It's no secret that openworld games don't look as good as their more linear blockbuster peers, simply because they have to create and render entire cities rather than more confined gameplay corridors. According to Aaron Garbut, art director at Rockstar North, the difference is shrinking all the time.
"San Andreas was effectively a bunch of cubes of various sizes stuck in between roads," he told Buzzfeed this week. "I love it, and love what we did, but really that was what it was. Open-world games have pretty much always been a step or two behind the curve visually compared to more linear games."
"Just in terms of sheer production, building a large, fully explorable world takes a lot more effort than building your typical game's movie-set style series of facades, which tend to be tunnels of detail through an environment rather than a fully realized whole. As console power has increased and our experience has increased, I think we're narrowing that gap more and more."
So what does that mean for GTA V, which is now only one tantalising month away? "You can fly high in the air at one corner of the map, look over the miles of city and skyscrapers, over the hills and desert to the furthest ridges of the most distant mountains," Garbut explains. "It's all there and visible. That's amazing to see. But the really cool bit is that you can see a street light in a distant town, fly toward it for kilometres until the street itself is visible and the light bulb eventually comes into view. It's amazing. It's a level of solidity that I've never seen before. It brings the world alive in an incredibly realistic and organic way."
GTA V is out on September 17th for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.