A replay, or instant replay, is a minor feature that allows the player to review the last minute of gameplay. Predominantly exclusive to PC version of Grand Theft Auto games, replays are simply reconstructed using certain available data from the latest round of gameplay, such as player actions, coordinates of surrounding vehicles and pedestrians, time, and weather. As a result, the replays are not necessarily accurate recreations of actual scenes, and were considerably crude when first introduced.
The feature was first introduced in the PC port of Grand Theft Auto III, and was carried over to the PC port of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and the PC and Xbox ports of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (the only console-based GTA game with a replay system). Replays are also available for the PC port of Grand Theft Auto IV, and may be edited using an editing software dubbed the Video Editor. The first system employed in the first three games remained roughly unchanged, while GTA IV's replay system has been significantly revamped.
GTA III — GTA San Andreas
The replay system employed by GTA III, GTA Vice City and GTA San Andreas basically reproduces the latest moments of gameplay that range from a minute to 20 seconds long. The length of a replay depends on the density of traffic and pedestrians; as more cars and pedestrians are recorded, the replay becomes shorter.
Replays are activated by tapping the F1 key on the keyboard anytime during gameplay, showing a rough recreation of the surrounding where the player character is, and is played without the HUD other than the flashing "Replay" text. The player can leave the replay by pressing F1 again, or wait until the replay ends on its own. By default, viewpoints employed during a replay is based on where the player was looking at that moment, including where the player was viewing on foot or in a vehicle, and first person view if the player is free aiming using a rifle, rocket launcher, or sniper rifle. Moving the mouse in a replay allows the player to move around the player and view the player character's surroundings. Replays can be saved by pressing the F2 key and saved replays can be viewed by pressing the F3 key. Only one replay can be saved at a time.
Replays between GTA III and GTA San Andreas are often plagued with crudeness due to insufficient data, with unusual pedestrian behaviors, choppy and distorted player movement, missing or reverted objects (such as corpses, and vehicle modifications in GTA San Andreas) and cycling accessories on vehicles. Minor refinements were made to improve the presentation of replays and to reduce its buggy animation, although the general quality of these replays remain average to mediocre.
For the PC port of GTA IV, the replay system is managed very differently and is a vast improvement over its predecessors. In the game, the player is offered a specialized replay editing software called the Video Editor, which allows the player to edit, direct and upload replays saved during gameplay.
During gameplay, the player may press the F2 key to create a recording of recent activities in game. Like its earlier predecessors, the length of saved replays depends on the amount of activity in recorded locations, resulting in replay lengths that range from 20 seconds to more than a minute. A recorded replay is saved in
My Documents\Rockstar Games\GTA IV\Videos\Clips, and its file is usually around 100 megabyte large.
Once replays are saved, they can be processed by the Video Editor. In order to access the Video Editor, the player must access their mobile phone and select the "Video Editor" option at the bottom of the menu. Access into the Video Editor will cancel any ongoing missions, and eventually send the player back to the nearest available safehouse when the player leaves the Video Editor. When in the Video Editor, players can view saved replays of their choice, as well as editing the recording using a video editor to produce rendered videos for personal use, or upload them to the Internet (i.e. via Rockstar Games Social Club or other video hosting sites). The videos are rendered as Windows Media Video (WMV) files and saved in the
My Documents\Rockstar Games\GTA IV\Videos\rendered directory, and the Video Editor offers several choices of video resolutions for rendered videos.
Although replay recordings in GTA IV are far more accurate, unusual side-effects are still numerous. Vehicle lights do not appear to break from damage, and vehicle damage may experience bizarre distortions. Weather can change abruptly (due to a lack of smooth transition between different weather conditions), and particles and other visual effects may also appear incorrectly or do not appear at all.
- The replay features in GTA III, GTA Vice City, GTA San Andreas and GTA IV do not store information about accessories on any cars in the replay, and as a result, vehicle accessories in each replay tend to be random or inconsistent in appearance. For example, the player-driven convertible Stallion in GTA San Andreas may not only appear topless in a replay, but also appear with a soft top or hard top. In GTA III and GTA Vice City, accessories of vehicles in normal gameplay can even be altered by activating and deactivating the replay feature, forcing any car accessory in gameplay to change randomly; this glitch was eliminated by GTA San Andreas.
- The player can input certain cheats during replays, however what actually happens in the replay remains unchanged no matter what cheat is used (for example, if the player types the "All vehicles explode" cheat, all cars, planes etc will look as if they've exploded but will still move and function normally like they did prior to the replay, because the replay still followes the recorded data). Also, using cheats during any replay might crash the game, since the cheats would cause what is shown in the replay inconsistent to the data recorded.