Grand Theft Auto 4, Steam and vapourising graphics cards and dodgy drivers

I was very pleased when GTA IV finally made it out for the PC. I’m a long time
fan of this series of games and, ever since announced, has been on my Buy On
Sight list of games. A few weeks I was in my local Tesco and noticed it on the
shelf and was just about to pick it up when I remembered it would be out on

I mostly like Steam, but see previous blog posts for a rant or two.

The price in Tesco was good, but I was sure Steam would be cheaper so I waited.
In vain as it turns out. Buying a physical dual-DVD box set with colour
manuals and nice big fold-out map turned out to be cheaper than
downloading the game on Steam. How can that make any sense? I digress.

GTA IV’s world is astonishing. Unless you’ve played previous games, and to
some extent even if you’ve played previous GTA games, you will have no concept
of just how vast and richly detailed it is. Want to go for drive? Just *ahem*
borrow a nearby car and take it for a spin. Turn left, turn right, accelerate
away and watch as the city lives and breathes around you and reacts to your
actions in it.

Bored of driving a car? Perhaps you’d prefer a van, or a bus, or petrol tanker
instead? They’re all there. As are a couple of helicopters. Oh yes. Climb
into the cockpit of one of these, spin up the rotors and soar up into the air
and take in the vastness of the city below. Want to go buzz some peds? No
problem, just try not to dent the rotor blades on the street lights and power
lines, that rarely ends well for you, or for people nearby.

Park a petrol tanker across a busy intersection, take a nearby window cleaner’s
lift up to the roof of a nearby building and watch as the traffic backs up.
Notice a few small crashes as cars attempt to get pass the blockage, doors
open, people get out, fists are waved and insults yelled. Grab your handy RPG
and send a rocket into the middle of the intersection. Watch as the explosion
causes cars to spin through the air, fires break out causing more cars to
explode, pedestrians get caught in the inferno and run around of fire
screaming. Police sirens start wailing and the screen gets covered in tiny red dots…

Tiny red dots? Huh?

A few reboots and many driver reinstalls and version changes later and I
conclude that my graphics card has decided to give up on me. Specifically it
appears that some of the on-board memory has gone bad. Luckily it’s a BFG card
which comes with an insane warranty so I gave them a call and they had no issue
with replacing the card, but regretted that I wasn’t likely to see the
replacement for about 10 days. A bit of a pest for me, I do need my PC.

I gave Toby at Wired2Fire a call
(readers of my blog may recall this is where I got my games rig from) who very
kindly agreed to part-ex my would-be warranty replacement card against an new
one from stock that he could ship same day. I ended up with a BFG GTX 280 OC,
it’s a lovely lovely thing and knocks one thing off my “would like to buy”
list, an Ageia Physx card; this thing comes with the Physx chipset on-board.
Installing the card was no problem though I did have to use an extra 12v rail
from the PSU and it needs 1 x 8 and 1 x 6 MOLEX connectors. I used two 6 ways
and a (supplied) converter to populate the 8 way. (Add to shopping list: 1000W
modular PSU). I installed the driver, spun up GTA IV again, and…. BSOD! Ghm.

Many driver re-installs, driver upgrades, downgrades, hacks and fiddling with
BIOS settings I was still getting the same problem. Google was utterly
resplendent with advice and suggestions from lots of other people who’ve had
exactly the same problem with many GeForce series card all the way back to the
7s. I finally cracked this by installing the current beta driver for this card
and managed to put in a good 4 hour session with no complaints at all.

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