Running GTA 4 smoothly on a modern gaming PC is a pain, but it can be done

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Every year I feel the urge to replay Grand Theft Auto 4 on PC, and every year I am disappointed. The Windows port is noticeably shoddy, and no matter what hardware I put into my PC – and no matter how powerful it is – the same problem always arises: endless, frustrating micro-stuttering. Even though my gaming PC is basically a supercomputer by the meager recommended specs for this 13-year-old, it’s plagued by constant hitching issues, dropping frames, and frame rate. It’s a shame, because I love GTA 4. It might even be my favorite GTA. It’s just a pig to play smoothly on a modern gaming PC.

PLAYER VIDEO OF THE DAY

Or it was. Last night I ultimately cracked it. After several hours of browsing Reddit threads, blogs, and articles on GTAForums, trying countless alleged “fixes” that made absolutely no difference, I discovered the root of the problem. I’m not a tech expert so I might be wrong on some details but as far as I know the stuttering is caused by an outdated and / or poorly implemented Direct3D / DirectDraw renderer. So to make this stop you need to force the game to use a different and more efficient renderer, especially Vulkan. You need a Vulkan compatible graphics card to use this fix, but if you do, your problems might be over.

Related: Grand Theft Auto 4 Should Be Next In Line For A Remaster

PC gaming is an unpredictable and finicky thing, of course, so if you have anything other than my specific hardware / software setup, this fix might not work or even make things worse. I can’t promise anything, such is the temperamental nature of playing old abandoned video games on a modern PC. For reference, I’m running the Complete Edition version of GTA 4 via Steam on Windows 11, with an NVIDIA RTX 2080 Super, Intel i7-9700K, and 16GB of RAM. If you still want to give it a try, follow the steps below exactly.


How to fix GTA 4 performance issues on PC

  • Download the latest version of DXVK
  • Copy d3d9.dll from the x32 folder to your GTA 4 directory
  • Find out how much display memory you have. Press Windows key + R to open the Run window and type dxdiag. Go to the Display tab and write down the number next to Display memory
  • Right click on GTA 4 in Steam, go to properties and under Launch options, put -managed and -availablevidmem X, or X is a number slightly less than your available display memory. For example, I have 8010 MB, so I put -availablevidmem 7850
  • Go to your Steam settings, go to the Shader Pre-Caching menu at the bottom and uncheck Enable Shader Pre-Caching

That’s it. But it’s important to note that when you first launch the game the game might be even slower than before. This is because (I think) the new renderer creates a cache. Run a few benchmarks, or just play around for a while, and those will eventually stop – and if all went as planned, you’ll play the game without any of those irritating hitches. Not only did this method keep my frame rate from randomly plunging into the 40s and 50s, it definitely fixed those pesky frame rate issues, and now the game is infinitely more playable.


GTA 4 PC Setup Guide

There is, however, a slight downside to this method. Using DXVK means that forcing anti-aliasing through the NVIDIA Control Panel won’t work, and GTA 4 really benefits. But you can use a tool called SweetFX to smooth out some of the irregularities. This article by Anton Shabunin, whose guides were key to making GTA 4 run smoothly (thank you), takes you step by step. It’s easy and worth doing. You can also edit the SweetFX config file to switch between SMAA / FXAA, whichever AA method you prefer.

It’s ridiculous that we have to jump through these hoops to make Grand Theft Auto 4 run well on PC, but sadly, Rockstar seems to have given up on it altogether. Maybe a remaster is on the way (and hopefully better than GTA: The Trilogy), but until then, this is the best way to revisit the streets of Liberty City right now. It feels good to be back.

Next: GTA: The Impressions Trilogy: The Good, The Bad & The Janky


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