Vehicle Damage is a fundamental aspect in the Grand Theft Auto series. The ability to damage and destroy vehicles has been featured in every GTA game, providing a degree of realism and challenge to the player.
Throughout the series, most vehicles are susceptible to damage from the environment, typically in the form of crashes, gunfire, or other external forces, providing a certain degree of realism and illustrating the vulnerability of vehicles in the series. If a vehicle is damaged enough, it can burst into flames and explode afterwards, rendering it useless. As the series progresses, the variety of damage increases, offering additional ways in which vehicles can be destroyed. In addition, the manner in which damage is depicted in-game has changed as newer game engines are used.
Damage resistance should be considered when selecting a vehicle for a task. The high performance of certain vehicles may be offset by a weaker body, while a slow, heavy vehicle may be far more resilient to damage. If a player is not proficient in driving or has not properly planned their path to their destination, choosing a vehicle may become a hindrance if the player is trying to complete a mission within a time limit or escaping from pursuers.
Certain missions and tricks throughout the series can create a damage-resistant vehicle, which include resistance to bullets, explosions, physical collisions, and fire. Tanks and certain armored vehicles are also naturally highly resistant to damage and are invulnerable to certain forms of destructive forces, such as collisions.
Vehicles in Grand Theft Auto 1 and Grand Theft Auto 2 can be destroyed via high speed crashes, gunfire from firearms and drops into water, features which are still present in all later games. The games are also capable of accurately visualizing portions of vehicles which are damaged using collision detection, and each vehicle has a number of sections that represent each part as either damaged or undamaged: six in GTA 1 and four in GTA 2.
Unlike the 3D Universe games (excluding popped tyres), a vehicle's performance degrades as its damage is increasingly severe. For GTA 1, the only hint to this is a increasingly louder clunking engine noise; in GTA 2 the clutch of the vehicle breaks, making the vehicle produce a loud chattering sound as it drives. A fire may start in the middle of the vehicle, which grows with increased damage or on its own over time.
By Grand Theft Auto III, vehicles are far more sensitive with damage, as parts can show signs of damage with the slightest collision, as well as high speed collisions with pedestrians. However, the performance of vehicles remains unaffected from damage, and imminent destruction of vehicles is represented by a burning engine. If a vehicle is flipped over, its engine will also burst into flames and result in the vehicle exploding (presumably because of fuel leak).
GTA III's visual representation of vehicle damage improved in complexity. The engine may now emit smoke, providing a gauge on how much endurance a vehicle has left before it catches fire. Most road vehicles in the game are also constructed from separate models representing minor parts of the vehicle (doors, frontal quarter panels/headlights and bumpers) around a central "core" (the wheels, engine, chassis and body of vehicles). The damage system of vehicles represents the minor vehicle parts as undamaged, damaged or missing, based on collisions detected on the vehicle; the core of each vehicle remains visually unchanged despite heavy damage. Boats and aircraft, however, will not show signs of damage until they are on the verge of exploding.
Between GTA Vice City and GTA Vice City Stories, various improvements and refinements were made on GTA III's damage engine:
- For road vehicles in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, front windscreens may now be shattered and tires can be punctured using a firearm (the latter affects handling and grip as an affected vehicle is more prone to spinouts; it also allows for the inclusion of spike strips) and melee weapons may be effectively used to damage vehicles, while trunk lids may detach from a vehicle at a certain speed if ajar; motorcycles and helicopters, which were introduced in the game, have only smoke from the engine to show damage. Smoke effects and color from the engine have also been improved to better depict the condition of a damaged vehicle (from white, to a mix of white and black, to black). Destroyed boats may also sink in the water, as do aircraft and road vehicles that have landed on water.
- In Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and onward, it is possible to kill a vehicle's driver or occupants with weapons. However, the weapon must be aimed such that it headshots; a headshot will penetrate through the vehicle and kill the occupant, whilst any other shot will simply hit the vehicle's body and damage the car. An exception to this are motorbikes and quadbikes, which allow the player to damage the occupants' bodies correctly.
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas forgoes removable front quarter panels altogether (although headlights may still be broken if the same area is damaged), but allows bumpers to dangle before detaching. Doors may also be closed shut by physical force (i.e. swaying a vehicle side by side), making detachment of these parts far more difficult, while the lids of hoods and trunks can detach from the forces of air drag when moving at a sufficient speed. Road vehicles may also explode if its fuel intake cap is shot at, and road vehicles emit a subtle clunking sound when the smoke coming from their engine becomes a combination of white and black. Fixed-wing aircraft in the game may degrade performance-wise with increasing damage, and possess the ability to emit smoke from damaged parts (such as the wings and fuselage), while ailerons and flaps on the tail and wings may dangle for similar reasons. Airplanes and helicopters may also explode on impact with any surface. Unlike cars and motorbikes, airplanes and helicopters will explode several times upon destruction with a larger blast radius. Bicycles, which were introduced in the game, are invulnerable to damage.
- As Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories reuse GTA Vice City's game engine, their damage engines are exactly the same as in GTA Vice City. However, like in GTA San Andreas, front quarter panels are not detachable.
Grand Theft Auto Advance, which uses an independent top-down game engine, possesses a vehicle damage engine largely similar to that of GTA 1 and GTA 2, except that large vehicles (i.e. buses and trucks) may also face the risk of rolling over when cornering at high speeds.
Grand Theft Auto IV
For Grand Theft Auto IV, vehicle damage has improved significantly. Imminent destruction is now represented by either a burning engine, a burning fuel tank or both, and clunking engine noises are reintroduced for vehicles with damaged engines. Alternately, the engines of severely damaged vehicles may simply cut off (this can be rectified by calling any number on the player's mobile phone); in addition, vehicles no longer catch fire and explode when they are flipped. If a car the player is not driving falls from a sufficient height, it may explode upon impact with the ground.
Instead of using readily modeled parts, GTA IV uses a more flexible damage engine that allows any part of a vehicle's body to flex and distort based on the force and direction of an impact; the body of boats and helicopters may now be damaged in this manner, while motorcycles still cannot. Players can flatten or crush any vehicle using extreme force and explosions can severely damage a vehicle's bodywork. In addition, should a road vehicle sustain severe frontal or rear damage, its axle may also bend to a point where it can no longer function, locking and dragging its wheel along the ground as the vehicle moves, greatly affecting performance. A similar effect is caused if a wheel arch is damaged to the point where it will buckle the wheel. The wheels can also crook, causing the car to pull to one side while driving, making driving in a straight line more difficult.
Other minor damages were added in the game. Individual lights (including those of motorbikes) and windows can be broken. Opened doors can be broken off by forcing them against another solid object (as doors are now registered as solid objects). Scrapes, scratches and bullet holes are added as minute damage. Burst tires will eventually deflate and burst, leaving the wheel rim exposed, decreasing traction significantly. Deflating tyres can be done by shooting the tyre itself, and bursting them can be done by either driving on deflated tyres for an extensive period of time, or by wheel-spinning constantly. Tyres will also burst when the vehicle is burnt out or fire spreads onto them. Vehicle parts, particularly bumpers, may also hang off, causing them to scrape indicated by sparks and sounds, and will only break off once completely damaged in a major collision.
Vehicle occupants can now be more reliably killed, as car windows are properly modeled. The first shot will shatter an aimed-at window, and the next shot will pass through the new opening and damage anyone it hits accordingly. Some vehicles are equipped with bulletproof windows which don't shatter. This, along with the ability to aim from a car, makes drive-bys and vehicle chasing far more deadly, as players and NPCs can simply aim for cars' windows and reliably and quickly kill anyone inside. Vehicle's front windshields are also slightly more bullet-resistant than side windows, and front windshields will not shatter instantly.
GTA IV also introduces dirt and other stains. Blood from pedestrians (either by shooting them in, on or near the vehicle, or running them down while in the vehicle) may remain on the bodywork, as well as mud and dirt in grassy and muddy areas. This can all be washed off using the car wash.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
In GTA Chinatown Wars, the damage system reverts to that of games prior to GTA IV, limiting visual damage to ajar doors and hood and trunk lids, and smoke or fire from the engine. If a vehicle sustained critical damage but is not in the verge of exploding, sparks can be seen coming out of the engine as well. In addition to this, the vehicle will show a noticeable vibration and a subtle clunking sound can be heard. Vehicles are now certain to explode after sufficient damage, and the player will also be set alight when a vehicle they have damaged heavily ignites. Flipped vehicles will also explode in the same manner as they do prior to GTA IV.
In GTA: Chinatown Wars, Baggage Handler drivers, when killed with a melee weapon, Chainsaw, or Teaser, will continuously press the gas pedal with their foot causing the vehicle to accelerate, even if it was stopped when the player was killing them.
Grand Theft Auto V
Vehicle damage in Grand Theft Auto V remains largely similar to GTA IV, but features some differences and new features.
Perhaps the biggest difference of all is the integrity of vehicle bodies. Vehicles' bodies are now much more rigid in comparison to GTA IV, and deformation of the greenhouse area in particular is now limited compared to GTA IV.
- Breakable Parts
Like GTA IV, individual parts can be broken off easily. Bumpers typically hang off after a collision, however front bumpers in particular remain relatively firm and usually fully attached in heavy collisions to simulate the effectiveness of bumper deformation. Front fenders and quarter panels can also be detached completely in the event of a collision
Some vehicles feature entire clams of bodywork, such as the Turismo R and Osiris, which will break off in a similar manner to hoods; in the first event of a crash, the clam will typically become loose and show signs of detachment, and will eventually break open if another collision occurs.
Like GTA IV, individual lights and windows can be broken, however with the addition of glass shards, small fractures of glass will remain around the borders of windows and around emergency light bars.
Wheels can now come off if a vehicle is hit with enough force, while axles can also bend from side on collisions, causing camber, and majorly affecting steering and sometimes cause wheel lockup, reducing speed, the ability to steer at all, and eventually cause the tyres to burst.
- Visual Effects
Scratches are more visible and appear for longer compared to GTA IV, and are much more sensitive, as colliding with other vehicles or simply touching them is likely to cause scratch marks.
Like GTA IV, many glass particles will be displayed in heavy collisions where windows are broken, along with sparks.
Ejection through the windscreen is less common in GTA V. However, it causes much more severe damage to the player than in the previous game, often killing them outright.
- Engine Performance
As with other GTA games, engine performance is reduced after each crash, however like GTA IV, a larger engine damage value means engine performance after each collision is more variable and based heavily on how severe the collision was.
A notable point of engine damage is distinguished by the sound of what appears to be engine camshaft and crankshaft damage, where a "rattle" will be heard, commonly after letting off the throttle. Eventually, and commonly heard after remaining still, a small but noticeable "hiss" can eventually be heard, which corresponds with the vehicle's temperature gauge in the enhanced version of the game, indicating overheating.
Larger collisions will also damage the vehicle's oil-sump and eventually let oil spill from underneath the car; small drips of oil will be shown underneath the engine bay and will drip more quickly as the oil level runs out. A vehicle without oil will then stall, cut out and will not start again, and the vehicle will be rendered unusable.
For the first time, fuel makes an appearance in GTA V. While fuel plays no major role in how vehicles behave, and vehicles do not have to be refilled, fuel can spill from vehicles, eventually causing them to run out and stall. This can happen when the rear left quarter panel is shot enough times, or the fuel tank on larger trucks. When shooting just in front of the rear wheel, where the fuel tank usually is, fuel can be seen and heard dribbling out underneath, and will cause a fuel trail when driving. The fuel gauge inside the vehicle (in the enhanced version of the game) will also decrease until there is no fuel left, and the fuel light will display. As the vehicle almost runs out completely, the car will slow down and appears to "malfunction", jerky behavior from the accelerator and, if slow enough, often slipping into reverse. After the fuel light displays, the vehicle will then cut out. The fuel trail can be shot and will ignite, bursting into flames. If the flames reach the fuel tank, it will explode the car, however if there is no fuel left in the vehicle and the fuel trail disappears, the car will not explode.
In both GTA IV and GTA V, depending on the size and speed of the vehicle, if the player crashes into a civilian's vehicle, the civilian can be killed on impact. The fatal impact is depicted when either the NPC's head hits the horn and it goes off (sometimes they leave their foot on the gas pedal and the car keeps moving) or they slump on the car seat. It is also possible to incapacitate passengers, who will slump against the dashboard, but for the driver to survive the impact, who will then attempt to hastily drive away. In GTA IV, if you hit a beater, a Dukes or Taxi (on some occasions), the NPC and car will catch fire and the car will explode.
Cars will instantly explode if the engine or fuel tank is subjected to a very heavy impact with the terrain, typically after falling from a great height and landing nose-down. This is always fatal to the player, should they not bail out in time. Landing a vehicle on its wheels after a great fall will avoid explosion and usually causes only minor damage to the vehicle, depending on how clean the landing was.
Motorbikes are a lot more vulnerable compared to previous games in the series, and can explode should a heavy enough vehicle run over them.
- Rhino Tank
In GTA V the Rhino tank returns again, and still has the ability to blow up cars on impact. Unlike previous generations, the Rhino usually needs to drive over vehicles to make them explode, whereas simply ramming them will usually just incapacitate the occupants. If the player drives over a car with the Rhino, the car will be crushed and will usually explode, but the Rhino itself will also explode after taking enough damage. It is also possible for the Rhino to break wheels off cars if it rolls over them fast enough to prevent the car from exploding.
Aircraft damage has improved in Grand Theft Auto V. As with any other type of vehicle in the game, the airplane's fuselage and wings will dent and deform based on the direction and force of an impact, although the wreckage from a large airplane, such as Jet, Cargo Plane and Titan, is quite unrealistic. The rudder, ailerons and elevators of a plane are vulnerable to damage, and can be shot off by other attacking aircraft or knocked off by collisions, impairing or even disabling the aircraft's ability to fly properly - for example, should the rudder be removed from a plane, it will be impossible to turn it in a specific without using the elevators and ailerons (should they remain) together, and the plane will drift either to the left or right uncontrollably.
If an airplane has taken a large amount of damage (from gunfire, collisions, etc.), the airplane's engine may sputter and die in mid-air, and the airplane will plummet to the ground. During this time, there will be a brief loss of power and the airplane's controls will become less responsive and more unpredictable. This can be indicated by dark black smoke coming from the engines. In the case of dual propulsion aircraft (such as the Titan), one of the engines can die with damage, and the active one starts smoking until it dies too, due to the over-revving.
Engine failures also behave realistically with aircraft with multiple engines mounted on the wings such as the Jet and Titan. Should one or more engine fail on only one particular side of the aircraft, the resulting thrust imbalance will result in the plane banking in the same direction the side the failed engine is on, requiring use of the rudder and ailerons to keep the plane level. Despite this, the loss of all engines doesn't necessarily mean the aircraft is doomed; it is possible for every plane in the game to glide without engine power for varying distances, allowing the player to land the aircraft safely if there is enough room to do so.
Landing gears can be detached with enough force with any terrain, making landings and take-offs far more hazardous, if not flat-out crippling the aircraft's hydraulics. Aircraft and wheeled helicopters can pop tires with bullets, although this very rarely happens in-game. If an aircraft suffers burst tyres, the aircraft will be harder to turn when on the ground.
Unlike helicopters in GTA IV, which can lose the tail or the main rotor if those areas are hit with enough force, helicopters in GTA V are less likely to lose their tail but can often be crippled; if a helicopter's tail rotor has taken enough damage, usually by gunfire, it can fail, resulting in tailspin and eventually leading to the helicopter's doom.
If the player lands a helicopter too suddenly, they may damage the engines. This is revealed by having smoke pouring out of the air intakes. If the engine takes too much damage, fire will erupt from the air intakes as well.
- In some occasions, in all 3D Universe games, vehicles will explode twice when destroyed. This can be done by destroying vehicles quickly using the Minigun or a Rhino - the engine will remain on fire after the initial explosion, leading to a second soon afterwards, potentially catching player unaware. If these vehicles are entered before exploding a second time and immediately using the "full health" cheat (Or by putting out the fire by any other means), one can drive the "exploded" vehicle (Tested on Grand Theft Auto: Vice City PC, with cars only). The vehicle will drive completely normally, it will, however, look like an exploded vehicle.
- In GTA San Andreas, all bicycles are completely immune to damage. However, if a bicycle somehow ends up resting upside down, it will catch on fire and explode. This is very difficult to perform, however, because it is next to impossible to make a bike stay resting upside down.
- In GTA V, however, bicycles are not immune to damage and can be destroyed by explosives, or causing severe damage by a vehicle at high speeds.
- In the HD Universe, if a vehicle has been very heavily damaged, it may take the player a little bit longer to start the engine if it shuts off. During this time, the engine's ignition may be heard cranking multiple times, while the protagonist may utter annoyed protests such as "Come on! Start!", until the engine finally sputters to life.
- In the HD Universe, there are some moments where you land with the roof or engine and the car doesn't explode or smoke. However, if you bail out in mid-air, any vehicle will often explode upon impact.
Grand Theft Auto 2
- When a vehicle begins to set on fire, it will have a small flame to start with. This smaller flame won't blow the vehicle up at all and you can keep driving the vehicle forever with no harm done. However, further damage will cause the fire to grow, which will eventually blow the vehicle up.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
- If you enable the 'Destroy all cars on screen' cheat in the Pause Menu 15 times, a destructive effect will occur; the area of effect will increase with every subsequent use of the cheat, and within a few seconds of restarting play, destroyed cars will begin to fall out of the sky. This was also possible with trainers where you could hold the keys and due to the repeated blasts, the cars would go up beyond skybox limits and after you release it, they will fall down. The reason for this is because cars on every blast lift off the ground and fall.
- Sometimes, it is possible for a vehicle to be set on fire through external means, such as a Flamethrower, Molotov Cocktails or other stray flames in the game world, without actually exploding. Prior to GTA IV, it can be tricky to distinguish these incidental flames from those signaling an impending explosion.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
- Unlike many other things in GTA San Andreas, vehicle damage apparently has no effect on comments that pedestrians say to CJ. Trashy vehicles such as Cabbies and Taxis always get negative comments such as "what a piece of shit!" no matter how healthy they are. Conversely more high-end vehicles such as sports cars always get positive comments such as "nice car!" even if they have been severely damaged or destroyed.
- The quarter panels of the car are undamageable due to the design of the car.
- Breakable objects, such as fences or lampposts, only cause visual damage to the car and won't affect its health.
- There is a glitch in the mobile and remastered version of the game where damaged car parts will have a different color.
- When the player damages the rear of any vehicle, both the bumper and tailgate/trunk (if the vehicle features any) will be affected regardless if only the rear bumper hit an obstacle, but sometimes, pedestrian vehicles may only feature one of these parts damaged.
- Sometimes when you collide head-on with a moving traffic car, the front end will stay intact, but the rear end will be damaged. This may happen on either CJ's car, pedestrian's car, or both. This is most likely a small bug.
- This can also happen if you drive slowly in a freeway and a traffic car accidentally rams you from behind. The rear-end of your vehicle will stay intact, but the front end will be damaged.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
- This is the first game in the series to make exploded cars lose all of their 4 wheels, giving it some realism.
Grand Theft Auto IV
- Due to a glitch, the player can drive a car without a wheel. The car will also miss some parts like bumpers and doors, as seen here
- If a car "breaks down" without completely stopping, then the car can be instantly restarted providing that the player doesn't release the accelerate key/button.
- A stalled car can also be restarted by rolling down a hill or by getting another player to push the car while the player is in the vehicle.
- Helicopters without tails can still be flown if the player doesn't exit the vehicle, however controlling the helicopter is significantly harder, as its ability to hover is impaired.
- Cars and trucks no longer catch fire when flipped on their roofs, which would usually happen in the 3D universe.
- Cars that have been flipped onto their side or roofs cannot be single-handedly rolled back onto their wheels however. It may require the player to push the car onto its wheels, or using the friction between touching objects to gain momentum and eventually roll the car onto its wheels.
- Rolling a vehicle during a mission often causes the mission to fail, as the car is considered unrecoverable. In certain missions, it is stated that the "vehicle was wrecked/destroyed".
- Broken down cars can be restarted by ringing a friend or contact and hanging up once the vehicle starts driving again, but does not repair the car. Further damage may cause it to break down or even catch fire.
- Crashing into another car at high speed may occasionally cause the driver of the vehicle to stumble out of the car, and on rarer occasions cause the vehicle to burst into flames.
Grand Theft Auto V
- Normal road-worthy vehicles may occasionally back-fire if damaged enough, similar to how beaters do in GTA IV.
- If the player makes a quick save whilst driving a damaged vehicle then re-loads that save, their vehicle will be fully repaired. Switching back and forth between two characters may also fix the vehicle, however some significantly rarer vehicles tend to disappear altogether when switching back. In the case of the latter, the player may spawn on foot near where the car last was, or may spawn at the nearest hospital. Cancelling a mission while in a vehicle may also fix any damage to the car.
- Overturned cars are now able to be flipped back onto their wheels using the same controls as turning. Despite the addition, remaining in an upturned car for too long during a mission may still consider the car as wrecked, thus failing the mission.
- If a twin-wheeled aircraft (Shamal, Luxor, etc.) loses its tires, only the outer wheel is popped and the inner wheel remains intact, due to it being false, similar to the second axle on trucks in the 3D Universe.
- Similar to land-vehicles, badly damaged aircraft may also stall, wherein planes may lose altitude and stall for a short period of time, and helicopters' propellers will cut out.
- In the enhanced version, due to the addition of the first person mode, the cockpit and greenhouse areas of vehicles cannot be deformed anymore than simple dents. This does not occur in the original release of GTA V, and in GTA IV.
- Despite the lack of deformation being an enhanced version-only feature, at one point deformation was removed altogether from GTA V on all platforms. This was later patched.
- Using the Director Mode in GTA V (enhanced version only), the player can still "drive" a car that has been destroyed. When the invincibility cheat is active, and explosive bullets is also active, the player can destroy a car while inside it, and remain in the seat. Using fast weaponry, the player can drive-by in the vehicle, and the explosive bullets will propel the car to move away from the bullets' direction, effectively propelling the car. This technique has been known to allow players to reach incredible speeds, and the player can still steer, albeit very limited, as the steering rack will still operate as standard. Since there is no ammo-cap in the Director Mode, this technique is effectively endless.
- Most cars that have been added in GTA Online, do not feature any deformation. Parts like bumpers or doors are still able to get detached though.