I can only agree with Scawen, the textures are not that low res. Actually they are much better than for example in Doom3. The reason why LFS looks liks it looks, is (imo) something different:
1. generally rather low contrast
2. colors seem a bit green / grey
3. 16 bit style textures
4. sometimes the light color doesnt fit perfectly to the sky texture
5. shadows are not grey in real life.
6. lightmaps look horrible (just look at some of the walls around the track)
Im wondering, if its possible to use jpg textures instead of dds. Quite a while ago, I rendered some skies with Terragen and used them for Counter-Strike - those 32bit tgas look really damn good
I can post some screens of lightmaps in the Half-Life 1 engine when Im back home. Those lightmaps are generated when compiling the map (which takes several hours), and it even uses global illumination to create lightmaps / shadow maps, which looks very realistic. The compiling works like this (at least I think so):
1. everything is black
2. There may be some different types of lights, like sky light or point light.
3. For every light, it's rays are traced until the light energy is under x percent, and each pixel on the lightmap that is hit by the light ray, will be brighter. A nearer object will be hit by more rays, and thus be brighter. A ray can have different colors, which means that it contains only some parts of the white light. A green object illuminated by red light will be black
4. The texture of an object has influence on which part of the light ray is reflected. A green object will only reflect green light, thus a white plane, which is only illuminated by the green reflected light, will be green.
You can already see why the compiling is that slow. You need MANY rays to hit all pixels
Thats also a reason why big rooms result in insane compile times.
The compiled lightmaps are low res (like the LFS car shadow), and are saved inside the map file. Those lightmaps have the same texture coordinates as the actual texture - their res is just significantly smaller, and thus the scaling must be changed too, in order to fit it onto the polygon.
Would be cool to render the lightmaps in 3dsmax and export them to LFS
You cant imagine how much better it will look. Only disadvantage is: It's not dynamic, like nowadays DX9 engines, which render everything in realtime, including soft shadows and all that eye candy
about the textures:
You need to be careful with the details, in order to avoid flickering and, most importantly, a repeating effect. Just look at GTR, it looks so ugly because of this. LFS has one of the best textures you can ever get, because they almonst dont reapeat at all. I tried to make some new asphalt texture for blackwood, but I couldnt get it as good as Eric.
Most ground textures are really good, even though the BL rally texure sucks, specially because the sand on the concrete wall is yellow, and the ground is brown