Playing GTA 5 with a realistic damage mod is a world of constant pain and death

Being bloodied, injured, and on the brink of death is obviously nothing new to the characters we play in GTA 5. Gunfights, explosions, fires, car crashes, and brawls are as commonplace in Los Santos as coffee shops in Seattle. So it's a good thing our trio of crooks are capable of withstanding incredible amounts of damage and regenerating health, or they wouldn't last long enough to rob a convenience store, let alone pull off a multi-million dollar heist.

Joe wrote about the GTA 5's Gunshot wound | Realistic Damage System mod, but since he's been busy starting riots with his singing skills in GTA Online, I thought I'd try out the mod in singleplayer to see how it works. And here's how it works: it basically turns you into a real person made of bones and flesh and blood and internal organs. In GTA, that gives you the approximate constitution of an off-brand paper towel.

Just look what happens during a typical fist-fight with some no-name asshole on the street. It's true that I'm not fighting back, but still. With the GSW mod installed, I take exactly two punches and I'm not just KO'd but DOA:


The first punch gives me a moderate bruise. Fair enough, I've been punched in the face. The drop to 76% health feels a bit steep, but maybe this guy is a former boxer. The second punch, amusingly, gives me a 'badly damaged head' according to the mod. Since I died immediately, I have to object to that description: the damage to my head was impeccable. It was a perfectly damaged head.

Before I discovered I was so fallibly mortal that a couple of punches could send me to the morgue, I tested my newfound fragility in the simplest way I could imagine. I ran out of my house and directly into traffic, colliding with a moving truck. I wasn't even hit by it directly, I just ran into the side of it while it was moving. 

It wasn't pretty.

Just look at the litany of injuries. Artery severed. Life threatening bleeding detected. Moderate bruise. Minor scratches and light bruising. Dazed from blow. In unmodded GTA 5, I'd just pick myself up and walk away as if nothing had happened, but here it's pretty much ruined any lunch plans I may have had that didn't involve life threatening bleeding.

When injured, your character staggers around as if drunk. If your legs are damaged, you shuffle awkwardly. If you arms are hurt, it's tough to aim a gun. Bleeding will drain your health, and while it may stop on its own, it also may continue until you've got no health left.

Since you don't heal automatically, you can call for a paramedic on your phone, and a short while later (it can feel like a long while if you're edging closer and closer to death) an ambulance will arrive and a medic will get out. Stand near them and you'll begin to recover health.

There's one teeny tiny issue with this system that the modder may want to tinker with. When you stand directly in front of an NPC for a bit, they often get hostile. The same is true of the paramedic, because anytime I call for a heal, as soon as I'm back at 100%, the doctor gets pissed off and starts fighting with me. First he shoved me in front of a moving car (which thankfully stopped in time), but then he broke my ribs with a punch, and my jagged ribs then punctured my lungs. Then he re-damaged my head, which he had just fixed a moment ago. I fought back this time, but the doctor killed me before I could call another doctor to heal me.

And that's just punching! Granted, I didn't configure the mod so the same damage effects happen to NPCs—you can, though at the risk of impairing the game's performance, and GTA 5, quite honestly, has always and continues to run like dogshit on my PC, so I opted to only point the mod at myself.

Since fisticuffs were so deadly, I wanted to see how bad being shot was, so the next time I respawned I started more than just a fistfight. The police showed up and began putting holes in my newly fragile body.

In a fairly routine shootout with the fuzz, I was struck by one bullet, which punctured my stomach, a 'potentially fatal injury.' That dropped me to 70% health with heavy internal bleeding that lowered me to 58% a few seconds later. I took a round in the shoulder, which gave me more (though moderate) bleeding. Another shot severed an artery. 40%.

Then a host of notifications appeared: damaged arms, difficulty aiming, sickness from damaged guts and stomach, another severed artery, imminent death. Another bullet arrived, this time a grazing injury from the fragment of a ricochet, causing light bleeding. Yep, you don't even need to be shot directly to be injured. Next, I receive a spalling injury, which I have to look up to discover is the fragmentation of a target caused by the impact of a projectile.

So, basically, I've been shot and parts of me are ripping me apart inside. Swell. A moment later I'm dead. Stupid human body!

Another gunfight goes just as badly, with all sorts of internal bleeding, through-and-through bullet wounds, subdural hematoma, a chance of blacking out, and the finisher, a small caliber bullet lodged in my neck. Wasted again, and in such fine detail!

I experiment a little more, trying to imagine actually playing the full game as a normal human who can't absorb dozens of bullet wounds provided he can crouch behind cover and recuperate for a few seconds. It doesn't seem possible. Ram something a bit too hard with your car and you'll take damage that will require a paramedic. Diving out of a moving car, which is how I usually exit all my cars in GTA 5, rips my pathetic body to shreds and leaves me limping and staggering around. Riding around on a motorcycle is tantamount to a death sentence.

The mod gives you a hotkey for putting on and taking off a helmet, and if you try this mod I recommend wearing one at all times, even when you're just sitting on the couch. It helps, though you're still plenty human while wearing one. I tried wearing a helmet in my final fist-fight, and found I could take more than just two punches.

In fact, I took four punches. The fifth broke my neck. Either this mod is just too tough for me, or this guy is an off-duty paramedic.

Ready for a joyride? Here's our guide on how to install GTA 5 mods on PC.

Christopher Livingston
Staff Writer

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.