The weather in the game is controlled by a time cycle which triggers certain weather types to occur at randomized times.
In some games, weather is localized to certain parts of their maps, while other games see inescapable weather changes impact the entire playable area. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has the most diverse biomes in its map, so also has the most diverse weather.
The games can also simulate transitions between weather types. For example; it may be cloudy, then a slight drizzle may fall, followed by rain and then a thunderstorm. This is a perfect example of the wide varieties of weather mixtures the game is capable of doing. The games can also simulate wind, which can realistically result in trees swaying back and forth and increased turbulence while flying aircraft.
Broadcasters on some Radio Stations often comment on the current weather or announce the weather forecasts in the local area. The Internet in Grand Theft Auto IV also has weather forecasts. Eyefind.info in GTA V displays the current weather in the top right corner.
The first weather report was in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, where it was used to implement the Island Restrictions, announcing the closure of the bridges in Vice City due to the threat of Hurricane Hermoine.
In the HD Universe, weather will impact the behaviour of Pedestrians, with the onset of rainfall seeing them running for cover or attempting to shelter their heads with held objects and the density of pedestrians on the streets reducing rapidly. In GTA V and GTA Online, street gang presence will be significantly reduced during rainstorms.
In some game modes, particularly Multiplayer in GTA IV, some Jobs in GTA Online and default options for custom jobs created in the Content Creator, and Director Mode in GTA V, the player can choose what weather to have active during their session.
These options give some officially assigned names to the weather:
|GTA IV Multiplayer||GTA V Director Mode||GTA O Jobs (Creator)|
Types of Weather
Clear or Sunny weather occurs quite often in most cities, usually appearing daily in the 3D Universe. Sunny weather creates a "cheerful" atmosphere, especially in locations such as Vice City and most areas in San Andreas. Sunny weather is also commonly seen in the HD Universe. The tropical Caribbean island of Cayo Perico is almost always depicted as a sunny paradise.
Cloudy, Broken Cloud and Overcast weather is one of the most common weather states in GTA, and it has featured in every game of the franchise. Cloudy weather does not create a particular atmosphere and is considered a "default" weather state due to how often it occurs. Cloudy weather can be seen pretty much everyday at some point, except in some places such as the desert, where overcast conditions may never take place. Cloudy weather does not have much of a visual difference, as the sky is still brightly lit during daytime, unlike foggy or rainy conditions, and visibility is still high. It generally occurs before or after rainfall.
The 3D Universe first introduced players to visual shimmering heatwaves when the temperature reaches blazing highs, though this does not affect the player's health in any way.
A sandstorm is a weather pattern first seen in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. They arise when a gust front blows loose sand and dust from a dry surface. It occurs regularly only in Bone County and Las Venturas as it suits the climate. When sandstorms occur, visibility is severely restricted. Clouds of dust can be seen blowing and the sky's color changes to a dull brown. Sandstorms also have a physical impact on aircraft, increasing turbulence, blowing them fiercely in random directions, which can make flying treacherous. Pursuing Police Mavericks, and News Choppers will fly away when sandstorms occur and aircraft will never spawn in the sky. Minor dust storms can also occur in the Grand Senora Desert in GTA V, but are not as intense as previous.
Fog and mist is common in both renditions of Liberty City, San Fierro, and the countryside of San Andreas, and very rarely in Vice City. This can range from a light fog to a thick impenetrable "pea soup" effect where visibility is severely reduced. Foggy/misty weather can create an "eerie" atmosphere, especially in locations such as the remote San Andreas countryside.
Smog is often present in Los Santos in both GTA: San Andreas and GTA V. Radio stations based in that city will have DJs comment about the smog. A Redwood Cigarettes commercial mentions of a man hinting the amount of pollution within the areas.
The presence of smog within the city suggests that Los Santos is very polluted. This does not adversely impact the player's health though.
Rain or Drizzle occurs in most GTA games every three to five days, though this can vary depending on the climate. For example, in GTA: San Andreas, rain mainly occurs in Los Santos, San Fierro, and the surrounding countryside. Rain can also occur in Las Venturas and Bone County, but very rarely. GTA: Vice City first introduced realistic rain drops forming on the player's screen as if they were literally in the protagonist's shoes. The 3D Universe introduced car's headlights reflecting the rain on the road which instantly resulted in senses of realism, making the game more "alive" and increasing the atmosphere. The rainfall can vary depending on how clear the skies are. Rain also affects the performance of many road vehicles, and can degrade handling and braking power due to slippery roads. GTA IV introduces new variable forms of rainfall including drizzle. In GTA V this is enhanced even further, with different intensity of rainfall being featured. It ranges from drizzle and sun-showers, to torrential downpours.
Thunderstorms are a less common occurrence. Heavy rainfall results in occasional thunder and lightning, which, if supported, causes controller vibration, to increase the sense of realism. GTA V also introduced rendered forked lightning bolts in the sky during thunderstorms, as opposed to the sky simply "lighting up" as sheet lightning in previous games. During severe storms, the yellow light on traffic lights will continuously flash, indicating that the power has been switched off.
Snow is first introduced in GTA: San Andreas, during the mission Saint Mark's Bistro, while the player is in Liberty City. The snow was also slightly featured in the PlayStation Portable version of Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories while doing the Car Salesman side missions. Snow reappears in GTA V, where it is always present in the midwest State of North Yankton during the events of Prologue, and later in Bury the Hatchet which takes place during a light snowstorm.
Snow makes regular appearances in Grand Theft Auto Online, usually as Holiday Gifts in late December, where the entire southern San Andreas area is blanketed in snow and light snow showers are common. Vehicle traction is significantly reduced (more so than during rainfall) when snow is present.
The player can turn snowfall on in Los Santos and Blaine County in Director Mode, however this snow does not settle and will not provide a "blanket of snow" effect.
Vehicles that are present during snowfall will have their external surfaces covered in large patches of snow. Unlike the vehicles in North Yankton, which have the patches of snow present on the models themselves, the snow which accumulates on vehicles in GTA V and GTA Online appears to be mostly dynamic decals.
Mission Scripted Weather
While most missions in the games take place in the standard timecycle and therefore have random weather possibilities, some missions may have their weather pre-scripted for dramatic effect, or in some cases, increased or reduced difficulty. e.g. During the Cayo Perico Heist, a thunderstorm may be present and Pavel will advise that it will reduce the enemy effectiveness as their vision and hearing will be impaired.
Examples of pre-set weather
Grand Theft Auto Online
- A Superyacht Life - Bon Voyage Always set to heavy Thunderstorm
- There is a glitch in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas in which Tierra Robada uses the countryside's weather patterns, despite being a semi-arid region. Thus, it may rain but sandstorms would never occur.
- The PC version of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas brightens the land as if it's daytime and had an incorrect red sky during a thunderstorm in the countryside. This is because the PC version had an incorrect timecyc.dat which causes the game to set incorrect sky colours and ambient lighting at 8 PM (20:00) during rainy weather in the countryside.
- A glitch occurs in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories whereby the water levels rise in stormy conditions to such an extent that low surfaces such as jetties and some roads can become slightly submerged and sometimes force Victor into the swimming animation by just standing on them.
- In Grand Theft Auto V rain can sometimes appear even if the player is in a tunnel or interior location.
- The Xbox port of Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City had a different rain droplets on screen than on the PlayStation 2 which had a dynamic feel to it and it moves when the camera turns to the left or right.
- Rain was noticeably rare in the original PlayStation Portable release of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories. Rain/storms generally occurred less often than they did in preceding games, and clouds were less commonly seen. This was rectified in the PlayStation 2 port; rain and storms occurred more regularly, and clouds were also seen more often in the sky, making the weather more similar to past games in the series.
- GTA San Andreas is the only game in the 3D Universe where rain will clean dirt off the player's vehicle. Vehicles driven by NPCs are unaffected however.
- On weaker systems, rain can significantly affect the frame rate of the game, especially in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Grand Theft Auto IV, sometimes making it very low.
- Due to the outdated GPU on the PlayStation 2, the timecycle on the PlayStation 2 version of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is rendered differently than that of other versions. This results in a unique (but not necessarily realistic) timecycle. For example, midday skies on the PlayStation 2 are often greenish-blue, while on the PC and Xbox versions they are sky-blue. Other noticeable examples are during late afternoons in Los Santos in which the sky turns into a deep intense orange colour, while on both PC and Xbox the sky has a much clearer "yellow" tint to it.
- In The Lost and Damned, the sky during the daytime is always a light or dark orange, and is dark blue during the night, to fit in with the game's more sombre tone. By contrast, sunrises in The Ballad of Gay Tony usually have a pink tone.
- In the beta of GTA IV, snow may have been part of the weather, but this was removed during development.