crysis I!