Weather is a fundamental aspect that has existed throughout most of the GTA games. Grand Theft Auto III was the first to have multiple weather changes viewed in a 3-dimensional form. It plays a crucial role by complementing to the vibes and atmosphere of the game such as a pink setting sky to suit Vice City's 1980s vibe, and a dull, plain sky to suit the Liberty City atmosphere.
The weather in the game is controlled by a time cycle which controls certain weather types to occur at a particular time. In locations such as San Andreas, certain weather patterns will occur only in a particular climate or area, such as sandstorms in the desert of Bone County and Las Venturas. Thus, some time cycles of weather are included exclusively for a Grand Theft Auto game depending on the area's real-life climate.
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. Thus only the main core, standalone weather types are listed below rather than 30 different combinations. The games can also simulate wind, which can realistically result in trees swaying back and forth and turbulence while flying aircraft.
Types of Weather
Rain occurs in most GTA games every three to five days, though this can vary depending on the climate. For example, in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, rain mainly occurs in Los Santos, San Fierro, and the surrounding countryside. Rain can also occur in Las Venturas and the desert, but very rarely. Grand Theft Auto: 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 first 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. Heavy rainfall results in occasional thunder and lightning, causing the console version's controller to vibrate rapidly, again as a sense of realism. Rain also affects the performance of many road vehicles, and can degrade handling and braking power due to slippery roads. During severe storms, the yellow light on traffic lights will continuously flash, indicating that the power has been switched off. Grand Theft Auto IV introduces new forms of rainfall. Apart from thunderstorms (present in the previous games), the game also features rain without thunder and drizzle. In Grand Theft Auto V this is enhanced, with different intensity of rainfall being featured. It ranges from drizzle and sun-showers, to torrential downpours and thunderstorms. Grand Theft Auto V also includes lightning bolts during thunderstorms, as opposed to the sky simply "lighting up" in previous games.
Sunny weather occurs quite often in most cities, usually appearing daily in the 3D Universe. The 3D Universe first introduced players to visual heatwaves when the sun reaches blazing heats, though this does not affect the player's health in any way. Sunny weather creates a "cheerful" atmosphere, especially in locations such as Vice City and most areas in San Andreas. The sun causes short shadows to appear behind objects such as lamposts and buildings. A clear sky implements a similar reaction. Sunny weather also appears commonly in Grand Theft Auto IV's rendition of Liberty City and Alderney and Grand Theft Auto V's rendition of Los Santos and Blaine County.
Fog and mist is common in both renditions of Liberty City, and the countryside of San Andreas, and very rarely in Vice City. Foggy/misty weather creates an "eerie" atmosphere, especially in locations such as the San Andreas countryside.
Cloudy weather 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.
A sandstorm is a unique weather pattern available 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 the desert or near 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, 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.
Watching the sunset or sunrise in GTA is one of the most beautiful experiences in the game. The colour of the sun when it sets or rises depends on the city. In places such as San Andreas and Liberty City, the sun varies from orange, yellow and red whilst Vice City's sky is usually pink or purple to suit the 1980s atmosphere. The colours of the sky also play a vital role in bringing up the atmosphere of a city and are different for each location, such as a deep, orange sky in Los Santos or a plain blue and yellow sky in San Fierro. The shadows of objects and pedestrians become longer.
To add realism, the lens glare at sunrise usually results in an orangy glow emitting off buildings and such, hindering the player's visibility when facing the sun.
Snow is first introduced in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, most prominently in the mission Saint Mark's Bistro, while the player is in Liberty City. The snow was also slightly featured in the PSP version of GTA: Liberty City Stories while doing the Car Salesman side missions. Snow reappears in Grand Theft Auto V, during the events of Prologue and Bury the Hatchet, for in both missions, the town of Ludendorff, North Yankton is covered in snow and is also in the middle of a light snowstorm.
It was also turned on in the whole of Los Santos and Blaine County on Christmas Day in Grand Theft Auto Online as a 'Holiday Gift' from Rockstar. During December 2015, Snow was used once again during Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years Eve. If it is turned on in Grand Theft Auto V by cheats, some pedestrians may comment: "Hey, look; it's snowing."
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.
Smog is present in Los Santos in GTA: San Andreas. Radio stations based in that city, like K-DST and Radio Los Santos, will have DJs comment about the smog. A Redwood Cigarettes commercial mentions of a man explaing that "They say, living in Los Santos is the equivalent to smoking a pack a day. If that’s the case, then I want a choice in the matter! So I chose Redwood!" hinting the amount of pollution within the areas. It is also present in GTA V. It can normally occur in Los Santos and will not last the entire day. The presence of smog within the city suggests that Los Santos is very polluted.
- 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.
- 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.
- Broadcasters in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Grand Theft Auto IV in some Radio Stations announce the weather forecasts in the local area. The Internet in Grand Theft Auto IV also announces weather forecasts.
- The first weather report was in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, announcing the closure of the bridges in Vice City due to the threat of Hurricane Hermoine.
- Since the introduction of a weather system in Grand Theft Auto III, the game engine can realistically simulate weather transitions. For example, it may go from sunny to cloudy to rainy and then back to cloudy, rather than rain starting to fall from a clear sky, which looks more realistic.
- 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 "better"-looking and 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.