GTA 5 has never looked so beautiful. For a game now closing in on its ninth birthday, the enduring popularity of Rockstar’s golden goose is impressive. The crime simulator has received some extensive official glow-ups along the way, granted – it first starred on PS3 and Xbox 360, later received dedicated PS4 and Xbox One upgrades, and has since been given the same treatment on PS5 and Xbox Series X consoles – but the fact that it still features so prominently on best sellers charts to this day underscores its abiding intrigue. Part of that long-lasting appeal comes by virtue of super-talented modders, who’ve spent the best part of a decade growing GTA 5 from its base state with new skins, scripts, missions and visual overhauls.
The most impressive of the latter is, hands down, Jamal Rashid’s (aka Razed) NaturalVision Evolved – five years in the making, two years in active development, and now on the cusp of full release outside of the creator’s Patreon (opens in new tab). “Since 2020, the NVE project has grown exponentially in size and scope,” says Razed. “We initially started off with plans to modify simple things such as reflections on buildings and texturing a few locations or props. What we ended up doing is creating new weathers with volumetric clouds, overhauling particle effects and decals, adding dozens of new vegetation models for trees and bushes, adding dozens of new props and lights, overhauling entire locations such as the Grand Senora Desert with new textures and models, adding parallaxed roads to most of the map, adding parallaxed interiors, and much more.”
And so, it’s worth repeating: GTA 5 has never looked so beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that I struggle to believe NaturalVision Evolved has been applied to Grand Theft Auto 5, and not, say, Forza or Gran Turismo – games whose base states are ultra-photorealistic as standard. Vanilla GTA 5 is nice in its iterative 2022 guise, sure, but NVE really is on a different level – one which its creator has spent several years working towards.
Because while NaturalVision Evolved is two years in the making at this point, it’s also the direct successor to Razed’s previous GTA5 visual overhaul project: NaturalVision Remastered. Conceived in 2017, that venture – which was over and above the prettiest aesthetic rebuild of Los Santos at the time – was the result of thousands of unpaid hours, and copious amounts of research, with Razed having studied upwards of 40 hours of video footage, hundreds of photographs, and having made countless virtual visits to the real-life streets of Los Angeles via Google Street Maps in order to bring the project to life.
After giving NVR one last big update in late 2018, Razed reckoned his work was complete. But in early 2020, not long after the world was gripped by the ongoing global pandemic, he began work on NaturalVision Evolved, launched a Patreon, and is now on the cusp of releasing the most impressive GTA 5 visual overhaul mod I’ve ever seen to the wider public.
“Things have been quite wild over the last two years, to say the least. As a creator, I’ve been overwhelmed with the public’s interest in my work and overall support,” Razed adds. “It’s not something I expected at all. The pandemic itself has had a huge impact on everything imaginable, including the gaming market. Several users approached me two years ago and suggested I do Patreon for mods. Most of them were impatient and didn’t want to wait for my projects to be released; they wanted to try my mods in early access. I’m not someone that likes to rush their work so it was a tough decision. I ended up asking a few of my friends and getting their thoughts on launching a Patreon. They all thought it was an interesting idea and eventually convinced me to go through with it.”
“And it’s been going well ever since. The amount of support I’ve received on Patreon from people all over the world gives me the strength to push through each day. Even content creators such as MrBeast and various streamers have shown a lot of love. None of this would’ve been possible otherwise. Patreon has helped push my work to greater heights, while giving me full creative control. I am grateful for everyone that has helped or contributed to my projects in some form.”
That help, in tandem with the tireless work of Razed and his peers behind the scenes, has produced something very special – so much so, Razed says he’s been approached by numerous console players who love his work so much that they’ve repurchased GTA 5 on PC just to play with his mods. To this end, NaturalVision Evolved may not be the long-awaited and much-anticipated GTA 6, but it looks so good that it’s definitely a viable stopgap. Razed admits that while he’s very proud of where NVE is at the moment, he’s not convinced it’ll ever be finished. He reckons there’s more than could be tinkered with – overhauling pedestrians, for example – but says a line must be drawn somewhere. Perhaps even more exciting, given his skillset, is the fact that work on both NaturalVision Evolved and its forerunner has acted as an experimental gateway to creating his own indie game. “I’m still unsure of all the specifics,” says Razed, “but I know for a fact it’s where I’m headed.”
In the meantime, the next steps for NaturalVision Evolved are a new trailer before releasing its full single-player beta next month. Razed says: “Both myself and my colleague IceVip have been working hard on a brand new cinematic trailer releasing later this summer to showcase a lot of the things we’ve accomplished over the years with the mod. This trailer will be accompanied with the single-player beta release of the NVE mod. I hope people are just as thrilled as I am to watch the new trailer and experience story mode with the mod.”
Until then, Razed leaves us with a gallery of some of NaturalVision Evolved’s most striking images – complete with captions penned by the creator themselves. Enjoy!
A view of the Downtown Los Santos skyline. Here you can see NVE’s extended directional shadow distance covering various buildings.
Here is the new Smog weather sunset. I wanted to make the colors of the sunset look different here in comparison to Extrasunny and Clear weathers by giving it warmer tones.
In this image you will notice a few different things such as the new high-quality parallaxed road textures and desert palms we added throughout Blaine County. We’ve also taken the time to overhaul all of the ground and rock textures throughout the entire Grand Senora Desert which is located nearby.
Here you can see our custom volumetric clouds shader in action. We spent over eight months developing this shader which lets you fly through the clouds. We’re still working on further improving and optimizing this shader.
Here is another style of volumetric clouds at the Del Perro Pier. You may also notice the new floorboard textures while walking through this location.
Here is an image of our work-in-progress Clearing weather which takes advantage of the new volumetric clouds. You may see the occasional rainbow appear in the sky when this weather is active.
This is one of my favorite lighting overhauls. The original tunnel has green lights but we swapped them to orange lights in order to replicate how this tunnel looks in real life. We also improved some of the interior ceiling and ground textures in this tunnel.
Here you can see a modded Ferrari outside of another tunnel we overhauled. In this tunnel we modified all of the lights, as well as adding traffic markers that were not previously there.
Here is an image of the improved helicopter downwash particle effects. Now the blades will kick up a lot of dust when the helicopter is near a sandy surface.
This was taken in the depths of the Paleto Forest. Showcased here are all of the new ground textures we did for the entire forest, as well as the texture and fur overhauls on the deer, among other wildlife seen throughout the game.
This is one of the many gas stations we overhauled with neon lighting and volumetrics. We were inspired by Need For Speed Heat and the outrun aesthetic.
Here is a view of the lighthouse during a thunder storm. We added new volumetric light rays to the lighthouse in order to give it a more realistic appearance during night time.
This image shows off one of the many buildings we overhauled with parallaxed interiors, which help provide an illusion of depth when viewed from any angle.
This is rainy weather in the countryside. The greenish lights we added are only present on some of the roads surrounding the desert. We’ve tried our best to add as much diversity as possible when it comes to street lighting.
This is a view of the windmills during sunset in our brand new Cloudy weather.
This is our new Overcast weather which attempts to balance light and dark tones. We plan to rework this weather with volumetric clouds in the future.
Here you can see some of our new high-resolution textures for cliffs and rocks. We’ve made these improvements around the entire Blaine County coastline.
Some of the new palm tree models we added during a hot day near City Hall.
Here you can see more of our high-quality vegetation, grass and flora overhauls. We’ve pretty much covered everything such as olive trees, oak trees, pine trees, bushes, flowers and much more.
This is the new lensflare effect during 7am in Extrasunny weather.
Love Grand Theft Auto? Check out the best games like GTA for a change of scenery.